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.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It was a big surprise to walk into the greenhouse a few weeks ago and discover a huge flower spike hanging down from the basket where Stanhopea wardii grows. This orchid has been a constant surprise to me. It was the first Stanhopea that I acquired. It arrived in the mail, and I took one look at the puny little seedling with black spots all over its leaves and knew in my heart that it was headed straight for the compost pile. But it didn’t go there. It didn’t even go to the orchid hospice, hospital, or recovery center, it slowly started putting on new pseudobulbs, getting bigger and bigger, growing reliably even though it has always been troubled from time to time by those unsightly black spots on the leaves. It’s now officially reached adulthood.

Stanhopeas are some of the most bizarre of all orchid flowers. They’re big and showy, like huge insects with a long proboscis, wings and huge eyes. They’re all extremely fragrant. The flowers pop open overnight, so one day there’s a cluster of big fat buds the size of apricots, and the next day the flowers are fully open. My wardii opened up two nights ago, and is in full bloom right now. My first impression was that it smelled like a peppermint patty, with distinct notes of peppermint, vanilla, and chocolate, but it’s a mint patty that’s been dabbed with some floral perfume, maybe a partly eaten patty that’s been sitting unwrapped in a woman’s purse next to some perfume sample strips.

I’ve seen the fragrance of Stanhopea wardii variously described as “vanilla”, “taffy candy”, “spicy” and “medicinal”, but it’s all of those things and more. I think the “medicinal” description is probably due to the mint scent. It’s definitely a gourmand fragrance, not an herbal medicinal one. However, I’ve also read that Stanhopea wardii is one of those “shape-shifter” orchids that emits one fragrance during the day and another at night. I've gone out and smelled it at different times during the night, but it seems the same - floral York peppermint patty.

One of these days I’ll make a Stanhopea perfume, but will have to decide which one. I’m not sure wardii is it, but the peppermint patty-taffy-floral combination could be interesting.


  1. How would you proceed?
    I'm about to put some Oculata into jojoba oil as an experiment;)

    1. You should allow flowers to dry thoroughly before attempting to tincture or infuse, otherwise they can mold or rot. I'm not sure how much scent dried Stanhopea flowers would have or how much they could release into jojoba oil.