Independent Perfumery Patchouli Review Sandalwood Vanilla Woods

Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé

November 16, 2016

Hiram Green’s new fragrance, Arbolé Arbolé, is his best work yet and the one that I would race out to buy in a heartbeat. Featuring woods and patchouli this time, Arbolé Arbolé, is the perfect autumnal riposte to Green’s entry for Spring, the bright and sunlit Dilettante.

There is a wonderfully soft, smutty quality to the patchouli used here – it’s quite clearly patchouli, but there are no headshop undertones, and it is not camphoraceous, green, or oily. Instead, it has a pleasantly stale, waxy chocolate softness that recalls vintage make-up, heavy silks taken out of storage in cedar trunks, and huge beeswax candles dripping over everything.

There is no beeswax in Arbolé Arbolé, though. Hiram Green does not use any products of animal origin in his all-natural perfumes, be it beeswax or ambergris. However, there is no denying that there is a homeopathic “waxy” thread running through most of Hiram Green’s perfumes, a sort of cosmetic, floral wax tonality that smudges the corners of the other notes and gives the perfumes a slightly retro, vintage glamour. His perfumes wear as if lit from within by candlelight.

If you’re used to modern woody fragrances, with their piercing synthetics blowing them up into bombastic stadium-fillers, then Arbolé Arbolé will ask you to adjust your television set. Natural perfumery is where the nose goes to take refuge from the eternal parade of modern woody ambers. Arbolé Arbolé takes cedar, patchouli, and sandalwood and melts them down into a silky wood smoothie.

All of the individual characteristics of the raw materials – the cedar, patchouli, sandalwood – have been rubbed off and sanded down until only a smooth, integrated woodiness remains. There is none of the normal bitter muskiness of cedar, none of the raw, earthy, or leafy facets of patchouli, and the sandalwood registers only as a unifying texture of creamy butter.

There is a faintly smutty, sexy quality to this perfume that appeals enormously. There is no musk used here, for obvious reasons, but there is nonetheless a vegetal muskiness that smudges the outlines of the different woods used, almost like ambrette but with none of the green apple peel rosiness that goes along with it. Arbolé Arbolé also shares the same soft, warm “musky cocoa powder” sexiness with Mazzolari Lei and Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve, both of which also blur the lines between patchouli, musk, and ambery-vanilla aromas so smoothly that the nose doesn’t immediately recognize one or the other.

However, those are both perfumes that mix naturals and synthetics, so they may not be the best point of comparison. In the sphere of natural perfumery, I think that Arbolé Arbolé has a similar feel to some of Neil Morris’ work in America, especially the slightly grungy, waxy (and surprisingly vintage-smelling) patchouli used to great effect in Prowl. Arbolé Arbolé is smoother and more refined; lighter in texture. Fans of Loree Rodkin’s Gothic I might also want to check out Arbolé Arbolé because it shares something of that waxy vanilla-patch vibe.

Arbolé Arbolé takes its name from a famous Lorca poem where young suitors try to persuade a young girl picking olives to go off with them (but she refuses). In my mind, while wearing the perfume, I can see the golden brown colors Lorca describes when talking about the darkening afternoon light:

When the afternoon had turned
dark brown, with scattered light,
a young man passed by, wearing
roses and myrtle of the moon.

Arbolé Arbolé has incredible sillage and tenacity on my skin for a natural, and yet it never feels muddy or thick. It is a linear but thoroughly warm and sensual experience for me, with only slight transitions in the body of the fragrance from waxy wood smoothie to faintly powdery vanilla. It is sweet in a natural, woody way, and the powdery touch at the end is not excessive. Personally, I absolutely love it.

Hiram Green is running a fantastic introductory offer for the launch of Arbolé Arbolé – if you go to his website here, you will see that if you buy 50ml of Arbolé Arbolé, you get a 10ml travel size of it for free. Also, may I commend Hiram Green for selling travel sizes of all his fragrances in the first place? That’s a rare thing indeed and much appreciated by perfumistas who find it hard to get through 10ml of anything.

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  • Alex December 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Thank you for your review Claire. I do like this fragrance too, and resonate a lot with how you describe it. It definitely has staying power on me too. I found it similar to Coromandel by Chanel, but without the slightly citrus notes. This is a cosy scent to me that, after twelves hours, has very gradually softened down to something like play dough (not sure what play dough smells like these days – i’m talking from my childhood and i like it.) It stays close enough to the wearer not to take over. I don’t open my front door and get smacked in the face by a bottle of perfume sat in the corner. But i am faintly aware of it on myself as i wander through the day and can drink it in via nose to wrist.

    I’ve samples of Hiram’s other fragrances. Shangri La is perhaps my favourite of those.. They seem to me to have a sweet powderiness to them, as you say, reminiscent of a bygone era – “retro vintage glamour”. Yes. Nothing artificial about them to offend. I’m not mad keen on overtly sweet fragrances whilst appreciate the levels in these. I’ve the 10ml of Arbole Arbole. Yes so much thanks to him for making this size available. There’s a human being behind this work. And it’s work that makes “being” easier. Taking a deep inhale – very nice; settling into being. No fear. Just loveliness.

    • Claire December 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Hi Alex, I love the way you write and think about fragrance, especially the bit about wandering through the day and drinking it in from the wafts between your wrist and nose. Makes perfect sense to me – I like that too. Some perfumes are too quiet, like Osmanthus Yunnan, which I truly love but find I have to sit very still and “listen” in order to hear the faintest whisper from it. Others, like one I am testing today, Adjatay by The Different Company, are too potent and crowd your nose, making it difficult to focus on the actual perfume rather than the wall of scent fogging up your airwaves. Arbole Arbole is perfectly dosed, I agree – perfectly pitched between subtle (but noticeable) and “full” (meaning, not a thin, wispy little thing that will slide off the skin in two hours). Shangri La is also my other favorite from Hiram Green. I love your comment about the human behind the work. Hiram Green is such a quiet, thoughtful, gentlemanly type of person that I think it must affect his perfumes – which are as thoughtful and composed as he.

    • Claire December 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Hi Alex, I love the way you write and think about fragrance, especially the bit about wandering through the day and drinking it in from the wafts between your wrist and nose. Makes perfect sense to me – I like that too. Some perfumes are too quiet, like Osmanthus Yunnan, which I truly love but find I have to sit very still and “listen” in order to hear the faintest whisper from it. Others, like one I am testing today, Adjatay by The Different Company, are too potent and crowd your nose, making it difficult to focus on the actual perfume rather than the wall of scent fogging up your airwaves. Arbole Arbole is perfectly dosed, I agree – perfectly pitched between subtle (but noticeable) and “full” (meaning, not a thin, wispy little thing that will slide off the skin in two hours). Shangri La is also my other favorite from Hiram Green. I love your comment about the human behind the work. Hiram Green is such a quiet, thoughtful, gentlemanly type of person that I think it must affect his perfumes – which are as thoughtful and composed as he.

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