Shop Your Fragrance Wardrobe Shop Your Fragrance Wardrobe: Guerlain Samsara

Shop Your Fragrance Wardrobe: Guerlain Samsara

02/15/16 22:38:34 (20 comments)

by: Bella Van der Weerd

This is the second article in the new series on Fragrantica, Shop Your Fragrance Wardrobe, in which our writers will explore fragrances they've owned for some time but seldom wear. Will an old favorite be "rediscovered" and fallen in love with all over again? Will the writers find their preferences have changed with time and experience? Join us for the journey and share your experiences of revisiting old favorites.

When I told people that after 11 years in the same house we were going to move, they warned me invariably: “You’ll be amazed at the amount of stuff that will come out of your small apartment!” I knew they were right, because on top of living with a family of four, two of which kids that went from diaper years to adolescence here, I am one of those who have a hard time getting rid of things. Not just valuable things, or items with an emotional attachment, no, all things. A piece of wrapping paper that could still be used for a tea light holder? Keep it! Drawing number 32 of my oldest when she was 6 and in her flower drawing stage? How could I not keep it? Books that I loved, even though I never reread anything? Can’t say good bye. Cookie tins. Jam jars. Magazines. Fridge magnets. Clipped recipes. Disney DVD’s. Place mats we never use. Souvenirs people brought us from their travels (that’s you, little sheep on the shelf from Ireland…!). I can go on and on. And it all had to come out!


Now, here's the part where I think all perfume lovers can relate: at some point in the packing process, I got to my perfume drawers full of fragrances: regular bottles, mini flacons, sample vials, everything I acquired over the years. Not just the past 11 years; some of my treasures go back to my high school and college years and even though my preferences have changed a lot compared to the eighties and nineties, I still wouldn’t think of parting with them. And that's where she entered my life again.…my still half full flacon of Guerlain’s Samsara Eau the Toilette. Bought in the city of Groningen, the Netherlands, where I went to college, it must have been around 1990.
 

She was all the way in the back of the drawer, but while other bottles looked a bit disheveled, with some dust and stickiness here and there, Lady Samsara just looked somewhat indignant, as if to say: “It really took you this long?” It wasn’t that she looked brand new; her cap especially had suffered and may have been manufactured in a time when Guerlain tried to economize on their packaging; it had gone from shiny gold to dull, with tiny green oxidation specks all over. But just like at the moment I bought her, there was still something chic about her that made her look so confident in her greatness, so attractive, so promising. It brought me back to the time I took the plunge and bought her. I’m not even sure what it was that drove me to her, and taking into account the fact that half of the juice is now still in the flacon, she hasn’t really grown too much on me over the last 25 years either. But I do remember I had to have her, and I think it was because she was so exotic to me.

Imagine the country I grew up in, the Netherlands, and especially its climate. Like Great Britain, we know long, dark and wet winters, often times preceded by a very similar fall and even spring time doesn’t always bring its first sunshine and unfolding colors until all the way into April! For a large part of the year, the prevailing color and mood is grey. That was what made me fall for Samsara.


Samsara is a legendary perfume for many reasons. Its creator Jean-Paul Guerlain noted in an interview with Elle Magazine that he created Samsara with a muse in mind. “I met a woman named Décia de Pauw, a wonderful horsewoman. I fell instantly in love. I had one desire: to offer this woman a perfume that would reveal her own intimacy, her unique sensuality. She liked sandalwood and jasmine, so I made her a perfume named Samsara, which is Sanskrit for ‘wheel of life.” In my eyes, the combination of the beautifully created marketing messages and this jasmine and sandalwood themed perfume were the ultimate idea of sultriness, languorousness, opulence and red hued warmth.

She smells slightly sweet, bittersweet. She is woody, warm and floral. She is smooth, but the iris adds a powdery texture. There is noticeable musk, it might even be a white musk, like powder. It has that “tickles-my-throat” effect when inhaled deeply. In the top, the slightest sprinkling of citrus and peach can be found. Soon the unique duo of sandalwood and jasmine unfolds and envelops the wearer into a most comforting, reassuring cloud of a fragrance, smelling deep, natural and alluring. It's a very grown-up mixture of rich, creamy white floral and dry, sheer-like sandalwood. The dry down, on my skin, brings leather to mind, the kind that always brings me back to my grandmother’s handbags, from which she would take a roll of peppermint and offer me one with a loving smile. One inhale of Samsara will prove that this is anything but a wallflower; it is for those who like statement making perfumes and who love opulent oriental blends, albeit in this case without any of the commonly found spices. Sillage and longevity are amazing: one spray of my Eau de Toilette (!) will last all day, into the night and all the way through the next morning. One spray on a cotton pad will fill a whole room easily!


Then why is my bottle of Samsara still half full? Why did it get pushed back in my drawer, making room in the front for perfumes with sometimes not even half the impact, quality, beauty and depth? Maybe the answer is partly in the image put forward by Guerlain in their ad campaign for Samsara. The woman featuring the ad is beautiful, elegant, alluring, the colors are warm, exotic, sensual. I wanted to be like her, smell like her, seduce like her, but in the end, pedaling on my bike to class and later to work, through wind and rain, hair wet, feet cold, face red…..it just wasn’t me. How peculiar and unexpected that now, decades later, in a completely different stage of life, she has captured me again. And today, while taking a break from writing and walking the dog, someone I met on the side walk told me: "mmmmmmm, you smell heavenly!" I think I am going to give Samsara a second chance.
 

Of course, dear readers, we'd love to hear your side of the story. Do you have any special memories connected to Samsara? Do you have a similar situation with a fragrance that you recently rediscovered? Or do you find you really never go back once you walked away? We'd love to hear from you in the Comments!

Bella van der Weerd studied Communications at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and joined the Fragrantica team in May 2012 to start up the Dutch sister site of Fragrantica.com. She assists in designing, editing articles and contributes as a writer.

 



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shalimaraddict
shalimaraddict

I do love Samsara, but the current formulations on counter bear little resemblance to the original! It's almost criminal!

Feb
18
2016
krmarich
krmarich

I remember when Samsara was introduced to our local market. A huge counter devoted to it in all of its strengths and body care products. All that I saw was "red" and thought cinnamon. I was a fool. I gave a sniff and went wild for sandalwood. I kept remembering it for hours and days later. Soon, it became recognized at cocktail hour by chic ladies who knew how to wear it. This set the trend for the riot of Sandalwood based orientals of the 1990s for men and women. Egoist and Heritage were my fixations.

Then as the years passed, encounters with Samsara in public became remote. I bought an original bottle edt about 10 years ago. I wear this in private as I find it cerebral and meditative. This is one of the few times jasmine becomes obvious for me.

My bottle is huge and mostly full. I caress, admire and cherish it, realizing that such art will never come again...

Feb
17
2016
Elena Vosnaki
Elena Vosnaki

Same "collector" (and hoarder) here, so can totally sympathize with your witty article. The scent of Samsara of course is legendary and very very luxurious in the true sense of the word. It's also very recognizable, a bonus when wearing it.

Feb
17
2016
Filomena1941
Filomena1941

I truly related to your Samsara story. I too wore it quite a lot many years ago (when it first came out). I don't know the reason I stopped wearing it, but I realized that I no longer owned a bottle. I have an extensive collection but last year I re-purchased a lot of the Guerlain classics, including Samsara EDP. I don't think it has the pizzaz of the original version, but it is still very beautiful and I wear it quite often.

Feb
16
2016
NebraskaLovesScent
NebraskaLovesScent

Great article, Bella! Samsara is one that didn't work for me when I last tried it a few years ago, but your article makes me want to give it another sniff. How wonderful to rediscover and fall in love with a scent again!

Feb
16
2016
ScentedPianist
ScentedPianist

Great, great article! Thank you so much!

Samsara is my signature perfume. The one I identify myself with and the one everyone recognizes me for. Samsara is magic in a bottle. It is warm and comforting, sensual and elegant. It has an immense longevity and sillage, and leaves a beautiful trail behind you. It makes me feel confident. It feels like me, for sure.

The sandalwood and jasmine combination create a creamy and complex blend which is just so addictive, the ylang-ylang add a creamy almost-banana sweetness and, indeed, the musk and iris are super important for this perfume's structure, enveloping the wearer with a powdery nuance.

Oh, I love it so much... You know when you love a perfume so much you almost have no possible words to express how much you love it? That happens to me with Samsara.

Feb
16
2016
Tovah
Tovah

Oohhh - I LOVE Samsara! It is one of the most beautiful perfumes, ever.

Feb
16
2016
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

I was WEARING Samsara as I logged onto Fragrantica today. Imagine my surprise! Many thanks for both an enjoyable and informative article, and also fine ad copy. If I had been aware of these glamorous, colorful advertisements, I would most certainly have tested Samsara sooner. ;)

As for my first acquaintance with this beauty... It happened about 4 years ago while shopping. The EDT tester was seductive, but ultimately the smell too challenging - herbal and arid fragrances not initially appealing to budding perfume enthusiasm. BUT! I kept re-testing her the next few years, bit by bit realizing that Samsara was a truly fascinating perfume, even if I 'couldn't' wear her personally.

Then - voila - last year a fellow fragrantican generously gifted me a mini of Samsara EDP. Oh, this is a horse of a different color! I was elated, then addicted. Inexplicably, just as with Youth Dew, a fascinated dislike suddenly veered into adoration status. :D

I now know that being without Samsara is not worth contemplating. That she is the perfect richness to augment an austere day, the sandalwood luxury to evoke elegance on a dreary week. The panacea to boredom! In short, positively therapeutic. She holds her head high among the best fragrances of all time. Vive la Samsara!

Feb
16
2016
TillyWave
TillyWave

I have like 10 different vintages and concentrations of Samsara, I love her dearly, she is probably my favorite perfume of all time. Personally I love the modern and 90's bottles equally, probably because I tried the newer bottles first. (And yes, I have a bottle of the EDP from 1989, so I know exactly how it's supposed to be.)

Samsara has ruined me a bit, because very few sandalwood, jasmine, or oriental perfumes in general measure up, I always end up thinking--I can just wear my Samsara. It is probably because of this perfume that I love dense, strong, dynamic, complex scents, but she will always be my favorite in that regard. Sometimes she 'wears me' because she is so complicated but I wouldn't have it any other way. Truly she is my desert island scent, I could not live without her in my life!!

Feb
16
2016
yorkiecami
yorkiecami

I will be turning 40 in a couple of weeks and in the past few months I have been exploring more "grown up" fragrances - feeling that I am finally ready for them :) Chanel n.5 and Samsara EDP were the first two perfumes I tested. It was instant love with Chanel n.5, while Samsara took me a few tries before I learned to appreciate it. And then, all of a sudden, it was like a drug - I NEEDED to wear it. I couldn't start my day without its warm, sensual embrace, and I couldn't go to sleep without dabbing a drop of it on my neck. I liked it so much - still do! - that I slowly started to read on other Guerlain fragrances and test them. Samsara has opened the door for me to the wonderful, mysterious world of Guerlain - and what an amazing experience it has been! I couldn't imagine ever being without Mitsouko or L'Heure Bleue now. Thank you Samsara for taking me on an incredible olfactory trip - I will be forever grateful!

Feb
16
2016
Jernê Knowles
Jernê Knowles

What a delight to travel in this so beautiful history of Bella, you are to be congratulated for Article! I confess that when I read each line the pristine aroma of Samsara not left my mind, and because of the reading of the article, tomorrow will be my day Samsara perfume in her honor! Thank you for proporcinar in such reading about to snatch the step by step.

Feb
16
2016
AngieGCarp
AngieGCarp

I was a teen when this came out. An older friend of mine had Samsara and I remember thinking "when I get older, I WILL have this perfume"...and I always have. It has weakened due to reformulation but it is still stunning and a let my hug linger so I can smell you fragrance. It's so good!

Feb
16
2016
cytherian
cytherian

Great article and wonderful story, as it's something so many of us can relate to (the fragrance hidden in the back drawer, previously enjoyed but somehow forgotten).

As a man, I was hesitant to indulge in this. I found a small vintage bottle of the EDP. It is decidedly feminine to my nose upon initial spray, but mellows into something more androgynous as it dries down. The sweet jasmine is particularly strong, yet as it gradually recedes the creamy sandalwood comes forth.

I've not tried the EDT, but from all I hear, the EDP is the version most revered.

Feb
16
2016
Yasir Shahbaz
Yasir Shahbaz

Amazing story!
Though i do not like Samsara due to the initial punch in the face, but again, i ll give it another go. I might end up loving it, who knows?

Feb
16
2016
nexangelus
nexangelus

My signature for over a year. I still have quite a few mls of all the five Samsaras left (yes, I own all verions, I love it that much) I have recently (the last three months) blazed through quite a few mls of it. I only enjoy the full-bodied vintage versions. Especially the EDT. It is just sblime, superb and lasts ages on my skin. It is fruity (peach), sweet with the jasmine and vanilla and has that to die for sandalwood backdrop. Smooth, liquid gold. Exotic ylang pulls it all together. I have no memories as I only recently (last year) purchased my first Samsara, it was instant adoration. I have decanted atomisers of the parfum and the edt in my work bag. Weird how I moved it off my signature spot and this article appears. Ha! I also have the deodorant and it smells great on the body and in the hair. I sometimes spritz my pillow with it too before bedtime. I will be finishing up Un Air de Samsara this springtime. It is so refreshing...

Feb
16
2016
ComfyCat
ComfyCat

Your story with Samsara had me smile all the way while reading, Bella :))
I love Samsara, I dearly do, many lovely childhood memories are bound to this special an warmth radiating scent. My best friend and I collected samples and minis, and Samsara was something very special for both of us. Basically for the very same reasons you name: long German winters, cold, grey, dark, and dull, and there this exotic and lux warmth - delicous.
As much as I treasure this fragrance, I can't wear it, and here too for the same you mention: I feel it is just not me, it is too elegant for me - but I will always love it from a distance.

Feb
16
2016
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

Great article, Bella! Samsara has always been one of my favorite Guerlain fragrances and one that I wish I could wear. Sadly, it never seems to work on my skin. Vol de Nuit on the other hand, perfection...well, it would be perfection if the edt actually stuck around for more than hour...ah well...

Feb
16
2016
Musky4
Musky4

I remember the first time I smelled Samsara was when it was launched in the UK and the glossy magazines at the time had scented Samsara adverts in them. I thought it was so feminine, beautiful and powdery and unlike anything else I'd smelled. I never bought it for myself (I hadn't yet begun my perfume journey when it was launched) but tried it in recent years only to discover it was nothing at all like I remembered. So, I found myself two full miniature vintage bottles, one EdT and the other EdP, which I bought and cherish.

Feb
16
2016
dina
dina

Great article and a lovely story...
As far as I'm concerned I was never disconnected from Samsara ever since it was launched! I first smelled it on one of my mother's friends who bought it from a trip to the UK... It was the original formula with all its glamour and sophistication... But it was still not available in my country... Luckily my mother traveled next year and got me the complete set: 100ml edp, powder, shower gel and lotion... I was in paradise!

Not only it brought me non- stop compliments, but at least 3 of my co-workers got Samsara for themselves later on when it became available... Next year, I tried the edt, but wasn't really happy with it... Nothing beats the edp concentration, except maybe the pure perfume which I never had the chance to try...And ever since, I'm always keen to have a bottle of edp around: it has became my mother's signature... and from time to time, I feel I want to smell it on my self.... except that the new formulation or should I say formulation(s) are nothing but a shadow of the original...

Samsara is not only a fragrance every perfumista or fragrantican should try, but if a list of the best perfumes of the world should be made one day, Samsara should figure in it, and in a prominent place.

Feb
16
2016
nebbe
nebbe

Great article! Love Samsara, so luxurious and feminine. Desert island frag for sure :)

Feb
15
2016

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