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.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Where do I begin with this orchid? One has been blooming in my sun porch for the last week, and today it started pumping out its scent. I don’t even know which plant is blooming because there are several that have grown together into a tangled jungle, but it’s a light pink one with a dark pink lip. I couldn't move it to my "photo studio" to take a portrait, so just had to get a snapshot in situ.

For some reason Cattleya intermedia love the growing conditions that I provide for them and thrive like weeds. I’m not sure why or how I ended up with so many varieties, but they certainly are rewarding when they bloom. A second, huge intermedia plant has at least four flower stalks developing, so it should be spectacular when it blooms. There are probably other plants lurking somewhere, waiting to burst into flower.

The scent of the pink Cattleya that’s currently in bloom is a lot like the Arabian version of rose. It’s a sweet, dark pink, candied rose mixed with almonds. It’s marzipan flavored with a strong rosewater, or rose-flavored Jordan almonds. We’ve been wowed by this fragrance all morning, but as the afternoon wears on, it’s starting to fade.

Many cattleyas only put out their fragrance during certain hours of the morning, presumably the time when their natural pollinators are out and about. When I pollinate my plants, I always try to do it at the time of day when the fragrance is strongest, and have had ridiculously good luck with that method, producing more baby orchids than I would ever know what to do with.

Should I make a “Pink Cattleya” perfume? Maybe this will be the inspiration for my rose chypre. I have to spend some more time with the flower and think about it.


  1. A Cattleya Series of fragrances would be great! Red, Golden (my favorite), Pink and more? They could be packaged as a sample collection or as a presentation box for gifts.

    Years ago I had a mystery BLC that arrived in an unmarked lot of seedlings from a commercial nursery in CA. (now long out of business). This "pound puppy" eventually produced the largest, most ruffly cool pink blooms I had (and have to this day) ever seen and, surprisingly, its fragrance was rich and wonderful. When I closed my greenhouse in 1991 this plant and all the others went to live in my sister's greenhouses. Many of my old friends still reside there, but, sadly, the mystery pink BLC fell victim to a power outage. I wish I had a photo or, better yet, a fragrance to remind me of the plant I called "Marcella".

    Gail in Issaquah

  2. Gail, your "pound puppy" pink orchid Marcella sounds spectacular! Too bad your sister doesn't still have it. I hate those winter power outages. I've lost a few favorite plants that way, too.

    I probably will make a series of Cattleya scents, and I like your idea of selling them as a boxed set. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me!

  3. Yes you should! I also think creating a rose chypre is a wonderful idea.

    This orchid's perfume sounds exquisite. You mentioned you pollinate when a plant's fragrance is at it's peak. Is that the ideal time for any fragrant plant? Is there more going on at that time than meets the eye, plant reproduction wise? (I'm lacking in botanical knowledge and very curious!)

    I can't wait for the samples to arrive. It's wonderful to see so much interest in your perfumes on the blogs as of late!

  4. JoanElaine, I only know about orchids, but I suspect that the fragrance of any flower peaks at the time that's optimal for pollination, when the seeds are just mature enough to accept the pollen, but not so old that they're past their prime. This would ensure that the pollinator goes to the most receptive flowers first, maximizing the chances of successful pollination and strong offspring.

    I'm also thrilled by all of the discussion of my perfumes on the blogs!

  5. A rose-almond-marzipan blend sounds delicious. Please do let us know when/if you decide to base a blend on pink cattleya! I certainly see the appeal of a boxed set of cattleya blends. It might also be interesting to do a series based on different facets of a single flower, no?

  6. I've been working and experimenting a lot with rose recently, so I think the time has come to start seriously thinking about the a rose-marzipan chypre to honor the pink cattleya. Of course then there's the white cattleya, the green cattleya and the lavender cattleya ... They'll all bloom in due time and I'll post about them. And the boxed set is a brilliant idea!

    Tarleisio (Scent Less Sensibilities) already blogged about the three versions of Golden Cattleya that I sent her, each of which could be taken to represent the flower at a different stage of development. It would definitely be possible to do a series of different facets of a single flower - another brilliant idea!

    I love it when I get feedback from readers. It is giving me many new and wonderful ideas and inspiration. Thank you!