What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I meant to publish the results of the drawing yesterday, but was distracted by the morning's ferry trip to pick up baby orchid flasks, followed by the power company's subcontractors coming to mutilate our trees, and then working on the new, improved Olympic Orchids Perfume Boutique website, which is coming along nicely, but slowly because of all the products that have to be entered in multiple variations.

The winners of last weeks drawing for a Tigerlily tote bag filled with samples and other goodies are:



If you are a winner, please contact me with your complete shipping address at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or send a PM on our Facebook page. You must claim your prize by Wednesday, July 5 or it will be added back into the jackpot.

[Photo is mine, taken from our local beach at the Edmonds ferry terminal three nights ago]

Monday, June 26, 2017


Yesterday we had a frightening incident near our property. A cypress tree that had grown too tall hit an uninsulated wire on a power line and caught on fire. There was a loud noise as the tree ignited, and within seconds flames were leaping way up in the air from the whole top of the tree. I should have taken a photo, but was too busy calling the power company and 911. However, the flames coming off the trees in this photo of a forest fire in Yellowstone Park are a pretty good approximation of how it looked. Fortunately the dry season is just at its beginning, so the tree must have still had enough water content to extinguish the fire by itself, so we could cancel the call to the fire department. The local electric company came and turned off the power to those wires, putting everybody on some other circuit. They will send a crew sometime soon to do whatever they need to do to keep the trees from burning again. This must be a fairly common occurrence because when I phoned them, the first item on their robo-message was “if you have a tree burning, press 1”. Why don’t they just insulate the wires?

That was the weekend’s big excitement. The Monday giveaway is much more mundane. In the course of doing business with various supply companies I acquire a lot of offbeat samples, often unsolicited. I have a big collection of everything from essential oil mixes to synthetic fragrance oils to Indian perfumes and attars. This week’s prize will be a big selection of these commercial samples.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment saying whether you like all-natural essential oil mixes, fragrance oils, designer duplications, or Indian/Arabian perfume oils and attars, or whether you have ever has a tree catch fire due to hitting a power line. 

Winners of last weeks giveaway will be announced tomorrow. 

[Forest fire photo from Wikimedia; power lines painting by Henri Rousseau, 1898]

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Finally summer has come to Seattle, with perfect blue skies that make me think about all the places in the world that are so polluted that the sky is obscured even on a “clear” day. I fear that it’s only a matter of time until this problem becomes worldwide, affecting even our little corner of the West Coast. Pollution knows no city, county, state, or national boundaries, so even if we do our part, that doesn’t guarantee that we won’t get second-hand smog from those who don’t.

I really didn’t mean to write about this issue, it just came out because it had was on my mind as I was walking outside today. What I’ve actually been doing this week is working on upgrading my websites. The old orchidscents(original boutique) website is so ugly that I hate looking at it, and the olympicorchids nursery website isn’t much better. I am in the process of switching to a new e-commerce platform that will look better and work better, but it’s a lot of work.

This week I put together a simple practice website for myjewelry-making activities. It's not finished yet, but it looks pretty good. The perfume website will be similar, or at least on the same e-commerce platform, but I need all-new photos of the bottles so that I can standardize the look of the store. Yesterday I photographed all of the 30 ml bottles, and today I sized, cropped, and Photoshopped the images. I found the perfect place to photograph bottles, a stair rail that has bright indirect side/back lighting from a big window in the stair well. It’s like being in a walk-in light tent. 

The new photos need minimal processing and look a lot better than the old ones, even though they were taken with my phone. I kind of like the two-tone background instead of the bottle floating in a sea of white. One of these days I need to go to the Apple store and get them to figure out how to download photos from my old camera, which is incompatible with the new Apple photo management software. I still have to photograph other fragrance items for the website: samples, discovery sets, soaps, oils, etc, but will probably do that on Monday. Sunday is shipping day for everything, so I’ll be busy overseeing that.

I’m really looking forward to having an attractive and functional perfume website with all of my products on it. Once that’s done, the orchid plant website is next. There goes my summer vacation! But it’s all going to be worth it in the end.

[All photos are mine]

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Continuing the Wednesday series on resins, today’s featured material is liquidambar, also known as styrax. The use of multiple names, like a lot of other perfume nomenclature, is confusing. Styrax is technically the species Styrax benzoin, but it also refers to Liquidambar styraciflua, the American sweetgum tree. These deciduous trees are common on the US East Coast, and have been planted as ornamental trees on the West Coast, where they flaunt their bright colors in fall and drop loads ofhard, spherical “gumballs” all over the park paths and city sidewalks.

The tree has been used for lumber and furniture building, and is now commonly used in production of paper products and particle board. The red heartwood of older trees has been used as a substitute for mahagony.  The “gum” or resin is exuded from cuts made on the tree trunk. It has been used as incense, chewing gum, and for medicinal purposes as well as in flavorings and perfumes. I’m not sure why it is not commonly used in perfumery, but maybe it has to do with the fact that the tree is not well-respected in its native habitat and/or because the raw sap contains some compounds that may be irritating to the skin. The liquidambar essential oil  that I use has had these potential irritants removed. Even though it’s been distilled, it’s still quite viscous, so I dilute it with alcohol before using it.

Liquidambar smells very sweet (it is, after all, called “sweet gum”) and has distinctly golden honey-like and resinous notes as well as some “industrial solvent”-like notes, probably due to the resin’s styrene content. If combined with other materials, these odd “industrial” notes disappear. The scent of the oil is much stronger than that of benzoin, tolu balsam, or many of the other resins, so it really adds a distinctive layer to any composition that uses it. I combined liquidambar with other materials to produce a resinous-honey note in Hamsa and in the fruit accord for Zoologist Bat. It would probably make a really nice addition to any amber formula. It’s not just a fixative, it’s a fragrance material in its own right.

[Photos from Wikipedia or a retailer's website]