Olympic Orchids: American Perfumer Interviews

Hi there Posse. Recently I introduced you all to a new business called American Perfumer. The name says it all. Independent Artisan  American Perfumers being put on display so you can find a large selection of them in one spot. Genius! From that initial post I was inspired to meet some of the people behind the perfume brands that are for sale at American Perfumer. They all get the same 10 questions so we can see how they differ and how they are similar. After I will give you a quick review of one or two of their scents. Let’s start this week with my friend Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids.

Olympic Orchids: American Perfumer Interviews

What do you recall of your family’s fragrances as you grew up?

My mom enjoyed perfume a lot, and had a small collection. One of my favorite activities was to open the bottles one by one and smell them. My favorite one was a patchouli-heavy scent called “Oriental”. I don’t know who made it, and I’m sure it no longer exists. I also remember that she had some sort of “apple blossom” scented bubble bath that always gave me a migraine. Maybe that’s why I don’t particularly like floral perfumes even now.

Where is your dream vacation spot?

I don’t really have one. I like to go somewhere very different each time I travel. Last summer we went to Hawaii (the Big Island), and that was a lot of fun. Next vacation we will probably go somewhere in Europe.

How do you like to start your day?

I like to stay up late and sleep in, when my schedule allows it, which is seldom enough. First, I have my coffee (always good coffee), deal with my e-mail, and read a lot of different news sources, which, right now is depressing. Then the day starts.

Tell us about your life, family, business or career before perfume?

For many years I have been a professor of neuroscience, first at Duke Medical Center and currently in the Psychology Department at the University of Washington. This was my main career before perfume and still is, during perfume. I also have an orchid growing business that continues to expand.

How did you find yourself in perfumery?

Taking this question literally, I found myself in perfumery completely by accident. In my capacity as an orchid grower I started messing around with some fragrant materials, trying to re-create the fragrances of the orchid flowers I knew and loved. I started with a few floral fragrances that I used to make scented soap to sell at orchid shows. After a show where the venue turned on the overhead sprinklers during the night and melted all my soap, I decided it would be better to bottle the fragrances and sell them that way. The rest is history.
Taking it figuratively, I found another outlet for my artistic, creative side, and have enjoyed the process tremendously.

What is your favourite perfume note and why?

People always ask about “favorites”, but I really don’t have one in any sphere, including perfume notes. Context is everything. What is good in one context might not be in another. Having said that, I’m partial to incense and woody notes, but they need other things to make them pop.

How did you decide on your companies name, what is its relevance?

My orchid nursery was Olympic Orchids, so the perfumes just got dragged under the same umbrella. When I originally had to come up with a name for the orchid business, I was looking out the window, saw the Olympic Mountains, and thought, “that’s as good as anything else”.

What was the last novel or biography you read (current if appropriate)?

I just finished reading “Democracy in Chains” by Nancy MacLean. It is a rather dry account of how economist James Buchanan contributed to the thinking underlying the current US political landscape and the Koch brothers’ (among others) behind-the-scenes efforts to privatize government functions and remove regulations on industry, finance, and commerce. I was a little disappointed by the book because it focused a lot on random minutiae and never really seemed to provide a good overview of the big picture.

Hypothetically: If you had to pick a Signature Perfume that you didn’t create, what and why?

I don’t believe in “signature scents”, partly because I like variety and novelty, and partly because if you use the same scent every day, you adapt to it and can’t smell it properly any more. I think if I had to choose just one perfume, it would be an under-the-radar perfume oil, Madini Ambre. It is a gorgeous woody scent that I find comfortable and comforting. However, I wouldn’t wear it every day no matter how much I liked it.

Who are your fragrant heroes?

Heroes? I guess they would be all of the trees and plants that give their lives and potential offspring to make essential oils and absolutes for us to use in perfumes.

Thanks Ellen, so good to read a little insight into your head and heart.

You can buy Olympic Orchids at American Perfumer

Olympic Orchids

Golden Cattleya by Olympic Orchids

Imagine a white/yellow floral, smooth as glass yet warmed by the suns heat. A honeyed resinous fragrance that soars on your skin. For those who have never tried Indie Fragrance and have only ever work Department Store bought this will be a revelation. Multifaceted and deep, Golden Cattleya is a big, bright fragrance that will help you connect to the world around you in ways you never even thought of.

Olympic Amber by Olympic Orchids

Bored of all the super sweet, amorphous, cookie cutter ambers in the niche market? Olympic Amber is thicker, richer, more nuanced and smells better. Perfect for the Northern Hemisphere winter. Amber, resins and vanilla backed by patchouli, cypress and other woods. Olympic Amber has been one of my Go-To ambers for years.



Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies

  • Kate E. says:

    This was a great interview and I can’t wait to read the next one! What a great idea. I have even more respect for Dr. Covey now that I know how multi-talented she is….WOW!

    • Het there KateE,
      So glad you enjoyed it. Ellen is a power of nature, unbelievable how accomplished one person can be in so many streams.
      We have quite a few interviews on their way, stick around.
      Portia xx

  • Monika Goodrich says:

    Having never samples any of Olympic Orchid’s products, what would you recommend for the warm and humid climate of South Florida? I am partial to white flowers… FM’s Carnal Flower and YSL’s Rive Gauche being my favorite two scents.

    • Portia says:

      Try Golden Cattleya, Mardi Gras and Tropic of Capricorn Monika, they are all wonderful. Not much like Carnal Flower or Rive Gauche but those two are practically chalk and cheese themselves.
      Portia xx

  • Leah B says:

    Great interview Portia! Adore Olympic Orchids – named many of my faves – also Café V. And their bottles are noteworthy, too. Wanted to mention that when first applied the fragrance quickly blooms up around my face enveloping me for a bit. I love that about their perfumes! Like a perfume kiss! <3

  • Neva says:

    Thanks to one of your giveaways Portia, I got a nice bath oil from OO, the Amber-Labdanum oil which I still use every time I take a bath in my tub. With the oil, I got some samples of OO perfumes and I liked Blackbird most of all, a balsamic fruity scent with a strong blackberry note.

  • Thank you, Portia, for the excellent post! Just for the record, my name is spelled “Covey”, not “cover”. It was probably the fault of auto-correct, which is always trying to sneak and change people’s names on package labels when I ship. I’ve learned to watch out for it!

  • MMKinPA says:

    I have a small splash bottle of Golden Cattleya and love it. I sampled quite a few before selecting that one and have since passed those on to someone else; not everything was to my taste but all of them were super interesting. I’m still sitting on a sample of Blackbird, trying to decide how much I like it. I also have a bottle of her Amber Labdanum oil which is divine!

    • Portia says:

      Hey there MMKinpa,
      How freaking lovely is a hot bath with Amber Labdanum oil? So luxurious and a perfect base to any fragrance with amber in.
      Portia xx

  • Queen Cupcake says:

    I haven’t yet tried anything from Olympic Orchids Perfumes, but I think I will very soon! Thanks for this very interesting interview. I’m impressed that Ellen Cover has achieved so much in life, and keeps it going!

  • Brigitte says:

    Thanks Portia for this interview and introducing us to Ellen! I have only tried one of her fragrances, a partially used bottle of Olympic Amber was gifted to me and I loved it SO much I thunked it last winter….it is INDEED the best amber for the cold Northeastern winters!!!

    • Portia says:

      Hey Brigitte,
      Ellen is amazing. If you liked Olympic Amber then there will be many others in her range that will sing to you too.
      Portia xx