Olympic Orchids by Ellen Covey – Assisting the Sorceress


Post by Azar


Olympic Orchids by Ellen Covey

Labor Day Reflections – Assisting the Sorceress

I have no doubt that Olympic Orchids Perfumes are magical. Ellen Covey’s success as an indie perfumer is grounded in her creative spirit and reinforced by her extensive knowledge of fragrance materials, countless hours at the perfume organ, carefully considered artistic marketing and her commitment to the time consuming and repetitive tasks associated with any successful enterprise. While I have no illusions about my ability to create a fragrance, I do know that I can handle the time consuming and repetitive. In my experience even the most glamorous jobs can dull with repetition. I have also learned that it takes a relatively high level of discipline to successfully perform the same small motor task over and over again without losing focus or precision (both lessons learned from 60 years at the piano). I am certain that my talent for the tedious could be put to good use on a fragrance sample assembly line.

Unfortunately, many of today’s independent perfumers and niche fragrance houses cannot be bothered to offer samples. The labor and expense involved in filling, labeling, packaging and posting the samples is not seen as cost effective. These guys rely on their websites, social media and the blogging community to sell their perfumes. Why go to all the trouble of offering samples when new customers can be so easily manipulated into blind, full bottle buys. I have succumbed to this strategy more often than I care to admit. As a result I have come to appreciate and support the perfumers who offer their customers a sniff.

Azar with samples 2-1Photo Donated Ellen Covey

About a month ago I visited my friend Ellen with the express purpose of putting together samples. Before we began she took me on a tour of her bamboo grove, orchard and gardens. She opened and shared some newly arrived absolutes and then we headed upstairs to the atelier where we tested (and Ellen tweeked) several soon to be released fragrances. After all the fun we finally set to work putting together samples of California Chocolate.

I am no stranger to decanting and labeling but have had no previous experience with the solo assembly line. Ellen gave me the simple tasks of labeling tiny plastic bags, labeling and filling vials and packaging the samples in the bags. She monitored my progress and gave me helpful suggestions along the way. A pipette gun with disposable tips and a rack for vials made working the line a lot easier. My first adventure in serious sample production was rather slow and clumsy but I know, that with practice, my speed and precision will improve. As a reward for the work both Brad and I were treated to a fabulous salmon dinner prepared by Ellen and Michael followed by an amazing dessert of ice cream, guava sauce, whipped cream and figs freshly picked from Ellen’s garden. “Nice work if you can get it…Emoji”.

Azar xx

Giveaway myprettypaintsPhoto Stolen myprettypaints

Sample Selection GIVEAWAY


This week we will have 1 Winner who will get:

The draw includes a VM Hedonist sample, an Elektra sample, at least one Amouge carded sample and more good stuff.  I’m not trying to unload things I don’t like, not used or rejected samples but new packaged and carded samples and a few fresh decants, I just want to give away duplicates!
P&H Anywhere in the world


Open to US RESIDENTS ONLY who follows AustralianPerfumeJunkies via eMail, WordPress, Bloglovin or RSS. Please leave how you follow in the comments to be eligible. I must be able to check that you follow so if you have an email address on your gravatar that’s different to your follow address then please email me so I know. Yes, you can start following to enter, in fact it’s encouraged.

You must tell me how you follow APJ


Reveal, if possible, approximately how many samples you have laying around your house, place of business, in your car, purse wherever. Have you developed a workable plan to store your samples? Let us hear about it!

Extra Chance?
Tweet: APJ Sample Selection GIVEAWAY http://wp.me/p3PURw-38D  


Entries Close Thursday 11th September 2014 10pm Australian EST and winners will be announced in a separate post.
Winners will probably be chosen by random.org
The winners will have till Sunday 14th September 2014 to get in touch (portia underscore turbo at yahoo dot com dot au) with their address or the prize will go to someone else.
No responsibility taken for lost or damaged goods in transit.

38 comments on “Olympic Orchids by Ellen Covey – Assisting the Sorceress

  1. Connie says:

    I follow by email and probably have approximately 40 samples lying around for swapping purposes, and maybe twenty that I’m holding on to to continue testing. That said, I’m also very much aware that I’ve never counted and am really pulling numbers out of the air. ;P

    • Azar says:

      Hello Connie,
      I like your easy to implement system – it might take awhile to count, though! A couple of years ago I decided I would try to count samples. My sample estimate was way off. THAT was a truly “time consuming and repetitive” task. You are IN!
      Azar xx

  2. Patty Pong says:

    I follow by e-mail. I have samples laying around all over. Dozens, hard to say. They are always in plain sight. I don’t want to count them. 🙂

    • Azar says:

      You are IN Patty Pong!
      I don’t like counting samples either (and haven’t for sometime) but have to look through them once in awhile to see what is there before I order or enter a draw for more. That’s not easy to do as I have tucked them away in all sorts of unlikely places. When I go looking I always find something “new”.
      Azar xx

  3. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Hey there Azar. DNEM but we catalogued the samples a couple of years ago and there were nearly 1000, yes that’s a real number. Since then we have been collecting steadily. Don’t want to think about a number really.
    Portia xx

    • Azar says:

      With all of the writing, sampling and collecting you do you must have some sort of sample system. How do your organize your trove?
      Azar xx

  4. Jackie b says:

    DNEM as I am not US…
    1000 Portia?? Wow!
    Bowing low over here….
    I would have maybe 100 or more. I try them as soon as received and they go onto 3 boxes-
    Really like, wear again.
    Not sure, should hold onto and try another time.
    Get this out of my house now. Anyone?

    • Azar says:

      Hi Jackie b,
      I like that you categorize as soon as the samples come in! What do you do with the “Get this out of my house…” samples?
      Azar xx

      • Jackie b says:

        They always find a new home, sometimes in a godmother situation, or to friends who may like them more than I do.

  5. Kandice says:

    Hi Azar. What a wonderful opportunity you had with Ellen. I’m so jealous you got to hang out with her 🙂 I follow via email, live in the US, and I probably have around 50-100 samples. I have two containers. Ones I love and like go in one, those I don’t like go in another. I’m sure I should be a little more organized but just don’t have the patience or time 🙂 Thanks for the draw!

    • Azar says:

      Hi Kandice,
      We had a great day! Ellen’s new, soon to be released fragrances are wonderful. It was great fun trying them out! I forgot to mention that we enjoyed her orchids too.
      Your sample management system sounds good. Simple and totally workable. How may times do you sniff before assigning the sample to a container? OH YES! You are so IN!
      Azar xx

      • Kandice says:

        Hey again :-). I sniff a sample first. If I don’t hate it and it doesn’t give me a killer migraine, I will try a little on one arm. If at that point I really don’t like it, it goes in the container I tend to ignore. If I like it or am unsure, it goes in with the samples I wear. However, I tend to revisit the same few samples until they’re gone so I may need to refine my system somewhat 🙂

  6. Peppy Obrien says:

    I follow by email. I have about 50 samples I store them on a bookshelf in my bedroom

    • Azar says:

      Hi Peppy,
      Thank you for joining the draw! Do you tend to visit your samples often or do you find that once they are stored they stay there?
      Azar xx

  7. Tracy says:

    I follow by email. My samples are probably 40ish thrown into a bowl. I grab, spray, and go! 🙂 (and hope it’s not one I love as I mostly don’t look when I spray then have to sniff all day to determine which it was)

    • Azar says:

      I love your system, Tracy! I think I will try it too. A sort of scent lottery ! Does your bowl include things you hate? You are so IN!
      Azar xx

  8. Beth says:

    I follow by email – but usually wind up here from a link on FFF on Facebook.

    I think I have about 300 samples. I have big boxes, filled with little boxes of them. The little boxes are sealed boxes, sorted by house, with the “misc” box being the largest. I pull out anything that I am kind of interested in trying a few times, or for the first time, and throw it in a box by my bed. The ones I haven’t tried at all get a testing at night when I can scrub it if it’s bad. I have another bowl by the door with the already approved ones that I may want to take out for a spin during the day when I can experience it fully. I find if I try to pick one out of the 300, it’s a paralyzing decision. But if I can pull out 10 or so that I may want to try over the next week, it becomes more manageable.

    Thanks for the draw, I’ve been very interested in Hedonist and am now going to have to check out Olympic!

    • Azar says:

      What great ideas for organizing and maintaining a large collection of samples. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about how you do it. You have inspired me to get busy! You are IN!
      zar xx

  9. Marion Low says:

    Olympic Orchids is one of my favorite niche perfume houses. I own several bottles and samples. Tough to admit,I have no idea how many samples I have, they are all over, in drawers and purses, and in Crystal dishes in the bathrooms. I read you thru e mail. Thanks for the draw. Must organize!

    • azar says:

      Hello Marion,
      Olympic Orchids is obviously one of my favorites too! This morning I have been quite liberal with Blackbird. I love this one for Fall. Your sample plan is very similar to my own. In order to fulfill this draw I WILL have to venture into the sample stashes. I know where the Hedonist samples are and the Olympic Orchids and the Amouage but who knows what else I might find! You are IN, Marion!
      Azar xx

  10. ElizabethC says:

    I have about a bzillion samples but not anywhere near what Portia has :). I’ve been exploring a decorative technique called straw marquetry, (they use this technique on the walls at the Paris Guerlain store), so my samples are stored in boxes I’ve decorated.
    AAHHH – samples – my husband is going to Portland soon and I was hoping he could come back with a sample of Slumberhouse’s new perfume. Their scents either really work for me or really don’t. Not a good idea for a blind buy, and, so far no luck on getting a sample.

    • Azar says:

      Hey Elizabeth C!
      I know I have some Slumberhouse somehwere and I KNOW it is a sample but I don’t know where it is or which one I have. I’m sure my samples would be more organized if they were stored in boxes decorated with straw marquetry! Are you using the dyed straw or the natural? You have such patience, talent and co-ordination to work in that medium. Wow! BTW, do you want to be entered in this draw? I didn’t see how you followed so was wondering.
      Azar xx

      • ElizabethC says:

        If it is not too late, I’d love to be entered in the drawing. I follow via e-mail. I’ve used both natural and dyed straw. I am very much at the beginner stage. If you want to see some amazing work, look up Lison de Caunes.

  11. Julie Ohara says:

    A few days ago, I watched a review of some Olympic Orchids on youtube (on SmellyThoughts) and started “researching” the brand. I ordered some samples that I’m very excited to get. It was lovely to read more about the creator! I am in the US and I follow the RSS feed thru bloglines and am also subscribed by email. I think I have 80 to 100 samples. I got an acrylic lipstick holder at Container Store for them, but it is full now and then some (I put 2 or 3 samples in each slot). I like that they’re easier to find and see in there. I keep it on a shelf in my closet. I guess I need another one, as I can’t think of anything better!

    • Azar says:

      A lipstick holder is a fantastic idea, Julie! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it too as I am not only a perfume junkie but a lipstick junkie well. This is a recent problem brought on by the discontinuation of my favorite color and formula. I keep searching and buying but nothing works as well as my old, lost lipstick love. Thank you for joining the draw and for your creative storage solution!
      Azar xx

      • Laurels says:

        My mother currently has a half-dozen of her favorite color of lipstick in the refrigerator because she’s afraid it’ll be discontinued. Whether they’ll actually keep is an open question.

      • Azar says:

        Hi Laurels,
        As I get older more and more of the people and things I love are “discontinued”. I totally understand why your mother bought so much of of her old favorite lipstick and that she is trying to preserve it (for awhile anyway). I really don’t want to be bothered trying to find something new that works but I keep searching and buying in the hope that I will find a new love. Just give me the old stuff that I like. I am a lot more daring when it comes to perfume but I have to admit that, more often than not , I prefer almost any discontinued vintage perfume to its re-formulation.
        Azar xx

  12. I follow via email! And I have about 30 samples…. I’d have more but as they come in I offload a lot to friends. A simple shoebox and snack sized zippy-lock bags do the trick! 😀

    • Azar says:

      Off loading is a great idea, Natalee. I’m giving it a try here with this draw. Also, I could easily implement your plan as I have plenty of shoe boxes (shoes are another problem of mine) and zip lock bags. Thanks for joining the draw. You are so IN!
      Azar xx

  13. Undina says:


    I have about 1,000 samples now. For a while I was storing them in ammo boxes but at some point I moved to a mixed system: those samples that are one-two from the line and come in the same size vials/bottles go into the ammo box but for each brand for which I have multiple samples of different size get their own plastic bag in a drawer for now but I’m thinking of using a hanging jewelry organizer to store those bags and adding labels to each pocket because now I have to go through a number of bags while looking for the brand I want to find.
    Undina recently posted…In the Search for the Perfect Fig, Take 2My Profile

    • Azar says:

      Hi Undina,
      Your modern plastic ammo boxes look like they make great perfume storage and using a hanging jewelry organizer with labeled pockets will definitely give you quick access to what you are looking for. Maybe those hanging shoe storage pockets could work in the same way? Thank you do much for dropping by and for your very helpful storage tips!
      I am already feeling more organized.
      Azar xx

  14. Laurels says:

    Hi, Azar! I have at least 100 samples, maybe as many as 150. I read some advice early on that you shouldn’t get rid of your samples when you’re early in your perfume journey, because your tastes may change, and because you may want them for reference when you’re still sorting out notes. (I think Portia has also offered the very good advice to avoid buying new samples before you’ve tried all of the last batch. I haven’t quite absorbed that lesson yet.)

    My system involves four inexpensive decorative boxes (the latest, a black satin tasseled charmer I found at Goodwill). Top: untried samples. Second: to retry, trending up. Third: to retry, trending down. Bottom (disguised as a copy of Gulliver’s Travels): ones I’ve pretty much made up my mind about. That box may need a “liked” side and a “didn’t like” side. (Or maybe I should keep an eye out for another box.) There’s also a little Dior paper bag for things I’m giving away, because they just don’t work with my nose (i.e., musks I can’t smell at all, things with a noticeable rubbing alcohol note, vanillas that smell like melting plastic to me, etc.)

    I had the great pleasure of hearing Dr. Covey talk about scent perception at FRAGments 2014 in L.A., which really gave me some perspective on issues like musk anosmia. Lucky you to spend the day with her! And I’m glad you got to see the orchids, too. Thanks for the giveaway. I follow with Bloglovin.

    • Azar says:

      Hi Laurels,

      You are so IN the draw! Sorry this took awhile to answer. I really missed APJ when it was down for just a couple of days. Anyway, regarding musk anosmia: Are you even anosmic to the real thing? And do all the vanillas smell like melting plastic to you?

      Your system seems very thorough to me. Do you ever find yourself re-classifying scents after you’ve had them for awhile or as times change? Somehow my opinions of scents are almost always permanent, that is I seem to retain the same affinities for and aversions to various scents going back 50 years and more! For that reason I think your system would probably work quite well for me. thank you!

      Azar xx

      • Laurels says:

        I haven’t reclassified anything yet, but with my sample binge of the last year, I haven’t gone back to the “made up my mind” box very often. As to the musks, I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever smelled natural musk (in perfume, anyway). I couldn’t swear that I’ve ever smelled any musk that wasn’t either the white or the dryer-sheet variety, although I just got a sample of Muscs Koublai Khan, so fingers crossed. I’m pretty sure it’s a longstanding thing, though–my best friend in high school always had a bottle of Jovan Musk on her dresser, but I can’t remember ever smelling it on her. I’ve experimented with various family members, as well, and if I can’t smell it, my mother can’t either, although the same is not true of my uncle and my father. As for vanilla, no, it must be some particular version or combination of things that says burning plastic to my nose. (Tocade and Casmir come to mind: I was so excited to try them based on reviews! Well, more reason to keep trying new things.)

  15. Lauren says:

    Hi Mom –

    So I don’t really know how many samples I have… probably more than 75 I would guess. I have a tub in my bathroom, a small container of them in my make up bag and several at my desk. But honestly I end up wearing the same perfume every day… go figure!


  16. mim says:

    darnit i think i’m too late because of time difs, but email follower and owner of a quadritybillion samples, approximately. Definitely appreciate indie houses who offer samples because I love to try before buying! Ellen Covey is great and the Olympic Orchids Sampler is definitely on my to-buy list!

    I organize by house or by scent type or by date acquired in many small containers and trays, usually to compare/contrast. Then they go into faves or purgatory, and from purgatory to swap/sell/giveaway (though i revisit there too for reference and sometimes rescue samps). Faves are in some cool boxes with dividers, and my ‘rule’ is that I must finish a sample before buying a decant/bottle. Though sometimes I’m happy with just that teensy bit. and also that I must try each of a batch of samples thoroughly before buying more.

    also pack some in my bags, many times those are favorites which i have in FBs also.

    • Azar says:

      Hi mim!
      Is a quadritybillion more than a googolplex? I applaud your “rule” that requires you to finish a sample before buying a bottle or decant. I have some succes with this but not often.
      Azar xx

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