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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


One of my favorite cattleya hybrids is a pound-puppy mutt called (Blc Wattana Gold x Blc Orange Nugget) x Blc Malworth ‘Orchidglade’. It’s a sturdy midsize plant with clusters of golden-orange flowers on short strong stems, held in a fan-like arrangement, well-separated from one another. It’s blooming now, one of the many orchids that suddenly bursts into flower during the winter solstice. It’s pretty enough, but what I really love about it is its fragrance. When the flowers first open, they’re like a civet bomb, spewing indole all over the place, accompanied by a sweet citrusy scent like orange fruit, orange flowers, and vanilla. After a week or so the indole recedes into the background and the orange fruit, orange flower, and vanilla combination takes over.

One of the endearing features of this orchid is the fact that the color of the flowers inadvertently matches the orange scent - or maybe it’s an “intentional” product of evolution. After all, orange trees have fruit and flowers on them at the same time, so it’s possible that pollinators of oranges are attracted to the color of the fruit as well as the scent of the flowers, and some of the same pollinators are attracted to the color of the orchid.

Of course I had to try to make a perfume based on the fragrance of the plant that I have nicknamed the “Golden Cattleya”. I’ve gone through several versions, the first one containing quite a bit of civet, the second one mostly the orange-vanilla combination, and the third one orange-vanilla with a strong sandalwood base. I know sandalwood isn’t part of the orchid scent, but it just seemed to go well with the orange and provides a long-lasting grown-up ending to the whole thing. I can’t decide which version I like best and lord knows I don’t sell enough perfume to go down the flanker route.

The civet composition I eliminated at first because it just seemed discordant. However, when I revisited it a few months later, after the materials had had time to blend, it’s actually very nice, although I think it could use some stronger fruity-vanilla notes. The second version is the one that is the least odd-smelling, sort of like an orange-vanilla dessert, but it’s fairly linear. That’s the one that I’ve distributed as samples. The sandalwood version was an attempt to boost the base, and I actually like it a lot, but then I’m a big fan of sandalwood in all of its real and synthetic permutations. It’s the least true to the flower, which I view as a down side. I'm still trying to make up my mind which direction to go.

If you’re interested in trying samples of all three versions of Golden Cattleya and commenting on the pros and cons of each, leave a comment to that effect. I’ll send samples to up to three people for their evaluation.


  1. I do believe you had me at 'orange'. I do love the colors and those orchids are breathtaking, but orange-vanilla-indole-civet-sandalwood? I'd be very honored to try them out, and even more so if I could write about them, too! (If that's OK with you, of course!)

  2. Of course you can try them and write about them. I'll send you samples soon. By the way, you've got another package on the way. It may be delayed due to Christmas, but it should arrive by next year!

  3. I just received the deluxe sample box today and love the Golden Cattleya sample you included. If you are still sending samples to try I would love to sample the other two versions and comment on them to the best of my ability.

    Gail in Issaquah