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.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


There are quite a few areas where cooking, drink-making, and perfume intersect. I discovered another one quite by accident last month when I was testing Siberian fir oil for the evergreen blog post. I put the fir oil on in the morning while having my coffee, and somehow the tiny bit that was on my finger got on my cup. A few molecules of Siberian fir combined with dark roast coffee makes for an absolutely amazing taste experience! I started to think of all the ways that essential oils could be used to flavor coffee. I then deliberately tried putting a tiny swipe of Siberian fir oil in my coffee cup before adding coffee, and the result was the perfect “Christmas coffee”. It was like inhaling and drinking a freshly cut Christmas tree, needles, wood, and all!

To have the perfect coffee flavoring system all you would need is a bottle of oil with a wand/swab-type applicator like the ones used for lip-gloss or nail polish - one that's not dissolved by the oil, of course. You also need to make sure the cup is dry so that the oil will adhere. A tiny dab is enough. The possibilities are endless!

Flavored coffees have been around for a long time, but most of the flavors available as syrups are sweet, gourmand ones like vanilla, caramel, chocolate, spices, fruit, or my favorite, Irish Cream. Adding woody, herbal, and floral flavors seems like a great way to subtly alter the coffee in endless ways without having to add syrup. I remember a couple of years ago having coffee with an unusual woody flavor at a little place on the Oregon coast. I wonder if it had been intentionally or unintentionally infused with a wood flavor?

Today I tried coffee with frankincense. It works remarkably well. I’m trying to use up some wimpy medium roast coffee that was given to me (I prefer mine roasted to a black crisp!), and adding flavors is a good way to make it more interesting. I can imagine that frankincense would be amazing in a really good dark-roast coffee. The aroma from the cup before you drink it is exactly like burning incense, so I just want to keep sniffing it! The flavor itself is similar to burning incense, but with a lemony twist. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of coffee, but I love it.

Then I got really adventurous and tried davana. I was afraid that it might be overwhelming, but it’s not. The aroma in the steam is more woody than sharp-fruity, almost like amplified chamomile. The taste is also more woody than I would have thought, but the fruity, boozy taste definitely comes through, too. Interesting, to say the least. I’m going to continue experimenting at least until this (large) batch of coffee is used up. So far, fir and frankincense are my favorites, although I have to say that davana is yummy, too. I think it would make a wonderful flavoring for a soft drink, tea, or gelato. 

At the risk of sounding ridiculously parental, I'll add that if you try this at home, make sure you use natural oils that are OK for human consumption. Don't use artificial fragrance oils. 

[Coffee and Christmas tree photos adapted from Wikimedia]


  1. Now this is freaky! In a very good way! If I drank coffee I´d definitely try!

  2. Oh that's ringing my bells in so many ways. I'm used to the usual warm aromatics in coffee --cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla etc-- but when I moved to Mexico, I discovered people taking their coffee with rosemary or a type of wild sage.

    Apparently it's not as common as it once was, but since Latin America has historically come up with some pretty good beverages (hot chocolate anyone?)I gave it a shot.

    It takes some readjusting of tastebud expectations, but I definitely can see the appeal. I liked the rosemary best, but I bet I'd prefer the fir more than both put together.

  3. Rihannon, I'm sure rosemary and sage are good in coffee, and I love the fact that using aromatics in coffee is a traditional Latin American practice that I've rediscovered by accident! There's nothing new under the sun. The fir really is wonderful.