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.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


It is always gratifying to come home from a trip and see orchids that are not only alive, but blooming. The ones that greeted me after this summer’s vacation were Cattleya bicolor, Cattleya jenmannii, and a new one, Ansellia africana This plant has been sitting in the greenhouse for several years doing nothing, so it was a surprise to see it burst out into a big spray of bright yellow flowers with a lot of dark brown spots – a semi-abstract leopard print.

The flowers are lightly fragrant, somewhat like a combination of woody phenol and vanilla! I’m not sure this would make a very good perfume, but it’s an interesting scent.

This species is native to a good part of tropical Africa. The plant is reasonably attractive, looking sort of like a dendrobium, with tall, upright, succulent canes and broad, elongate leaves. It seems to take a lot of abuse - heat, cold, drought, and general neglect.

According to the IOSPE (Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia), the pseudobulbs have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes, as an emetic, cough remedy, and to “cure madness”. Zulu lore has it that wearing the pseudobulbs can prevent an ex-lover from having children. Regardless of any therapeutic value, it’s a beautiful plant.

[Photos are mine. If you look closely, you can see seed pods starting to grow.]


  1. Oh my god, make a cattleya jenmanii perfume. I don't know if yours does this or if you've smelled it at the right time of day and age, but I swear sometimes I can detect a bit of jasmine (the kind used in jasmine tea) in there, but that's my second favorite cattleya fragrance. The fist is leudenmanniana. That is what heaven smells like.

    1. Missanna, both of these Cattleya species have wonderful fragrances that seem to change throughout the day. They also seem to vary from one plant to another.