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, September 20, 2012


I've been holding back on talking about the new perfume, waiting for the definitive post to be published on CaFleureBon. It appeared tonight, and includes a long description of how this collaborative project with Michelyn Camen developed from the brilliant idea she had of making a fragrance to celebrate one of the most famous love poems by Pablo Neruda, one of the greatest Latin American poets. The post also documents my approach to the actual making of the fragrance, our back-and-forth discussions as the concept and the fragrance developed, the notes, the final packaging, and a drawing for the first full bottle produced.

I feel like it's been an all-out sprint to the finish line, but with the feeling of exhaustion comes the exhilaration of knowing that I've had the opportunity to participate in a truly unique experience in the art of perfume. I have a special fondness for Latin American writers and the magical realism genre, so the whole project resonated with me to the extent that I mentally obsessed about it so much that I went through periods of not being able to accomplish anything in the lab and had to work in intensive spurts. Now that it's done (at least this stage of it) I feel like I'm too tired to think straight and I need to collapse and go to bed so that I can get up and travel to LA tomorrow for the Los Angeles Artisan Fragrance Salon, where Sonnet XVII will make its debut. As I said in the other post, I only hope that the fragrance does justice to the poem:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. 
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, 
in secret, between the shadow and the soul. 

I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries
in itself the light of hidden flowers;
Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance 
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride,
so I love you because I know no other way than this

where I do not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

And in Spanish:

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego.
Te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres, 
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.


  1. I love the latin american writers and the composers as well. My students all have to read Neruda and play Santoro, Villa Lobos and Ginastera, among others. I'm looking forward to trying a sample of this Sonnet XVII. Happy travels. Gail

    1. Gail, You and my other regular testers will all get samples of Sonnet XVII soon, along with a few other things. Is this a teaser, or what?

  2. Beautiful poem, and I'm sure the perfume is equally beautiful! What a great project you and Michelyn came up with.

    1. Marla, you're one of my regular testers, so my comment to Gail applies to you, too. The Sonnet XVII project really was fun.

  3. As I read the poem I had the irreverant thought that the perfume should be composed entirely of anosmic notes. Sorry :-)