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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Late last month I had to go to the fabric store to buy some cloth to cover a prop I was making for an upcoming show. I hate all fabric stores with a passion. There’s no need to go into details except to say that the fabric cutting and checkout system always seems to move in slow motion and is highly bureaucratic. I don’t do well dealing with the bureaucratic mentality in any form, and I really don’t want to lounge around at the fabric cutting counter holding my number, waiting for the cutters to discuss with a semi-conscious customer which tiny floral pattern will look best next to another tiny floral pattern on a quilt, slowly comparing one piece of cloth after another without anything actually getting cut, all the while nearly choking on cinnamon fumes.

Speaking of cinnamon fumes, before even entering the store I was assaulted by the strongest cinnamon odor I’ve ever smelled - much stronger than real, pure cinnamon. I thought the management must be pumping cinnamon scent into the store, so I asked one of the women who worked there what the cinnamon smell was. She replied, “Oh, it’s just the pine cones. It would be too expensive to use cinnamon scent”. Pine cones? Since when do pine cones smell like supercharged cinnamon? I asked another person who worked in the store if she noticed the in-your-face smell of cinnamon, and whether it bothered her at all. She replied that she hardly noticed it, but when she came in to work in the mornings it made her feel as if she had a lot of energy. She assured me that the cinnamon scent came from “the pine cones”. I probed a bit further and found out that there were bags of ponderosa pine cones stacked in the area between the two sets of doors at the entrance, and these were the source of the scent.

Sure enough, the pine cones were right there in the entry lobby, in net bags, exuding a powerful artificial cinnamon odor. I suppose they had been soaked in cinnamon scent, but why? Ponderosa pine cones have a lovely scent of their own, subtle though it is. A few dozen bags of these cones scented the entire large supermarket-size store, even though they weren’t technically IN the store. What would a whole bag of cones do to a small house or apartment? Kill bedbugs?

I suppose the idea is to buy a bag of cones and place them in strategic locations to promote a holiday-like atmosphere and attitude through continuous inhalation of cinnamon. Welcome your guests with a blast of cinnamon coming from an innocent-looking little pine cone! Inspire your family to purchase mass quantities of retail goods through constantly inhaling cinnamon scent! Sell your gigantic foreclosure-prone house by fumigating it with cinnamon pine cones!

In all fairness, the pine cones are probably meant as Thanksgiving or Christmas decorations, so when they’re delivered to the stores in early October they have a while to go before being sold and used for their intended purpose. In the meantime, maybe the cinnamon scent will be reduced to a pleasant level, but wow! Like the agarbatti scent that permanently invades every item bought in little Indian clothing shops, cinnamon is probably going to be a signature scent that permeates every item sold by this fabric store for the entire coming year.

What do you think about holiday-theme ambient scents? Do you enjoy them? Do you use them? What are your favorites and least favorites? Do they influence your attitudes and behavior?

[Pine cone photos from Wikimedia]


  1. I love the scent of pine in the winter, especially during the holidays. We usually have a live tree, but I like to amp it up with good quality candles. Right now my favourite is called "Fraser Fir." I really don't like the sweet candles that come out this time of year though, the "Gingerbread" or vanilla ones. They're cloying. A cinnamon/woody one would be nice, if I could find one that wasn't too sweet.

  2. LOL! Bedbug problems in hotels have recently gotten a lot of publicity. Do you suppose carrying a few in your suitcase would get more or less attention from TSA?

    Our Wegmans supermarket had both cinnamon pine cones and cinnamon brooms (the look like something from Grimm's and smell like - well, you already know) for sale for a couple of months. At the entrance. If I didn't like cinnamon I'd have had to buy my milk at a 7-11. But I don't like cinnamon enough to buy one.

    What do you suppose they use to scent these things?

  3. The grocery stores here sell the cinnamon pine cones. They are so pungent, they keep them outside. This is the scent-hating province, so I understand why. To be honest, I'm grateful because I loathe the smell of them. It makes me feel so ill, I don't want to buy groceries!

    I love the smell of pine trees this time of year. Such a gorgeous scent.

  4. Apparently those cinnamon pine cones are more common than I thought. It seems everyone keeps them outside of the main part of the store due to the strong odor.

    Ed, I don't know what they use to scent those things, but it's stronger than pure cinnamon oil. I haven't seen cinnamon brooms, but they sound hideous.

    JoanElaine, I'm like you - the cinnamon odor is a complete turn-off. The smell of real pine trees, on the other hand is wonderful.

    Kjanicki, I like pine as a winter scent, too, as well as other evergreens like firs, hemlock, and cedar. I don't like the "sweet" candle scents, either. In fact, I'm not big on scented candles at all.

  5. I have always loved the pine or fir scented products that appear at Christmas time. I used to wait until the day after and load up on candles to burn throughout the year until I discovered Voluspa's Golden Cypress. It's not a holiday product so it's always around. Love! So crisp and dry and not sweet.

    But I don't care at all for the faux cinnamon scent, nor the sweet faux holiday baking accords. If I want to smell those scents I make chai the slow way. It perfumes the house for hours.

  6. I work in a fabric store where these are sold. That worker must have been CRAZY, because my coworkers and I CANNOT STAND these stupid things. They make us sick. Some get migraines. Some cough, sneezing. My ears even started to hurt today... we had issues last year and this year we're all sick of it, knowing now we get to be sick until January. We're trying really hard to find the ingredients in these things and present a case from all of us with evidence inhaling the smell too long can cause damage, so we can get them out of our faces and into an open area!

    1. It looks like the cinnamon pine cones are starting even earlier this year! The other day I was at a grocery store and as I entered, I smelled what I thought was cinnamon pine cones. I thought, "no, it can't be. It's only September". But when I came out, yes, there were a few bags of them stacked by the door.

      I can't imagine how horrible it would be to work in a store with those things every day for months. Even if they don't cause physical damage, they could cause psychological damage.

      I don't know which chemicals are used to make the scent. I'm sure it's a proprietary secret. In any case, workers should not be involuntarily subjected to it for long periods of time. Good luck on getting them out of your store, or at least put in sealed plastic bags.