Penhaligon’s Peoneve ~ fragrance review

Penhaligon's PeoneveManet, Bouquet of Peonies

The English house of Penhaligon's offers several floral fragrances for women, yet I've never really fallen for any of them. Bluebell is too astringent for my taste, Elisabethan Rose is pretty but fleeting, Violetta is weirdly herbaceous, and I'm just not a Lily of the Valley person. However, the press release for Peoneve caught my eye. This new launch is described as "an exquisite portrayal of an English garden in summer, bursting with lush green foliage and heady with the scent of blossoming flowers," and was developed by perfumer Olivier Cresp, with notes of violet leaf, peony, Bulgarian rose, hedione, vetiver, musk and cashmere wood.

Although peony isn't my absolute favorite floral note, I do like it, and I'll usually give it a try when it appears in something like L'Occitane Paeonia (which is a bit dull) or Parfums de Nicolaï's Rose Pivoine — or Estée Lauder's new-classic Pleasures, of course. The main problem with interpretations of peony, for me, is that they tend to err on the side of watery-lemony freshness, when I'd prefer a little more pollen and petal in the mix. Peoneve seems to take the latter course.

Peoneve's opening notes are a bit sour and sharp, to my nose; there is something "natural" about this effect, like crushed green leaves and overblown flowers with bruised edges. The fragrance's heart, a woody peony-rose bouquet, is more enjoyable for me. I'm not sure how the inclusion of hedione affects the composition — I actually had to read up on hedione, and I found this post on Bois de Jasmin to be useful — but I'm not sensing much of this molecule's warmth and radiance in Peoneve. However, I do notice the dry and earthy vetiver, which gives a shade of darkness to the floral center. Penhaligon's does seem to be offering us a blooming peony bush in a garden, rather than a neatly arranged cluster of peonies in a florist's shop display case, and this approach fits the brand's overall aesthetic.

Overall, after I've tried it a few times, Peoneve is pretty much what I hoped it would be: a peony-inspired scent with just enough dirt and stems to keep things interesting, so that it's not just a pretty, "girly" fragrance. Peoneve would probably please fans of "modern rose" fragrances like Yves Rocher Rose Absolue and Stella McCartney Stella just as much as anyone seeking a new peony fragrance. I found it more substantial than other peony scents I've tested in the past. (Peoneve's perfumer Olivier Cresp also developed Peony Angel for Thierry Mugler a few years ago; if I had some in my collection, I'd be curious to see how Peoneve compares to it.) 

Penhaligon's is currently previewing Peoneve at the luxury department store Harvey Nichols in London, and if I were there, I'd certainly swing by Knightsbridge for a visit to the store's "multi-sensory terrace," where one can experience Peoneve while enjoying refreshments and cocktails inspired by the fragrance. (I'd need to decide between the "Rose Garden" and the "Violet Breeze.") Since I'm not in London, and I've just used up my sample vial, I'll look forward to trying Peoneve again when it arrives the United States at the end of the summer.

Penhaligon's Peoneve is available as 50 ml ($120) and 100 ml ($155) Eau de Parfum. For purchasing information, see the listing for Penhaligon's under Perfume Houses.

Note: top right image is Edouard Manet, Bouquet of Peonies (1882), via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. declasseandtrashay says:

    This sounds like an interesting interpretation of the peony! I’m curious, though, about the sillage and persistance on this? I had been absolutely fascinated by Penhaligon’s juniper gin sling, but I’d heard that it just didn’t last very long and that is the problem in general with Penhaligons…

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, DandT — It had much better longevity than I expected, which is to say, average — not amazing, but better than Elisabethan Rose or LP9. Its sillage seemed a bit on the low side, which is fine with me, since I’m often in crowded places!

      • declasseandtrashay says:

        Hi Jessica,
        Thanks for letting me know :)

    • annemarie says:

      I’ve also hesitated about Juniper Sling for the same reason. I have a FB of Amaranthine and find it lasts hours, but I’ve read other people say they are disappointed with its longevity.

  2. matildaben says:

    Can anyone talk about how this compares to Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine? I love the smell of VP but I seem to have an attack of the sneezes whenever I wear it.

  3. Warum says:

    Oh! This does sound very interesting.

    • Jessica says:

      It’s not *the*most innovative fragrance ever, but it’s definitely more interesting that many peony scents out there. It could almost fit in with the Rosines, except it still has that slightly raw-edged feeling that I associate with many of the Penhaligon’s fragrances.

  4. Anne from Makeupwoot says:

    Mmmmmm… How long is that premiere going on? I’m in London on the 21st.

    • Anne from Makeupwoot says:

      OMG!!! It will actually be going on when I’m there. SO adding this to the schedule on the perfume shopping day.

      • Warum says:

        This sounds sooooo cool!

        • Jessica says:

          Yes!! Anne, have fun, and sip some floral-inspired cocktails for us!

      • nozknoz says:

        I hope you’ll report back, Anne!

  5. hajusuuri says:

    I’ve never tried a peony fragrance and will need to remedy that.

    BTW, I am not a Lily of the Valley person either :-)

    • Jessica says:

      My grand-parents had a few peony bushes growing in their backyard, so I love the idea of peony fragrances, although I don’t really have an “HG” in that category yet. ;)
      And I like to see/smell lilies of the valley in person, but they don’t suit me in perfume, at all!

  6. Ayala says:

    Thanks for the review!
    I wouldn’t describe hedione as warm – it creates space and is a floralizer, and has a rather subtle scent overall. You can use a lot in a composition and it would still not really dominate… I think Eau Sauvage had as much as 40% hedione!
    I would describe it as the green, dewy and spacious aspect of jasmine; not the warm/spicy/sweet part. Like crisp and soft white petals.

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, thank you, Ayala. That’s interesting. Maybe it plays into the green, stemmy opening phase of the fragrance, then…

    • victoriaf says:

      Hedione is used so much today, almost like a solvent! I agree that it’s a very bright, fresh note. On its own, it doesn’t smell like much, but it gives a tremendous lift and luminosity to the compositions. If you leave a blotter in the empty room, you come back and feel this almost tangible presence.

      Eau Sauvage contains hardly more than 2% of hedione, but even that tiny inclusion makes a huge difference. On the other hand, Comme de Garçons Odeur 53 contains about 40-50% of hedione.

  7. donanicola says:

    Must admit I’m not interested in the perfume. Not a rose or peony sort of person. However I do love a bunch of overblown peonies in a vase so what initially attracted me to this nice review was that gorgeous Manet still life. I love his still lifes. In fact I love pretty much everything he painted but that still life has such character. And then I find out about a Harvey Nicks sniff’n’drink event – woohoo! Thanks Jessica!

    • Jessica says:

      Dononicola, I do love Manet’s still lifes. And yes, you need to stop by Harvey Nichols, have a drink, and take in the scene for us!

  8. poodle says:

    I love peonies but have yet to find a perfume that does them justice. I have about a half dozen plants in the yard and they were gorgeous this year. This sounds like it might be worth sniffing. Thanks for,the review.

    • Jessica says:

      Ah, lucky you, Poodle! and I’m glad it was a good year for *something* to bloom.

    • farouche says:

      Poodle, I found this scent to be very realistic, not overly sweet, and quite lovely. Sadly, it only lasted about 2-3 hours on me. Still, I’m in love, don’t own a peony frag and so preordered a bottle on LuckyScent.

  9. hajusuuri says:

    Ooooooh! I was looking through my LuckyScent Summer Sampler Pack and lo and behold, there was a sample of Peoneve! It smells lovely!

  10. HDS1963 says:

    Hi Jessica,

    I’m surprised at your thoughts on Bluebell. I’m a long-standing fan of this fragrance and it summons up the woody floral qualities of a bluebell wood in the English countryside beautifully – it also has an amazing drydown that lasts forever. As a man, it was my guilty pleasure scent for a long time, before I decided to start wearing it regularly to the office, whereupon several woman said how much they loved whatever fragrance it was I was wearing. Rather than tell them it was Bluebell, which in the relatively macho world of advertising I work in wouldn’t go down well, I opted for Cloche Bleu, figuring that nobody would make the association…

  11. Andreea says:

    Peonies are among my favourite flowers, and I immediately thought of Stella. Still, this stuff turns soapy-sour on my skin, so I prefer the flowers… and rose scents.
    I would love to be a Lilliy of the Valley person, Penhaligon’s interpretation ist the bes I found, but it does not suit me either. The other florals are not mine too. I have to think of blond, angel-lke, transparent beauties wearing these scents… so: Not me:-)

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