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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


One sad fact of life is that I have way too many perfume samples. They come in all different forms from messy little vials with hand-written tags to carded manufacturer’s samples, to modest-sized decants in more or less professional-looking containers. Then there are the full bottles and mini-bottles. I’m a pathetic sucker for all those special offers that come in my e-mail - 75% off at The Perfumed Court, Luckyscent’s seasonal package of new stuff, and so on and so on. The samples pile up faster than I can try them. I have to figure out some strategy, short of going completely abstinent on samples, to try them all.

I publish reviews on a few websites, as well as here, so sampling isn’t just slapping six different things on my wrists simultaneously and sniffing each spot in turn, it’s wearing the scents one at a time, often several times, before making up my mind what to write. Moreover, I can’t wear samples if I’m working on my own stuff, so I can’t sample every day. As a perfumer, I always experience a little bit of a moral dilemma about reviewing perfumes. Is it a conflict of interest to publish my opinion of other people’s work, especially if it’s negative? I tell myself that when I write reviews, it’s strictly as a consumer, but I still feel an obligation to give each scent the fairest evaluation possible.

I just got through cleaning and organizing the closet where I keep my samples, and realized that the carded samples take up much more than their fair share of space. Each card is at least 10 times the volume of the vial, so I have resolved to alternate trying “naked” samples and carded ones, removing the cards as I go and filing the samples away in a new, alphabetical system that I’ve decided to implement this year. Yeah, right. Anyway, good intentions are a start.


  1. Hi Elly, I like reading your reviews on fragrantica and mosied over to see your own site. The way I deal with samples is to move em on out the door if they don't wow me at first sniff. I realize as a perfumer you probably analyze them much more than I do. But I've found that I've never yet substantially changed my opinion from that first impression and if I package the samples up every few months and sell them on ebay - and they are bringing very good prices these days - then I feel no guilt in using that paypal balance for ordering new ones :)

    Just what works for me.

  2. Just saw this comment! Kat, thanks for reading my reviews and checking out my blog. I've been super busy and haven't had time to sample a lot of things and post reviews on Fragrantica lately - you've probably noticed if you keep up with the reviews.

    I actually have changed my opinion on a few things after trying them several times, so like to give more than a casual sniff before making a decision. And, as you say, I do analyze everything I try and keep a sample as a reference even if I don't plan on wearing it. For your purposes, however, what you do seems like an excellent strategy.

  3. I had 20 to 25 times the samples shown in your photo. Seems like I get fragrance samples everywhere I go and every time I order beauty products.

    I solved my problem. I sorted them all and kept one of each fragrance for myself. Then I made up bags for neighbors and friends and decorated them. Then I hung the bags on their doors. I got the best feedback. You would be surprised how happy surplus samples can make others. And, how many new friends you get when you hang them on the doors of neighbors you have yet to meet.

    One way you can organize the samples is with a binder and baseball card sleeves. Most samples (even with the cards on) fit nicely in there and you can flip through the pages quickly.

    I have to say, I envy your job. I love fragrance. You are one lucky gal.

  4. Oh, the samples in the photo are only a tiny fraction of what I have! I like to keep samples as a reference library, so I've developed a really nice system for keeping them and nowI have four file boxes full of samples. Like you, I keep one of everything and eventually give the others away. Your giveaways must be a wonderful surprise for the recipients!

    From time to time I do giveaways on here, so I know the fragrances go to perfume lovers.