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.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Just a little over a week ago we were experiencing the monsoon, but that came to a screeching halt when the “polar outbreak” happened weekend before last. Last year the disgusting cold snap was called the “polar vortex”, but that name seems to have fallen out of favor in the media. In any case, it’s a phenomenon that apparently is caused by global anthropogenic climate change, due in this case to a major hurricane (aka typhoon) off the coast of Alaska.

Overnight, the still-green leaves on the tender, growing trees and plants were flash-frozen and freeze-dried. This wasn’t just a little dusting of frost, it was a hard freeze, with temperatures as low as 28F (-2C)! The worst thing was that everything was completely waterlogged, so I expect there will be some major damage in the garden when the final tally comes in. Weather like this happens occasionally in December and January, after plants are acclimated to the cold, but not in early November. The only positive aspect of the whole debacle is that it’s sunny during the day (what there is of it) so the greenhouse is warmed a little by the sun.

I’ve been continuing my evaluation of the new perfume materials that I got, so thought I’d share some of my notes here.

Shangralide is a musk base with super longevity. It's supposed to be similar to deer musk. It starts out with a characteristic moist, quasi-floral musk scent and stays that way for quite a long time. To me it seems softer and “squisiher” than a lot of the other musks. After more than a month on paper it dries down to a faint, slightly soapy residue.

Animalis is something that I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, and finally got my hands on. It’s an odd one. It starts off with a slightly off-putting “perfumey” scent, like the old hippie formula,  “Egyptian musk”. After a while, though, it does a complete about-face and turns into a truly animalic scent that resembles civet, slightly fecal and – well – animalic is the best description. At this point, I really like it as a base material, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it. After more than month, the Egyptian musk smell comes back, faintly, having come full circle.

DMBCB (I won't burden you with the chemical name) is supposed to smell like green, floral, woody plum, but what I get is something like plum mixed with old coffee grounds. It could be useful in the proper context, but it’s not very pleasant on its own.

Sandalwood Oliffac was something of a disappointment, but I’m used to that when it comes to synthetic versions of sandalwood. It once again confirmed that there’s nothing like the real thing. More than anything else, it smells like mushroom or moist fungus, and reminds me a lot of Bruno Acampora Musc, which smells like some type of fungus. Maybe that scent was overdosed with this version of synthetic sandalwood. I can see uses for it in creating an earthy mushroom fragrance or as a component in a sandalwood accord, but not as a direct replacement for sandalwood. 

I’ve got a couple of new fragrances just about ready to release, so will be sending them to my testers as soon as I get a chance to prepare samples and package them up. 

Have you suffered damage from the latest unseasonable cold spell? 

[Dead fig leaves and fruits photo is mine, the rest are from Wikimedia] 


  1. Hi Ellen,
    Our temps have been hovering around 21 F at night. There will probably be some frost damage. The tea plants looked quite unhappy (but better than your figs!). I brought the residents of the greenhouse indoors before the "polar outbreak" and plan to insulate the greenhouse with large bubble bubble wrap. I found some 60" wide rolls online. Stay Warm!

  2. Gail, the comment about the bubble wrap reminded me that I have some spots that need bubble wrap!