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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We’ve been having unusual weather all summer. Normally we get little or no rain in July, but this year it’s been raining every few days. This morning it rained hard, with thunder that woke me up.

Tonight just before midnight we went out for a walk. There was a tiny spritz of mist in the air, so light that it seemed like it was floating and fizzing in tiny sparkles instead of falling. It wasn’t long until I realized that the rain had brought out all sorts of odors from things I couldn’t see in the dark. It hit me near the end of our street, where I smelled an intense fragrance of dry grass that had been drenched by the rain. It was like the odor of hay, but amplified many times over. It was also like the dry grass accord that I made for Salamanca, and I realized at that moment just how accurate that accord was. Then came the lavender that grows on the corner, exhaling its aroma, nearly as strong as opening a bottle of lavender oil. Down the hill there was a place that smelled of dead blackberry leaves and mildew, and beyond that there was a supersaturated green scent, not grassy but leafy, like broad, juicy leaves of trees and shrubs spewing out their exuberant greenness into the night.

At first I wondered if all of these intense scents were real, because they were so amazingly vivid. However, returning by the same route, I smelled them all again, in the same order. The most telling one was the dry grass at the top of the hill, followed by one that I didn't notice the first time, the scent of water on roses. This is one that’s really hard to describe, but I wish I could make it into a perfume.

As we headed for the house, I fantasized about what it must be like to be a dog and know your environment mostly by scent instead of vision. Thanks to the rain, what could have been a routine walk became an olfactory adventure.

[Rain on a city street is by Hans Baluschek, 1917; Rain on a country road is by Ivan Shishkin, 1891]


  1. Doc Elly -

    A very interesting post...
    Every time I travel to the West Coast I am reminded of how wonderful the plants smell. The humidity is the most important factor. Alberta is very dry and the flowers have to pump out a huge amount of scent to perfume the air. In Spring we have lots of lilacs - both the French lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and Japanese lilac (Syringa reticulata) as well as May Day Trees (Prunus padus). In the Summer the woods are perfumed with the scent of the Wild Rose (Rosa aciculris) which happens to be the provincial flower. This rose has an amazingly beautiful scent - much lighter and fresher than the Bulgarian rose. I have not seen this fragrance in a perfume, except for Avon's long-gone To a Wild Rose. (This rose might be an interesting composition for you to try at some point in your career - he said hopefully!)
    By the way, I really appreciate you choices of art. I have googled both Shishkin and Baluschek and have found some very lovely paintings.

    Best Wishes,


  2. Robert, the lilacs here on the West Coast were amazing this spring. Almost everyone grows them. For weeks the air wherever I went was filled with the scent of lilac. We have the French lilac, and Persian lilac, but I've never seen the Japanese lilac. That seems strange because so many Japanese plants thrive here.

    Just the other day I was smelling some of the wild roses that grow here. I'm not sure of the species, maybe acicularis or woodsii. The scent is very different from the cultivated roses - as you say, lighter and fresher - but of course every variety of garden rose smells different, too.