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Samsara – An exquisite union – January 16, 2015 New fragrance Listing

Image - guerlain.com - Samsara EdP bottle

Gwen’s recent post is about Le Parfum du 68, a soft spicy-woody and quintessentially Parisian fragrance which celebrates the newest chapter in the epic story of Guerlain, the French perfume house that is among the oldest in the world, and is also one of the most revered among lovers of perfume.

This post is about Samsara, a modern classic in the Guerlain pantheon, a woody-floral Oriental fragrance which is an ode to the exquisite union of sandalwood and jasmine, supposedly inspired by a lady friend of Jean–Paul Guerlain who loved these two notes. Samsara – the Indian Sanskrit name sounds exotic and mystical, it rolls off the tongue, evocative, mesmerizing… Samsara, Samsara, Samsara….

The opening out of the ruby-red bottle is a statement of pure radiance, lemony and fruity-floral with notes of bergamot and jasmine, made lush and rich with ylang-ylang and hints of peach. The distinctive creamy effect of the sandalwood is paired with jasmine right from the first few moments, balancing the opulence of the jasmine with a soft powdered-wood sensation which carries through into the heart and beyond.

More florals start to bloom, spicy rose, earthy, rooty iris and green violet, ripe jasmine, flashes of banana-coconut from the ylang, mixed with hints of anise from the iris/violet accord. In the base, vanilla-infused sandalwood and cedar notes, the breath of sweet amber, curls of chocolate-almond tonka bean, and wafts of musk swirl together as the white florals slowly relinquish  their narcotic power, and the warmth of the wood notes starts to radiate. In the long dry-down, Samsara feels opulent and feminine, round, lush, languorous, softly sweet,  but with the luxurious lightness of a cashmere blanket.

I think Samsara is a beautiful perfume. Featuring sandalwood and jasmine notes from top to bottom, it is never linear, and it is so expertly nuanced that each stage reveals a different facet of its opulent accord. Tart fruit, rich florals, gourmand elements - the classic Guerlinade accord of vanilla, tonka and amber -  the dry elegance of aromatic woods,  Samsara is a dramatic but elegantly refined scent that has majestic presence. The heady sweetness of the white florals is reined in by the woods, the heavy resinous  character of the woods is softened by the florals – a match made by the angels in two-part harmony.   

Like the famed Guerlain classics which preceded it, Samsara has a unique story. Stiff competition in the 1980’s from powerhouse designer scents such as YSL Opium and Dior Poison left the Guerlain brand in their scented dust, perceived by consumers as stuck in the past and lacking sizzle. The release of Samsara in 1989 was considered to be a landmark event that signaled the end of the traditional Guerlain business model. Marketing strategy was now the key driver of product development, and Samsara was the first Guerlain fragrance to be created from a marketing brief.

Samsara was not a run-away success for Guerlain when it launched. It definitely was a departure for the brand, an exotic and opulent statement fragrance for the contemporary woman, but it appeared at the very tail-end of the BIG perfume era, when the trend was moving away from powerful and seductive scents toward a newer fragrance style which was clean, fresh, and cerebral.  Samsara also contained the signature Guerlainade accord in the dry-down which connected it to the corporate tradition, so the fragrance straddled the old and the new, never fitting comfortably in either camp.

Even with the adjustments to its formula over the years, time has revealed Samsara’s stature as a member of the Guerlain female Royal Family, taking its place alongside Shalimar, Jicky, Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, L’Heure Bleue, Chamade, etc. There is no other scent in the Guerlain line-up that has its mix of majestic elegance and clear radiant warmth.

For all its dramatic power, Samsara is at heart a soft scent. If you like BIG statement scents, spritz with abandon – Samsara will reveal its lush beauty to others in a well-behaved manner. If reserved discretion is more your style, a single spritz on the wrist will allow you to enjoy its quiet beauty from morning to night.

My point is - if you haven’t tried Samsara, you should.

Samsara is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.