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 Introducing aroma M Geisha Botan.

Just imagine: enchanting peonies, transformed into invisible irezumi to beautify the skin and its surroundings.

It was back in the 1980s that Maria McElroy, then a newcomer to Japan, making her home in Tokyo, first became acquainted with peonies.  She was visiting Ueno Park, with its 17th century Toshogu Shrine, where she came across a peony garden, and was immediately enchanted—not only by this flower’s profusion of bedazzling jagged-edge pink blossoms, but by its gentle rose-like scent. The beauty of this bloom stayed with Maria, who calls peonies “quintessential Asian flowers,” and for several decades, as she studied perfumery, she imagined what the perfect peony perfume would be. Now at last, she’s delighted to introduce Geisha Botan (Japanese for peony) as the newest entry into her celebrated aroma M collection of eaux de parfum and roll-on perfume oils.

Peonies, Maria delightedly learned, are widespread and for centuries have been held in awe, not only in Japan, but in most of Asia. The national flower of China, they play a not insignificant role in Chinese fine and decorative arts—in literature and painting, in woodblock, tapestry, and clothing.

But why such reverence? Beyond this flower’s delicate beauty, since ancient times its roots, bark, seeds and flowers have been treasured for their purported medicinal value, believed to ward off evil chi. So naturally peonies were so valued that they were cultivated in the gardens of China’s imperial palaces—and as a result they became known as the king of flowers, associated with royalty, good fortune, prosperity and even risk-taking.

The Japanese embraced peonies too, as early as in the artistically important Edo period (1615-1868). These delicate flowers were visible not only in gardens but in irezumi (tattooing), which arose during that era.

Peony tattoos are still widely in evidence in Japan today. But now these exquisite flowers can enhance the skin in yet another way—in the form of Aroma M’s warm, beckoning young (but not too innocent) Geisha Botan. The scent starts off with the honeyed aroma of peony blended with an kick of rose. Then come the mid-notes: soothing sandalwood, intoxicating vanilla and velvet woods. Already the wearer has been transported to a forest glade. The base notes, which add durability, are that dry, earthy forest lichen, oakmoss, accented with a touch of animal, feral musk.

What to wear with Geisha Botan? How about a mix of traditional and modern?  Oversize sweater, denim jacket, leopard-print neck scarf, flowing, ankle-length skirt or wide-legged pants, suede sneakers or penny loafers—pulled together with a silk obi belt. As for the attendant makeup, we see it being light, soft and natural.

As for when to wear Geisha Botan?  How about anytime from, say, noon to late, late night. The more it surrounds you, the more it will soothe your psyche and entice those in your surroundings. 

Artisan Craft: Aroma M Hits the High Notes- in Vanity Fair

"The pursuit of perfume perfection took Maria McElroy of Aroma M years of study all over the world. She recently moved her atelier from DUMBO to Bushwick, Brooklyn, where she creates her cult favorite fragrances and beauty oils. Originally a painter with an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, she is inspired by color, her years living in Japan, and a romantic imagination. From globally sourced ingredients, to mixing fragrances drop by drop, to hand-packaging her bottles with exquisite imported papers, McElroy does things the hard way, producing premium products backed by 20 years of experience."

 

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 Photo credit Alex Musgrave