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It’s interesting to me how one learns new things. We learn from other people, we learn from experiences, like travel, but ultimately, we learn from trying new things. For example, trying, wearing and writing about fragrances for the last ten years (yes, is TEN!!) I learned that I love birch tar as a perfume note. Had you asked me that ten years ago, if I loved birch tar, I’m not sure what I would have answered. Ask me how this happened, and I’d have to say it happened over time (guess I’m a slow learner). I wasn’t drawn to fragrances like Mississippi Medicine, Cuoio, La Fumée Arabie, Mon Cuir, Nostalgia, Eau du Fier, Patchouli 24 or Gomma, for the birch tar they contain but Andy Tauer’s ‘Lonestar Memories’, his ode to birch tar, changed all that. Once I experienced birch tar as the central character, I realized how much I’m drawn to fragrances that have it in the mix. So, of course, when Hiram Green, the Canadian-born, Netherlands-based natural perfumer, launched Hyde in 2018, I bought my first bottle. When Hyde won a 2019 Art and Olfaction Award, I wasn’t surprised. Hyde is an impressive piece of perfumery. 

But what exactly is birch tar? According to Wikipedia, ‘Birch tar or birch pitch is a substance (liquid when heated) derived from the dry distillation of the bark of the birch tree.’ And later, ‘Birch tar oil also is used in perfumery as a base note to impart leather, tar, smoky, and wintergreen notes.’ Well, that explains why birch-tar and leather are best friends in perfume.

Here’s the thing about birch tar: it’s potent. It’s a real scent monster that can easily highjack a fragrance with its big smoky tarriness, making it a challenging note for many people to love and to wear. As Hiram Green says on his website: ‘Seductive and challenging, Hyde is an ode to all those adventure-seeking souls….’ Challenge accepted.

Hyde opens with a citrus gust of fresh, lemon and sparkling bergamot, which are quickly Shanghaied by birch tar. That pungent tarry, medicinal-faceted, creosote scent lasts just long enough for me to register the smell, before cassie with its spicy, honey, iris-like aspects and green undertone softens the birch tar into sinuous, sexy smokiness. The cassie gives the birch tar a fullness and dimension that transforms it into the deep, dark smell of raw leather. Labdanum refines and amplifies the leather, taming its rawness, making it smoother and skin-friendly while still retaining its intensity. At this stage, malt vanilla gives it a booziness while oakmoss, earthy and mossy echo the green of the cassie at the base. Together they soften the fragrance, making it a gentler more accessible version of itself.

The drydown is smoky, woody and a little sweet. Hyde is a man’s fragrance, yet when I was wearing it the other day, my husband catching the scent turned to me and said, ‘You smell the way you used to after sitting by the fire pit when we were at the cabin. I like it’.

If you recall Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll, a man who feels he is battling between good and evil within himself. He creates a potion designed to separate his evil self from his personality. When he drinks it, he transforms into the cruel, immoral and evil Mr. Hyde. Of course, when Hyde drinks the potion, he turns back into Dr. Jekyll.

Green’s Hyde too, is about transformation. It takes strong, brawny, challenging birch tar and transforms it into a seductive, smooth version of the stuff – Mr. Hyde turning into Dr. Jekyll – and all done with natural ingredients. Now, that’s impressive, making Hiram Green is one of the most talented and creative perfumers working today.

Hyde is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.


Image - Wikimedia Commons

I’m determined to get strong this year. Get rid of my back pain. I made this decision a few weeks ago, and the plan includes extra workouts, so the challenge will be getting myself out the door to the gym. It’s winter, after all. 

I always feel great AFTER a workout, when the endorphins have kicked in. Feeling great DURING my workout would be fantastic, so I’ve decided I’m going to “scent up” for workouts. Wear a perfume. Just a little spritz, just enough for me, not for anyone else.  Catching a waft of a favourite fragrance makes me immediately feel good, always, no matter what I’m doing, so I figure a “gym scent” will help me focus on the moment, really feel my body breathing and working hard, and it will also be an on-the-job reward which will inspire me to stick with the program. That’s my theory, which as it turns out, has some science to back it up, from both physiological and psychological studies.

Fitnessence, from House of Matriarch, is the fragrance I've chosen to start the new plan. According to Christie Meshell, the creative force behind House of Matriarch, her 98% organic/vegan aromatic woody fragrance from 2015 is…

“The original pre-workout fragrance…, formulated with natural essences to increase oxygen flow in the brain, activate beneficial hormonal changes, increase stamina and improve reflexes, benefit the circulatory system, signal the brain to lubricate the joints…”

Christie maintains that unlike other pre-workout boosters such as caffeine and energy drinks, FITNESSENCE works immediately and has no rebound effects, and …”in addition to the immediate boost, the sesquiterpenes in FITNESSENCE create an anchor of motivation in the brain, an association that grows stronger each time you smell the fragrance…”. 

How does Fitnessence smell?? The blend of over thirty essentials oils has a wonderful opening, refreshing and light, like a soft breeze in a Northwest cedar forest, cool evergreens with spicy undertones from nutmeg and clove, coriander and pepper, mixed with herbs, such as bay leaf, basil, and minty shiso. 

The heart goes deeper into the woods, with the distinctive sweaty note of cypress balanced by the clean grounding note of cedar, and the dark-blue evergreen scent of spruce forming an invigorating but still light-handed accord. A smattering of floral and herb notes, narcissus and green tea, add some intrigue. The base is welcoming and warm, with notes of frankincense, sandalwood, ginger, myrhh and amber mixing with the calming foresty wood accord. 

Fitnessence is definitely non-gendered, and wears lightly on skin so that it remains in personal space, and is therefore ideal for a workout scent. Does it improve my performance, make me stronger? Who knows? What I can tell you after wearing it several times is that I’m enjoying the time I spend in the gym, look forward to going, and feel strong and pain-free after my workout sessions. 

Maybe those sesquiterpenes are really working, building those cerebral connections for me, or maybe it’s simply the power of suggestion on my overwhelmed consumer brain, but I don’t care. The fact is I’m doing what I promised myself I would do, and I get to wear a beautiful fragrance while I do it, which makes me feel good. My “gym scent” may become my “everywhere scent”.

Fitnessence is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1  ml.

Image: Fitness, thoroughlyreviewedcom, Wikimedia Commons, April 19, 2019


Welcome to

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.


We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.