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, December 20, 2011


In my quest to explore Artemisia species, I ordered some Artemisia absinthium oil. The vendor also had Cymbopogon validus, also known as African bluegrass, so I’m testing the two of them in parallel. I’ll be writing about the African bluegrass in another post on Cymbopogon species used in perfumery and cooking. However, I also realized that I have essential oil of yet another Artemisia species, Artemisia vulgaris, also known as armoise, wormwood, or mugwort, so will compare it with the newly-acquired absinthe.

Armoise has a dry, slightly bitter, slightly sweet scent that reminds me of sage, tarragon, and aromatic greenness. I used it in Kingston Ferry to help produce the salty, leathery-leaved, herbal green scent of the gardens and beach areas near the ferry dock. It would be a wonderful addition to any perfume that has a strong herbal note.

Absinthe essential oil is stronger and more bitter than armoise, dry, woody, and sharp, but with the same tinge of saltiness. It even has a hint of oiliness in the beginning before the bitter, woody character fully develops. It has nothing to do with the typical anise and fennel flavoring used in the drink absinthe, but does presumably contribute a bitter character similar to that found along with other flavorings in vermouth. In perfumery, I can see it contributing to deciduous wood accords like oak.

The common naming of Artemisia species is confusing, to say the least. Several of them are called “wormwood”, several are called “mugwort”, and the flavor that’s typically associated with absinthe is not Artemisia at all. I would never buy an essential oil called “wormwood”, “mugwort”, “absinthe”, or “Artemesia” without knowing the species.

[Artemesia plant photos from Wikimedia]

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