Niche Perfumery Orchids in Perfumery: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfume House

Orchids in Perfumery: Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfume House

11/26/11 09:45:00 (20 comments)

by: Elena Knezhevich


Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfume is an independent perfume house from the Pacific Northwest (USA). It was founded in 2010 by Ellen Covey, the owner of Olympic Orchids orchid nursery. Many fragrances created by Ellen are devoted to certain orchid species. We invited Ellen to share her knowledge about orchids with our readers.

Ellen Covey: Orchids have been around for at least 80 million years based on evidence from pollen stuck to the backs of bees found in amber, so were probably around in the time of the dinosaurs. The flowers are delicate to look at, but the plants are amazingly tough. Some orchids grow on the ground or on rocks, but most grow on tree trunks or branches, never touching the ground. They’re epiphytes, meaning they don’t hurt the trees in any way, they just use them as a surface to grow on. All they need is a little light, a little water, and trace amounts of nitrogen and minerals, and they’re off and growing. I grow many of my plants on pieces of cork bark or wood, not in pots. Orchids are distributed worldwide, and have co-evolved with their pollinators.

Most are pollinated by insects. Each orchid species’ fragrance attracts the species of insect that pollinates it. They also attract insects with nectar treats, flowers that are designed to look like female insects, and trapping mechanisms that force the insect to exit in a way that ensures that the pollen sticks to its back. Many orchids have markings on the lips that form a landing strip for insects, guiding them straight to the area where the pollen will be loaded onto the insect. Orchid plants are not particularly symmetrical, but the flowers do exhibit bilateral symmetry, with three sepals, two petals, and a lip.


When we see an orchid note in the fragrance description, we could say it smells exotic or refined, but we actually don't know what the smell is. There are many different sorts of roses, and their smell could differ a lot, but we still smell "rose." What about orchids? Do they share any general scent characteristics?
 

Ellen Covey: There are about 20,000-30,000 species of orchids belonging to about 900 different genera. Orchid scents are all over the place from the most beautiful floral scents to odors that we find unpleasant, such as feces or rotten meat. The scent depends on what insect pollinates the orchid. Bees and butterflies are attracted to floral scents, and flies are attracted to rotting animal matter. Each genus of orchids has a range of scents, but there is generally some predictability within a genus. Cattleya orchids all have floral-type scents that range from light and citrusy to heavy and indolic. Bulbophyllum orchids often have rotten meat odors, or other stinky smells.

I have orchids that smell exactly like coconut suntan lotion, butterscotch and cedar wood, cinnamon, sweet clover, roses, or baby powder. If there is a “typical” orchid flower scent, it would probably be a generic cattleya, but more often the “orchid” note in perfume is a fantasy note of some sort. Vanilla is extracted from the seedpods of an orchid, so maybe it could be thought of as the quintessential orchid scent. To me, the most interesting thing about orchid fragrances is the huge variety that rivals the variety of manmade perfumes of all types.


When did you start your work with orchids?
 

Ellen Covey: I started working with orchids about 20 years ago when I inherited four mature cattleya plants from a colleague who retired. They were the only houseplants (actually, they were office plants) that I ever grew successfully. After they bloomed under my care, I was so impressed that I went to my first orchid show, which really blew my mind. At the show I bought some more plants, and the rest is history.


Do you have the orchids from your fragrance collection in your nursery?
 

Ellen Covey: Yes, I have all of them. The most impressive ones are the large specimen-size plants on which the fragrances Red Cattleya and Golden Cattleya were based. They are both in bud and will be blooming soon. I also have multiple plants of Brassavola Little Stars, Dendrobium moniliforme (the model for Osafume), and Phalaenopsis javanica. It’s interesting that the Phalaenopsis javanica flowers from different plants smell different, and so do the flowers of the different varieties of Dendrobium moniliforme. All of the Little Stars flowers smell alike, though, and smell exactly like both of the parent species.


It's hard to distill orchid flowers.  What is your method for capturing their fragrance?
 

Ellen Covey: It would take far too many orchid flowers to distill or extract a fragrance, even if it were possible to capture their fragrance that way. The method I use is the same as that used to capture any other fragrance that cannot be distilled or otherwise extracted. I combine a variety of natural and synthetic materials to simulate the fragrance of the orchid flower, but in a way that works as a perfume. An orchid or any other flower is constantly pumping out the whole spectrum of top to base notes, but a perfume evolves in stages, with the top notes fading over time. The challenge is to create a perfume that captures the spirit of the flower fragrance in some way throughout its evolution.

Fragrantica is thankful to Ellen Covey for a nice conversation!


EXPLORE ELLEN's ORCHID CREATIONS:
 
perfume Bois de Violette

GOLDEN  CATTLEYA

The scent of this orchid is pure gold—narcissus, daffodil, orange fruit, orange blossoms, honey, pollen, and cream soda combine with amber-tinged resins and musks to create a warm and long-lasting aura like late afternoon sunshine. This is not your usual sweet flowery orchid scent!

perfume Bois et Musc

JAVANICA

Walk into a hothouse full of colorful moth orchids with their perfect round flowers and their succulent green leaves. Suddenly you’re captivated by a sweet, heady scent that seems to be coming from an invisible flower. It’s Phalaenopsis javanica, whose tiny red-striped flowers hide underneath the huge, shiny, umbrella-like leaves and produce a seductive spicy flowery scent.

perfume Boxeuses

LITTLE  STARS

Imagine a hot, steamy night in the jungle. Insects chirping, unseen creatures moving in the leaves and branches, and the heavenly scent of a flower that must be the orchid queen of the night. A spicy, woody floral scent reminiscent of white, night-fragrant orchids and the woody branches that they grow on.

perfume Chergui

OSAFUME

A delicate, summery scent inspired by a dainty miniature Japanese orchid, Dendrobium moniliforme. Anise, star anise, and magnolia combine with heliotrope, vanilla, and white musk to make this light, airy fragrance.

 

perfume Chypre Rouge

RED  CATTLEYA

A soft, sumptuous fruity-floral blend inspired by the scent of red Cattleya orchids. You’ve just walked into a Victorian hothouse packed with the most exotic orchid species, brought back by explorers from jungles all over the world. The scent of the blooming cattleyas envelops you, a soft, sumptuous fruity-floral blend with notes of citrus, peach, apricot, melon, hyacinth, gardenia, violets and lilac.

   

Please see all Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes in Fragrantica encyclopedia
and visit the official Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfume web site.

 


Author: Elena Knezevic (jeca)
Fragrantica Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt

Doc, thank you very much, you've actually answered my next question.lol :)

Nov
29
2011
nargis
nargis

While certain orchids seem to have no fragrance at all, there are some that we can easily smell across a large room. Try Oncidium "Sharry Baby". She's hard to miss. The book "Fragrant Orchids" by S. Frowine lists 110 fragrant orchids and includes some basic info on orchid culture. I don't always agree with his assessment of individual orchid fragrances, but the pictures are great and the general information is good. A couple of other interesting books on the subject are Roman Kaiser's "Scent of the Vanishing Flora" and "The Scent of Orchids - Olfactory and Chemical Investigations". Ellen Covey made it very clear in the article that orchid scents cannot simply be distilled from the flowers but have to be recreated by the perfumer. Every perfumer and every perfume lover will have a different impression of an orchid scent but I think most people will agree that there are orchids that do have very strong scents and some that seem to have none. Gail

Nov
28
2011
Hilde
Hilde

I'm a lover of orchids and after smelling several of mine now, I can still not get a scent from them.

Nov
28
2011
apassionforscent
apassionforscent

My auntie used to have an orchid garden full of orchids of every kind. I can tell you that orchids do not have a fragrance. They don't smell like anything. People are enchanted with the flower, people like the idea that it's mysterious and exotic and whatever, that's why they want to wear it on them as a scent, but really, they don't smell like anything at all.

Nov
28
2011
naheed
naheed

Great interview and very informative at the same time. Ellen C. has given through information regrading Orchid flowers and how the note is obtained in perfumes. I have got to learn so much from her. I hope to test her creations one day. Elena, you have put great pictures up for this beautiful and colourful flower and the best page layout as always.

Nov
27
2011
sherapop
sherapop

Fantastic contribution and wonderful to see Doc Elly's house featured! Many thanks to Elena and Ellen!

Nov
27
2011
nargis
nargis

Beautiful photos. Great interview and article. Just what I need on this dark, wet winter day in WA state. The article reminded me to enjoy little of the Golden Cattleya fragrance that I love so much. Thanks for your creations, Ellen. Gail

Nov
27
2011
kassinator
kassinator

So excited to see this article! Yesterday I just received two perfumes I purchased from her website and she packed it full of samples. I'm so excited to try them all and write their own reviews.

Nov
27
2011
Doc Elly
Doc Elly

Tschiepchen, Thank you so much for translating the article! I'll have to take a look at it.

GB, That's correct. The perfume note "orchid" (as in "Black Orchid") is synthetic. No one distilled tons of "black orchid" flowers to make it. However, "synthetic" can mean that a scent is built (synthesized) from other natural materials like essential oils and absolutes rather than being extracted from the specific flower in question. In my perfumes, I try to use mainly natural materials, but add touches of man-made ones as needed to achieve the scent that I'm going for.

Any perfume that contains natural vanilla has orchid in it, since vanilla comes from a type of orchid's seed pods. There is much more aroma material in a seed pod than in a flower, and vanilla is grown commercially on a large scale just for extracting the fragrance/flavor. Most vanilla used in commercial perfumes is synthetic, however, from man-made materials including vanillin, one of the same molecules that is found in natural vanilla.

Nov
27
2011
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt

So basically it's not possible to extract enough from an orchid to actually create a fragrance, this is all synthtic. So that means any others, like Black ORchid from Tom Ford does't actually have orchid in it?

Nov
27
2011
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt

So basically it's not possible to extract enough from an orchid to actually create a fragrance, this is all synthtic. So that means any others, like Black ORchid from Tom Ford does't actually have orchid in it?

Nov
27
2011
tschiepchen
tschiepchen

Thanks to Elena for this beauuutifully designed and thoughtfully written article about Doc Elly's magnificent fragrance creations.
The article itself and the fact that fragrantica member Doc Elly is the heart and soul of this house inspired me to translate it for fragrantica.at (please have a look everyone, it's on top of the news section) as soon as I got up this morning.
Doc Elly, I am sure you will built up a world-wide fan base in no time!

Nov
27
2011
Mariame
Mariame

Doc Elly's interview from Ellena is very interesting and informative of Orchid flowers and the scents of their species.It's nice to read and get know the perfumes creation of Ellen's.Great work!

Nov
27
2011
Migotka
Migotka

I got a few samples a few weeks back, knowing they are Doc Elly's creations, I am going to try them out soon!
Beautiful article!

Nov
27
2011
Doc Elly
Doc Elly

I just want to check in here and thank Elena with all my heart for the beautiful article. The layout and graphics are fabulous!

Nov
26
2011
liessa dalla
liessa dalla

Great article! Congratulations for all Fragrantica team staff! Orchids are a special flower, for sure. Even been hard to recongnize them, they do make a difference in a fragrance. I love it!

Nov
26
2011
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt
Giannahazagunaka Buddhizt

I absolutely LOVE Orchids! Great Read! Thanks so much!

Nov
26
2011
Moyra
Moyra

Great article! Here I was wondering when Doc Elly/Ellen Covey and her FABULOUS perfumes would get their day in the Fragrantica sun, because goodness knows they deserve it.
I am a huge fan, ever since my first encounter with Golden Cattleya, which jumped gracefully over the tops of hundreds and hundreds of bottles in my collection and into my top 5, maybe even to the very summit of my personal Perfume Everest in spring and summer.
Amazing, sheer genius and just beautiful - my gratitude and admiration to the perfumer!

Nov
26
2011
florabella
florabella

Thanks for the interesting and informative article. Orchids are my favorite flowers, the variety is endless!

Nov
26
2011
NebraskaLovesScent
NebraskaLovesScent

Lovely article! Many of you may not realize that you already know the perfumer Ellen Covey. She is none other than our long-time member Doc Elly. :-)

All the scents in the collection are beautiful and well-crafted. Little Stars was my favorite of the Orchid scents, and her Gujurat perfume is also a must-try for perfumistas.

Nov
26
2011

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