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, March 7, 2015


I imagine most readers of his blog have experienced having an overload of perfumes in their collection. We keep chasing after the latest, most amazing fragrance, our noses always quivering on the lookout for new thrills. Some objects of pursuit deliver on their promise; others don’t, but stick around anyway making our closets look like hoarder heaven. For me, it’s not just perfume bottles and samples – I have way too many cosmetics, clothes, shoes, plants, books, jewelry-making supplies, and other things.

I think humans are collectors by nature, keeping stashes of stuff around in case of a shortage, but we’re also fickle consumers, firmly believing that the grass is greener somewhere else and the newest perfume will be better than the old ones we already have. The result is cluttered drawers, closets, cupboards and, as it turns out, websites.

We perfumers are in the awkward position of being expected to make creations that are good enough to persist and become classics, but at the same time we are expected to constantly come up with new fragrances and release them on a regular basis. In biochemistry, there is a phenomenon called “product inhibition” in which the product of a synthetic reaction feeds back on the system and prevents further production. At some point in perfume-making there is a crossover between production of new fragrances, what the perfume-maker can effectively manage, and what customers looking at a website or store display can cognitively process before becoming overwhelmed by the selection.

I’m sure we have all visited websites where there was such a bewildering array of different products that we ended up not wanting to buy anything simply because we did not want to take the time or put out the energy needed to review everything and make an informed choice (BPAL, I’m looking at you). As a perfumer with online shops, I like to keep the choices broad enough to be intriguing, but limited enough to be manageable. I feel like I’ve reached that crossroads point where some fragrances have to go to make room for other things.

My web-hosting platform can do an analysis of sales of all products over any time period that I specify, so I did the analysis to find out which fragrances were lagging behind in sales. Several were consistently low on the list, with Little Stars placing last or near-last throughout the 5 years that I’ve been in business. I’m not particularly fond of this one myself, so maybe the low sales were due to insufficient promotion on my part, but I’m not going to try to second-guess the reason. I had originally conceived African Orchid as a replacement for Little Stars in the orchid floral line, so I don't feel too bad about discontinuing Little Stars. I plan to do so in the near future, selling off my current supply at discounted prices.

Another fragrance with consistently low sales is Javanica, but I’m more on the fence about this one. Discontinuing two orchid fragrances at the same time would weaken that line, although I could easily produce another, better (in my opinion) orchid-themed floral to replace Javanica.

If you’re a reader who has tried my perfumes, which one would you like to boot off the website like a bad TV show contestant? Which one would you most like to see stay and keep you company?

Cast your votes for “eliminate” and “keep” (one each) in the comments section and be entered in a worldwide drawing for a 5-ml spray of the fragrance of your choice along with some other random goodies. 

[RuPaul Drag Race photo adapted from Buzzfeed; entomologist photo adapted from Wikimedia; ridiculous shoe collection from Runner's World; Perfume Brawl graphic adapted from a game website] 


  1. I hate to see anything leave the Olympic Orchids perfume herd! I like both Little Stars and Javanica equally. I do find that my tastes change over time and scents that I wasn't crazy about initially can become new favorites. Luzonica is one of those...long gone now. I will cast my vote but reserve the right to change my mind. "Eliminate" Little Stars (sigh) and "keep" Javanica.

    1. Luzonica is certainly a blast from the past! I have to say that it made a really nice soap. Maybe I'll bring it back in that form.

      In the "elimination game", you can suggest any perfume for kicking out, not just the two that I suggested if you think both of those are keepers. I'm just going by sales.

    2. Hi Ellen,
      In that case I have to admit that on my skin Carolina is the least distinctive of the herd while the hay and tobacco are almost too sweet for me. It seems quite popular, though. I vote to kick out Carolina and save both Little Stars and Javanica. BTW how much trouble would it be to maintain a kind of "bespoke" archive of discontinued fragrances that would be available for a surcharge?

    3. Carolina is another one that I have thought of discontinuing. I certainly could keep an archive of discontinued fragrances that could be ordered. I still sometimes receive orders for Fleurs de Glace and fill them. Once I'm back from San Francisco, I plan to work on updating the websites.

  2. Greetings Ellen!
    I am wearing my sample of Little Stars today to make an informed choice. I have slowly and contemplatively been making my way through samples I ordered when I purchased my big bottle of the incomparable Dev 1. I speeded the process a bit when I read your post of January 1st. I was immediately struck by the notion you would choose to discontinue a fragrance I could not live without. Since I do not see mention of Ballets Rouges or Gujarat I am relieved. Little Stars is quite nice but does not have the heft or character I come to expect from your beautiful compositions. So keep Gujarat, I will not worry about Ballets Rouges since it has many fans, discontinue Little Stars.

  3. My own tastes seem to go the way of sales. I have no affinity with Little Star and Javanica. Maybe that it's the opportunity to give new approaches to the orchid.
    My favorites are always Lil and Dev2

    1. Frederic, You're right that it's time to give new approaches to the orchids. Little Stars and Javanica are not appealing to me, either, which is one reason I am considering discontinuing them. You're entered in the drawing.

  4. I like Carolina but I would consider using it for a soap or a linen fragrance if you need more room in the perfume line. I would hate to see Javanica go, it's so unique. I guess Little Stars could be reworked or retired. Just don't touch the Devs!! And always keep Ballets Rouges, that is a diva!

    1. Marla, The Devs are untouchable! So is Ballets Rouges. It looks like Little Stars is the one that gets voted out. I'll gradually phase it out and see how it goes.