Contemplating a Peony : 5 Perfumes for the Peony Viewing

Cherry blossoms may be the flowers most strongly associated with Japan, but the peony is another beloved bloom. If you visit Tokyo in late spring, you can spend your days wandering the most beautiful peony gardens. The most striking peonies are the ones called botan in Japanese, or tree peony. They indeed appear as if they’re growing on trees, and their flowers are much larger than the more familiar stem peonies known as shakuyaku. Their colors, textures and, of course, scents vary dramatically.

So I’ve selected several fragrances that use peony in different ways, ranging from fresh and light to dark and warm. I also would like to share several favorite spots in Tokyo where peonies are displayed in all of their splendor. While going there is not possible for most of us, we can still admire the photos on line and dream up our perfect peony perfume.

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzongkha

Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour used an accord of peony to build up the opening notes of his composition and complemented the peony’s radiance with cardamom and lychee. While the drydown of Dzongkha is dark and velvety, rich in leather and incense, the shimmer of peony and the cool touch of iris keep the composition airy.

Stella McCartney’s Stella Peony

Peony blended with mandarin and patchouli, vibrant and effervescent.

Berdoues’s 1902 Pivoine & Rhubarbe

A peony plucked after a rainstorm.

Acqua di Parma Peonia Nobile

Elegant and plush, this peony is inflected with rose and berries.

Parfum Satori’s Black Peony 

In Japan, peonies symbolize elegance, honor and bravery, and for a fragrance that likewise combines refinement with self-confidence, Parfum Satori’s Black Peony is my choice. Black Peony peels back the gauzy petals to reveal that the most opulent of spring blossoms has a smoldering heart.

Ueno Toshogu Shrine

Ueno Toshogu shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Ueno Park. It was established in 1627 and dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 – 1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Its peony garden is open every year between New Year’s Day through mid-February and mid-April through mid-May. Much care is taken about the arrangement and the display of flowers, and each shrub has its own parasol to protect its delicate beauty. Entrance fee is 700 yen.

Peony Garden of Tsukuba

It’s worth making a train journey from Tokyo to the nearby city of Tsukuba in Ibaraku Prefecture to see its splendid Peony Garden. The collection counts more than 550 different varieties of botan alone (and more than 200 of the more familiar shakuyaku.) My scent notes listed aromas as varied as lemon peel, green tea, strawberry jam, wood, clove and leather.

April 18–May 22, 2016
500 Wakaguri, Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan (Tel: 029-876-3660)
9am–5pm (Last entry 4:30pm)
Adults 800 yen, Children (middle school and younger) 300 yen (20% off for groups of 20 or more)

Nishiarai Daishi Sojiji Temple

Nishiarai Daishi is a temple of the Shingon Buzan sect founded in the 9th century. While it’s worth visiting for the ambiance alone, its peony gardens are magnificent. The flowers are planted in different parts of the complex, so stroll around slowly and take in their beauty. This itself is a spiritual experience.

1 Chome-15-1 Nishiarai, Adachi City, Tokyo 123-0841, Japan

Do you have any favorite peony fragrances?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Robin: I love Stella McCartney Peony – it’s really beautiful and easy to wear May 4, 2020 at 9:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I even prefer it to the original. May 7, 2020 at 7:55am Reply

  • Matty1649: Neil Chapman has just a post about Peonies. The pics are wonderful. May 4, 2020 at 9:17am Reply

  • typeo_girl: I can’t seem to find the Stella Peony. Has it been discontinued? May 4, 2020 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: No, it’s still around. May 7, 2020 at 7:55am Reply

    • Bregje: In the Netherlands almost all Stella perfumes are notoriously difficult to find.
      I am a fan of stella,stella in two,nude. I totally missed the launch of Peony and did’t know about it until i read this post. I looked for it on-line and could only find it in 2 stores only it was sold out in both.
      Maybe it’s like that in more countries. May 8, 2020 at 4:50pm Reply

  • delia jean adkins: oh, how refreshing to be thinking about fragrance!

    i was absorbed by stella in 2. May 4, 2020 at 9:47am Reply

  • N: I only have one peony perfume and it isn’t a complex and rich masterpiece, but I enjoy it especially around this time of the year. It is Jo Malone Peony & Blush Suede. It smells like combination of peony and subtle red apple to me. This simple peony perfume reminds me of my teenage to early adult years when my mother would cut peony stems and put them in a vase in the house and I can still recall their lovely fragrance and how beautiful they were. May 4, 2020 at 9:48am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi N! Like you, the JM Peony and Blush Suede is the only peony perfume that I know and have. Oddly, I tend to prefer it in the autumn and I couldn’t say why.
      The Japanese gardens sound fascinating to visit. When I lived in London some 20 years ago, I had beautiful peony bushes in my garden- with deep red, gorgeous flowers that brought me much joy. May 5, 2020 at 3:48pm Reply

      • Victoria: My grandmother has burgundy and pink peonies in her garden, and they have such a strong scent that I wonder what variety they are. May 7, 2020 at 8:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like this Jo Malone. Simple florals like that tend to be dismissed as “plain,” but creating something this fresh, uplifting and dewy takes skill. May 7, 2020 at 7:57am Reply

  • Sherry: I love Armani Prive Pivoine Suzhou. It’s lighter and airier than Acqua di Parma Peonia Nobile. The peony season is later in Canada, I’ve had friends sent over peonies and compared with Pivoine Suzhou, it’s quite similar. May 4, 2020 at 9:55am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s something else to consider, thank you. May 7, 2020 at 7:57am Reply

  • Nancy Chan: I love Christian Dior’s Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet. A fresh fruity floral peony scent. I have yet to smell the real flower, but would like to grow some Sarah Bernhardt peonies. May 4, 2020 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to smell it again. May 7, 2020 at 7:57am Reply

  • Toni: I’ve recently purchased Fragonard’s Pivoine: peony, red currant, rhubarb, mock orange. It’s lovely and I’m happy every time I wear it. May 4, 2020 at 11:09am Reply

  • OperaFan: 3 flowers made up my wedding bouquet:
    Red roses, Pink Peonies, and Bouvardia (because I couldn’t afford Stephanotis), framed by varigated ivy. I love the delicate scent of peonies and now grow several. All are herbaceous varieties, and I hope to grow the Itoh or tree varieties someday. It’s such an “investment” to wait for the plant to establish before the first bloom that I will probably wait till I move into my retirement home before acquiring a plant.
    Forgot that Dzongkha has a peony note. I’ll need to seek it out…. May 4, 2020 at 2:09pm Reply

    • OperaFan: I forgot to say – We had planned to join a 10-day classic Japan tour this summer. Canceled, of course, due to the pandemic. I’m glad you listed these sites. They will give me something to look forward to once travel becomes possible again.
      Cheers! May 4, 2020 at 2:14pm Reply

      • Victoria: These gardens are beautiful even when there are no blooming peonies. I hope that you can go another year and explore Tokyo. May 7, 2020 at 8:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Your bouquet sounds so beautiful! May 7, 2020 at 8:01am Reply

      • OperaFan: Indeed – I was surprised at how nicely it turned out, given my very limited budget at the time.
        The peonies alone carried the scent (and it did so beautifully) of the bouquet, since neither the rose nor bouvardia wer scented. May 7, 2020 at 10:40am Reply

  • nozknoz: I have long dreamed of traveling to Japan and had begun planning to finally travel there in 2020. This post is one more reason to keep planning.

    At one point I considered signing up for your Ukraine class instead. Then COVID-19 relieved me of the dilemma of choosing.

    Victoria, I hope you might consider offering an online perfume class in 2020. I did Anima Vinci’s one-hour class last week and enjoyed it immensely (they DHLed the materials and their discovery set in advance).

    I have also purchased Auphorie’s oriental perfume class. I’ve just received the materials and digital workbook but haven’t started it yet. There’s no live component to this one.

    It would be so enjoyable to do a longer class, perhaps a series of one-hour sessions over several days or even weeks. Obviously, it wouldn’t be at all the same as an on-site class in an amazing location like Provence or Ukraine. On the other hand, it might be more accessible and less tiring for some, even without the travel restrictions.

    Thanks so much for all you do! May 4, 2020 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for sharing your experience. As I’ve mentioned in another thread, I will offer an online class at some point. I’ve been giving my usual professional workshops online due to necessity, and it worked out so much better than I expected. May 7, 2020 at 8:04am Reply

  • Charlotte Barrow: I agree with nozknoz, this is something I would be very interested in too 🙂

    Love Dzongkha, also the fresh and tender coffee and peony combination in Noa’s Cacharel. May 4, 2020 at 5:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I forgot about Noa, but you’re right, it’s another nice option. May 7, 2020 at 8:05am Reply

  • kat: The peonies in our garden are bursting to bloom – sadly they’re not the fragrant kind but I love them nevertheless. Which means I’m keeping a wary eye on that fresh snow on the surrounding mountain tops. (I’ve got old umbrellas and garden fleece in store should it come to the worst). I don’t own a peony fragrance yet but the other day I’ve ordered Bottega Veneta’s Knot Eau Florale on a whim – needing a pick-me-up and I see that it has a peony note. Can’t wait until it arrives – this was a classic blind buy – so far I loved all their scents so fingers crossed. May 5, 2020 at 5:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Knot Eau Florale has a nice peony accord, so I hope that you’ll enjoy it. May 7, 2020 at 8:10am Reply

      • Bregje: I felt eau florale smelled a lot like chloe. May 8, 2020 at 4:54pm Reply

  • Aurora: Noa l’ Eau is a favorite. I used to consider peony a sort of sub-rose, but your lovely post helps me change my mind. There is also Penhaligon’s Peoneve which I haven’t smelled yet. May 7, 2020 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Bregje: I always love it when you write about Japan.
    My mother who was a painter loved Japanese drawings and design. She passed that on to my father who became intrigued by Japanese gardens.
    For their 30th wedding anniversary they travelled to Japan. They went to all their favourite places from novels they’d read. It’s still one of my father’s fondest memories. May 8, 2020 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: That must have been an incredible trip. How wonderful! May 10, 2020 at 5:17am Reply

  • Erry: Aroma M Geisha Botan. It’s a woody gourmand peony in which the peony is surrounded by sandalwood and vanilla. It is long lasting but not big in terms of sillage. It gets closer to the skin as the hours passed. May 9, 2020 at 6:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Geisha Botan is another perfect choice. Thank you for mentioning it. May 10, 2020 at 5:17am Reply

  • Karen A: It looks like my peonies won’t start blooming for another week but then should go on for quite a while with different varieties opening early or later. Some have that beautiful “peony” fragrance, some have no fragrance and a few have a not-so-pleaseant fragrance! But they are all beautiful and after reading this post and comments think I’ll have to give several of these listed a try! May 11, 2020 at 7:09am Reply

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