Giveaway is now closed!
In my eyes the ultimate balance between work and play is doing both at the same time, so that the work seems less dull and the fun never ends. And don’t let business magazines convince you otherwise: you certainly don’t have to be a Google employee to enjoy what you do (although free “massage credits1” would be nice). Why, just look at Ellen Covey – she’s having a blast making perfumes with ingredients she’s passionate about and her business has garnered lots of positive attention in the niche community for it. Her latest accomplishment is winning in the 2015 Art and Olfaction Awards in the Artisan category2.
Covey is the owner of the Olympic Orchids orchid nursery in Seattle, where she was inspired by the variety of scents produced by the flowers to start a unique line3. And is it any wonder? There are about 30,000 species of orchids around the world, including vanilla planifolia, which produces (you guessed it!) the fragrant vanilla pods we all know and love4.
With so many ingredients to jumpstart from, it is no wonder that the range has so many interesting scents. Red Cattleya was inspired by exotic orchid species from far away jungles5; African Orchid is the scent of blooming flowers in the East African night6; still Golden Cattleya is the scent of pure gold, like late afternoon sunshine7. The list goes on, my friends. I was sent eight of them to try out, and the following are my thoughts.
I did a little research and found that Olympic Orchids used to be available in a Seattle-based brick and mortar store called Blackbird Ballard, which closed in 20138. I believe that today their products are only available online, but there is a subscription-based quarterly sample set that helps potential fans to find the right OO for them3.
The first scent I sampled from the line was named for the store that used to sell it, Blackbird. Even before trying it out I was impressed by the color of the juice, which is a dark brown with a red tint. I expected the smell to be dark to match the appearance, but it is not so. Instead to me this was a dark green fir and juicy blackberry smell with hints of cranberry. I’ve written about cranberry before and how it can have a certain sweet/bitter aroma, which is captured perfectly here. The berries are done just right, bringing to mind a bright, ripe snack enjoyed on the hiking trails, surrounded by tall evergreens as the sun streams from behind dipping branches. Rather masculine despite the sweetness, and extremely high-quality. Potent, too.
Here are my thoughts on the rest of the collection, in no particular order.
- Mardi Gras: in the opening this one is a sweet civet, as odd as that sounds, and not at all the glitzy scent I would have expected from the name. In the heart, a strong animalic scent with loads of incense, which brings me back to moments I didn’t even realize were stored in my memory. Dirty and smoky, but strangely familiar and warm – perhaps a villain behind the festive mask? Maybe this is what the protagonist in V for Vendetta would wear. Would recommend for fans of incense.
- Café V: wowza! Leather and bitter coffee. A jolting masculine if I ever smelled one! It has something that almost makes me think of a baked good – like sitting in a leather chair, enjoying a nutty sponge cake and sipping dark java. Good stuff!
- Tropic of Capricorn: another beautiful juice the color of amber. Goes from pine needles tea in the first few hours to fresh grass in the next, and bizarrely enough gets stronger as it wears. I’m not convinced of this one, but others say it smells relaxing. This one is also 100% natural9.
- Arizona: this was probably my least favorite from the bunch as it smells like a very mature masculine. Supposedly a blend of forest trees, to me it’s heavy on lavender.
- DEV #2: The Main Act: there is a type of wine called ‘tirosh’, and it is used in Jewish rituals such as welcoming the Shabbat and on holidays. To me this perfume smells of that sour grape beverage, with a lot of woodsy smoke and honeyed incense. Whether or not you like that is totally up to you, but I’ll pass. This is also the longest lasting one of the group.
- Kingston Ferry: I cannot for the life of me place my finger on what this smelled like. Sour leather, perhaps? Didn’t last long on my skin.
- Woodcut: smells dirty and metallic on me, but strangely good – makes me think of fungus, blood and smoke. Meant to be evocative of ‘man’s rape of the earth10’ – yikes!
A note about packaging: I truly appreciated that each sample came in a tiny plastic bag, even though the environmental in me is screaming in outrage. I like that if one sample spills or leaks in the journey the others would still smell like themselves.
Verdict: I like exploring several scents from the same brand at a time so that I can really get a feel for who they are. In the scents that I was sent to try I didn’t find the orchids that OO is known for, but I have faith that the rest of the line doesn’t disappoint. Instead I found a passion for the dark with bursts of bright color. Blackbird quickly became a favorite, and I’m considering ordering a full bottle. Café V was also very good, and Tropic of Capricorn made the cut for me despite being a bit confusing. The rest are certainly imaginative and bring to mind vivid images. I encourage you to check out the collection. Thank you to Ellen, and congrats on her winning!
1Business Insider: Google Employees Reveal Their Favorite Perks About Working For The Company
2Fragrantica: The Winners of the 2015 Art and Olfaction Awards
3Olympic Orchids: Original Perfume Boutique
4Orchid Care Tips: Types of Orchids
5Olympic Orchids: Red Cattleya
6Olympic Orchids: African Orchid
7Olympic Orchids: Golden Cattleya
8Dear Scent Diary: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes: Which Ones to Try
9Olympic Orchids: Tropic of Capricorn
10Olympic Orchids Perfumes: Woodcut
Giveaway time! Two lucky winners will get a custom discovery set of 6 individual 3ml vials of their choice, sent by Ellen to anywhere in the world for your sampling pleasure. Please use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Giveaway closes June 3rd, 2015.