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, December 28, 2015


It’s that time again when I have been putting together a seasonal collection for my Scents of the Season subscribers, and it’s always a challenge to pick a group of fragrances that I haven’t sent out before. At some point I suppose I’ll have to start recycling some of them, but so far I haven’t yet reached that point. My color printer stopped working when the internet went down after the last big rain- and windstorm, and I haven't gotten it back up and running so won't have the nice color box labels this time. Oh well, maybe by spring. 

This winter’s collection is mostly centered around resinous and balsamic scents, partly because of an experience I had the other day when I was mixing up a batch of concentrate that used some balsamic notes and was struck by what a subtly rich smell they had. As a limited edition extrait for the winter collection I mixed up a balsamic fragrance that I’ve been enjoying for the past few days, showcasing these types of materials. Some of the main ingredients are benzoin, tolu balsam, and liquidambar. These would typically be base notes, but they are beautiful alone.

Most people who are into perfume have probably at least heard of benzoin and tolu balsam, but Liquidambar styraciflua is the American sweetgum tree, an ancient species that has been around for at least 50 million years and is often planted as an ornamental. It grows fast, puts on a gorgeous show of orange, red, and purple leaves in the fall and drops those pesky, spiky “gumballs” that fall on the roads and sidewalk like a scattering of ball-bearings, creating a hazard for unsuspecting runners. Although not generally thought of as a source of perfume, the sweetgum tree exudes a sweet-smelling gummy resin when wounded. The resin has a unique balsamic smell and has been burned like frankincense and chewed like gum. On its own, I find that it contains an odd note that’s not entirely pleasant, but combined with other resins it enhances and deepens the richness and sweetness of the mix.

Tomorrow I’m going on a local “adventure” trip on Whidbey Island, and will be out of electronic contact for a couple of days. Before I go, I’d like to share the fact that two of my perfumes have made the 2015 “best-of” lists: White Cattleya on Cafleurebon, and Zoologist Bat on Now Smell This (NST). A big thank-you to Michelyn and Erin!

Leave a comment here on your favorite perfumes to wear in 2015 (they don’t need to have been released in 2015) and be entered to win a Scents of the Season Winter 2015 sample pack (including Bat), plus a sample of White Cattleya. The drawing will occur on Saturday, January 9. Please share info about the drawing with your perfume-loving friends and family.

[The top photo was grabbed from the local ski area webcam, the bat graphic is the one that's on the label of Zoologist Perfumes Bat, and the other two are adapted from Wikimedia. The lowest one shows Deception Pass, the gateway to Whidbey Island.]

Monday, December 21, 2015


Where to start? I’ve been away from the blog for so long that it seems strange to be writing again, but now that the worst of the fall quarter is over I’ll have a couple of weeks to get back to normal before school starts back up in January.

As always happens at the winter solstice, my Laelia anceps and Laelia rubescens have shot up their ridiculously long spikes and are blooming. We’ve had an entire month of rain, including windstorms and one internet outage that took days to fix. It doesn’t get light until 8 in the morning, and it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon. The fact that the sky is covered by heavy clouds and near-constant rain doesn’t help. 

They have 6 feet of snow in the mountains. I look at the webcam at the local ski area every morning, but the thought of actually finding time to go skiing is laughable. I feel sorry for all of the orchid plants that are having to put up with this unpleasant season and mentally cheer them on, just hoping they hang in there and stay alive until February.

The good news is that I’ve finally managed to launch my new orchid fragrance, White Cattleya, and it’s been reviewed once already. Now I just have to find time to get it out to all of the other reviewers on my list. Maybe once the holiday shipping rush is over.

The fragrance that I made for Zoologist is set to launch at the end of December, and I understand that Bat is already available for pre-release sale in Niche Essence in Toronto. Victor Wong does an amazing job with packaging!

Here’s to a post-solstice lengthening of the days, much happiness and success to all, and my getting back to posting here on the blog.

[All photos are mine]