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, January 25, 2016


Today, as a special Monday treat, we have a post from Azar along with an unusual giveaway. 
A few years ago, several on-line self help magazines, as well as various consumer psychology journals, were pushing the notion that the best way to be happy and enjoy life was to accumulate positive experiences (e.g. vacations) rather than possessions. Recently a number of psychologists have modified this stance to include purchases that facilitate good experiences  (experiential products). Ever the skeptic, I tend to suspect that any article referencing consumer psychology is nothing more than a sneaky way to sell me something, like a trip to Bali or another guitar. But what does this have to do with perfume?

When we buy a bottle of perfume we are obviously not just buying the bottle, however elegantly simple or gorgeously ornate it might be.  We are purchasing days and sometimes decades of fragrant experiences.  When the jus is gone we can chose to save the experience and the artifact!

Even though I don’t go out of my way to collect perfume bottles I have, over the years, accumulated a nice little stash of vintage commercial bottles as well as several hand blown originals. Just the other day I spotted three partially full, mid-20th century perfumes on e-bay for  $18 total. They appeared to be in perfect condition and the largest looked like a Lalique.  I was the only bidder and was thrilled when the bottles arrived, better than described. My three lovely treasures were in perfect condition, except that the glass stoppers were seriously frozen in place.

If I were simply a collector of artifacts I would have put my new acquisitions on display to enjoy as possessions. But, as a collector of experiences, I felt compelled to release the long imprisoned djinni from each bottle.  I knew that this could be risky business but I had to give it a try.

When a ground glass perfume stopper is stuck in a bottle it is essentially "glued" in place by old, dried residue that has been forced into the ground stopper time and again by repeated expansions of the glass.  I have had some success loosening stoppers by using a few drops of perfumer's alcohol around the edge to dissolve the "glue".  I gave this method a try but nothing moved.  Next I tried three drops of fractionated coconut oil and waited twenty minutes.  The idea was that the oil would seep down the stoppers and loosen them by lubrication.  Once again, I had no success.  It was time to risk the freezer. 

When ground glass stoppers (primed with fractionated coconut oil) and polished glass bottles are quickly cooled they seem to contract at different rates.  After thirty minutes I removed the bottles from the freezer, gave each stopper a little jiggle and heard a satisfying pop and hiss.  The 50-year-old seals were broken. The perfume djinnis quickly escaped into a new century.  Not only were the old fragrances in near perfect condition there was also no damage to the stoppers or bottles.  A most satisfying experience!

Here are a couple of questions, dear readers:  How do you remove frozen stoppers from perfume bottles?  Do you have a memorable perfume-related experience to share?  Answer either of these and be entered into a drawing for the sweet, little empty 1 oz. Evyan Golden Shadows bottle, circa 1940, pictured above. The drawing will be next Monday, February 1. 

Azar xx 

[vintage bottle photos are Azar's; Glass stopper photo from Wikimedia; ski photo grabbed from the usual webcam source]                       


  1. I am entranced by the experience of opening old perfume bottles and smelling that which nobody has smelled for a long time. I love the old bottles regardless of what is in them, but my best experience was gently extracting the stopper from a bottle of Opium Parfum circa 1977 or so, and realizing that I was smelling animal musk. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we don't do that to musk deer anymore, but what a round sweet musk scent that was.

    1. Hi FeralJasmine,

      Opening that 1977 Opium must have been amazing! It really is a magical experience (perfume archeology) opening an old bottle and hearing the seal breaking. Did you have any problems with the Opium stopper?

      Re musk: It is a treat to smell the real thing but, like you, I am glad that the animal cruelty is now under some kind of control. These days there is supposed to be a way to remove the musk from the glands without killing the deer...but that may just be a tale told to get around the regulations.
      Do you know anything about that?

      Azar xx

  2. Hi Mom – Love this post… I think I need to do some more shopping!! It’s good for my mental health after all:) I don’t really have any good perfume related experiences I can think of but if something comes to mind I’ll let you know!

    1. Hi Lauren,
      Thank you for commenting! I just love shopping for and finding little treasures for cheap prices. This whole experience was quite satisfying! I wish we lived closer so we could do out retail therapy together :)
      Mommy Azar xx and X

  3. Hi Azar! Your grand-dog told me I'd find you here.
    I've never had to try to open an old perfume bottle but if the opportunity presents itself I will now know how to do it. I've had issues with some silly sample vials and actually had them break in my fingers, thankfully without drawing any blood. I'm happy that your vintage fragrant finds were in good shape.

    1. Hi Poodle,

      I'm so happy you stopped by! Regarding my sweet grand-dog: Olga is SO photogenic! Her Christmas pictures this year were quite glamourous. My latest projects are dog coats for Olga and Fender made from black polar fleece printed with Hello Kitty designs ;)

      Those sample vials can be dangerous. I've had a few break too. In every case the vials were filled with scrubbers and the contents ended up everywhere. NOT a satisfying experience!

      Azar xx