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, January 20, 2012


I’ve skipped posting much for a few days because, frankly, I’ve been spending a lot of time marveling at all the snow we’ve been having. I confess, I love snow with a passion. There’s something miraculous and hypnotic about watching the white flakes fall out of the sky and transform the ordinary world into a magical kingdom in which everything is strange and new. I love to go out and walk in the snow. There’s something profoundly sensual about being showered with fluffy white stuff, like a constant stream of confetti. I don’t even mind that it’s cold. In fact, it doesn’t feel as cold when it’s below freezing and snowing as it does when it’s above freezing and raining that cold Seattle drizzle.

A snow day turned into a snow week, or rather, an ice-snow-ice-snow-ice-snow week. I’ve lost track of what day the first snow occurred, but it was a considerable amount that started out with a thick covering of about 4 inches, followed by a little freezing misty rain that melted a bit of it. Then we got another couple of inches of snow, followed by a massive ice storm - freezing rain that encased everything in a hard, heavy, transparent cocoon of ice. Then the snow started up again and fell heavily for over 12 hours, on top of all the other snow and ice, a major dump that resulted in deeper snow than I’ve ever seen here. This morning it’s finally starting to melt. It’s amazing to see the bamboo, that had been weighted flat to the ground, pop upright as the ice drops off.

With temperatures below freezing for a week, it made me think about what “cold” smells like. To me, cold air has a kind of watery-mineral scent that’s both wet and dry at the same time. There are other scents associated with cold weather, like wood smoke and (choke!!) car exhaust, which seems augmented many times over in cold weather, but those are not the smell of “cold” per se.

I think there are scents that people have traditionally been trained to perceive as symbols of “cold”, especially mint, and other things that stimulate trigeminal receptors that can signal “cold”, especially the contrast effect of drinking cool water after eating mint. To me mint doesn’t smell at all like cold air, so I was surprised to read a perfume review a while back complaining that a “cold air”-themed perfume didn’t smell cold because it didn’t contain mint. I associate mint with hot mint tea, chocolate-covered peppermint patties, or working in the garden in summer controlling runaway mint, so to me it’s more of a “warm”-themed scent than a cold one, trigeminal stimulation notwithstanding.

How do you perceive the scent of cold air or snow?


  1. A nasty flu limited my sense of snow smell during our stormy weather, but I could still hear the sounds of devastation as the large, old trees on our property lost piles of branches to the ice, wind and snow storms. The most damage happened in the doug firs, the pines also suffered somewhat. The cedars, large maples, true firs, ornamental and fruit trees were pretty much unscathed with the notable exception of a group of large, old lilacs that were completely destroyed, smashed flat. The snow is almost gone and we are left with an almost overwhelming clean up. I'm afraid a couple of the doug firs will have to be removed because they are dangerously unbalanced. We are still out of power. Fortunately our generator keeps humming along. I have always enjoyed the smells and sounds of snow, but now I think I will associate the smell of broken evergreens with arrival of cold, snow and ice. I hope your greenhouses survived intact! Gail

  2. Gail, It sounds like you had it MUCH worse than we did, and I'm sorry to hear about your evergreen trees and lilacs. I hope the lilacs will come back up from the roots in the spring. Our power was out only for short periods of time, so the greenhouse did just fine. I think we were spared the worst of the ice storm, since we mostly had snow here. I haven't been down in the woods yet to see what has happened to the firs and hemlocks, but I can see that a couple of big long branches broke off of the big leaf maple tree right outside the window of the room where I write.

    Sorry to hear that you've been sick with the flu, too. Seems like you were hit with everything at once. I hope you're feeling better.

  3. Thank you, Ellen. I think I have about two more days of this flu. Its good to hear that you guys were spared the worst of the storm and that you have power. As far as tree damage I think this was worse than the 2006 storm, the one with the 96 mile an hour winds. The lilacs will grow back, no doubt, and the power will be restored as well! Gail