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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


For several years now I have been building up a collection of Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh) trees, all of which will have to be content to grow more or less as bonsai. They seem easy to grow in pots, but are leafless during the winter, and during the summer, too, if I don’t water them regularly. In the spring, after their winter dormant period, all of these trees start to leaf out, so at that time I try to give them plenty of water to facilitate the process. One day early last spring I noticed that the Boswellia neglecta had a big drop of resin exuding from a place where it had been trimmed months previously. I can only conclude that when the plants break dormancy their sap starts flowing the way maple sap does, and that it leaks out of any cut area. After producing sap, the little tree put out some nice, green, frond-like leaves, lost them during the winter, and has now grown more leaves. Through all this, the resin drop has kept hanging on. 

Early this spring the little Boswellia carteri tree lost its leaves, at which time some tiny drops of resin oozed out along the leaf stems. I collected these drops and tasted them, which was the best and easiest way to evaluate them. They tasted and smelled exactly like frankincense oil. This is already way more that I had hoped for when I bought the tree as a curiosity.

I also have a 3-foot (1 meter) tall Commiphora tenuipetiolata tree that had started to branch out from the side of the trunk. One of my assistants bumped against it last fall and broke the branch partially off. A week or so later I noticed a blob of resin accumulation around the break. This tree is actually large enough to produce some significant resin, so that made me think that maybe I'll be able to harvest a little incense from my plants after all! There should at least be a few small drops that I can burn. I’m looking forward to having some frankincense, but it will be especially interesting to see what the resin of all of the different Commiphora species smells like. 

[All photos are mine]

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Earlier this week I participated in a local radio talk show, in a segment that I had expected to be mainly about perfume, but which, in the end, degenerated into a discussion of whether people should talk to their neighbors or co-workers directly about things that bother them. The original issue was whether workplaces should have official, codified no-fragrance policies, but it quickly  broadened out to the issue of why people, at least in the US Pacific Northwest, are psychologically unable to talk to anyone one-on-one. 

I am not a fan of micromanagement of any kind, so am not in favor of mandated fragrance-free spaces, at least not when it comes to people’s discreet use of personal fragrance. The idea of a fragrance-free space is a fantasy anyway, given that every building has its own set of “fragrances” emanating from the structural components, furniture, and other installations. Anyone ever smelled particleboard? Let me tell you, it’s not a pretty fragrance, and the off-gassing is probably toxic to boot. Ever smelled fresh carpets with their horrible formalin- and cyclic-hydrocarbon-filled-underpads? What about older carpets filled with a mixture of ground-in grime, carpet cleaner, and rotting underpads? What about the “air fresheners” that are used to mask all of the building odors? Compared to the typical cacaphony of public building-generated odors, personal fragrance is a tiny blip in the noise. 

I’m certainly not a fan of being in a space where someone is wearing way too much obnoxious (by my standards) perfume. If it’s a one-time or occasional thing, I ignore it, knowing that it’s a minor temporary annoyance. If it were a colleague with whom I regularly shared a confined space, I would simply ask them face-to-face if they could go easy on the perfume. If I had a health condition that was aggravated by the smell of perfume, I would let the offender know and ask them to not wear that perfume, or any perfume, if it really was that serious. I trust that most people can exercise reasonable sensitivity and consideration of others if they know what the issue is. If they’re not told, how can they know? 

I articulated this common-sense view in the discussion, but it seems that most people did not agree, and would instead avoid talking to the person who wears perfume, and instead take the route of informing their supervisors or HR department and asking for a set of fragrance-free workplace rules. It was mentioned that one person’s workplace actually had a set of rules many pages in length. If the workplace really is one where people should not wear perfume (e.g., a hospital), then when workers are hired, the supervisor could politely ask each new employee not to wear perfume, and explain why. Compliance with requests is usually best when the person being asked knows why the request is being made. Slapping people with rules that seem arbitrary (or are arbitrary), just creates resentment. 

Going over a colleague’s head and reporting them to management for some real or imagined “misbehavior” without talking to the colleague directly first, is likely to create major resentment and undermine morale. The people doing the complaining probably like this strategy because it can be done anonymously (assuming the organization is large enough) and relieves them of any responsibility for initiating a one-on-one encounter that they may fear might be awkward. It seems more and more people are avoiding person-to-person conversations as the opportunities for taking the cowardly route of anonymous confrontation increase. 

What are your thoughts on these issues? 

[Images adapted from Wikimedia and some random Google searches]

Monday, May 7, 2018


My good intention is to resuscitate this blog, which I have to do from time to time after its recurring dormant phases. 

First things first. I’ll announce the winner of the last drawing, which was many weeks ago, then go on to explain and complain in another post about a few of the factors that make me feel like not writing blog posts. 

The drawing has been done, and the winner is:   TRINITI. 

Please e-mail me at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a PM on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page (if you still use Facebook after all the recent scandals). 

If you do not respond before the next drawing is announced (at least a week from now), your winnings will go into the jackpot for the next drawing. 

[Photo is from the local ski area webcam last summer after all the snow had melted. That usually takes until mid-July, and this year seems to be on that schedule, too]