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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I didn’t start this intending to write about making a potpourri, although potpourri would certainly fall under the umbrella of perfumery. When I started writing, what I had in mind was a random mix of snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails of information that wouldn’t fit anywhere else, sort of a clean-up operation before I leave town. But writing has a way of taking its own course once I sit down at the laptop, sort of like characters in a play.

I have to say that I am not a fan of potpourris, tending to focus on the “pourri” (rotten) aspect of them, and having far too many memories of being gifted with cellophane or cloth packages of dried, crumbling plant material impregnated with nasty-smelling synthetic scents. The thought of making a real-life potpourri had never crossed my mind until I sat down to write this. My mind having steered itself in this direction, however, I’m thinking about what my criteria would be for an acceptable potpourri, and how I would use it.

I’m not big on scenting my drawers or closets. Lord knows there are enough fragrances floating around the house all the time to fumigate any moths that might be lurking in the shadowy corners of these places, and I don’t wear wool. It’s too scratchy, and I think I might be mildly allergic to it. I do occasionally enjoy burning incense, so potpourri as a room scent might be the way to go. Maybe potpourri would work best as a dry perfume that could then be tinctured, or maybe it could even be burned as loose incense.

For a potpourri to be acceptable, it would have to be natural, not scented with anything synthetic since that seems like that defeats the purpose of making it in the first place. I’ve got enough rose petals to dry and start with, but I don't think they’re going to be the primary scent material. My guess is that flower petals mostly just function as the sponge that absorbs other things. I’ve got tons of peony petals, and they could also function as a scent sponge. There’s plenty of lavender growing nearby, there’s rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, and lemon verbena, there’s my overflowing spice drawer, and there are all of the various dried herbal things sitting around in my storage area with the idea that one day I’m going to tincture them.

I don’t think I like potpourris in bags, so maybe a pot of some sort would be the way to go, like the nice ceramic orchid pots made by my sister-in law, who is a potter. My idea is that potpourri should be a cumulative project to which things keep getting added as they become available, so it would be constantly changing with the seasons, but with a common thread of old the stuff combined with the new. 

Now I see that writing has led to a new experiment, which I’m actually going to undertake and report on from time to time as it progresses. The first batch of rose and peony petals are drying in the sun right now, and I’m finding that as they dry, the scent intensifies. The white peony petals smell fabulous! When it’s finished, some lucky readers will have a chance to smell the result. But in the meantime, what do you think about potpourri? Would you use it at all? What for? What characteristics would your ideal potpourri have? 


  1. Interesting topic. I used to like potpourri as a room fragrance. But I rarely find one that smells interesting. Also my biggest problem is the dust. Potpourri collects dust and it is hard to remove it.

    But I would love a floral oriental or woody oriental inspired potpourri.


    1. Celina, I'm with you on never having smelled an interesting potpourri. I think woody oriental is the way to go, regardless of what's done with it, preferably tincturing or burning so that it won't sit around and collect dust.