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, April 21, 2016


Because of the orchid show last weekend I'm running several days late with everything. I just got caught up with shipping orders late last night. Now on to what should have been published on Tuesday.

The winner of the Four Roses draw is AZAR

The winner of the Out With The Flowers draw is TRINITI.

If you are a winner, please contact me by e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or on Facebook. I will need your full US shipping address.

[I know it's no longer crocus season, but here they are anyway, my photo]

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Welcome to materials Wednesday as the green lineup continues. 

Most people seem to love the smell of freshly cut grass. I don’t – in fact I find the smell of freshly cut lawn grass slightly disgusting. Maybe it’s because I associate it with the nasty clumps of green slime that I have to remove from the weedeater after I’ve been cutting the jungle of tall grass and other plants that takes over our little farm every summer right at the end of the rainy season, or maybe it’s just because I don’t associate that smell with childhood suburban lawns the way many people in the US do.

Cis-3-hexenol, aka leaf alcohol, is one of the main odorants that occurs naturally in grass, leaves, and other green plants. It’s used in artificial flavorings for food like “watermelon” and “green apple”. By itself, it does a perfectly convincing imitation of “cut green grass”, and is probably the main (or only) fragrance ingredient in those commercial fragrance oils called “fresh-cut grass”, “bamboo”, and the like. If you like the smell of macerated green vegetation, this one’s definitely for you.

As you can tell, I’m not fond of this material, and have used it only in trace amounts in creating green scents of various types. It serves as a powerful top note, but given that it only lasts a few hours neat on paper, it needs other materials to extend longevity and temper the super-grassy smell.

Leaf alcohol is one of the “green leaf volatiles” that is released from wounded leaves when insects like caterpillars feed on them. In some cases the leaf alcohol that’s floating around attracts more pests, but more often than not it repels them, or even attracts the enemies of the pests, which is what the plant wants. There is also some evidence that the most important role of leaf alcohol is to provide a means of communication among plants, triggering preemptive defense mechanisms in intact plants if their neighbor has been attacked. You can read all about it here.

It never ceases to amaze me that the chemical defense mechanisms of plants have produced so many wonderful perfume materials that we, as humans, enjoy. If you want green scents, leaf alcohol is a must-have to achieve that grassy green scent note. Just watch out for that very hungry caterpillar! Or maybe if you wear it while gardening, it will boost the defense mechanisms of your favorite plants.

[All images are from Wikimedia]

Saturday, April 9, 2016


This Saturday continues the exploratory journey through my pile of little envelope samples, considering three very different versions of skin lotion/treatment products.

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Radiance Lotion
Like all of the other Fresh products I’ve sampled, this has that annoying cucumber scent. Given all of the plant extracts that supposedly are in it (lotus, algae, hibiscus, fig, star fruit, etc) you would think it might have the scent of those things. The one thing I will have to concede is that my little envelope sample contains quite a bit of product, unlike other Fresh products that I’ve tried. It’s fairly liquid in consistency, so a little goes a long way. I’ve been smearing it on my face at least once a day for a week with no observable results except that I smell like Fresh’s version of cucumber. It looks like the full size may come in one of those silly sealed pump jars that consistently malfunction and end up on the deep discount shelf at TJ Maxx for unsuspecting people to buy thinking they're getting a bargain. As in the case of other products of this type, I think one would have to use it for an extended period of time to fully evaluate it, so will reserve judgment on its efficacy based on a sample envelope. It is expensive.

DermaDoctor KP Duty Lotion
This product contains AHA, glycolic acid, green tea extract and urea in a very thick, greasy base. I couldn’t bring myself to put it on my face, but have used it on my hands and other body parts, and it does seem to be an effective moisturizer. It’s low-odor or unscented, which is a plus. It’s relatively inexpensive, so might be a good choice if you want an intensive moisturizer. Besides, I inexplicably like the gratuitous but cute chicken cartoon on the sample envelope and the small full size tube. It’s probably a decent product at a decent price.

Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment
This contains lactic acid, licorice, lemongrass, and who knows what else. It’s intermediate in consistency between the above two products, not thick and not runny. It has an acidic scent, which I suppose is to be expected. I’ve been using the little sample for about a week and feel like it actually has made my skin softer and smoother. Whether it’s brighter or not, I’m not sure, but I can imagine that it is. The full size looks like it comes in a pump jar, but it appears to have a screw-on top so that if the pump malfunctions the product can still be extracted and it's not a total loss. This seems to be a pretty good product, but the down side is that it’s expensive.

[All product photos are from retailers’ websites] 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


For this week’s Materials Wednesday, the green parade continues with the old standby, violet leaf absolute. This is a solvent-extracted absolute from the leaves of the common violet, Viola odorata, which grows as a weed in my yard and garden, propagating itself lavishly by both seeds and runners. In fact, the violets are in full bloom right now. The flower scent isn’t as strong as that of their larger cousins, the pansies (Viola tricolor) or domesticated violas, which are one of the winter garden standbys here. I imagine the leaves of any species or hybrid could be used to make “violet leaf absolute”, but it’s always listed as Viola odorata.

The leaves of Viola odorata are dark green in color, toward the blue side of green, tinged with purple-red. Violet leaf absolute is a viscous, yellow-green semi-liquid that at first has a penetrating green-vegetation smell. It’s heavier and darker than tomato leaf absolute, with an earthy, minerally note that’s quite unique. To me it’s evocative of geologically ancient places in cold, foggy, northern parts of the world, places that have not yet driven out the fairies, gnomes, and invisible ancient spirits of the land. If I wanted to make a perfume that symbolized the old stone ruins of druid burial grounds in Ireland, it would be heavy on violet leaf.

As the absolute dries down, the earthy, minerally, damp-dusty, slightly metallic notes gain strength. Throughout, there’s the slightest hint of violet flower scent. It’s a top to mid note, lasting for about 5-6 days on paper. By the end, the violet flower note is subtly perceptible, so it seems to last longer than the greener components.

I am looking forward to using violet leaf absolute in a new composition that I’m working on.

[This time, all photos are mine.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


The winner of the CLEAN SKIN draw is JOCELYN PROBASCO.

You have won the cumulative package with Clean Skin, Luna Rossa Extreme, and a few random small things. Please contact me at olympicorchids at gmail dot com with your correct name and mailing address, or leave a PM on Facebook.

If you do not claim your prize within a week, everything will go back into the pot and become part of the next drawing.

[Painting by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, 1910]