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, May 17, 2013


I'm  finally coming to the end of the Devil Scent series, at least the ones I could get my hands on. These are the fourth in each series, names notwithstanding, so all that's left to review are the two Liliths. They're coming soon! 

Neil Morris Devil Scent #3
At first this smells a little more bitter than the others, with herbal notes that remind me of Amanda’s compositions in spirit, but of course nothing like the same scents in reality. At first it’s strong and full of intense green cut-grass and floral notes, accompanied by campfire smoke and spice. I’m probably one of the few people who dislikes the smell of fresh-cut grass, and here I find it incongruous when smelled next to the other notes. Sometimes incongruous is good, but here it’s just strange. Eventually the cold, wet, cut grass goes away, leaving a lovely floral-incense fragrance that’s rather subtle and warm, definitely more to my liking. As it runs its course, it eventually develops into a musky labdanum and incense base that smells a lot like some of my own Dev bases. That phase lasts a good while, subtle but clearly present. Even after a few wearings I’m still trying to figure out what to make of Dev #3. Maybe the mix of cold and dead, illustrated by cut grass, and warm, illustrated by smoke and spice, depicts the conflicted feelings of the heroine when the lost love of her life reappears. 

Coda by Amanda Feeley 
Starts out very spicy, scented with lemongrass and rose, much warmer than her other three. The same bitter herbs that were in the first three Devil Scents are still there, just buried under the strong spice and floral notes. As Coda develops, it becomes sweeter, almost candied, with vanilla undertones. It is full-bodied and rich, quasi-gourmand, and I really enjoy it a lot. I think it’s all-natural, so the sillage is very good, and it lasts for a respectable time. After wearing it a few times I’ve discovered that the lemongrass-citrus and herbal notes at the beginning are more or less prominent on different days. Overall, this is a soft, sensuous, romantic fragrance, a beautiful, happy ending to a difficult story. Amanda, you must release this so that everyone can enjoy it!

DEV #4 by Olympic Orchids
My DEV #4 (Reprise) is a calm variation on the starting notes of DEV #1, a stripped-down version that emphasizes the labdanum, with just enough of the other notes to recall the promise held by the beginning of the journey and to suggest that a new journey is about to begin. 

Once again, the three different perfumers’ interpretations of the story’s ending fit together like pieces of a puzzle to provide a coherent whole. Neil’s perfume suggests that the heroine has an approach-avoidance dilemma when Dev comes back into her life, one that is ultimately resolved in calm resignation. Amanda’s interpretation is a joyous celebration of the end of a long struggle, and the sweetness of being reunited with a loved one. Underlying the sweetness is the memory of the bitterness of the past, but the bitter notes make the sweetness all the more beautiful. My interpretation is that of a purifying and cleansing process in which the new beginning of the relationship is stripped of its old baggage and is free to continue on an honest basis of mutual understanding and acceptance. I was particularly struck by the fact that both Amanda and I chose to interpret this phase as the ending segment of a musical piece. In my version it was a reprise of the overture that included the final cadence, and in Amanda's version, it was a climactic and happy final ending. 

[cut grass photo adapted from Wikimedia; flowers and fruit by Georges Jeannin, 2011, Susanna's bath by Theodore Chasseriau, 1839] 


  1. It has been such a treat to see these side by side Ellen. Thank you for writing such compelling comparisons!

    I don't know if I mentioned this to you or not, but Coda is actually the second perfume I created for the project, and then hid it away. I think because I prefer happy endings, and as someone else told me, "The happy ending can't come in the middle of the story."


    1. Amanda, Isn't that how a lot of things get written, both verbal and music? You start with an idea, and it ends up somewhere in the middle or as the conclusion of the piece! I like happy endings, too.

  2. Great job, Ellen! You're right; I don't know quite what to make of Dev #3 either! LOL! But that was the idea. I like your conclusion about the confusion she feels when the lost love of her life reappears. Great observation. BTW, the only flower in the perfume is a dark Rose note. That, combined with the Grass and Tea Tree combine to give the effect you describe. Thanks for taking the time to write on these!

    1. Neil, I'm glad to hear that I wasn't totally off-base in what I smelled in your Dev #3! It's interesting to see what the notes were that led to my impressions. I wouldn't have guessed tea tree. Next up is my review of your Lilith, which I love.

  3. Tea Tree was a difficult ingredient to work with. Very astringent and sharp. But I wanted it in there. I'm impressed that you picked up the Cut Grass Note! It's less than 3% of the formula!
    I'm looking forward to your reviews of the Liliths! I'm wearing your Dev #1 today in your honor! Love it!

    1. I'm impressed that you were able to work with tea tree oil given that it has such a medicinal smell. You managed to incorporate it beautifully into the overall formula.

      I think the cut grass note is one of the ones I'm hypersensitive to. Now I know that I can detect it even at 3%! I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing.

      I'm glad you enjoy Dev #1.

  4. Ellen...now that the project is coming to a close (I realize with a pang or two), I'm...well, amazed on how all of you chose different facets of the story and the characters of Dev and Lilith, that somehow - call it the inspiration, call it the subtext I was never consciously aware I even wrote in - all fit together, as you said, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that all add up to the complete picture. For making a dream come true in more ways than I could ever imagine - and for recalibrating my own nose and perceptions in the process - I can't thank you enough! All the Devilscents are most wondrously compelling (and broke all the rules!), but for reasons I have a hard time articulating, Neil's Dev #3 and your own #4 have become special favorites of mine. And I have only Amanda's Coda left to review...;)

  5. I also feel a pang realizing that the Devil Scent project is coming to a close. It's been such great fun and good company. I hope this is just the start of the writing and publishing adventure for you, and wish you much success in getting it all out there.

    In terms of assembling and marketing a multi-perfumers' package, I should be able to pull something together once I have a little time. It may be that one of the online general fragrance retailers would be interested. We'll see.