Leather has become such a common luxury fabric I think most forget it is treated cowhide. Perfume has captured that process throughout its history. Leather accords have stood as identifiable signatures of certain perfumers. When I heard the new perfume from Hiram Green was going to be focused on leather, I wondered which direction he would take.
The new perfume is called Hyde. When I saw the name, I was first thinking of Mr. Hyde the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll. Once I received my sample it turns out it was more like a non-existent British spelling of the word “hide”. Mr. Green has made one of the deepest rawest leather accords I have ever experienced.
The magic ingredient here is birch tar. It was one of the key components of the classic “cuir de Russie” leather accord in the early days of modern perfumery. Birch tar as a component of a leather accord always has a hint of the smudge pot to me. Hyde is a celebration of birch tar which Mr. Green allows to take a place of prominence.
Hyde begins with a blink and you miss it flare of citrus. If you’re of the name coming from Mr. Hyde those citrus notes are the last vestiges of Dr. Jekyll. The birch tar is there within seconds of application. It is there in such a concentration that it is like standing downwind of a road crew repaving the road. Pungent semi-medicinal waves of tar radiate off my skin. I don’t recall noticing the medicinal quality of birch tar in the past. In this kind of concentration, it shows new faces. In these moments it is tar and not leather. The transformation to leather happens with cassia flower. That ingredient begins to reach into the bubbling stew of birch tar and start pulling out pieces which refine the tar into leather. This is where Hyde turns the corner for me. The early going of birch tar soliflore pushed at the edge of my tolerance. Once this starts to become a leather accord through the cassia flower, at first, things become more mobile. Cassia provides a green effect as if it is botanically taming the birch tar. As it finally takes hold it becomes a raw untanned style of cowhide. This still retains the intensity. This takes a couple of hours. Over the next twenty-four hours that cowhide becomes more tanned. Oakmoss smooths out the green of the cassia blunting the woodsmoke scent from the birch tar. Labdanum takes it a step towards further refinement. The final ingredient is malted vanilla providing that inherent sweetness of tanned leather.
Hyde has 24-hour plus longevity and above average sillage.
Mr. Green has accomplished all this working with an all-natural palette. His entire collection is refutation of the canard that natural perfumes are weak and fleeting. There is nobody who will encounter Hyde and have either of those adjectives pop into their head. There is also a criticism of natural perfume at being kind of a blurry mush of ingredients. Hyde puts the lie to that, too. This slow-motion evolution of the leather accord is like watching a time-lapse of the processing of a cowhide. That’s what I walked away from after wearing Hyde. A remarkable experience in perfume composition which further confirms Mr. Green as one of the great talents of independent perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Hiram Green.
When I was a child one of the odder television commercials was for a brand of shampoo called Prell. They would show some pretty people lathering up with the product and at the end they would show the bottle of green shampoo and a hand would drop a pearl into it which would very slowly head towards the bottom as the commercial ended. I never understood what a pearl falling through shampoo had to do with anything. I admit it was a neat visual which has stuck with me probably fifty years after I first encountered it. What is interesting is a dense solid object with character slowly descending through a thick intensely colored liquid carried a contrast which was evident to my child’s eye. The new perfume from Hiram Green called Slowdive got me thinking about that.
First, let me get this out of the way; Slowdive does not smell of shampoo or pearls. I don’t suspect this is a theme Mr. Green is interested in exploring. It certainly isn’t anything I’m overtly interested in smelling either. What has me thinking of Prell shampoo is Mr. Green has taken a container of honey and dropped a figurative pearl of tobacco flower into that. Slowdive is the slow evolution as those two ingredients continually interact while Mr. Green surrounds it with a fascinating choice of supporting ingredients.
From the beginning the honey is there in a quite concentrated form. Mr. Green manages to make it thick without enhancing some of the less desirable character of honey as a perfume ingredient in high concentration. Then he takes his tobacco flower and drops it onto the surface. As it first appears it gains a bit of traction over the honey. Once it begins to sink a little beneath the surface a dried fruit accord cuts across the combination of narcotic sweetness; amplifying the latter nature. This might be a place where those who aren’t so fond of sweet in their fragrance might have some issues. The next phase, as the tobacco flower drifts lower in the honey, coalesces around orange blossom and tuberose. If you see that and think, “white flower explosion” it is much more restrained than that. The orange blossom is a typical kind of honey flavoring and it intersperses itself as grace note with that in mind. The tuberose takes the tobacco into a deeper place using its own narcotic quality to add to it. As the tobacco flower reaches the bottom a group of resinous notes await it as a resting place completing the slowdive.
Slowdive has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is an easy perfume to overspray which can have an impact on how much you enjoy wearing it.
Slowdive is another fantastic perfume from Hiram Green. Working from an all-natural palette it consistently amazes me the power he extracts from these. It is becoming a signature of his, after four releases. This time Slowdive allows the wearer the opportunity to luxuriate in the glory of a tobacco shaped pearl slowly falling through honey. I don’t know if that represents quality anymore than the Prell commercial did but in this case, it should.
This time of year always brings surprises. One of the best surprises is when a perfumer is so excited about something new they get it out before the end of the year. Such was the case when independent perfumer Hiram Green told me he was releasing a new perfume. It was surprising because Mr. Green usually spaces his perfumes out by more than a year but in the last twelve months we have seen three new ones; Voyage, Dilettante, and now Arbole Arbole. What is impressive is he seems to have found a creative sweet spot form where everything is coming together near perfectly. Arbole Arbole exemplifies this.
Frederico Garcia Lorca
The name of the perfume comes from a poem by Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. In the poem, it tells of a young girl picking olives high in a tree. While perched there, she is tempted by three different men to come join her in their city. Four riders from Anadalusia ask her to Cordoba; three bullfighters extend an invitation to Sevilla; finally a young man bedecked in rose and myrtle wants her to accompany him to Granada. She defers going with any of them choosing, instead, to continue to enjoy the day in her tree. When I wear Arbole Arbole I get an amazing smell of ripe olives, the wood of the tree, and the powder the pretty young girl is wearing. It is a fabulous interpretation of Garcia Lorca’s words.
Mr. Green uses patchouli as the basis for the smell of olives. There is something else here, along the lines of ylang-ylang, which provides a complementary oiliness to complete the olive accord. This is what I get for the first few minutes. I have only smelled a couple of other olive accords previously and those were accomplished with specific synthetic materials. Mr. Green creates his with only natural materials which makes it feel more vibrant. It takes great skill to achieve this without making it off putting. Like the young girl in the poem it invites you to climb the tree with her. Cedar and sandalwood but mostly the former provides that green woodiness of the tree. The cedar imparts that clean woody nature that is only made slightly less strident by the sandalwood. As we reach where the young girl is perched the sweet smell of her powder comes to us. Mr. Green uses a unique combination of tonka bean and vanilla. Again, I think there is a hint of rose helping to tilt the sweeter notes towards the powdery. There is a perfumer’s technique where adding a figurative drop of something will open up particular facets of the primary notes. It is my suspicion that is what Mr. Green has done in the top accord and the base.
Arbole Arbole has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Garcia Lorca’s poem begins and ends with the same couplet, “Arbole, Arbole, seco y verde.” Which translates to “Tree, Tree, dry and green”. It describes the suitor who has won the girl’s heart by being itself. Mr. Green has won my heart with Arbole Arbole because it is also seco y verde. This is one of the best new perfumes of 2016 because Mr. Green composes with a full heart coupled with an imaginative mind. He also seems to understand that the siren call to distant cities doesn’t matter when all you need is right in front of you.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
I sat down with Hiram Green fifteen months ago when he was visiting New York City. After we had spent an hour talking about his style of perfume making I walked away very impressed. Mr. Green is one of those quiet thinkers with Marianas Trench-like depths under that stillness. If there is any commonality to the best independent perfumers it a desire to use their ingredients to the fullest. What this means for Mr. Green is he uses a very minimal number of raw materials. By working with all-natural ingredients it allows for those to bring the nuance to the primary scent effect. In his latest release Dilettante he has reached a pinnacle of this style of perfumery.
I wish I understood the name because a perfume as assured as this carries a name I consider an insult. Dilettantes are those who flock to the latest cultural event in a big city learning just enough to have a shallow conversation. Moving on to the next shiny object while likely forgetting everything they just acquired. I will leave it to Mr. Green to explain his thoughts behind it at some point. There is nothing in Dilettante which exhibits callow obsequiousness. Quite the opposite Dilettante displays a knowledge of natural oils and how they can interact which is anything but simplistic.
Dilettante has three key ingredients orange blossom, neroli and petitgrain. Mr. Green has assembled them in a way which shuffles them around a bit from where I expected to find them. It is the orange blossom which makes a first impression. What it reminds me of straightaway is that it is an indolic white flower just as much as gardenia or tuberose. Dilettante purrs with those indoles in the early moments. The neroli is also used in such a way that it also reminds me that it can be an intensely green ingredient. In Dilettante that green is amplified such that it cradles the orange blossom within. This is all figuratively topped off with petitgrain adding in its characteristic bite. Once this all comes together it lingers for hours and hours with presence. Only very late on as these essential oils are drying down to their longest lasting components do I get a slightly patchouli-like effect. It is not listed as an ingredient so I am guessing it comes from an accord of some of the minor molecules within the oils used.
Dilettante has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage. These levels are extraordinary for an all-natural perfume. Mr. Green has done this time and again with all of his releases so it is no outlier.
I have had Dilettante for a few weeks and it is one of those perfumes which is mesmerizing from beginning to end. It is among the best perfumes of this year. Despite his name of this beautiful perfume Mr. Green is no dilettante just a quiet studious artist of scent. Dilettante is a masterclass in his expertise.
Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Hiram Green.
As a young boy most of my imaginary traveling around the world was done in the movie theatre accompanied by 007 James Bond. As I would watch him save the world from one exotic place to the other I would always imagine myself tuxedo clad traveling the planet. One of the more striking locales 007 visited came in the thirteenth movie in the series 1983’s Octopussy. He would track down the titular jewel smuggling ring leader in what is called The Floating Palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India. It is one of those pieces of ancient architecture that looks impossible to exist. There sits this massive palace surrounded by water. It shouldn’t be possible but it is there. Natural perfumer Hiram Green is also inspired by that which seems impossible and the floating palace of Udaipur is his inspiration for his latest release Voyage.
This is the third release from Mr. Green in just over two years. What is becoming one of his hallmarks is the ability to make an all-natural perfume which has a lasting powerhouse impact. If there is a pervasive criticism of all-natural perfumes it is they lack power and longevity. Mr. Green has shown the ability to make both of those moot points. There is a danger when you turn the volume up as high as Mr. Green does and that is if you are not careful it can be overwhelming for long stretches. Each successive release has gotten this particular equation correct with Voyage being the most balanced of his first three releases.
Voyage opens with a classic spiced orange accord. The citrus comes via orange and the spices seem a mix of cardamom, caraway, and cumin perhaps. It is an exotic mélange which effectively sets the stage as India. After some time patchouli provides the transitory note to the suede accord at the heart of Voyage. This is a rich natural leather accord which provides a restrained animalic heart to Voyage. It is smooth where the spiced orange was a bit rough. Eventually it all floats on a lake of vanilla as the leather provides the palace structure.
Voyage has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Voyage is a set of fascinating transitions from the heat of the spices to the splendor of the suede down into the overall sweetness of the vanilla. The vanilla is very sweet on my skin and it does turn the last few hours of Voyage distinctly gourmand-like. It isn’t really confectionary sweet; more like the exotic spiced Asian deserts where the spiciness and the sweetness co-exist. Mr. Green is building an impressive resume of all-natural perfumes. Voyage is his best to date.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Hiram Green.
Editor’s note: Voyage is a limited edition to only 250 bottles. It will be available on November 2, 2015 on the Hiram Green website.
As much as I try in a year there always seems to be one or two which get by me until later. In 2013 one of those was Hiram Green Moon Bloom. I never really got a chance to try it until this past summer, over a year after it was released. I was very impressed with what Hiram Green did with his inaugural effort. Mr. Green after working in London perfumery, Scent Stystems, decided he wanted to make perfumes. He further decided that he wanted to eschew the synthetics he found in everything he was selling and wanted to try natural perfumery. Moon Bloom was a tuberose and it was an above average version of that floral. Mr. Green’s dedication to natural perfumery did not mean he had to compromise his artistic vision. As much as I liked his first effort his second release, Shangri-La, is much better.
Mr. Green’s inspiration was to give his interpretation of a classic chypre. The name of the perfume comes from the mythical city in the Kunlun Mountains described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon. Shangri-La is described as a utopia where the denizens age so slowly as to be essentially immortal. It is also a place of quiet study and reflection. Shangri-La as a perfume is something less mannered and it feels more Indiana Jones to me than Hugh Conway. Mr. Green has constructed something more rambunctious. Shangri-La is more suited to an adventurer with a fedora and a bullwhip than a studious man.
Mr. Green wanted Shangri-La to be more similar to the alpha chypre, 1912’s Chypre de Coty by Francoise Coty. Shangri-La follows that architecture but Mr. Green makes a couple of inspired substitutions which allow Shangri-La to be its own chypre.
Shangri-La opens with a citrus sunburst. It is an attention getter. In M. Coty’s original formula a crisp pear accompanies the herbal notes. In Shangri-La Mr. Green uses peach and he uses a very deep peach which carries a fruity funkiness. There are times during the early moments when it feels like there is some musk present but once I really focus on it; the peach with perhaps a bit of patchouli is what I am sensing. When I am just letting the peach be itself it adds a slightly leathery animalic quality which is very nice. The heart of jasmine, iris, and rose is the same classic triptych that M. Coty used. Mr. Green pushes the jasmine more forward and he swathes it in spice. That makes the floral heart swagger a bit, as all the best adventurers do. Mr. Green’s take on the classic patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver chypre base is very well composed. In most modern chypres those three notes are mashed together in a green hash which has almost zero character. Mr. Green has studied M. Coty’s original and realized each of those notes needs to be distinct on its own to truly bring a great chypre home properly. The patchouli is used in a very minimal way and it provides connectivity between the oakmoss and vetiver. Mr. Green lets those latter two notes rise up like twin lions and tussle to see who is greenest of them all. Over the last hours of Shangri-La on my skin the victor seems to change every so often.
Shangri-La has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage. This is remarkable for a natural perfume to have quite the level of both of these.
Shangri-La is a much more assured composition than Moon Bloom. Mr. Green shows a keen intelligence in the way he de-constructed M. Coty’s original and then re-constructed it as Shangri-La. There is not a clumsy step anywhere in this perfume; even while running across a plank bridge over a river gorge. If you’re up for a perfumed adventure follow HG into The Temple of Chypre, Shangri-La awaits.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.