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 19, 2021


It’s been a while, including time spent reorganizing an old storage shed and putting stuff in a new one. It’s been a lot of work, but having two functional, organized, storage areas will help a lot. One will be for orchid plant-related items and the other for perfume-related items. I finally managed to do the drawing for three surprise packages. Here are the winners:






To claim your prize, just send an e-mail to olympicorchids at gmail dot com. You could also try DM on the Olympic Orchids Facebook page, but it’s less reliable because I don’t check it every day. 


Here’s the next chapter in the Bend road trip account. 

On the Tuesday of our road trip, we went to the Newberry Caldera national volcano park, which is just southeast of Bend. Newberry is a huge shield volcano with a lot of interesting features.  On the way there, we stopped at an overlook where there was some sort of aromatic bush with leaves that smelled like herbes de Provence. I haven’t managed to identify it, but it smelled good enough to cook with. On the way up to the summit, the first scent was ponderosa pines in the sun, then firs in the sun. The caldera at the top has two lakes separated by a small expanse of lava that includes the topmost crater. 

When we got to the east lake we were greeted by a strong sulfur smell that led us to the hot springs. The springs were at the edge of the lake, with gases bubbling up through the sand. I could feel that the ground around the hot springs was warm, even through my sandals. The water in the pools that had been dug out by previous visitors was quite hot, so hot that I could only keep my feet in it for a short time. Once we were back in Bend, looking for something to eat, a small thunderstorm hit, raising a powerful smell of rain on pavement that had been dry for weeks or longer. We sheltered under an awning and ate lemon sorbet while the giant drops of rain fell. 


The next day we went to the town park that runs all along the Deschutes river. At one point along the river we encountered a grove of beautiful birch trees with the smoothest, whitest trunks I’ve ever seen. They were emitting a powerful birch-leaf scent. I had never actually smelled birch leaves before, and was struck by the acrid green character of the scent, and pleasantly surprised to find that Birch Leaf Givco (a commercial accord) is a close match for the real thing. At the farmers’ market that afternoon, the predominant scent was fresh, sun-ripe raspberries. 

That evening, back at the ranch where we were staying, there was a violent thunderstorm and hailstorm. It dumped a flood of water and ice on the dusty ground, leaving puddles everywhere. Afterward, when the rain stopped and the sun came back out, there was a unique and penetrating scent of rain-soaked earth and dry grass, along with wet junipers. The whole medley was accompanied by a background note reminiscent of black currents. What was particularly fascinating was when I watered the bone-dry garden beds back at home, I detected the same black-current note in the water-soaked dried ground and vegetation. This rehydrated desert scent of the northwest is very different from the “petrichor” scent that everyone talks about, and is absolutely unique. 

I am starting a new giveaway of three big boxes of fragrant items - samples, decants, mini bottles, and a few larger things. To enter, just leave a comment. 

[All  photos are mine]. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021


 First things first. The winners of the drawing are:






To claim your prize, just send your complete, correct name and shipping address to olympicorchids at gmail dot com, or PM me on Facebook.  

We haven’t been on a road trip for at least a year and a half, so decided it was high time to go on one. Our destination was Bend Oregon, by way of Portland. We got out on the road kind of late in the day on 
Sunday  so driving through the countryside there was a strong coumarin smell from the hay fields, and maybe some  clover fields. I had noticed this before when driving on the same route, but was very conscious of it that afternoon. Once we were in Portland, walking around the neighborhood where we were staying, the scent of jasmine wafted in from a yard, and the rubbery-sweet smell of privet was everywhere. 

Monday morning we headed south and east on Highway 26, which goes via Mount Hood. It was warm to hot, so we had the windows open for the whole trip. Near the pass, I smelled damp, live mushrooms and saw lots of bear grass, which is a plant with tall white columns of tiny flowers. Growing along with the bear grass were wild rhododendrons, blooming with a profusion of pink flowers. As we made our way down the southeast side of Mt Hood, we encountered the smell of fir trees, with new asphalt in places where the road had just been repaired. At some point the firs and asphalt started to be mixed with smoke. I smelled the wildfire before I could see the smoke, which eventually formed a dense curtain across the road and turned the sky a light orange.  The wildfire smoke was no more than  a couple of miles from the road, which was closed shortly after we passed through and continued to be closed into the next day.  It was a relief to finally exit the worst of the smoke and smell the dry grass, sagebrush and stones of the high desert. 


Walking around downtown Bend we smelled a cloyingly sweet floral scent everywhere as we walked down the streets. It turned out that the city has lots of hanging baskets on the streetlights, and all of them are filled with some variety of mixed-color petunias with such a powerful scent that it diffuses over the whole block. It seems like the hot weather intensified every smell, including the pinot noir that we enjoyed in the outdoor cafĂ© area of a small wine shop. 

There is another drawing for three boxes of miscellaneous samples, decants, mini bottles, etc. To enter, just leave a comment. 

[Photos are mine, from our trip]

Thursday, June 17, 2021


The pandemic disrupted a lot of things, including shipping, and the sources from which I get materials for perfume making. Because of delays, I’ve run out of things, and because of unavailabilty of items that I routinely use, I’ve had to improvise. 

The first improvisation occurred when our bottle printer moved to a new location, was shut down for some time, and we ran out of printed bottles for the 30 ml size of some popular fragrances. To keep up with orders, we started putting new labels over the name on existing bottles, and quickly realized that using generic bottles for the 30 ml size, as we had been doing for the 100 ml bottles, would save space that would otherwise be used to store boxes of bottles for less popular fragrances. By customizing all of the bottles, we wouldn’t have to guess about demand and potentially keep things sitting around that we didn't use. We have added the classic picture labels to the back of the 30 ml bottles, so now the appearance of the two sizes matches perfectly. Discontinuing the old flat, rectangular bottles also saves storage space, eliminates the need for more than two types of sprayers, and helps conserve space on our stock shelves. When I have time (good luck with that!), I will post new photos of all of the bottles in all sizes on the website. We are currently using up the old stock, but pretty soon everything will be standardized. 


The second surprise came when the clear vials we use for samples became unavailable. The supplier said that they were being used for Covid vaccine, but that doesn’t seem probable. I think it’s more likely that the clear glass was all being used to make a different size and shape of vials for vaccine. Whatever the real story, we could only get amber glass vials with black tops, so we are using those until the clear glass becomes available again. I like the clear glass because the juice inside is visible, but I may stick with the black tops. 


Several materials that I use in perfumes have also become unavailable, so as I use up the last of the supply on hand, I’m working on coming up with acceptable substitutes. This is considerably more frustrating than any changes in packaging, but in the end, everything should work out. 


During the pandemic, I’ve been wanting more than ever to downsize my chaotic stash of fragrance samples, decants, mini-bottles, and even some full size bottles. To help with that process, I’m offering another batch of surprise packages to five readers of this post. Each package will include a mix of things, probably some junk, but also some potentially valuable items. Of course, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so I don’t really know which is which in your eyes, so it will all be there to sift through. Just leave a comment saying that you would like to be included in the drawing, which will happen after we return to Seattle on the 26th. Unfortunately, at present I can only offer shipping within the US. 

[The gratuitous but seasonally-appropriate photos are mine, one of the peonies that got beaten down by the rain, and one of a small fraction of the amazing crop of strawberries from our garden] 

Sunday, January 3, 2021


The drawing has taken place, and the winners are:






If you are a winner, please send me your complete name and shipping address so that you can receive your big package of fragrant goodies. The best way to reach me is by e-mail: olympicorchids at gmail dot com. The written-out symbols are to prevent spam.