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, February 8, 2012


My ongoing exploration of Artemisia species would not be complete without including Artemisia pallens, also known as davana. It’s a small shrub that grows all over India, mostly in cultivation. It’s an attractive plant with lacy silver-green leaves and yellow flowers. It is reported to prefer growing near sandalwood trees, although I suspect that it’s planted there for convenience. Davana essential oil is distilled from the leaves, stems and flowers of the plant. It is orange in color, with a strong, woody-aromatic fruity fragrance along with chamomile and sweet hay-like notes. The fruit components remind me of oily dried peaches and apricots. I can only vouch for how it smells on paper and on my own skin, though, because it has the reputation of being a shape-shifter, assuming a different quality on every person who wears it. After today’s experience, I suspect that it may also be different each time the same person wears it. Davana is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. In addition to being used in perfume, it’s also used to flavor some types of pastries and sweets, so it’s not only sniffable, it’s edible.

It seems to me that davana enhances other scents, too. After applying it, I was outside, running in an area where there were a lot of wet, rotting leaves, and the smell of the leaves seemed super-normally strong. When I sniffed the davana on my wrist, it seemed to have picked up some of the leaf smell. On one part of my run, there was an area with a sweet, floral scent that also seemed to be enhanced, and the davana seemed to be echoing that scent, too. This is the time of year when a lot of trees and shrubs are starting to bloom, so I’m not sure what the flowers were. It was also early evening, when a lot of smells are especially strong anyway.

Whatever its other properties, I can certainly testify to the marvelous aroma and relaxing qualities of davana. As soon as I put it on I sank into a feeling of extreme well-being. As I sit here inhaling the fragrance, I wonder why have I not yet used davana in a perfume. One of my all-natural perfumes is most definitely going to be built around davana.

Because I’m curious to learn more about its shape-shifting, scent-enhancing, and scent-mimicking properties, I’d like to offer as many as 10 small (0.5 ml) samples of davana oil to readers who are willing to wear it and report back on their impressions. It will be fun to collect all of the reports in a blog post!

If you’d like to try a sample of davana, please leave a comment here.

[Davana photo from Antica Erborista Romana]


  1. Hi Ellen

    I up for trying davana and reporting back on my experience. I am always looking for fragrances that will help me to relax and the shape shifting properties that you describe are intriguing.


  2. I would be happy to be a guinea pig in testing out davana for the blog. I have had very timid experiences with it before, read as changing and unpleasant ashtrayish, but I know there is something good to be found in Davana as well!


  3. I'd love a sample of Davana! I'm not yet sure I am completely familiar with it when it appears in perfume but I certainly love it there.
    So, please, count me in. :)

  4. Hello,

    I would absolutely love to try this chameleon sounding davana and see how it smells on me through a day. I live in canada, not sure if that is possible. Sounds amazing!

    Thanks, Zen

  5. I would like to wear Davana. It is always interesting to discover how an unfamiliar scent reacts on my skin. I am especially intrigued by the fact that Davana loves to be near sandalwood!


  6. Nancy, Zen, Ines, Michael and Gail, you're on the davana testers list. I have mailing addresses for Ines and Gail, but the rest of you will need to PM me with your full mailing address (yes, I can ship to Canada).

    There's still room for a few more if you want to join in the fun.

  7. So wondeful to offer this! I would love to try it and promise to report back.
    I would love to try any unusual oil/ extract, etc.

    Thank you !


  8. Hi Doc Elly, if it is not too late, I'd love to join in the Davana test group as well. Davana in perfume is wonderful, so I'd love to try the pure essential oil on its own.
    My email is olfactoria at gmail dot com

    Thank you!

  9. Celina and Olfactoria, You're on the list for davana!

  10. Hi! I just stumbled across this while doing a little research on davana -- if you're still looking for guinea pigs, I'd *love* to try some of the oil!