Hiram Green
For Netherlands-base Hiram Green, natural oils aren't a luxury, they're a necessity. Green, who is a self-taught perfumer, took more than a decade tinkering with essential oils until the release of Moon Bloom in 2013. The perfume was an instant success, and gave Green the confidence to launch Shangri La, a perfume conjures up James Hilton's famous paradise, a year and a half later. 

I met Green at Brooklyn's well-stocked fragrance boutique, Twisted Lily, where he was demoing the notes of both Moon Bloom and Shangri La to a crowd of perfume fanatics. Green happily passed me test strips while thoughtfully answering my questions.  


How did you begin mixing fragrances? 

I started out with my own little shop in London called Scent Systems. It was a bit like [Twisted Lily] but it was 2003 so there wasn't quite the selection there is now. The shop was a bit smaller, it was 80 sq. ft., about half of this store. I studied fine arts, so the idea of the shop was a “gallery of scents,” and I was the curator. At the time, I didn't make any scents myself. But as time went on, I became more and more interested in what was in the fragrances and how people went about making them. Particularly, I was interested in the idea of natural fragrances.

Moon Bloom

What about natural fragrances?

If you say you're using the best Tuberose on the market, I wanted to know what that meant. I would ask and constantly get wishy-washy answers. Why? Why is that? I started just buying essential oils in health food stores and tried mixing fragrances myself. [chuckles] Well, it wasn't really an instant success. I wouldn't say I have a natural talent or anything like that.

I eventually closed the shop, but still kept mixing fragrances. About 10 years later, I launched my first fragrance, which is Moon Bloom. I was really worried about launching it, because I thought, ‘Will people like it? Will shop owners like it, buy it in their shops, and will it sell?' Maybe I'm not a very good sales person. 

Even though you owned your own store, you're not a very good sales person?

I guess I got so interested in everything behind everything. But anyway, once I launched Moon Bloom, people were blown away. All the bloggers went crazy for it, shops all over the world started buying for it. What was even better was that they saw it and re-ordered it. That's it.

Everyone loves tuberose. Well, either you love it or you hate it. I thought, if you start with one fragrance, the second has to be a bit different. Tuberose is very interesting because it's a flower, but to me it doesn't even smell like a flower. It's very deep, very creamy. It's like a sickly Jasmine. It's kind of pungent. I think a lot of other people, if they smell the oil, they wouldn't think of it as a flower. 

I brought some oils with me today, as not many people have the opportunity to smell the natural oils.


What about the Netherlands? Is it easier to get the materials you need there? 

Well, I actually buy all my materials from the south of France from all the classic companies known for raw materials in grasse. They're shipped to the Netherlands. I lived in London for a long time and then I moved to the Netherlands. I just got tired of living in a big city. I don't have a driver's license and it's really easy to get around by train. We pay a lot of money for it, but it is there.


[Green hands a test strip with tuberose oil] 

That is the tuberose that's in Moonbloom. When people think they're smelling tuberose in Moonbloom, it's really mixed with a bunch of other things. It's not particularly pretty in the beginning. You have to wait a really long time for it to develop. And that's really the art of making perfume. It's not just mixing these notes. It's mixing them in a way that you get a consistent smell from the beginning to the end.

Hiram Green

Are there variations in natural material suppliers?

There are differences between companies and the way that they distill it. In general, no matter where you get it from, you're not going to smell that much different. But if you go on a website and buy a couple ounces of tuberose, it's going to smell different. It'll probably be altered some way. There really aren't too many fields left in the world where tuberose is grown. There are a couple in southern France. Though, the flower originally comes from Mexico.


[Green hands a test strip with jasmine oil] 

Jasmine smells almost minty in the beginning. It reminds me a bit of basil.


What did you study at art school? 

I studied drawing and painting. I went to London thinking I was going to be an artist. Then I realized, owe I need a place to live. I need food. I needed a job and found one in a perfume shop. I became more and more interested in the perfume, and less and less interested in making art. And then eventually I opened up Scent Systems. It became a passion just by chance. 

Even though I opened up my own shop, I wasn't sure I really wanted to make perfumes. I thought, ‘There are enough creative people out there, there are enough people who can do this. I just need to sell.' But, then I found a gap in the market for natural perfumes. There were all these movements for a more organic and natural lifestyle. People became more conscious about what they were putting on their bodies, so why should perfume be any different?


Did you have books or reference materials you used when you were teaching yourself how to make fragrances?

You can learn a lot online. The information you can get on the Internet is really quite amazing. A lot of it too is just mixing and saying, ‘yeah that works, that doesn't.' It's an ongoing process really. If you don't constrict yourself to just naturals, there's a lot of materials you can explore and figure out how to work together.

Shangri La

What inspired it to name it “Moon Bloom”?

Well as you know tuberose only blooms at night. And I really like the way it sounds. 


And Shangri La is from Hilton's Lost Horizons?

Shangri La is the Lost Horizon paradise. For Shangri La, it took more than a year and a half. I thought, ‘Well, I have to do something different.' I can't do another white flower. Even though I like white flowers. Part of my thing is making natural perfumes smell like a normal perfume using really good quality ingredients. With Shangri La, I'd always been fascinated with oakmoss. It's really restricted, as there's only so much oakmoss. you don't need very much oakmoss. Though, there maybe a legislation now that maybe you can't use so much oakmoss. Oakmoss comes from trees and they distill an absolute and a resin. You can see that the color is very different. The vials I've bought are 90 percent alcohol. At 100 percent, oakmoss is like tar. 


[Green hands a test strip with oakmoss oil] 

A lot of classic perfumes had to be reformulated. There are synthetic materials that attempt to recreate the oakmoss smells. But I haven't really found anything like oakmoss. There's nothing that can replace it. How can you get a classic chypre smell without it?

Shangri La isn't a sort of Guerlain fragrance that can just weigh you down. I am trying to create easy-to-wear classic fragrances.


Hiram Green's fragrances are available at Twisted Lily, Roullier White and the hiramgreem.com website, where you can see additional stockists