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, March 4, 2011


I’m a perfume sample whore. I admit it. Every time I see an opportunity to add to my enormous collection, I ask myself if I really need more samples, but my brainstem kicks in with its primitive collecting-and-hoarding reflex and makes me order still more. I have boxes and boxes of untested samples sitting around waiting for their few hours of fame, but I can only wear one, or at most 2-3 perfumes a day, and can only do that when I’m not working on my own formulas.

Testing samples is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s part of what I do as a perfumer. Writers read a lot, musicians listen to a lot of music, and perfumers smell a lot of different things. But like the writer whose house is overrun by books, or the musician whose shelves are crammed with CDs, my closets are overflowing with perfume samples. The perfume samples are in addition to all my books and CDs, which I won’t even mention.

The samples finally got to the point where I had to do something. If I ever wanted to revisit one, there’s no way I could have found it without hours of searching. I’m not sure quite how the idea arose, but I had a couple of small plastic storage boxes, complete with flip-down handles, that I’d been using for something else. I emptied them and started to create a file system for my samples, putting them in alphabetical order, by house. The samples themselves are contained in zip-top plastic “snack-size” baggies that are cut to fit the storage box, taped together on the cut side with clear packing tape, and labeled on the top zip area. I put an index card in each one so that it will stand up straight. I could actually attach samples to the card if they’re in those vials with the little hooks, but they are doing fine just standing on their own in the baggies. Suddenly I have a system in which I can immediately find anything! Well, anything that I’ve filed. It’s shocking!

I started with the samples that I’d already tried and reviewed, filing them at the rate of a few a day so that the task didn’t become overwhelming. I’m still working on the previously tested samples, but the end is in sight. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the task, I started with a partial box of baggies, and have nearly finished a second box of 100. That means I’ve filed perfume samples from over 100 different houses. Incredible. The photo is from when I first started filing. I now have two boxes jam-packed full.

Now, as I test things, I file them in the appropriate baggie or make a new one if I don’t already have one. It’s a slow process, but at least I have a working system for knowing where things are. If any of you out there are also struggling with sample storage, some variation of this system might be worth a try, especially if you have a lot of samples in small vials.


  1. Thank you for sharing your filing system. I am just starting out with about 50 vials, and am deciding whether to keep or swap them on basenotes, but I really want to have a system for storing them. Your system is practical and easy to understand.

  2. Fred and Bellatrix, as you know, regardless of whether you keep or swap your samples it really makes life simpler if you have a filing system. I didn't mention it in the post, but I also keep a log of every perfume sample (or other size) as it comes in so that I know I have it. The log is just a Word file, organized in the same way as the file boxes, by house. For a swap, I could just go to the log, see if I have it, and then go to the file box to retrieve it. The whole process would only take a couple of minutes. It's unlike me to be so organized, but there was a point where it became absolutely necessary.