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.

Monday, October 1, 2012


This fall has been unusually sunny and dry. We have a bumper crop of ripe tomatoes, unusual in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve been giving them away by the grocery bag full. Usually we bring the tomatoes in green when the rain starts and they slowly ripen by Thanksgiving. The indoor ripening process is scary because it means that most of the “ripe” tomatoes in the supermarket could be months off the vine. The other crop that’s unusual has been the second fig crop, which normally doesn’t make it, but this year has been fat, sweet, and juicy.

There are lots of perfumes based on green fig leaves, and some based on the fruit. They’re all good. However, yesterday an online friend wrote me asking if I’d ever smelled dried fig leaves, crushed to release their fragrance. I had not, but rushed out to the back yard to retrieve a few crisp, fallen leaves from under the brown turkey fig tree. Dried leaves were scarce because the tree’s leaves are all still green and figs of all sizes and stages are still growing, taking advantage of the fall sun. When I crushed the dry leaves in my hand, I was amazed to find that they released a strong, sweet fragrance full of coumarin, coconut, and sunny, dry, dusty things. It’s a perfume in and of itself, different from fig fruit, and different from green fig leaves. It could stand alone as a perfume. 

When the fig trees drop enough leaves, I’m going to try tincturing them and see what comes out of the process. I’m also thinking about how to synthesize the smell of dried fig leaves. That’s what I love about tinkering with plants and fragrances. There’s always another project! 


  1. I've seen some perfumer's distilling equipment out there that had good reviews from indies and was only a few hundred dollars. Sounds like you might get there eventually! The fig leaves sound glorious.

  2. Oh, that smell sounds fabulous! I'm very interested in how that project turns out.

  3. Dried fig leaves! I will go find some and smell them! I even like the smell of the big leaf maple leaves that will soon be knee deep over in our yard. Gail

  4. This morning I just collected more dried leaves from the black mission fig tree. I'll start tincturing them next week when I get back from Seaside. I'm also going to start tincturing the rose-peony petal mixture that I dried a couple of months ago. I hope the scent is still there.

    Marla, I'm not sure I want to get into distilling, but you never know. Stranger things have happened, including getting into perfume-making in the first place.

    Dionne, you have a small package on its way to you (finally)!

    Gail, I like the smell of big leaf maple leaves, too. It's the typical earthy, fallen leaf smell, not sweet like the fig leaves. I found out that big leaf maples are a good source of sap for maple syrup, so we're going to try that experiment this winter.

  5. What! Maple syrup from the big leaf! I'll try it too! Gail

  6. I know this is an old post, but I grew up sniffing around my grandparents' giant fig tree and its environs, smelling the green leaves, and every type of plant on the property, to trace down just what that amazing earthy sweet smell was. I never figured it out, and I definitely spent hours searching. Finally as an adult, I planted a row of fig trees along the road by my house. That autumn, as leaves started to fall, I began to smell it again -- and the smell persisted through winter, still eluding me!! I finally bent down and smelled the dried, dead leaves and it was like being transported back in time. Were you successfully able to produce anything from the leaves? I so wish I had cologne or lotion that smelled like it !!

    1. Duranger, Thanks for your comment. Yes, the fig leaf tincture turned out smelling very much like the leaves. It's really a wonderful scent!