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, May 2, 2011


When I post a review on Fragrantica, I generally have a quick look through the posts, and never fail to be amazed by people’s obsessive posting of pictures of the bottle for any perfume that they mention. Sometimes there’s a thread with dozens of posts about the same perfume, each with the same bottle icon, making what could be a short thread very long and tiresome to go through. Even on Basenotes, if you look at threads like “Scent of the Day”, you’ll see that many people who post have inserted a picture of the perfume in question or the ad for it, sometimes as large as a billboard.

Frankly, I don’t get it. To me, perfume is not about appearance, it’s all about how it smells. I do like to have a name by which to identify each perfume that I try, but that’s it. Once I’ve seen a picture of a bottle of Chanel No. 5 or Alien, I know what it looks like. I don’t need to see it again and again. If I really want to know what the container looks like, it’s easy to look it up.

I can’t help but think that some people focus more on a perfume’s bottle and advertising than they do on the fragrance itself. Or maybe because it’s so hard to describe scents verbally, people come to view a perfume in terms of its bottle or advertising image, which eventually becomes sort of a pictograph that serves as a name in their minds. Maybe the reason I find the use of bottle and ad pictographs so superfluous is because, in my mind’s eye, I already have my own abstract visual images of what each perfume is like, formed when I smelled it from a generic sample vial, and these have nothing to do with the bottle or ad.

So my question to you, dear reader, is whether you mentally use perfume bottles or ads as pictographs or symbols to represent the perfume. Is this a good thing? Setting aside issues of quality and aesthetics in packaging or advertising, do you think that a perfume’s value is enhanced by an iconic bottle or ad?

1 comment:

  1. I have distinctive memories of the bottles and labels of my mother's perfumes and the perfumes I used as a young women. Particularly memorable are my mother's bottles of Shalimar and Nina Ricci and my own Dior ,Caron and Guy LaRoche perfume bottles and labels. Those memories of sight related to scent are indelible. I still like and use some of these perfumes (the vintage brews, not the new ones) today and think of them both as abstract "visions" of fragrance and see them in their bottles with their unique labels. That being said, these days I prefer to judge a new perfume by samples first. I don't want anyone's marketing to get in the way of my own judgement and idea of the fragrance. Once I choose a scent from a sample and decide to purchase it, I like the bottle to be user friendly and the labels to reflect the care that the perfumer takes creating the fragrance. I usually decant my most favorite fragrances into beautiful hand blown bottles of my own. I believe these favorites deserve a kind of "shrine" to live in. While the perfume's actual beauty is not changed by the bottle (or the label) I believe that the total experience of the scent is enhanced by the often stunning artwork that packages and advertises it. Gail