Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.
Today’s interview with Hiram Green is the final in Series Three of Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series. There have been five instalments in this series. Hiram is a Canadian-born perfumer who lives in Gouda in the Netherlands. He produces small batch perfumes using natural materials.
Last week, I interviewed Yosh Han of YOSH Perfumes. The week before that, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. Prior to that, Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors was interviewed, and in week one, Dana El Masri of Parfums Jazmin Saraï started off the third series of Thirteen Thoughts.
You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here, featuring interviews with Emma Leah, Mark Evans, Angelo Orazio Pregoni, Paul Kiler and Sarah McCartney.
For Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts, I interviewed Mandy Aftel, Ellen Covey, Shelley Waddington, Andy Tauer and JoAnne Bassett. You can read those interviews here.
As the intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, without any further ado, let me introduce you to…
Hiram Green of Hiram Green Perfumes
Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.
I don’t really have one. I can remember the perfume my mother wore, but I wouldn’t say that this was a significant olfactory memory, more of a general childhood memory.
What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?
I studied fine arts in Toronto, Canada, where I grew up before moving to London, England. My plan was to be an artist in London. I quickly learned that I needed job on the side to earn some money. This by chance ended up being in a perfume store. I quickly became more fascinated with the world of perfume and less interested in making art. This fascination led me to eventually opening my own perfume store in London. At that time I also started mixing fragrant oils together in an attempt to make perfume myself. Several years passed, I eventually closed my store, moved to The Netherlands and only two and a half years ago launched my own fragrance brand.
Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?
I am self-taught. Some formal training would have certainly come in very handy in my early years of fragrance mixing.
Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?
Hmmm… To be honest, I don’t get out as much as I should and I have not smelt a lot of the new fragrances on the market. From what I read online, a lot of fragrances sound absolutely amazing.
Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.
The slogan for my brand is ‘handcrafted and entirely natural’. This is what I do. I make all my fragrances, from creating the formula to the manufacturing of the fragrance. All my fragrances are made using exclusively natural ingredients.
How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?
I tend to work abstractly, mixing various fragrant ingredients together until I find a combination that I like. I try to mix these ingredients systematically, but often this approach does not work out.
What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?
The amount of time it takes from the initial idea to a complete fragrance that’s ready to sell. Often years…
What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?
There are always lots of challenges, but that’s part of what makes it exciting.
How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?
My sense of smell is generally stronger since I started making fragrances. Sometimes this is wonderful, but more often it is not. I notice a lot more unpleasant smells in day-to-day activities now.
Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?
Perhaps not a new idea, but I would turn some flowers into flavours. I know this has already been done to some extent, but nothing I have found has truly captured the smell of a flower in a flavour.
If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?
I would be more interested in travelling to the future. I think now is a very exciting time to be a perfumer and I am very curious to see what developments will happen in the future.
If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?
A way of distilling more flower scents. I find it amazing how with all the technology we have today, we still are unable to distil many flowers into fragrant oils.
What is the purpose of perfume?
To attract and smell nice…
I hope you’ve enjoyed the final interview in this third series of Thirteen Thoughts and reading Hiram Green’s answers.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to Hiram Green for taking part, especially at late notice. It was lovely to have another perfumer to add to this final series of Thirteen Thoughts for 2015, when I had originally planned to interview four perfumers only!
If you’d like to find out more about Hiram and his perfumes, visit the Hiram Green website. You can buy Hiram’s fragrances on his website, and also at various locations in the US and Europe. Check this stockists page for further information.
Thank you to all of the participants in this third series of Thirteen Thoughts for taking part and for making this such an interesting and varied series of interviews. I love seeing how the perfumers answer the same thirteen questions differently; and some of the similarities that emerge are equally as fascinating!
All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer, and remain their intellectual property. All interview questions remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.