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 19, 2012


I really haven’t wanted to get into using very expensive natural materials, since I like to keep my creations affordable, but I did go a little way down that rabbit hole in making the Devil Scents and one of my current projects is also leading me farther down that slippery slope to perfumer's hybrid heaven-hell. It’s a formula with a lot of earthy base notes, but I want to use florals as well. I first thought of using tuberose absolute, because it would fit conceptually with the general theme, but when I added it, it clashed horribly. I had just received a sample of osmanthus absolute from Eden Botanical, so on a whim, I tried that with the base. Perfect. Or nearly perfect. It just needed a little sharpening of the floral notes.

There was recently a post about osmanthus on CaFleureBon, giving a lot of its cultural history, so receiving the sample was, if you will, synchronicity doing its work again. Eden Botanical sure knows how to get a perfumer hooked.

Botanically, Osmanthus is a genus of trees or shrubs that are mostly native to Asia, but Osmanthus americanus is a small tree native to the southeastern US, also known as devilwood, due to the fact that its wood is so dense and hard and difficult to cut. Its tiny white flowers are fragrant. I would love to smell them in real life some day. The Asian species Osmanthus fragrans, is the one used in perfumery. The flowers are small, borne in clusters, and yellow to orange in color. I don’t know what the live flowers of either species smell like, but osmanthus absolute is an odd fragrance, diffusely and sweetly floral in the nicest sort of way, like a highly refined version of ylang-ylang, but also with shockingly distinct notes of apricot, green things, and (to me) blue cheese. Others describe it as “leathery”, but to me it’s more cheesy. Maybe it’s just the Eden version that smells that way. Regardless, it goes really well with earthy base notes. Once I get my supply (yes, it’s on order), I’ll do a giveaway of a tiny sample.

Then I had another idea.

A year or so ago I ordered some oil (aka absolute) of blue lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, from a company in Thailand that grows and produces it. Again, I’ve never smelled the fresh flowers, but I can say that blue lotus absolute has a unique fragrance that’s unlike anything else in the olfactory universe. It’s floral of course, a little sharp and spicy, a little metallic, and quite unlike anything else that I’ve smelled. I was not sure what to think of it the first time I smelled it, but have been saving it all this time. I added it to the base and the osmanthus, and voila! The floral scent popped out in full focus. I’ve got it all on my skin right now, and it’s been going strong all evening. I applied a drop of pure blue lotus in a separate place, and am enjoying it immensely.

Before using blue lotus in a formula, I have to know that I can get more, but the supplier’s website lists it as being “out of stock”. Dang!!! I may have to try some other varieties of lotus to see if they would work, and eventually synthesize an accord that approximates the scent of Nymphaea caerulea, the blue Egyptian lotus. I think it could be really useful. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the osmanthus and maybe work on synthesizing that, too. 

By the way, here's a picture of Osmanthus americanus. Has anyone out there smelled it in real life? 

Now that I look at the flowers, I think maybe there's something like that growing on the university campus. I remember smelling some wonderful little flowers on a shrub last winter, and wondering what they were. More research is in order!

[Photos all from Wikimedia]


  1. Osmanthus americanus grew in the woods and sometimes in the palmetto scrub in central Florida. We called it olive or wild olive. I have heard it referred to as scrub cherry as well. Unfortunately I don't recall the fragrance.

    Have you tried blue lotus from other suppliers? If so, what are the differences? Sometimes I find a fragrance from one source has little, if any, resemblance to the same name product from another source. If I haven't encountered the plant in nature I really have no idea what it should smell like. But I guess that shouldn't really matter as long as the scent is what I am looking for? Gail

    1. Gail, you're right, since I read that Osmanthus americanus is also called wild olive and that it grows in Florida and other parts of the US Southeast.

      I haven't found another even minimally credible supplier that sells blue lotus absolute. There are some sites that claim to have it, but they all look very suspicious to me. Personally, I don't buy materials from the "magickal-mystical-spiritual" websites that make extravagant claims and never say where the materials come from. I've written to the Thai blue lotus farm and am waiting to hear back from them.

  2. Thanks for the valuable information you have shared here! Floral Absolutes are the most concentrated forms of natural fragrance, obtained by removing most of the floral waxes and non aromatic materials from the concrete to ethanol. Floral absolutes are highly used in natural perfumery and aromatherapy.

  3. The flowers of Osmanthus americana smell very sweet, similar to Tea Olive flowers.