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, September 28, 2012


September has been a terrible month, or a very good month, depending on one’s point of view. In any case, it’s been unusually hectic, and I’ve neglected the blog terribly. The first two weeks of September I was spending half of my time teaching an intensive course and half of my time finalizing and preparing Sonnet XVII for release. The third half of my time was spent taking care of the orchids and regular life activities. I probably didn’t do the publicity end of Sonnet XVII justice, but I did the best I could given the time constraints I had. I’m still thinking about the formula. I’m reasonably certain that it’s good, but I need time away from it before I can evaluate it properly. It was certainly well received at the LA Fragrance Salon, with many people (even naïve spillover people from the chocolate show) commenting that it smelled “earthy”, which was one aspect I was going for. When I smelled it yesterday, I could actually detect the spikenard, so maybe the elusive spikenard will come out of the closet after all as the blend ages. It was awarded a bronze medal for “best new product”, but I can’t figure out whether this is a mild and sincere compliment or damning with faint praise. I’ll be an optimist and assume the former.

The Los Angeles Fragrance Salon was different from the one in San Francisco in that it was a tag-on to a big chocolate show. Many of the people who attended were chocolate-lovers who wandered in through curiosity or accident. I think all of the fragrance exhibitors spent a lot of time educating those chocolate enthusiasts who were interested in perfume. Some were interested, and some weren't. The typical exchange at my booth went something like this:

Me: What type of fragrance do you like?
Visitor: I don’t know. I don’t really wear perfume. Something light.
Me: (thinking, I don’t have anything “light”. I don’t do “lite”.) OK. Do you like florals?
Visitor: Yeah, I guess so.
Me: Try these orchid fragrances (I spritz Red Cattleya, Golden Cattleya, Little Stars, Osafume, and Javanica on test strips).
Visitor: mmmmm….. what’s this one?
Me: (thinking, “This one is anything but lite”) Red Cattleya (or one of the others). It’s an orchid fragrance.
Visitor: Ooooh…, I like it.  (happily buys a 5 ml spray bottle of Red Cattleya (or one of the others) and moves on to the next booth).

The saving grace of the LA Salon was that we flew down to LA a day early and got to spend a whole day at the Santa Monica Beach. There’s something magical about the beach, the sun, the warm sand, and the salt water with wave after wave surging and breaking in a rhythmic pattern. It was a time of total relaxation and renewal. A year’s vacation compressed into a day. The first time we had been in real sun in about 3 years. Michael got painfully sunburned. I just turned a slightly darker shade of tan. It was wonderful! Being in a warm place made me realize how tense we all get when we live in cool or cold climates, and how unnatural it is.

As soon as I got back to Seattle from LA, the fall quarter started, with more teaching, meetings, and the usual round of academic stuff. My theatre group’s fall show is coming up soon, so I’ve also been busy with casting and rehearsals. I have a lot of pending orders that I have to ship out this coming week.

For some unknown reason, I’ve been wearing nothing but really good ouds since I’ve been back, none of the usual sample tests. I don’t know why, but I just can’t face standard, conventional perfumes right now. Somehow, straight oud is comforting.

The weather in the Pacific Northwest is still dry and sunny, so I’m enjoying that, even if it’s not as warm as LA. Every day that I can go barefoot at home or wear sandals when I go out, is a gift. I think this whole past week I’ve really been in recovery from traveling and the LA show. I forgot to bring my camera (as usual) so didn’t take any photos. I know people came by and took pictures of my booth, so as they’re posted, I’ll put them on here, if I find them. I suppose the bottom line is that I’m in a fall funk, sad to see summer over so soon. That will change, and I’ll get back to posting regularly, I promise.

[LA Fragrance Salon poster from their website; other photos from Wikimedia]


  1. Welcome back to the cool, misty PNW! I gravitate toward ouds this time of year too. I find that the good ones have all the complexity and longevity of a fine compounded perfume. I also like that some sellers blend their various natural ouds to get the oud they want but can't seem to find anywhere.

    Regarding the "bronze": If you are stunned by the beauty of your own creation then don't second guess yourself. Personally I think it is better to take risks. Taking risks might mean going against what is trendy and ruffling a few feathers and shocking a few noses. If everyone just loves your creation then something is probably wrong and its time to revise! Gail

  2. Gail, you echoed my thoughts entirely. I have no desire to try to follow what is trendy since that's ultimately a moving target that one will never catch up with unless one is the creator of the trend. As you know, I make what I like, and let the customers fall where they may.

    In the case of Sonnet XVII, the time frame from conception to release was so fast that I never completely decided whether I was pleased (let alone stunned!) by the fragrance. As it ages and my nose has a break, I'm liking it much better. I know it's not good politics to reveal so much about my thought process, but there you have it.