Blog post by Gwen

Hyde – smoky and leathery and smoothly seductive


Photo: Campfire

I started writing about fragrances because I love and collect perfumes and know a lot about them. Over time, people who know me encouraged me to share what I know. And so perfumeniche was born. It didn't take long for me to realize that I knew very little about fragrances. But I like learning, and I like challenges, and I’m still here writing and learning about fragrances fifteen years on. So, what are some of the things I’ve learned? Well, first, not to listen to people who tell you that you should start a blog, and second discovering new notes in fragrances. One of those discoveries for me was birch tar.

It was Andy Tauer’s 03 Lonestar Memories, his ode to birch tar, that made me fall for it. Tauer describes it best: “The scent of a lonesome rider, wearing old jeans and leather jacket, after a long day on the horse in the dry woods, preparing his coffee on the open, smoky fire.” 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. I wasn't surprised when Hyde won a 2019 Art and Olfaction Award. It’s an impressive piece of perfumery. 

But what exactly is birch tar? Birch tar comes from the distillation of the bark of the birch tree. It has a pungent smell that’s smoky, woody, balsamy, tar-like and animalic. It also smells leathery, which explains why birch tar and leather are best fragrance friends. Used in small quantities, birch tar works well as a base note, but its potency makes it a real scent monster that can easily hijack a fragrance, making it a tricky note for some people to love and 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 and making it smoother and skin-friendly while 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 about transformation. Mr. Green takes strong, brawny, challenging birch tar and transmutes it into a seductive, smooth, sensuous unisex fragrance that is hard to resist.

 When I was wearing Hyde the other day, my husband, catching the scent, turned to me and said, ‘You smell the way you do after sitting by the fire pit when we were at the cabin, but better. I like it.’

I do, too.

Check out Hyde in our Shop.