Arbolé Arbolé, the latest fragrance from Hiram Green, weds spicy woods and powdery, sweet, floral-vanillic elements in holy matrimony with rings of dark resins. It was interesting to observe how the relationships at the core of the scent unfolded like a musical piece where the courtship took place during an unexpected overture or prelude, followed by a march up the aisle, a post-wedding reception dance where everyone joins in, and then, finally, the couple retires to cuddle in a cozy haze on the first night of their honeymoon.
Arbolé Arbolé (hereinafter spelled without the accent or just called “Arbole”) wasn’t my thing despite my love for many of the notes at the center of the composition, but it’s also one of those fragrances that seems to manifest itself quite differently from one person to the next. How it turns out on your skin, particularly in its opening, is likely to shape how you view the scent.
Arbole Arbole is an all-natural, handcrafted eau de parfum that was released two weeks ago. On his website, Mr. Green calls it as “a warm and woody fragrance that takes its name and spirit from Lorca’s eponymous poem.” He describes its scent and some of its notes as follows:
Arbolé Arbolé opens with a burst of earthy patchouli that slowly merges with rich cedar wood and velvety sandalwood. Vanilla and tonka bean anchor the fragrance and provide a sweet and powdery base.
As I’ve learned in the years of trying Mr. Green’s fragrances, his note lists are the merest synopsis of what’s in the fragrances, a broad brush stroke of the basics, even though he creates his rich, strong, perfumes by layering materials one upon another. He never states all the materials that he uses. In the case of Arbole Arbole, just like his other fragrances, what appears on my skin goes far beyond the stated notes. Heliotrope is a big element, in all its many and varied facets, and so are the resins that were such a prominent part of Shangri-La, Voyage, and Dilettante. In fact, I’m starting to recognise a base patchouli-resin accord as one of Mr. Green’s signatures. So, if I had to guess the note list based upon what appears on my skin, I’d estimate it looks something like this:
Patchouli, Heliotrope, Lavender, Cedar, Sandalwood, Mixed Resins (benzoin, possibly styrax), Tonka, Cade, Vanilla, and perhaps drops of Bergamot and Petitgrain.
Arbole Arbole opens on my skin with dark, fungal, musty, earthy, and slightly camphorous patchouli shot through with musty, dusty cedar that smells like an antique wooden chest in an attic. The wood is quickly overshadowed by other notes, starting first with something that smells exactly like lavender. It’s an aroma that goes far beyond any possible herbal or camphorous aspects to patchouli; it’s aromatic, fresh, bracing, and extremely medicinal. I’m not keen on it one bit.
It’s followed by an equally strong wave of what will turn out to be a central element in Arbole Arbole: powdered sweetness that smells like a tightly coiled double helix of heliotrope with creamy tonka. The tonka smells creamy, vanillic, and, occasionally, has a nuance of sweet hay to it.
As for the heliotrope, all of its facets are on display here from its vanilla meringue and marshmallows to Play-Doh putty, floral powder, sweet pollen, and almond marzipan. While I adore heliotrope, the one aspect that I always struggle with is present here, too: clean, cool baby powder. It’s a powerful note that smells identical to the one at the center of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Heliotrope Blanc, and it cascades in force over the juxtaposed contrast of the medicinal aromatics, dusty woods, musty, earthy, camphorous patchouli, Play-Doh, creamy coumarin-ish tonka, vanilla, and heliotrope marshmallows. On my skin, the cumulative effect feels disjointed and discordant. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long.
Arbole, Arbole quickly shifts. The musty cedar retreats to the sidelines, followed by the patchouli which sheds some of its fungal earthiness and mustiness. At the same time, the lavender (or whatever is replicating its aroma) loses its harsh, medicinal aspects, thanks to the taming influence of the creamy tonka which smoothens it out and turns it into lavender ice cream that is sprinkled with a few strands of hay. The result reminded me of Jicky‘s lavender, tonka, coumarin accord, and the impression is underscored by a brief, passing whiff of something citrusy. It’s a tiny, indeterminate touch, but felt like petitgrain mixed with a drop of bergamot.
Whatever it is, the citrusy brightness and freshness doesn’t last long, and other notes take its place. First, there is a whiff of something that smells exactly like cade with its aroma of campfire smoke woods and smoked meats. That is short-lived as well and disappears within a minute or two, swallowed up by a dark, woody oiliness, a puff of a herbal floralcy almost like chamomile, and a surprising lactonic note, like almond milk that’s been poured over white, creamy biscuits. I’m guessing the latter is the result of the tonka and the sandalwood.
Roughly 10-15 minutes into Arbole’s development, the patchouli becomes a mere backdrop against which a chorus of lavender, tonka, and coumarin-like hay kneel in a circle before their new star, the heliotrope. Like a flirtatious white-clad ballerina, she twirls before the patchouli’s gaze, jettisoning vanilla powder, clean baby powder, meringue powder, sweet milk, sweet almondy cream, sweet Play-Doh putty, and a touch of powdered floral pollen. Around and around she goes, twirling like a dervish, the speed of her movements spraying her multi-faceted scent far and wide.
I’ve tested Arbole Arbole three times now, and its opening consistently followed the same path. It’s like a courtship and mating dance between two central elements on a stage that is initially crowded with other suitors or bystanders. On an olfactory basis, I was reminded me of a classical patchouli-woods/cedar composition combined with Heliotrope Blanc and a few drops of Jicky. The comparisons don’t last, however, because all of this turns out to be like the members of an orchestra warming up before the start of the overture and the main act.
The overture begins about 25 minutes into Arbole Arbole’s development, and the dynamics change noticeably as a result. The patchouli begins to reassert itself, followed by the first signs of dark resins, and the two together add a powerful spiciness and golden warmth which affect the innate coolness of the heliotrope’s cool, clean, baby powder tonalities. An ambered hue falls over the notes, not only coating the heliotrope but also silencing the lavender. There is a treacly, dark, balsamic, and smoky quality to the “amber,” and it becomes as tightly coiled and indivisible from the patchouli as the tonka is with the heliotrope. It’s the exact same spicy, sweet, smoky, and musky patchouli-resin accord that marked past Hiram Green fragrances, particularly Dilettante, and it’s starting to feel to me like Mr. Green’s signature in the way that plum-cedar was once Serge Lutens’ mark.
The overture lasts about 15-20 minutes, and Act I of Arbole Arbole begins near the end of the first hour. Imagine it as a wedding announcement: the patchouli and heliotrope have been joined together in holy matrimony. The bride is romantic in a white frock in the classical style, its folds woven from heliotrope Play-Doh, meringues, almond marzipan, tonka, vanilla, creamy powdered milk, and creamy, milky sandalwood. A floor-length veil of sweet, vanillic powder covers her; under it, a few springs of lavender adorn her hair. The groom is resplendent in a black tuxedo from the latest in smoky, dark, haute couture resin fabrics, cut tightly against his ripped, bulging, patchouli body.
The wedding ceremony lasts until Act II begins at the end of the second hour and the start of the third, and it’s set during the wedding reception. The groom takes over, dancing with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, while his powdery heliotrope bride looks on from the dais table on top. The darker notes have coalesced into a single, smoldering mass, dominated by the patchouli-resin accord, followed closely by a dark, smoky vanilla.
Everything else has turned into a blur that feels hazy and generalized: mere woodiness, resinous spiciness, resinous smokiness, resinous muskiness, smoky sweetness, fluffy creaminess, and powdery meringues. The dance goes on and on, the bride fluttering her dress to cascade sweet powder over the proceedings, while the groom’s resin tuxedo wafts both a smoky and a leathery quality. When smelt up close, Arbole’s resins-patchouli casts such a long shadow that it swallows up the powderiness, although its certain a major component on the scent trail floating in the air.
At most weddings receptions, the bride and groom’s dance often starts the festivities but, here, they take place later, in Act III, which begins at the start of the 4th hour or roughly 3.25 hours into the fragrance’s development. The heliotrope-tonka and the patchouli-resins waltz together. It’s a mix that is fluffy, spicy, sweet, powdery, musky, smoky, golden, ambered, woody, treacly, slightly floral, slightly leathery, and slightly creamy. More and more, the heliotrope and patchouli’s individual contours and shape are melting into one, its powdered vanilla marshmallow and almond Play-Doh indistinguishable from the patchouli’s woody side. The sandalwood’s butteriness, the benzoin’s cinnamon spice, and the vanilla’s cream serving as a glue that blends them together seamlessly. The end result has nothing in common with Heliotrope Blanc; instead, the fragrance now feels like a more heavily powdered, heliotrope-infused cousin to Loree Rodkin‘s Gothic I (in its later stages).
This is the real heart of Arbole Arbole, and it lasts for a while until the drydown begins in the middle of the 7th hour. Basically, the bride and groom spoon together in their honeymoon bed, their limbs dissolved into a blur, a simple golden haze of powdered sweetness, spiciness, vanillic creaminess, and resinous smoke. When the sun slowly rises, all that’s left is powdery sweetness.
Arbole Arbole had very good longevity, average projection, and initially strong sillage that took a while to turn more moderate. I was sent a little atomiser sample, and I used several spritzes equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle in all my tests. Arbole Arbole consistently opened with about 3-4 inches of projection and sillage that was around 5 before it grew to about 8-10 inches after 20 minutes. At the end of the 2nd hour, the projection was roughly 2 inches, while the sillage dropped to about 5-6 inches. When the 4th hour rolled around, the projection was 0.5 to 1 inch, and the sillage was at 2-3. In total, it took Arbole 6.5 hours to turn into a skin scent, and it consistently lasted over 11 hours on my skin, usually somewhere between 11.5 and 12.5 hours except in one test on my right arm where it only lasted 11 hours and was a somewhat softer scent as a whole. Still, as compared to the majority of all-natural fragrances on the market, the numbers are very high, as they are for all Hiram Green creations. With many natural brands, I’ll be lucky if I get 6 hours longevity, and they usually cling to the skin like a silent vapor after the 2nd hour. None of Hiram Green’s fragrances are like that. They’re bold, often chewy in body, rich, strong, and long-lasting.
One thing that I’ve noticed for all Hiram Green fragrances after his tuberose Moon Bloom is that there isn’t always a consistency in how they smell from one person to the next, and that completely unrelated notes can appear on each person, almost as if there were three or four fragrances at play, not just one. That’s the case for Arbole Arbole as well.
The strange divergence of notes experienced by people in the opening may explain why reviews on Fragrantica thus far seem more mixed than they have been for past Hiram Green releases. For me, it was a mix of medicinal, bizarrely musty, fusty, and earthy notes under a cascade of baby powder but, for others, it was olives, vinegar, moldy bread, or vetiver. For example, “K1” described Arbole, in part, as follows:
Olive oil and honey [….][¶] It opens with awry sticky sweetness and kind of musty dry greenness redolent of moldy bread and kind of vinegary smell like newly cut tree’s syrup. A hint of sweaty skin covered with dust under sharp sun warmth. I’m not sure what exactly it is but I guess there must be a boost of honey to keep the semi-animalic side of patchouli up. It also merges perfectly with cedar.
Anyway, Arbolé Arbolé is a damp warm green fragrance with strange yummy taste and skanky sweetness. Not everyone’s nor every where’s fragrance. It’s kind of hard to communicate but it is intriguing and it is the way it charms.
“Akawanis” also experienced olives. To be precise, an “olive in a soap” smell combined with tonka and the other notes in the pyramid. He or she loved it.
For “fillifelle,” however, Arbole’s opening was not about olives but all about vetiver. She wrote: “The opening is a very strong vetiver accord […] like badass Sycomore stuff. Green sweet grass vibe. […] The drydown is more my style with the tonka, vanilla coming to the foreground amidst a vague sandalwood sweetness.” I’ll let you read the full accounts later on your own because I want to move to other reviews to show you how much things differ.
On Basenotes, there is only one review at the time of this post, and it’s very positive. “Claire V.” says Arbole Arbole is Hiram Green’s “best work yet and the one that I would race out to buy in a heartbeat.” For her, it was all about the patchouli and woods, and the patchouli had “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.”
For The Scented Hound, Arbole Arbole was also a patchouli scent. His description of the patchouli in the opening phase as being like “putty” makes me think he experienced the heliotrope with its Play-doh putty tonalities as I did. And, he, too, experienced a whiff of citrus and citrusy woods in the opening. His review reads, in part, as follows:
Arbolé Arbolé opens with a putty like chewy patchouli that feels encased in a light rubber or elastic. […] Soon, the opening kick to futuristic nostalgia adds a citrus and woody edge that moves the rubberized consistency away, although there is still a bit of a putty edge to the perfume. After some more time a warmed base emerges with a chewy, thickened vanilla… […] calming lightly sweet rich vanilla that’s tamed by the tonka bean [….][¶] In the end, the perfume deepens, still smooth, still creamy with a light powder. I absolutely love this perfume.
As you can see, Arbole manifests itself quite differently from one person to the next, so it is a fragrance that you should test first with a sample to see if you like what ensues. The highly abbreviated note list won’t tell you what to expect, because it’s not complete. The unlisted notes and how they interact are likely to influence your opinions a lot.
In my case, what appeared on my skin should have made Arbole Arbole a slam dunk, but it wasn’t. I’m such a “patch head” that I not only own a ton of soliflores, but patchouli is also common to many of my other fragrances as well. In addition, I adore heliotrope, resins, and vanilla together. So Arbole Arbole should have been the perfect scent for me, but something got lost in translation on my skin. While I enjoyed some aspects of it, I felt apathetic about the scent as a whole. Even bored. Perhaps heliotrope-patchouli is simply not a combination that works well on my skin. In the past, I’ve tried layering Oriza’s gorgeous patchouli Horizon and its Heliotrope Blanc together; the result was pretty bad. So was Heliotrope Blanc or Guerlain’s lovely heliotrope-heavy Cuir Beluga with Loree Rodkin’s patchouli-vanilla Gothic I.
Quite separate from the combination issue, however, something about Arbole on my skin lacked pizzazz and a bold, compelling, head-turning character for me. It felt lifeless, prosaic, and surprisingly mundane which surprised me since I think Mr. Green has a masterful knack for handling and layering his patchouli-resin accord with other things. I’m a huge, huge fan of Mr. Green’s creations, so the only explanation that I can come up with is some quirk of my skin sabotaged the notes to result in something so dull and simplistic.
So, it may be wisest to test Arbole Arbole before buying a bottle because who knows what will transpire. If it ends up as an heliotrope-patchouli-vanilla fragrance, then it will appeal to women (and some men) who love soft, sweet, powdery, and romantic floral-woody fragrances. If it manifests itself as patchouli, woods, and resins, then it will suit men and some women who like darker scents. If it skews to olives with creamy vanillic sweetness and some greenness, then I guess the Slumberhouse Pear+Olive fans would like it.
As a side note, Hiram Green has debuted an affordable alternative to his full bottles. He now offers 10 ml travel sprays for all his fragrances, priced at $45 or either €39/ €32.23, depending on whether you have to pay VAT tax. Most of his retailers sell small samples as well.
If you’re a fan of either patchouli or Mr. Green’s creations, give Arbole Arbole a try for yourself.
Disclosure: My sample was provided by Hiram Green. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.