More than their commercial counterparts, independent perfumers are storytellers. Through their creations you also get glimpses into personalities and histories of the artist behind them. Having a story underneath what you’re wearing adds something to the experience. One independent perfumer whose story I have connected with is Maria McElroy of aroma M.
Ms. McElroy lived in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980’s. That Japanese aesthetic has been the foundation upon which she has built her brand. Many of her perfumes carry the word “geisha” within them. As I have tried each one I have imagined the story of a fictional geisha. It has become part of the anticipation of any new release that I will have an opportunity to allow my imagination to travel to visit this lady of perfume. aroma M Geisha Botan is the latest chance for me to do this.
In the press release accompanying my sample Ms. McElroy tells of her affection for pink peonies that she acquired during her time in Tokyo. Botan is the Japanese word for peony. We have our own pink peonies which burst to life each spring along our front walkway. I share Ms. McElroy’s fascination with the flower. The dense layered flower which will eventually open to reveal a fuller beauty is like a geisha of the floral world; only when you get to know it better does it truly reveal its charms.
Geisha Botan uses rose to support the peony in the early going. It gives some heft to one of the more delicate floral ingredients. It also allows it to float upon the pool of sandalwood and vanilla which make up the heart. Over time an earthy quality slowly intersperses itself into the construct. A final dollop of animalic musk finishes everything.
In her previous releases my imaginary geisha has been enjoying some time off. With Geisha Botan it feels like she is back at work. As I’ve done in the past I will weave a description of the perfume within a little story.
It was nice to have spring back. Walking by Ueno Park and seeing the peonies in full bloom made her smile. As she entered the okiya she decided would use her special botan formulation to scent herself for the evening. She had worked on it for years finding the right rose to provide depth to her peony extract. To find the right balance was a tricky thing but it was worth it. Her client for the night always smiled when he picked up the top accord as she served tea to him. The peony tattooed on her forearm just visible under her sleeve as she offered the bowl to him. He breathed in followed by a nod. “Your perfume is more intoxicating than the tea.” As I played the samisen for him I observed him breathing deeply as the vanilla and sandalwood comforted him along with the music. By the time he was ready to leave the slightly musky scent remianing heightened the anticipation for our next meeting.
Geisha Botan has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. McElroy has become a much more assured perfumer over the years. Geisha Botan is among her best work. The mixture of spring-like florals on top of vanilla and sandalwood is going to make this an ideal fall perfume as the air begins to cool. You can take my imaginary geisha along with you.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by aroma M.