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, July 8, 2011


If you’ve ever driven a car on the highway for several hours straight, you’ve most likely encountered the problem of how to keep from falling asleep at the wheel. I know I have.

Many years ago, in another life, I had a job in one state and a relationship in another. On occasion I would drive down the US East Coast on a Friday night and back up again on a Sunday night. The drive was boring, to put it nicely. Several times I actually did fall asleep and learned why the edges of the pavement and the center line had grooves in them. I tried all sorts of strategies to keep myself awake. Some of the ones that worked, at least temporarily, were eating, singing, bouncing up and down in my seat, listening to the radio, and stopping at every rest stop to walk around and drink a cup of coffee. None of these strategies worked all the time.

On my latest road trip to Canada, I discovered that the right perfume can help keep me awake while driving. It’s always an interesting process deciding which perfume(s) to take on a trip. This last time, I took only two, both in small sample vials. They were Paestum Rose and Musc Ravageur. I chose them because they are contrasting, they aren’t mine, and I enjoy them both. I’m not sure how fitting they are for a small town in the middle of BC, but who cares? I didn’t feel like bringing any of my own perfumes because I felt like I needed a break from them.

We decided to do the trip up north all in one day, so started out at 6:00 AM, and arrived that evening before dark. Of course, it stays light most of the night in late June in that part of the world, so that doesn’t mean it was a quick trip. In fact, it took over 14 hours. Before leaving that morning, I put on some Montale White Aoud, a newly discovered favorite. It lasted through the entire trip, stimulating my brain with little puffs of sillage throughout the day. I was surprised to find that while driving, the perfume really held my attention and helped keep me awake. When I was not driving, it seemed calming and helped me rest. I ended up wishing I had brought it along for use on the way home, too.

While in BC, I ended up wearing Paestum Rose every day. I love the incense note in it, and for some reason its ethereal, woody character seemed to fit well with the northern pine forest atmosphere. I didn’t feel at all motivated to wear Musc Ravageur. I like to think that the right perfume repels bears, moose, foxes, wolves, and all the other local wildlife that I heard talk of. Maybe musk, even synthetic musk, is not a good idea. Next time I visit I’ll bring along some of the olfactory big guns to keep me awake on the drive and protect me from the local fauna, at least in my imagination.

If you drive long distances or do other boring tasks that require concentration, what do you do to keep awake and alert? Do you find that perfume helps? If so, which ones work best for you?


  1. Hi, Ellen. This post provokes two thoughts that may or may not be helpful.

    1) A few years ago I complained to my doctor about difficulty staying awake on long trips (also in meetings at work and in front of the TV after dinner). He tested me & found that I suffer from Sleep Apnia. That means my airway was getting very briefly blocked many times a night. I never woke up enough to be aware of the problem. But my sleep wasn't very restful. Besides driving off the road, the problem can damage the heart & increase long term susceptibility to heart attacks and/or strokes. If anyone reading this says, "Hey, that sounds,like me," the test & the treatment are both pretty simple.

    2) My dog turns away in disgust from coffee and from bourbon. Perhaps you should surround yourself with one or the other when camping :)

  2. Ed,
    1) Maybe sleep deprivation due to sleep apnea is a factor in your falling asleep at odd times, but the boredom of driving on a straight highway or the content of most of the meetings I go to coupled with staying up much too late and having to get up much too early can also do it. I actually think most people in our society are sleep deprived simply because of the puritan work ethic of having to go to work or school early in the morning. I try to arrange my schedule so that I don't have to be anywhere before 10 AM, and that really helps a lot.

    2) Coffee is a good thing when driving. I'm not so sure about the bourbon. Actually, I don't think I've ever tasted bourbon. I guess I need to at some point now that I have been reminded of this gap in my education. Maybe a small bottle can come on the next road trip to enhance the camping experience, although I tend to get plenty of sleep anyway when camping, going to bed when it gets dark and waking up when the spirit moves me.

  3. OMG, Please don't let anyone think I meant bourbon as a driving aid :)

    I really mean that both coffee & bourbon might help keep bears away. For that they are probably more useful applied externally than internally.

    Never tasted bourbon? How about scotch? I'm pretty sure that I once saw a web site for scotch-themed fragrances. Rum? I think it's in most of Tommy Bahama's fragrances. Gin? I actually think gin would be a pretty good cologne if it weren't for the Hogarth associations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GinLane.jpg). Bitters? I think Angostura could hold its own in blind tests against many oriental men's fragrances. So you really owe it to yourself to taste widely (but not too well).