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, September 18, 2017


Last Friday I finished teaching the 4-week intensive class that I do every year before autumn quarter starts. That afternoon I went running for the first time in over a month, thinking it would be the last chance to enjoy the dry weather given that rain was predicted for Saturday – the first rain since May.

However, weather predictions are fickle things. When I woke up Saturday morning the eastern sky was the odd lavender-yellow color that I've come to know, and when I went outside I smelled the all-too-familiar scent of wildfires, stronger than ever. Or maybe I’m just sensitized to it now. The fires have been ongoing since the end of July, with many days when the sun was so obscured by smoke that it looked like the moon and was bright red in color. In the mornings when I drove to the university, I would sometimes find a layer of fine ash covering my car like snow. It was so volatile that I could clear my windshield by simply blowing on it. All day Saturday, the sunlight was so dim that was like the eclipse all over again.

About that smell of wildfires. It’s not a nice, cozy, aromatic campfire smell, as one might think. In fact, it reminds me of the smell of the hospital crematorium at an academic institution where I worked many years ago. They fired it up one day a week, on Thursdays, and the smell wafted all over campus. I’ve been thinking about how to characterize the wildfire smell, and the best I can do is a mix of a smoldering or recently extinguished campfire, an electrical fire, burned hair, scorched soil and rocks, and that hospital crematorium. It’s a medley of burned material, animal, vegetable, and mineral.

The wildfires are a major disaster for those close to them, but for those of us a little farther removed there is a certain bizarre beauty to the yellow-gray clear but overcast skies, the unaccustomed colors of the sun, moon, sunrise, and sunset, the muted orange color of weak sunlight filtering in through a window, and the specks of ashes floating through the fuzzy air. It was a strange summer.

Sunday night the rain finally came. Not a lot, but enough to save trees and plants that were on the verge of dying. This time of transition is the signal that I need to get back to work on the blog.

[Top photo by Gail Gross; the others are mine. It's interesting that my camera sees the red sun as white surrounded by red while my eyes see the whole thing as red.] 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


First things first. The winner of the Bad Birds drawing is YUKI.
Please contact me with your complete shipping address at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or by PM on Facebook

The announcement of the latest random drawing winner was delayed due to my old car breaking down beyond repair and the scramble to find a replacement before I have to start commuting to the university again. One of these days, in the far distant future, we are supposed to have functional public transportation where we live (assuming all goes well), but for now I have to drive.

The outcome of the process was a nice “new” car, but the search for one and the bureaucratic paperwork associated with the sale took a lot of time. The whole transaction brought up a question that I’ve had for a long time. In addition to the cost of the car, the cost of the title transfer and registration paperwork, there was sales tax. I was not the first owner of the car. In fact, there had been two owners before me, each of whom presumably paid sales tax when they purchased it. This means that the state has collected tax on the same item three times.  Somehow the triple-dipping seems illogical, if not unethical. On a smaller scale, our local thrift store also charges sales tax on used items. Taxing of used clothing and household goods seems like the ultimate regressive tax on people who have minimal resources.

Now that the car problem is solved from a practical point of view, we will be taking off soon for a two-week vacation in Aruba. This will be the third year that we have actually taken a real vacation, going somewhere far away from home and spending an extended time without our laptops and phones. That’s not quite true – if I can get wi-fi, I check e-mail on my phone once a day and deal with anything urgent, but that’s it. I’m putting up notices on my websites saying that orders placed before 13 August will not ship right away, and giving a small discount to compensate for the delay, and have already set up my automatic “out of the office” messages to start at the end of the week. Needless to say, I won’t be posting here while I’m gone. 

Nevertheless, I will start a new contest, with the usual goodies – 100 grams of random perfume samples and a few miscellaneous larger fragrant items. To enter, just say what you think about charging sales tax on used items - justified or not?. The winner will be chosen by random drawing.

[Photos taken as is or adapted from Wikimedia] 

Monday, July 17, 2017


It seems like summer has just started, but in less than two weeks we go on our now-traditional August vacation, with a break from phone and other tech time sinks. Once we come back, there’s a week to catch up, then I start teaching again. Where does the time go?

The last couple of weeks were spent trying to keep up with the summer sale and special promotion, as well as wholesale orders. I think today’s industrial-size run to the post office must be the culmination of the summer madness! It’s been a scramble, but it’s great to have so much business from long-time customers and new ones.

Today’s drama was the attack of the robins on our blueberry bushes. They have been eyeing them for the past couple of weeks waiting for the berries to ripen, and today they were all over the bushes, ripping and tearing at the clusters as they stuffed their greedy mouths. Some people like robins, but I have developed an intense dislike of them. It started when I put some baby orchid compots outside to water and went away to do something else for half an hour. When I came back, I found several robins gobbling down baby orchid plants! Of course they chose to eat the rarest and most expensive plants, not the ordinary ones. I recently discovered that robins are responsible for the pre-dawn bird-screaming that wakes me up way too early in the morning. Another bad mark. For years they have eaten our blueberries. One year we tried putting bird-netting over the bushes, but the robins just lifted up a corner, crawled under it, and ate the blueberries anyway. These robins are the fattest, greediest, most aggressive birds I’ve ever seen.

As I try to clear my shelves of excess items, I continue with the Monday giveaways. This week it will be another 100 g of random perfume samples worldwide; for a US winner, the samples will be accompanied by some larger items up to the 1-pound limit for first-class shipping. To enter the drawing, leave a comment about which bird you most dislike. If you don’t dislike any birds, answer the ridiculous corporate interview question of which bird you would like to be and why.

The drawing will be held next Sunday so that I have time to ship your prize before leaving for vacation.

[The blueberry pic is mine. The others are from Wikimedia. The robins appear to have been photographed east of the Rockies, and are much slimmer, cuter, and more benign-looking than than the Seattle variety.]