Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes – An Exploration
I love to explore small, largely unknown perfume brands. There is the thrill of the hunt, for one, then that feeling of being let in on a secret. And then there is the challenge of charting previously unexplored territory, just you and your nose. No PST or NST to help you out.
One such secret (that is already on its way out) is Olympic Orchids Perfumes. A small business based in the Pacific Northwest, it is an orchid nursery as well as a budding artisanal perfume house founded in 2006 by Ellen Covey, a chemist by profession turned perfumer by passion.
“Olympic Orchids was founded as a small nursery business growing orchid plants. However, Ellen Covey quickly became fascinated by the incredible variety of scents produced by orchids. Combining a fascination with orchid fragrances and a lifelong love of fine perfume, she set out to create scents that are representative of the different species of orchids while, at the same time fulfilling all of the criteria of a fine perfume.”
- Excerpt from the Olympic Orchids website.
Ellen Covey wanted to capture the incredible scents of the different orchids she grew and her quest resulted in wonderfully wearable perfumes, orchid scents as well as others she created “along the way”.
The Olympic Orchids signature line is a series of scents inspired by different species of orchids. Other series include “Scents of Place”, perfumes trying to capture the spirit of a place where the perfumer has lived or visited, a concept I find fascinating.
The perfumes are produced from the highest quality ingredients obtainable. Pure perfumes have a concentration of 30-33% fragrance materials and Eau de Parfums have a 15-20% concentration. All of the spray bottles are refillable, and packaging materials are biodegradable. Olympic Orchids offers scented soaps as well.
I had never heard of Olympic Orchids until Tarleisio reviewed some of their perfumes on Scentless Sensibilities, here is one example. And what fantastic reviews those were! My interest was instantly piqued.
I acquired the very reasonably priced sample set from the Olympic Orchids webstore and soon a generously enlarged set arrived at my doorstep. So many different perfumes to test, I was a bit overwhelmed (but grateful!).
I would like to give a little peek into the wealth of fragrances by this brand, to maybe whet your appetites a little.
Olympic Rainforest: is an intensely green, wet and realistic rendition of a temperate rainforest such as the Olympic National Park that inspired this perfume. I once got lost in Olympic National park which was a bit disconcerting but did not totally distract me from the breathtaking beauty and magnitude of this forest (well, the magnitude did scare me a little, given that I did not exactly know where I was or how to get out again!). Olympic Rainforest is an impressive fougére perfume, opening with a citrus-lavender accord it develops into a powerful symphony of woods, where cedar and pine stand out the most to my nose. Wearing it encourages me to breathe deeply, to relax my tense shoulders and enjoy the vastness and quiet dignity of that magnificent forest conjured up in this scent. (We found an extraordinarily bored forest ranger who showed us the way out again, grumbling something about tourists and how they are a great danger to themselves and others.)
A Midsummer Day’s Dream: is a gloriously uplifting fig fragrance that brings sunlight, a warm breeze and the impression of a summer meadow complete with butterflies to my mind in a second. The fresh fig tree with not quite ripe fruit, leaves, bark and earth surrounding it is depicted clearly through the bright top notes, green heart and a softly creamy and earthy base. This is a love at first sniff scent for many, I bet. It is reminiscent of Premier Figuier and Philosykos but seems to me even rawer, more direct and more realistic in its rendition of nature.
Golden Cattleya: is one of the orchid scents. While this one is not exactly my taste, I can appreciate the beautiful composition of this heady floral scent. Golden Cattleya doesn’t joke around, it comes at you full blast, making you feel like you are surrounded by tall, golden yellow orchids like Alice after ingesting Drink Me! The scent is sweet, rich, round, there is orange blossom and indolic jasmine with excellent sillage. A hint of spiciness is there as the scent develops before finally drying down into a rich and warm vanilla base made interesting by the inclusion of myrrh (don’t take those notes too seriously, they are just what my nose makes them out to be, unverified by the perfumer, who probably has had a good laugh by now!). This perfume stays with me for the entire day, although the drydown is way tamer and stays closer to the skin.
Red Cattleya: this is a sumptuous, gigantic fruity-floral, if I ever smelled one. It shows the world that fruity-floral does not necessarily mean insipid pink safety juice, but that there are formidable and uncompromising members of this category too. I don’t have the courage (yet) to venture out with such a perfume, but believe me I want to. Opening with a cocktail of ripe red fruit (raspberry?), it is soon off into floral territory where roses and violets mingle with other flowers so well blended I can’t discern them. It calms down after this opulent and glamorous overture, but never touches anything approaching restraint or demureness. Red Cattleya is certainly no shy flower, it is out there for everybody to admire and applaud it. It eventually develops into a smooth drydown where a musky-woody softness provides a warm bed for the exuberant floral accord. This is a perfume for grown women off to a soiree or a ball at the Plaza, dressed in Haute Couture trailing the head-turning sillage of Red Cattleya. As for me, I admire it from afar, it is safer for now.
I could go on and on, there are many more interesting perfumes in Ellen Covey’s line and I will review a few more in greater depth over on my blog in the near future.
My personal favorite is A Midsummer Day’s Dream, I love fig scents and have many, but this one is quickly turning into a favorite.
Olympic Orchids perfumes can all be sampled for a very reasonable price, available from the website.
Image courtesy of the Flowerpicturegallery.com