Although many people remain convinced that patchouli is distilled from the body odor of unwashed hippies, it’s actually a plant from the mint family. Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé is a good reminder of that fact. Although it stars patchouli, the fragrance is dry and camphorous, with the feel of a living plant in an arid wind.
Arbolé Arbolé is named after a poem by García Lorca that begins, “Tree, tree / Dry and green.” That’s about as good a description of the fragrance you can pack into five words. Arbolé Arbolé’s notes include patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla and tonka bean. Like all of Hiram Green’s fragrances, it’s made exclusively of natural materials.
The marketing blurb accompanying Arbolé Arbolé describes it as “ostensibly simple, yet subtly complex” (then goes on to some blah blah blah about romance and those who “dare to dream”). I tossed the blurb in the recycling pile, then pulled it out later for another read. On the face of it, Arbolé Arbolé is a light, yet rich, woody patchouli fragrance with a bare hint of sweetness. It seems to shimmer the same way amber does, but in a dry, menthol-tinted way — there’s that word again, “dry” — that keeps it from planting the seed of nausea that some patchouli-heavy fragrances can. It almost smells like the interior of an Eisenhower-era cigar box.
Underneath this simple, calming exterior, Arbolé Arbolé is a shapeshifter. Sometimes I catch a hint of cinnamon or lavender, and at one point I was reminded of one of my new-old favorites, Ciro Danger. Then the fragrance would smooth back to its hypnotic dry woody patchouli.
One more comparison: I've heard that patchouli became popular in the Victorian era when British travelers to India shipped back cashmere paisley shawls packed in wooden trunks with patchouli to keeps the moths out. Arbolé Arbolé smells like that.
Arbolé Arbolé lasts all day on me and has present but quiet sillage. It’s firmly unisex. Patchouli lovers, you’ve got to try this one. If you’re on the fence, Hiram Green has made it easier by selling a 10 ml bottle. Patchouli-phobes, if you’ve made it this far in the review, see if you can score a sample of Arbolé Arbolé somewhere just to be sure it won’t change your mind.
Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé Eau de Parfum is $165 for 50 ml and $45 for 10 ml. For information on where to buy it, see the listing for Hiram Green under Perfume Houses.