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.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I love requests from family members because they steer me in directions that I might not otherwise think to go. Bay Rum is not a scent that I would ever have decided to make without prompting. However, now that I’ve done it, I’m glad I did.

I have vague recollections of smelling something called bay rum in the past, but it was cloyingly sweet and not anything I would want to smell on others or wear myself, so when the matter was mentioned, I started researching bay rum formulas with some trepidation. Apparently bay rum originated when sailors started putting the leaves of the Caribbean bay tree in rum to flavor it - think Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum, which I recently had the pleasure of sampling. Tradition has it that the sailors, who had limited opportunities to bathe or shower, started using the spiced rum as a cologne as well as a drink. All I can say is that they must have had a big supply of rum on those ships.

Anyway, I surfed and sailed the high seas of the internet looking for bay rum formulas, coming up with all sorts of ideas, some of which seemed viable and others of which sounded like they would make a stinking mess. Using rum as the solvent seemed like a really bad idea, so I proceeded to mix up a dark rum accord from synthetics. After some trial and error, I hit on something that actually smells like rum. The rest was easy. Essential oil of West Indies bay is the backbone of the composition. This is not the same as the bay leaves used in cooking, which are actually a type of laurel. West Indies bay is Pimenta racemosa, a tree in the same genus as allspice. The bay oil and rum accord were anchored with a subtle balsamic base, expanded with some other spices like clove, allspice, cardamom and cinnamon, and the top was garnished with a little bit of orange, orange blossom, and petitgrain.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with it, and am ready for the family test. This bay rum is not at all sweet, just aromatic and spicy, with a bit of a traditional cologne-like feeling. I may want to tweak the base, but will have to monitor the drydown a few times before deciding what to do with it.
[Pimenta racemosa and rum bottle photos adapted from Wikimedia]

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