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, July 18, 2016


Donna Hathaway is a Portland-based perfume writer who has graciously contributed her thoughts on perfume writing. This is the first installment of a multi-part series.

How and why did you decide to write perfume reviews?
It was all in a very roundabout way, really. I have always been an avid reader, and a lover of words, but I never did much writing in my younger days except for assigned work and some very bad poetry. Much later I wrote a few articles for my garden club, mostly on practical subjects, but I managed to insert something about fragrance when I could; I love scented flowers and my interest in all things fragrant began early in my life. My passion for perfume has been developing for a long time, and it intensified more than thirty years ago when The Perfume House opened here in Portland, and I discovered what classical perfumery was all about. I always thought I was nearly alone in my obsession, but more than a decade ago, I discovered the emerging phenomenon of perfume blogs. Blogging itself was in its infancy then, so there were not many of them at that time, and I read them all with fascination; here was a world I understood, and there were others like me who loved perfume! I learned a lot, and some of the best of them have endured to the present time, now joined by many others.

In 2006 I was having a personal crisis; I was grieving over a major romantic disappointment and some other stresses in my life were not helping matters. I needed something to get my mind off my own troubles, but I didn’t know what to do. Around this time, the owner of one of the blogs I read, Aromascope, put out a message that she was looking for a guest writer, and invited people to submit samples of their work. By this time I had read a lot of blog posts about fragrance and I figured I had nothing to lose by throwing my hat in the ring, so I sent in one of my garden club articles. Much to my surprise, she chose me! I had a wonderful experience writing for Aromascope and I received a warm welcome from its readers. When the owner decided to pursue other interests and let it go dormant, the wonderful Marina asked me if I would like to join her group of guest writers on Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and that has lasted for about nine years now. I found that writing about perfume was the perfect outlet for my passion and added a much-needed creative aspect to my life, since my day job is in the insurance industry. I enjoy my job, but real creativity in the insurance biz is about as welcome as “creative accounting.”  I have grown as a writer and I really love it.

Why did you choose or create the venue(s) on which you publish your reviews?

It’s funny, my first two blogging gigs both fell into my lap, and then a few years later another perfume friend alerted me to the new Examiner.com news aggregator site, which was looking for writers in major cities to write about various subjects. I passed muster and became the Portland Fragrance Examiner in 2009. So that was pretty lucky as well. Examiner just announced that it is shutting down, but I have plans for a future writing project that will be all mine, no holds barred on what I can write about, featuring perfume reviews and more. I just need to find the time to finalize it, as I am currently pursuing an associate degree while working full time, so it will be a little while before that all comes together.

What purposes do you think perfume reviews serve, and how do you think your reviews serve all of some of these purposes?

There is so much information out there and so many perfumes both good and bad, and I hope that honest reviews help people separate the wheat from the chaff. Ironically, the rise of perfume blogs and social media attention has also given birth to a new audience and many new perfume brands, and therefore more confusion. People are bombarded with facts and images on blogs and social media, and it can be hard to navigate through it all.

[Headshot provided by Donna Hathaway; perfume painting by J W Godward, 1914; lost love painting by Charles A Collins, 19th century; fog on the mountain photo from the local ski area webcam, threshing grain poster early 20th century]


  1. Hi Donna,

    Yes! There are so many new perfumes and so much information out there that it has become difficult to even make a choice about which samples to try. Posted reviews really help me get a handle on a fragrance. I rely on these posts more than ever these days.

    I loved reading about your background as a perfume reviewer!

    Azar xx

  2. Hi Donna! What an absolute pleasure to read about you and your journey! One of these days I'm going to zip down to Portland so we can go on a sniff-fest!😘😘😘😘
    -Robert H.

  3. Hi Donna ,thanks to links from Craig I found you .A great interview.