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.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


The other day when I was sampling Lush/Gorilla Perfumes’ Old Delhi Station, I wanted to read the official list of notes and what others said about it so, as usual, I did an internet search. The first bona fide review that came up was this one. It was not just a review, it was a philosophical discourse on the art of reviewing perfumes and speaking one’s mind. It’s an old post, but it’s still an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Unfortunately, as a perfumer, I have to be very careful about speaking my mind about other people's perfumes unless they ask me to, not wanting any appearance of a conflict of interest. However, as a consumer, one can say anything about anything. It's always refreshing to hear honest words, and I hope that all of those reviewers who are consumers feel free to exercise the wonderful freedom they have to speak their minds, never feeling guilty about doing so.

In any case, no one should be offended by honest criticism in an art/craft where value is highly subjective. Fans of a perfume or a brand should realize that others may not share their enthusiasm for it, and criticism is no reflection on their taste. Perfumers should know that if they produce anything other than bland, mainstream compositions, some people will not like them.

Perfume means something different to each person who smells it, and a cheap floral fragrance oil mixed with clove may be just as evocative to one person as an artistically conceived, superbly executed high-end composition is to someone else. However, there's no harm in calling each what it is and objectively comparing value with price. Some people love mass-produced, spray-painted garden gnomes. Others would prefer to have an original Henry Moore sculpture on their lawn. The only time there’s a problem with this is when garden gnomes are sold at Henry Moore prices. And yes, it does happen in sculpture, art, perfume, and every other area of endeavor.

A second issue raised in the post was that of perfumers releasing perfumes that are not finished products, with an individual perfumers’ work showing evidence of a learning curve. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), perfumers (like other artists) never stop learning and developing. As new materials become available, we learn to incorporate them into our palettes. As old materials disappear, we learn how to substitute for them. The longer we work in perfumery, the more our skills increase and our tastes change. We constantly want to try new things and set new challenges for ourselves. I agree that there are too many half-baked releases, and I know I am guilty of some of them. I take this criticism to heart.

This post has inspired me to do something that’s been bugging me for a long time, and that is to reformulate Little Stars, the first perfume that I ever released, making it better without changing its essential character. Little Stars has been a nagging theme playing at the back of my mind for a long time because I haven’t been satisfied with it and know I could make a better version of it today. Over the next few weeks, the reformulation will be a project that I’ll report on from time to time here. 

[Little stars bottle and flower photos are mine; garden gnomes and Henry Moore sculpture photos are from Wikimedia]


  1. Little Stars reminds me of cool jungles or cloud forests. I love to wear this scent when the weather gets cold and threatens snow. Yesterday I sprayed and dabbed Little Stars before I took off for my daily walk. I felt great all day and my students responded to me with lots of positive energy. The current version of Little Stars works for me!

    It seems that people will often prefer something they are used to even though a newer version may actually be better. I wonder if I will react this way to the Little Stars?

  2. Gail, I know the original Little Stars has its die-hard fans. Maybe I'll release the new "Little Stars" under another name, making it more like an angraecoid orchid scent. That's where it's going right now. I could call it "Sphinx Moth Lure", "Nectar Spur", "African Orchid", or "Darwin's Orchid" ... or? So many possibilities when it comes to angraecoids.

  3. There is a fragrant Angraecum hybrid called "Shooting Star"!

  4. I am embarrassed by how long it has taken me to look up this post. I plead the holidays! :)

    That said, thank you for your gracious comments on my post, which isn't half as gracious as yours. It is so interesting to read your thoughts from the other side of the aisle, so to speak, so thanks for letting me know they are here. And how exciting that there will be a new version of Little Stars for your fans who want to experience it in another way. I confess I haven't tried it, but someday!

    1. Natalie, I love the way we bloggers on both sides of the aisle bounce ideas off each other. I only wish I had more time to read all of the blogs, all of the time!