* Prices may differ from that shown
Please note - I requested this listing for the EDT Roll-on which is shown in the picture at the top of the listing and this is the format which I have reviewed.
I have the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano to blame for my expensive affair with L'Occitane products. When I found myself stranded in Portugal for a week, the presence of lots of lovely L'Occitane Verveine products in my hotel bathroom lifted my spirits and led me to return with dozens of mini bottles and an addiction. A particularly kind friend has been known to send me L'Occitane goodies out of the blue when they are least expected and most appreciated so the entire brand is tinged with a sense of good times and indulgence. Since I spend a lot of time in airports I tend to dabble with the tester bottles and discovered Pivoine Flora eau de toilette about 18 months ago. I was instantly hooked on its intense, pink, flowery power. I blew a stack of old Swedish Kronor on a bottle in Stockholm duty free and it fast became one of my favourite perfumes.
The downside to travel these days is the restriction on liquids in hand luggage. I was travelling on August 10th, 2006 - the day the police and airport security uncovered the plot for liquid bombs on plains, the day that led to the frustration of travellers worldwide and the introduction of these ludicrous rules on what you can carry. If you're living out of a tiny little ziplock bag of toiletries, there's no way that a full bottle of perfume is going anywhere with you in your hand luggage. You need something small and light that won't take up much space - you need, in short, a L'Occitane roll-on perfume.
I've known Pivoine for a year and a half now and I love it and last month I invested in this small product format at the Cheshire Oaks L'Occitane outlet centre. They don't stock the Pivoine Flora full sized perfumes because L'Occitane won't release them to the discount stores but on this occasion they had both the tiny sampler sizes and the 10 ml roll on available. Sadly they had only one of the roll-ons as I would happily have taken half a dozen if they'd been available.
Pivoine - for those whose French classes didn't cover the full range of garden flowers - means peony and peonies are one of my very favourite flowers. In my garden they are the first of the big proper show-off flowers after the diffident bulb based flowers have passed. I have half a dozen peonies which never fail to delight and always get battered by the late spring or early summer storms. Every year it happens like clockwork - these fabulously optimistic big frilly blooms seem determined to flower regardless of getting knocked down and battered. They're a floral triumph of hope over experience. BUT I have to be honest, I never associated peonies with having any particular scent.
Despite working in the past for a flavour and fragrance company for nearly 6 years, I've never got very good at identifying fragrance components. I'm great at doing it for food but for fragrances, everything is much harder to pull apart. Once I know what I'm looking for I can identify most but not all of the notes.
The top notes of Pivoine are supposedly bergamot and grapefruit. I can find the bergamot (which is not, as I initially suspected, a small furry animal that lives in the mountains) but the grapefruit is not so obvious to me. The heart notes of peony and rose tend to dominate - there's an intensity of pink, rosy goodness that reminds me a lot of a less sweet, slightly more edgy version of the old Estee Lauder's Pleasures. I tend to assume that what's not rose must be peony but as I mentioned earlier, I don't really have an olfactory association of peony with any particular smell. The base notes of sandalwood and white musk are tricky for me as I'm totally anosmic to musk - like many people I cannot smell it at all. This was a definite advantage when I worked on a production site that made synthetic musk but does restrict me a bit on perfumes. What I smell on myself is quite possibly very different from what others smell on me. I adore sandalwood but find it's not very assertively woody in Pivoine. I also get wafts of magnolia and a teensy touch of vanilla but quite where they're sitting in the mix is a bit of a mystery to me.
So who might like this fragrance? Well pretty clearly anyone who likes rose has a head start and anyone who hates it should stay away. It's a very pink, very feminine, floral perfume. As the least pink, girly, feminine woman on the planet, I suggest you don't go making too many assumptions that it's only for dainty little girly girls who appear in old Flake adverts lying in fields of flowers. The longevity of the fragrance is good - and it particularly lingers on my clothes, rather more perhaps than on my skin. I like the initial fresh burst of citrus that opens for the perfume but I'm happier once it's flushed off and left the rose to do its work.
So what do you get with the roll on version and how is it different from the regular eau de toilette? Well first things first you get just 10 ml of perfume compared to the regular 75 ml size in the full bottle. However because of the roll on format, every drop will go where it's intended unlike with sprays where half the fluid ends up all over the room. The bottle is a slender, elegant glass tube whose colour is variegated from darker pink at the top through to lighter at the bottom, mimicking the full sized bottle. The lid is a silver coloured metal-effect plastic which has a round plaque standing up from the screw top with L'OCCITANE EN PROVENCE engraved onto it. It's easy to remove and underneath you'll find a metal roller ball that dispense the perfume onto your body. The recommendation is to use it on pulse points like wrist, neck or chest (hardly a 'point' that last one) and L'Occitane claim that the contents are a more intense and concentrated version of the spray perfume.
You can use the roll on alone or in combination with the spray. When I'm travelling I take just the roll on, when I'm at home I use it to top up later in the day after an initial spray with the EDT.
Finally here's the good news. Whilst a bottle of the EDT will cost you £35 for 75 ml, you can get the roll on for less than £15. On the L'Occitane website it's selling for £14.50 but the nice man in the shop let me have mine in its slightly battered box for £6.50. Now you can justifiably say that seems like poor value per mm but if you haven't yet decided if you love Pivoine or not, there's a lot to be said for starting with a smaller bottle until you're sure you want to fork out for 75 ml of the stuff. Also as mentioned earlier with a roll on every drop goes where you intended it - it's easier to control than a spray and more precise in terms of where you put it.