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, December 28, 2012


Every time I read the news I see some new and ever-more egregious attempt to micromanage people’s use of perfume. Apparently there’s talk of IFRA banning just about every natural and synthetic fragrant substance known to man, as reported here (and elsewhere).

According to this article and other sources, the city of Portland Oregon wants to severely restrict or ban all of their employees from wearing any sort of fragrance. The argument by both IFRA on a large scale and Portland city government on a small scale is that “someone might be allergic to it”. Very true. Someone might be allergic to just about anything that exists in the world.

Think about the scope for allergies - the Portland mayor’s microscopic skin flakes that float around city hall, the trees and flowers (shudder!) that grow in city parks, formaldehyde and other fumes from carpet and building materials, seagull feathers, the soap and sanitizer in all of the bathrooms throughout the city, the peanuts in a candy bar, the honey in the neighborhood granola shop, the milk in a latte (I know that milk-latte is redundant, but it’s the local terminology), prescription drugs, the plastic components in a smart phone, the nickel in a piece of cheap jewelry, the wool in a suit at the most expensive men’s store, the stuff in a kid’s “flame-retardant” pajamas, pet cats and dogs ….

(lets ban dogs! Yeah!!!), the wheat flour in a cookie, the corn meal in a tamale, the pink slime in a hot dog, the grass in everyone’s lawns. Yeah! !!! Let’s ban lawns – how about that, city of Portland? And why don’t you ban roses and the Portland Rose Festival while you’re at it? Then your nickname could be The City of No Roses and you could have a bare earth festival – oh, sorry -someone might be allergic to bare earth. It will have to be the Portland No Festival. The list could go on forever.

At least one person might be allergic to just about anything on this earth if you were to look long and hard enough. Maybe IFRA and the EU should come up with a modest proposal to just ban people – then there wouldn’t be a problem with potential allergies. Come to think of it, there wouldn’t be a problem with the economy, either.

If I have one perfume-related wish for the New Year, it is that IFRA and all other regulatory bodies stop trying to micromanage the manufacture and use of fragrances by severely restricting or banning materials that have been used safely for millenia and turn their energy to something important in the overall scheme of things. The earth is going to hell in a handbasket and all people can worry about is whether someone might be allergic to miniscule amounts of a material that doesn’t have a rich, powerful lobby promoting its use. 

[Sneeze and Portland golf course photos adapted from Wikimedia. No dogs sign adapted from one that's commercially available and used on many lawns] 


  1. Ellen,

    Total insanity! If Portland bans fragrance in the city offices, Portland should also rip out every fragrant rose in its rose gardens and replant them with the non-fragrant types.

    I am allergic to all kinds of things but it doesn't bother me that other people can enjoy shrimp, wheat, eggs, cow's milk, etc. Perhaps it bothers the IFRA "kill joys" to see people enjoying themselves or is it simply that the EU multinationals are not capturing enough funds from basic human enjoyment?


  2. Gail, It's amazing to me that horticulturists have actually developed non-fragrant roses. To me, the fragrance of roses is one of their main attractions.

    I think there are many people in this world who hate to see anyone enjoying themselves in any way, and the multinational (and other) corporations hate to see anyone enjoying anything that they don't manufacture.

  3. Well-stated! These days, when I think things can't get any more bizarre, they always do! Time to ban physical reality, will that satisfy these strange "regulatory" folk??

    1. Unfortunately I think a lot of the "regulatory" nonsense comes from fear of lawsuits, the rationale being that if people are shielded from all physical reality, or warned about everything possible, they won't be able to sue anyone. I'm probably going to do another post on silly warnings.

      Anyway, best wishes for a Happy New Year!