Friday, December 1, 2023

The Exquisite Experimentation of Olympic Orchids perfume

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When I imagine my ideal perfume house, four attributes come to mind:

  1. Affordable prices.
  2. Quality materials.
  3. Creative ideas.
  4. Polished compositions.

It is incredibly rare that a perfume house has even three of these attributes. When I was researching Olympic Orchids prior to ordering a sample set, I realized that the house appeared to tick every box. The indie house founded and operated by perfumer Ellen Covey offered incredibly well-priced perfumes with glowing reviews and bizarre note pyramids. My sense of ‘too good to be true’ was so strong that even as I was testing them, I kept waiting to run into a major dud that would reveal some hidden weakness.

Like many other perfume nerds, I discovered Olympic Orchids by way of Zoologist. Zoologist, now a renowned indie house whose fragrances we have reviewed time and time again, scored one of its first major hits with the award-winning fragrance Bat in 2015. The Ellen Covey creation was a startlingly original combination of fruit, fur and damp-cave made a striking impression on the perfume industry. The scent has since then been discontinued by Zoologist, but fans have flocked to Olympic Orchids to purchase it from Covey herself under the name Night Flyer.

I am delighted to tell you that the originality and quality of Night Flyer is not the exception for Olympic Orchids, but rather the rule. I could spend thousands upon thousands of words outlining the individual splendor of each Olympic Orchids fragrance. Even those that are not to my taste offer deeply intriguing journeys over the course of a wear. If it sounds like I’m going full Fandomentals nerd over this house, it’s because I rank them among houses like Amouage, Comme des Garcons, and, unsurprisingly, Zoologist in terms of creativity and quality across the board.

Let’s start with a fairly well-known fragrance from Olympic Orchids: Blackbird. This combination of damp forest woods and lush blackberry is so good that its status as an Art and Olfaction Award finalist was basically a given. Blackbird is delicious yet dark, striking a balance between universal delight and atmospheric specificity that is likely to enchant most wearers. However, it also represents Olympic Orchids fragrances at their most accessible, and those who find that Blackbird pushes the outer limits of their experimental tolerance may want to take the friendliest of the house’s offerings and run.

Kilauea, released just last year, is far more representative of the house as a whole. If you scan the notes, you’re unlikely to miss the glaring weirdo in the bunch: lava accord. I can’t emphasize how refreshing it is to actually smell this strange idea represented loud and proud Kilauea. This is no gimmick, but an extremely convincing dark-stone smell blended beneath an elegant tropical floral mix. Covey’s tasteful use of resins and woods help flesh out the volcanic aspect of the lava-floral impression. The result is simultaneously one of the most original and alluring tropical fragrances I’ve ever come across.

The fragrances in Olympic Orchid’s lineup represent a massive range of styles, and it’s difficult to nail down any one signature ‘Covey’ style. Dry, convincing woods are a common theme as are animalic bases. However, the diversity in the line is by-and-large radical. For those to whom Kilauea seems tame, there are the resinous animalic beasts of Covey’s Devil Scent series, the haunted tomb incense of Kyphi, and the blazing adobe-leather combo of Salamanca. The more adventurous your nose, the more delightful Olympic Orchids will be to explore.

That’s where the incredible pricing for the house comes in. Olympic’s samples are, to the best of my knowledge, the best price-for-quality on the market by a significant margin. I highly recommend the custom set of six generous (3mL) samples that come in just under $30; peruse the website and see which scent you find particularly appealing. Olympic is currently still holding its December 2020 sale which makes this set even more tempting. I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I did – be sure to stick around for many more Olympic Orchids reviews to come.

The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.

Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!


  • Jade

    Jade is the Lifestyle Editor at the Fandomentals, where they obsess over perfume and underground music. Their wacky poetry is floating around the internet - beware! Follow them for fragrance and poetry content @johndarrextreme on Instagram.

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