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.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


It seems to be a customary end-of–the-year ritual for bloggers to make their “best of” lists. I’m not sure I could do that because singling out one thing as “best” automatically relegates a whole host of other equally good things to the category of “second-best” or “not so good”, depending on how you look at it. So this is not my “best of” list, it’s a list of random things in different categories that I enjoyed and/or discovered in 2013.

Fruit: The second crop of Brown Turkey figs (higos) that appeared on our tree this fall by the hundreds. They were the biggest, juiciest, sweetest figs I’ve ever eaten. I highly recommend this variety of fig tree.

Cat: Our Maine Coon cat, Jasper, has just completed his first year with us, and settled in nicely. He has all of the good features of a dog and none of the bad ones. He comes when he’s called, follows us around without being needy, wakes me up in the morning with a gentle mew and pat on the face, and comes and goes as he pleases, occasionally catching a rat or mouse.

Drink: The home-brewed ginger kombucha that one of Michael’s relatives gave us last week. It’s fizzy, it’s tasty, and it’s got to be good for you! I may try brewing some myself.

Tincture: The tincture made with dried fig leaves turned out wonderfully sweet and tonka-like. I'm going to use it in a perfume this year. 

Orchid: Laelia rubescens, with its big snowballs of purple-throated white flowers on crazy long stalks. It’s blooming now, with an interesting fragrance reminiscent of Ben-Gay, a sports rub that contains methyl salicylate. The photo is from a couple of years ago. This year it has two big spikes, each with a dozen flowers. To pollinate or not to pollinate, that is the question. 

Perfume show: The San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon sponsored by Taste TV is quickly becoming the premiere perfume event on the West Coast. It’s grown and prospered since its inception at a small art gallery two years ago, and will take place for the third time on March 15, 2014, with nearly two dozen participants, including Olympic Orchids.
Oud: Chinese Exclusive from Ensar Oud. To me, this is the prototype of oud, the ultimate woody fragrance. It’s an indescribable scent to meditate to, sleep on, or just inhale for pure pleasure.

Perfume discovery: A long-neglected and untried sample of Complex by Boadicea the Victorious. For the first few hours I imagined it as being what an ancient, defunct cave-dwelling would smell like, discovered during the clear-cutting of a hillside evergreen forest, complete with the dark mineral scent of the rock walls, the slightly sooty scent of old fires long extinguished, and the pungent smell of mortally wounded trees and herbs all around. A lot of people who post reviews seem to hate it with a passion. All the more reason to love it.

Bird sighting: A few days ago we walked down to the park at the bottom of the hill, where we heard some excited chirping. When I looked down, there were two of the cutest little birds I’ve ever seen, scratching in the leaves. They were a patterned olive color with bright, broad, neon-yellow stripes on their heads. Both birds seemed to have no fear, approaching us as if they were curious to see what we were doing, looking up at us. Back at home I looked them up and discovered that they were golden-crowned kinglets. I don’t recall ever seeing these birds before even though they must be native. 

Natural sound: The sound of palm-leaves rattling in the wind. It’s somehow disturbing and reassuring at the same time.  

I could keep going all day, so that’s probably enough of a “best-of ” list for one post. What are some random things that you enjoyed in 2013? 

[All photos are mine except for the golden-crowned kinglet, which is adapted from Wikimedia] 


  1. I love the idea of this post! Those figs look amazing, and Jasper sounds like a perfect cat :) I would have to think for a while to think up a list for myself, but off the top of my head:
    Cups! My favorite cup of 2013 is one I received from my sister for Christmas. It is a simple white cup with bleary, half-closed eyes on one side. When the cup is filled with warm liquid, the eyelids vanish and the cup is making a surprised awake face :)

    1. Yuki, your cup sounds very special! What a great gift from your sister.

  2. A terrific year-end wrap-up. I love the photos of the creatures and the flowers. Jasper is a very impressive kitty. Have a wonderful, prosperous 2014!

    1. Thanks, Marla. Here's to a happy and prosperous new year to you and all of your creatures on the dune!

  3. Ellen,
    We have so many favorites this year but you and Michael are at the top of our list! Thank you both so much for the all the new ideas, the rants and of course your great perfume!
    BTW, a couple of days ago we saw a little flock of golden-crowned kinglets in the apple trees.
    Best Wishes for a Wonderful 2014.
    Gail and Brad