Where the Wild Things Are


– a review of Olympic Orchids’ “Olympic Rainforest”

Surrounded as we are by all the questionable odds and ends that in the Western hemisphere encompass the term “civilization”, it can sometimes be easy to forget that in spite of all we do or have done to “tame” them, there are still wild and untouched spots on the globe where the wind still whispers, and trees still gather to sing the songs trees always seem to sing to me.

When I think of primeval places, wild and untouched forests without the human stain, places that epitomize “forest”, an immediate picture springs to mind – the temperate rainforest. They are nothing like the tropical jungles we normally associate with the term. Mosses and ferns grow so prolifically they almost take on a sentient life form of their own, ferns so lush, so large and so green it seems they could easily eat you under a full moon, and a few hours later, all that would remain would be one heavenly scented fougère burp, a sigh, a rustle of the trees above and order is once again restored – the order of the forest, where humanity is but a passing intrusion, until the next full moon. If any location on Earth could embody J. R. R. Tolkien’s Entwood to me and make me utterly believe in the existence of Ents, it would be a temperate rainforest.

Such a forest is what Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids pays homage to in her perfume “Olympic Rainforest” – an ode to the Olympic National Forest of Washington, and the largest expanse of temperate rainforest anywhere on Earth. I have never been to Washington, never seen that timeless forest or those monster ferns and mosses, but it just so happens that a member of my household went to college at Evergreen State in Olympia and has many happy memories of the Olympic peninsula. He was the obvious test subject. With no knowledge of perfume as such – beyond the standard male “I know what I like”, and with only the name to go by, his first statement was: “Oh. Oh! Oh, I like this! I’d wear this! This is great!” He promptly demanded I apply more – so I did. These few hours later, I have not heard a word of complaint, apart from the occasional “I still like it”.

Olympic Rainforest” is a fougère. Indeed, with those full moon man-eating ferns, how could it not be? But unlike so many other fougères of tarnished reputation and cursed ubiquity (Drakkar Noir, I’m looking at you!), this has nothing of the barbershop vibe so many of them nosedive into. This fougére is not your standard Harris tweed-wearing, well-mannered British gentleman exuding stiff-upper-lip suavity.

Instead, this fragrant green imp likes to take a walk where the wild things are, out where nature is never tamed or subjugated. It walks that verdant, fern-encrusted path where nature awes the human with its scale, its greenness and the splendor of its trees, that atavistic breath of growth and life that seems so much larger and more timeless than our own, exhaling the kind of oxygen that really does recharge all your interior batteries. And did I mention that just like the Olympic peninsula itself, it is…green?

Straight out of the bottle, there is that kick of lavender that characterizes so many fougères, but also a citrusy swirl, too, not lemon but bergamot, a bergamot with teeth, and I like bergamot with dentition. Beware the ferns!
Juniper sneaks in on stealthy feet, waking me all the way up to that atavistic forest, and a hint of wood, old-growth wood, rich in the centuries-old sap of the seasons, the quickening of spring and the slow drip of autumn, the deep, deep sleep of winter and the still of a breathless, warm summer day in the shade. There are florals in the mix somewhere, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you precisely what they are. Cedar I found and maybe a dash of pine, a smooth, fresh cedar without any of that pencil-shaving edge that Atlas cedar can have. It smells redder and somehow richer, the pine without any aerosol associations whatsoever.

I’m reminded of a few lines from an old, old Welsh poem…The Câd Goddeu, or The Battle of the Trees, from the Book of Taliesin:

When the trees were enchanted,

In the expectation of not being trees,

The trees uttered their voices

From strings of harmony,

The disputes ceased
.

Breathe in. Breathe out. You are at one with the trees, the ferns, with every living thing that grows around you.

‘Olympic Rainforest’ is incredibly well-blended and tenacious – there are still verdant, woody traces over nine hours after I applied it on my skin.

If you love fougères, if you love to evoke that call of the wild and take an olfactory hike in a virgin, untouched forest, you will love this. I do, but it veers just a little too masculine to my nose. On my roommate, it’s heavenly. It must be all that testosterone. Call it the Green Man.

Thank you, Doc Elly, for that walk on the real wild side, and I enjoyed every minute of it! Somehow, ferns will never appear quite the same again…

If this is a taste of things to come – as indeed it is, since I have plans to review as many of Olympic Orchid’s scents as I can – then my nose is in for several treats. Doc Elly is undoubtably a perfume talent to watch for – and I haven’t even started on those orchids yet!

When I do…watch this space! 😉

Image: The Quinault Rainforest, WA