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, February 14, 2018


After running in place for several weeks just to keep from falling behind, I've finally gotten around to doing the drawing for the perfume and cosmetics samples.

The winner is: MARY.

Please contact me by e-mail at olympicorchids at gmail dot com or leave a PM on our Facebook page. If the winnings are not claimed they will go into the jackpot for next time.

Even after packing a big box of cosmetic samples, there's still enough for another drawing of the same, plus the usual 100 g of samples.

To enter the new drawing, just leave a comment about what you're looking forward to this spring. I know I'm looking forward to spring break!

[The webcam photo from the local ski area in the rain looks like the invasion of the alien bubbles]

Friday, February 2, 2018


Given so many distractions, my plan to post giveaways on Mondays and post about materials on Wednesdays has gone awry. Maybe the bright side of this is that I've co-opted my usual Friday complaint about something. 

Frangipani, also called plumeria, is a type of shrubby tree native to Central America, Polynesia,  and parts of South America. It has been introduced to tropical regions all over the world as an ornamental tree. The white flowers are, as would be expected, fragrant at night to attract night-flying pollinators. There are plenty of cultivars that have been bred to have flowers in shades of lavender, yellow, pink, and red. The fragrance of fresh flowers is quintessentially tropical, somewhat like jasmine, gardenia, and other white flowers, but with a character of its own.

The scent of the absolute is not at all like the fragrance of the fresh flowers. I’ve tried frangipani absolute from several sources, and all are similar. The absolute itself is waxy and difficult to work with. It doesn’t really liquefy when heated, as most other absolutes do. It doesn’t readily dissolve in alcohol. The scent is mild, crisp-green like mastic, honeyed-sweet, and cooked-vegetal. For the first few minutes, it has a sharp, almost menthol-like note and a hint of what is commonly called “indolic” in perfume descriptions, but that I would call more “cresolic”. After that it’s mostly green and slightly honey-sweet, like baked acorn squash with brown sugar, becoming less aromatic and more of a waxy-woody dried hay smell as it declines and fades away. Longevity is in the top-note range given that it only lasts about an hour. I think anyone used to commercial perfumes (or just smelling fresh frangipani flowers) might be disappointed by the absolute.

Given that real frangipani absolute is horrendously expensive and not the most tractable material to work with, is it worth using in a perfume? I did use it in Tropic of Capricorn, and I think it contributes to the overall jungle-y-wet feeling; it may also modify some of the other materials. For that reason, I need to keep a supply on hand, but I’m not sure I’d commit to using it again.

Unless a fragrance is credibly guaranteed all-natural, any mention of a frangipani (or plumeria) note refers to a synthetic accord, not the absolute. The synthetics are strong and floral-smelling, with considerable longevity, what most people would associate with frangipani or tropical flowers in general.

Have you ever smelled frangipani absolute? If so, what did you think of it? If not, do you have any favorite perfumes with frangipani/plumeria notes?

[Photos all from Wikimedia]

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


OK, it's a day late, but at least here it is - the periodic giveaway.

I’m not only a perfume sample junkie, I’m also a cosmetics sample junkie. I love those little packets, tubes, and bottles, and will buy full sized things, usually things that I actually want, to get more of them even though I have enough. My cosmetics collection rivals my perfume collection, and I actually use both of these collections so little that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep them at their current size. I would like, at the very least, to create some sort of homeostasis so that things move out at the same rate they move in. 

This week’s exercise in elimination will include the usual 100 g of assorted fragrance samples, but it will also include a variety of mint-condition skin-care and skin-enhancement samples. I’m pretty particular (and lazy) about what I put on my face. I don’t use any sort of sunscreen product, and I never use any sort of foundation unless I’m going to engage in a major photo shoot. I won’t use lotions, moisturizers, serums, and other such things if I don’t like the smell, or if they’re strongly perfumed, even if it’s a scent that I might like in another context. I don’t use face primers, highlighters, contourers (is that a word?), or face powders. Nevertheless, I’m always receiving unsolicited samples of these things, and they just sit gathering dust. If you like face products, you’re in luck this week because the giveaway includes a goodie bag full of these things.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment about whether you use face products of any sort and, if so, what you like and/or dislike.

[Upper photo is mine, from our December trip to Vancouver Island. Lower photo is modified from a vendor's image]

Friday, January 26, 2018


There are so many frustrating features of life in the 21st century that I have a seemingly endless source of rant material. One of the innovations that drives me crazy is the proliferation of robotic voices and other algorithms that are sadly lacking in the capacity to deal with real people who have real issues. Ever since the advent of these Siri-clone robotic voices on the phone, pseudo-humans in “help” chat windows, some of whom are even given “human” names and faces, and algorithms popping up elsewhere, I’ve wondered if dealing with these robots is a big contributor to incivility in everyday human-to-human interactions – maybe the biggest contributor. I also wonder whether the level of frustration it creates contributes to violent behavior, suicide, depression, apathy, and other serious problems.

I wish I had kept the original maddening exchange that I had with a “chat person” on the FedEx website, but this morning it was easy to re-create something almost identical to it, albeit shorter and less redundant to spare you, the reader. Please note that I’m relatively polite in my responses, which is a departure from the original, real, “conversation” in which I unleashed a stream of curses on the robot, leaving it oblivious to my words and persevering in its useless responses. Here goes:

FedEx: Hello, I’m the FedEx Virtual Assistant. I’m here to help you with your questions regarding FedEx services.

Me: I’m having a problem with package delivery.

FedEx: I need more information. Would you please repeat your question in a different way?

Me: My package was not delivered because it required a signature. We were at home, but the delivery person just le … [that was all that the very limited window would accept!]

FedEx: If you missed your delivery, FedEx will make 2 more attempts to deliver your package (for a total of 3 attempts). [It then goes on with a lot of irrelevant copy-and-paste information from a web page about holding the package, door tags, etc.]

Me: I did not “miss my delivery”. The delivery person failed to knock on the door.

FedEx: I’m about to give you an answer that I have already given you. Would you like to see it again?

Me: No. [curses] Why does FedEx use robots to deal with customers?  

FedEx: You do not have to use FedEx branded packaging to ship with FedEx, but you can obtain FedEx packaging at FedEx Office locations …[It then goes on with a lot of irrelevant copy-and-paste information on packaging directly from a webpage.]

Me: [more curses] This response is completely irrelevant.

FedEx: I need more information. Would you please repeat your question in a different way?

So now we come full circle as the robot exhausts its astoundingly impoverished repertoire of answers.

My original exchange was longer, but contained all of the same “responses” repeated multiple times, plus one that told me that the sentence I typed was too long.

Given my phone exchanges with what I assume are real people (outsourced, of course) reading from a menu of 6 answers on a script card (“It’s your browser”, “It’s your browser”, “It’s your browser”, ”I cannot help you with this. Please go to the FAQ page on our website”, … etc), I have to wonder if real people’s behavior is being shaped by dealing with robots so that ultimately the entire population will end up unable to extricate themselves from the endless loop of time- and soul-sucking inanity. Has our humanity been outsourced? 

[In case you're skeptical, I did not make this up. It is verbatim, except that the copy-and-paste pseudo-"screenshots" have been expurgated to make the exchange readable. You could go on the FedEx chat window and recreate the same responses yourself, if you want to laugh at a scenario that would be tragic if it weren't so funny.]