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Sniff Fest - Olympic Orchids

Sniff Fest - Olympic Orchids 8 years ago
I admired Olympic Orchid's recreation of the ancient Egyptian scent, Kyphi, so much that I ordered their Discovery Set of any 10 samples. (Kyphi now scents the chiffon shawl I drape around my shoulders when I meditate.) What other lovelies await? Let's see.

"African Orchid"
OMG! Indoles at their best. I just put a large bottle in my basket because I know I'm going to want to wear this often and for the rest of my life. What a a fragrance coming from this small house I never heard of until a few days ago by sheer accident. This scent is not only accomplished, it's original--doing to florals what I, personally, haven't smelled before except in some of the finest perfumes. It's so good, it's leaving me close to speechless. My enthralled nose shuts down my brain to analysis. Okay, I'll try. It has the quality of scents like Monegal's Kiss My Name and Guerlain's Jardin de Bagatelle. Yet it has an oddly seductive and strange note that for me takes it over the edge. Is it Passion flower? Reaching for my perfumery notes kit...Not really. Must be the African Orchid. Adding nectar to this sensuous darling is almost redundant. Not sure about the longevity because this may be an all-natural scent. (It's lasting!). Needless to say, it's an instant favorite. Check out the notes and if they appeal, I can recommend a blind buy.

"Ballets Rouges"
Sadly, on my skin, this potentially fantastic chypre, which actually contains the full chyre accord (bergamot, oak moss, labdanum) produces a note that for me is close to vinegary. My guess is the labdanum, ordinarily resinous and sultry, is doing something it shouldn't. Or is it the rose? It's probably the mai rose. Dunno, but it's not terrible, either. It's a chypre with a dry rose, rather than a sweet one. Some may find it quite appealing.

"Blackbird by Ellen Covey"
Another OMG! Thought it wasn't in our database yet, but I found it. It's Tam Dao, Fortis and the like, done as well if not much better because it poses no challenges to my nose. Notes are: Himalayan blackberry fruit, dry grass and leaves, elemi, cedar wood and resin, amber, fir balsam absolute, musk. Jimminy Cricket!! Ordering a bottle.

"DEV #2: The Main Act"
Holy Smokes! Well, no. If you've ever wondered what scent the devil would wear, check this one out. Olympic Orchid's website says their devil series of scents were inspired by the novel, Quantum Demonology. How describe it? If you were driving into a dark street and smelled this, it would be your nose's way of alerting you to turn around, you've taken a seriously wrong turn. This literally smokes in the dry down. Yet the devil is a prince, a fallen angel, so if you're brave enough to ignore the top note's warning and persevere, naturally you should expect something glorious and Dev# 2 certainly is. Personally, I prefer the cleaner elegance of Blackbird, but for anyone who walks on the wild side, you might want to wear this dangerous beauty--rendered by what I'm beginning to realize is a master perfumer.

"Elektra / A Midsummer Day's Dream"
This is aptly-named because it smells like a summer meadow, trees and bushes laden with fruit, Frankincense and Cistus adding languor. On skin it's a delight. I'll post a proper review of it and the rest for our database.

Put quality ingredients in the hands of a bold and talented perfumer and this is the thrilling result. IMO, all but one of the first five are FB worthy, depending on your tastes, my faves being African Orchid, Blackbird, and Elektra. Simply can't wait to sniff the rest....

Okay, one more

"Golden Cattleya"
OMG, swoon! This goes in the basket, too! And it manages to smell golden, just like its name. What the heck is in it? Narcissus? Shut my mouth! Talk about counterpointing. The strongest note is Honey. Into the basket with you, dear. Analyze later.

One more
"Mardi Gras"
Dirty orange blossom. Parades and voodoo in the French quarter. The beautiful orange blossom/neroli top is swiftly joined by unabashed civet and musks, cistus trying to keep things civilized. Eventually it succeeds, leaving you smelling hauntingly good. These are quality take-no-prisoners perfumes. Either get with the party or go home to your momma. Love them. A buy.

More to come...
Last edited by ScentFan on 08.04.2016, 18:10; edited 2 times in total
8 years ago
Here are the rest:

"Olympic Amber"
Normally when I see an entry like "woody notes" for a perfume, I ready myself for potential nasal constriction and, yes, there is a bit of stuffiness to this scent, compared to the others. It's still better than the other ones that suffocate me. If your nose isn't subject to assault, check out this well-done amber and its strong note of vanilla.

I was born in a city full of Cherry trees and this scent smells exactly like the air did when they bloomed each spring, just add an earthy undertone and a little moon dust. It reminds me a bit of Demeter's Snow.

"Sonnet XVII"
I assume Nard Oil is Spikenard. Cubeb is a pepper. Don't know the smell, but it's been used as a drug, to make cigarettes for asthma and to adulterate the essential oil of patchouli. For me, the many dank notes here coalesce to create a too-earthy, off-putting scent. Yet for those into dirty scents, this is a great one: champaca blossoms being transported on an oxcart. It improves during the drydown.

Oh, wow! I'm going to sniff myself unconscious. Fabulous woods, divine balsam and frankincense, and what?... hot buttered rum without the rum? No stuffiness here, just brilliant clarity. All I can say is go to the woods, go to the woods. A definite buy.

That's all I have from Olympic Orchids at the moment, but hang on. I'm getting a sample of every last one of them asap. Overall, Ellen Covey impresses me as a person who perfumes the way I write...balls to the wall, as the current saying goes in the U.S. (from pilots who've pushed the throttle lever all the way forward until the lever ball actually touches the panel wall). When I write, I'm not here. I let every muse in the neighborhood take over my brain, the heavenly ones, the heroic ones, and those who really ought to be in some sort of jail. When I stop and come to myself, I am sometimes shocked. I have to edit and I do, muttering, "You can't say that, you can't write that, behave yourself." This editing doesn't always succeed 100% because sometimes I want to say precisely what I shouldn't. (ScentGal is the alter ego of that writer aspect of me.) To me, Ellen Covey is a passionate perfumer, possessed by her art. I'd rather risk an occasional missed edit from her than a single one of her successes. A heartfelt Brava, Olympic Orchids, Brava!
The rest of them 8 years ago
Got my Olympic Orchids order in with samples of the rest of the line yesterday and was barely able to focus on finishing our taxes. To console myself I dabbed on a little Blackbird, certainly among the very best resinous woods I've ever smelled, and promptly swooned. Hubby sniffed through those I already had and really liked them, including the ones I found very dank or animalic like Dev Two, so we're both big fans. Now, having slept late because the IRS kept me up, I really ought to eat or get dressed or meditate, but how when new perfume bounty awaits from this talented lady? Here goes in alpha order:

"Arizona Fragrance"
Florals, Chaparral, Stone pine, Sage bush, Juniper? Can't imagine what this perfume smells like. Wow, another beauty! First, I think I'm beginning to detect a characteristic base devised and used by this house--a signature akin to the fabled Guerlinade and Caronade. The Orchidade, to my nose, relies on its own combo of animalics and perhaps narcissus as a starting point for some of its fragrances. Will ask the perfumer and, since they never reveal all their secrets, I'll become a detective to see if I can sniff it out. Meanwhile, we're in the Arizona desert smelling the subtle scent of blooming cactus, sage brush and chaparral, and Juniper berries ready to flavor gin. This darling goes on the wishlist.

It's truly hard to express how good Ellen Covey's best ones are. They do nearly defy description. It's as if she goes to her perfume organ, inspired by the scent of a place, an herb, a flower and plays until she creates music in a perfume. No namby-pambiness. These deliver distinct smell experience to a nose.

"Bay Rum"
A new take on an old standby. The top note is moaningly gorgeous then the clove rises and thankfully settles down. This is a spicier, rummier take on bay rum.

"Café V"
Lovely latte spiced with chai and cardamom, supported by a smooth woody leathery base. My nose is certainly enjoying itself today.

"California Chocolate"
Can't imagine a chocolate gourmand fragrance smelling better than this. Yuzu is a brilliant idea here, especially with Neroli. It takes this fragrance to another sphere. I'm not always fond of gourmands, but this one is stunning. Think near-burnt dark chocolate with dashes of Grand Marnier and Bourbon. Patchouli and musk support perfectly. Hard to decide whether to eat it or wear it.

First thing I think is moss-hung trees and magnolias, a fleeting whiff of swamp. Is this the Orchidade again? Maybe, but this is certainly the Carolinas. The honeysuckle, the grass, the tobacco and pine that scent the air there are in this perfume. The result is nostalgic. It resurrects the old South.

Food or me and nose will expire. To be continued . . .
8 years ago
"DEV #1: Foreplay"
Per the Olympic Orchids website, this represents falling in love “against one’s better judgment.” At first there’s an aromatic woodiness that is close to tobacco, soon joined by vanilla, resins and animalics. I smell incense and some greenness. It’s a heady, involving fragrance, heavily incensed, woody and oudy. I’d say it was a knock-out if I hadn’t smelled Blackbird and Woodcut which my nose likes better.

"DEV #3: The Inevitable"
This is a brighter version, new notes like Amber, Davana and Black Currant lending interest and clarity. Rockrose oil is cistus, I think. This is my personal favorite of the series.

"DEV #4: Reprise"
This is a less complex one, but it’s also very good. Overall, I like the Dev series. Dev 1 is the “heaviest” and 4 the lightest, but the whole series is great.

A beautiful, curried resinous fragrance. Like standing in a spice stall. Jasmine and Rose, principally, make it perfume. As it dries the spices settle down a bit, but we’re in the vicinity of the spice stall throughout.

Wow, does Ellen Covey have a way with florals! Even my least favorite ones smell heavenly. She did it with Narcissus in Golden Cattleya. Now she’s done it with Lily-of-the-valley. These two and and Hyacinth have sent me fleeing from a perfume many a time. Not in this case. In fact, I’m buying it. I never would have predicted liking perfumes in which one of “the wicked stepsisters” was the main or sole floral! To me it’s proof of sheer brilliance in a designer.

More to come ...
8 years ago
"Kingston Ferry Fragrance"
I’m guessing this is the ferry in Edmonds, WA, thus the seagrass, driftwood, wildflowers and evergreens. The scent is beautifully woody, fresh and slightly marine. The actual outdoors in a bottle.

The Olympic Orchids website says this is the fragrance of Lilith, the devil’s wife in the novel that inspired the perfumer. It has a potent top note: davana, kewda, kaffir lime leaf per the website. which at first bars the way to the equally complex heart of “passion-fruit, angel’s trumpet, lily-of-the-valley, geranium, cyclamen, and a tiny hint of rose.” It rides on a woody, musky base. Though this is a great scent translation of the reference character, it doesn’t personally appeal to me—steely determination and dominance translated to perfume. IOW, if there are handcuffs in your house and you’re not a policeman, this might work for you. As it dries it softens and emits a haunting air.

"Olympic Rainforest"
Now I realize Olympic Orchids is named after Washinton State’s Olympic Peninsula, much of which is a national park containing fantastic landscapes, including rainforests. What a region to inspire a perfumer. This scent IS the green wetness of a rainforest. The woods, the foliage, the moss. It’s not really woody, like the superb Woodcut, sniffed earlier. It’s wet, sappy, floral, cedary, mossy—all the smells you’d expect in such a place. I don’t know how she does it.

Anise is strong in this bright, sparkling perfume with strong vanilla. It features a Japanese orchid and magnolia. Not my scent—I need woods and indoles—but it’s lovely

"Red Cattleya"
This is more my style, a fruity-floral with a musky, woody base. As I suspected, here is the 3rd wicked stepsister—hyacinth—beautifully incorporated. Think a fruitier, richer Amethyst by Lalique. Wishlist.

The lovely top note is swiftly overtaken by strangeness which left me waiting to see how things would settle down. Somewhere between African and India, was my first thought. Had to look up Mitti—a special earth from the banks of the ganges. However, the website says Salamanca is a Spanish university town. Well, Spain IS in the general vicinity, more or less. If you’re a westerner, this scent takes you to hot and dusty foreign climes. Wishlist.

"Seattle Chocolate"
A very nice woody-mossy gourmand.

"Siam Proun"
Per the website, Siam means “we are sufficient” in Provencal and refers to the splendidly self-sufficient kitchen gardens all over the French countryside, but especially there. This fragrance won an award for its amber-based “mix of Mediterranean herbs and flowers, including orange blossom, lavender, rosemary, red thyme, bergamot mint, and yuzu.” It’s a lovely scent, but my skin too rapidly absorbs it, so not a buy.

I can actually smell the quality of ingredient and construction in these well-done fragrances.

They remind me of what I read last night about the creative perfumer in Roja Dove’s The Essence of Perfume “greatness is not just about being technically brilliant, but about truly feeling your art…with much of the industry now being controlled by enormous corporations…perfumery has often become more akin to the work of the chemist than the Master Perfumer.”

Ellen Covey is a Master Perfumer. It was a joy to experience her unfettered creativity. Her every effort deserves sampling by those who treasure quality and originality in perfume.

I think there may still be a few I haven’t tried. If so, I’ll be back.
Last edited by ScentFan on 17.04.2016, 17:39; edited 1 time in total
8 years ago
Nice evaluations. Ellen Covey would be pleased to read this.
8 years ago
Must give credit where credit is due. Thanks, Pipette. I sent her the link with my order.
8 years ago
Just had a few moments of total kid-at-Christmas trying to decide which Olympic Orchids fragrance to wear. I settled on Golden Cattleya, a sultry and hypnotic Narcissus-Honey wonder, never mind that just weeks ago I would have put the chances at zero or less of my ever wearing a Narcissus solifore. More samples on the way.
8 years ago
Remaining samples:

"Little Stars"
This opens with a strong blast of oud, soon joined by clove and the simulated smell of heady night-blooming orchids on a base of rich woods. The website tells us to picture a steamy jungle at night and that's what the scent becomes. As it dries, it's both strong and beautiful.

"White Cattleya"
An unusual floral that features a lovely citrus top. With only Heliotrope, the White cattleya orchid, Vanilla and a light touch of Jasmine to balance things, it remains distinctly citrus --Citroni and the unusual orchid note strongest. With no woods, indoles or incense to draw me in I find it a quite pleasant summery fragrance rather than the stunners that her other cattleya are, especially Golden Cattleya.

"Tropic of Capricorn"
A musky animalic core evokes the "dark fecundity of nature" intended by the designer. I wouldn't call this mixture of mango, florals, osthmanthus, sandalwood, etc. pretty, but it is powerful. An earlier (I believe) version of the scent that came in the package is equally interesting but for me easier to wear because of being more floral and less musky, if still potent.

Well, this does put me immediately in a cave, if a fragrant one. Mineral notes and wet earth along with the resins, fig, banana and other fruits create a truly captivating if unusual scent. I might want to smell like this now and then, but the decant will do. Issued under the Zoologist brand apparently also by Ellen Covey, it's another example of inspired perfumery.

I think that's all I have from Olympic Orchids. In sum, the fragrancexs are unusual, animalic, earthy and powerful. Some are breathtaking like her peerless Blackbird which hubby smelled and took immediate possession of. Also stunning is her Golden Cattleya and, for me, African Orchid--indole addict that I am. Ellen Covey is not your ordinary perfumer. Her work reminds me of the mythic feminine archetype, held in awe because of its seemingly magic ability to heal with herbs and give birth. A potent inspiration for a talented perfumer living among the fertile resources of Washington state's rainforest. It's been a pleasure to experience these scents.
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