On a recent trip to Seattle, I was reminded to sniff out some Olympic Orchids fragrances when a review of Red Cattleyea popped up in my inbox from Australian Perfume Junkies.
Not sure where to track them down in my favourite weekend getaway city, I decided to send an inquiry under the ‘contact’ section of the Olympic Orchids website. To my surprise and delight I got a reply from none other than the perfumer herself, Ellen Covey.
Since the famously hip and curated men’s clothing and niche fragrance store Blackbird had only days earlier closed its doors and left Olympic Orchids without a brick and mortar distributor and testing location, Ellen suggested I come to her studio.
Yes, jaw dropped and clapped hands excitedly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be as her studio is too far from the city centre to be practical for automobile-less me, but I certainly enjoyed the idea of it before reality kicked in. We settled instead on the good old-fashioned postal service.
After testing the entire line now, I can say that I’m very impressed. All the fragrances are potent, interesting, have depth, development and good projection. Something I noticed with many of them is that they start off ‘rough’, but change quickly and develop into something interesting and beautiful with a little time. Here are some that I recommend trying.
Ballets Rouges – In a word, stunning. Easily one of my favourite Olympic Orchids creations. In early development, it bears a striking resemblance to Amouage Lyric Woman. Yup. Crazy beautiful creamy rose/ylang chypres, both. They veer from one another (yes I wore them both at the same time to check) at the open and after about an hour, but even then the similarities are there. Lyric Woman is a bit more plush and custardy (my skin amplifies the ylang ylang more than the rose) while the rose comes forward a bit more in Ballets Rouges. Ellen describes it as a classic chypre with a base of oakmoss, musk, patchouli and labdanum, a floral heart, and citrusy top notes that include aldehydes and bergamot. A must try.
Sonnet XVII – This one reminds me of Chanel 31 Rue Cambon but with an edge. There’s some barnyard dissonance that makes this a little more difficult, or interesting depending on your point of view. It was created in collaboration with Michelyn Camen, Editor of the wonderful perfume blog, Cafleurebon. Definitely worth a try.
Gujarat – Dark, leathery, boozy but somehow still uplifting. There’s a floral or fruit heart to this that keeps it from being brooding. Very unisex, perhaps even masculine but not in a typical way. Impressive projection. Love.
Olympic Rainforest – Starts off green, sappy and a bit medicinal (tea tree oil?) but a few minutes in develops into a round, plush beauty. If you’re interested in a luxurious green scent, this might just be the ticket.
Olympic Amber – This is a deep, smokey, honeyed, pipe tobacco, Back to Black type amber. As with most of OO scents, it starts off quite different – resinous and dense, with a hint of pine, but develops quickly into the sweet tobacco-y amber that it continues as for quite a while. This was apparently developed as a base for oriental perfumes but Ellen decided it stood well on its own. I concur.
California Chocolate – Wow, orange zest, grapefruit and yuzu all bright and piercing over a bed of fragrant chocolate. If you like chocolate and citrus notes you might as well blind buy this. It’s one of the few OO’s that’s beautiful right from the start. As the citrus dries down, the oily, fragrant pith seems to remain over the chocolate as other notes emerge. Neroli bridges the gap to patchouli, musk and vanilla in the base. It’s incredible. A must try.
Blackbird – Based on the name and the colour of the juice, one might expect a blackberry-centric frag. And it is, kinda, but the twigs and the leaves of the tree and maybe a few fir branches are thrown into the blender along with. I admit to not loving this one (too much fir?) but I know it has many fans. It was made especially for the Seattle store of the same name that recently closed (see above) so it’s a collector’s item now. It has great projection and lasting power.
Sweet florals aren’t my thing, but if they’re yours, Red Cattleyea, Javanica and Ossafume are worth a try.
I’ve decided on a bottle of California Chocolate for myself. Ellen has rebottled select fragrances in luxe 30ml bottles that I’m coveting, but of course California Chocolate isn’t one of them. Is it wrong to change my choice for the bottle? Yes, it is. I know it is. I will be a good girl, I promise I will.