Monday, November 30, 2015

Death Of A Princess - Guerlain Discontinue Nahéma Parfum


In my stockpile of half-written articles and abandoned projects - otherwise known as my blog's 'drafts' folder - one idea has been nagging at me for years, refusing to be silent. It's popped up to haunt me every now and then, expressed in a simple line: "The scent of the house after Madame Persolaise has sprayed Nahéma." Each time I've seen it, I've told myself that I ought to give it the attention it deserves. But I've always been side-tracked. And now, in a sense, it's too late, because Guerlain recently announced that the fragrance's extrait version, which many consider to be amongst the most glorious olfactory creations of all time, is about to be discontinued.

The reasons for this decision are unclear, but then, that's par for the course in the world of scent brand management. When it was released in 1979, the perfume was a commercial flop; indeed, it has been rumoured that the Guerlain family had to sell some of their land in order to make up for the losses they incurred. Although it went on to enjoy critical acclaim, it never attained success at the tills, so it seems reasonable to suppose that the bottom line has finally spoken and proclaimed that further production is no longer viable. Whatever the causes*, the fact remains that from January 2016, Nahéma will be made only in the less dramatic, less swoon-inducing eau de parfum concentration. In other words, the tribute I've been hoping to write is now long overdue.

The story of the scent's inspiration is well-documented, although it is now difficult to separate myth from reality. Jean-Paul Guerlain was reportedly moved to make it after seeing a flower-covered Catherine Deneuve in 1968's Benjamin. He named it after a tempestuous Persian princess in one of Scheherazade's nightly tales. He constructed its incomparable rose heart using damascones, aromachemicals which are now ubiquitous in the industry, but were relative novelties in the late 70s. And what he gave the world was a bona fide original, a combination of fruity notes - mainly plummy peach - with an oversized floral core, a juxtaposition that had never been experienced before. With its heft, its irrepressible personality and its diva-licious trail, it foreshadowed the arrival of grandiose 80s creations such as Poison, Paris and Giorgio. Its DNA can be detected in countless other releases, not least Frederic Malle's Portrait Of A Lady and Tauer's Une Rose Chyprée.

Sadly, the public didn't appreciate its value, despite Jean-Paul Guerlain's unfailing insistence that it was his most accomplished piece of work. However, those of us who surrendered our souls to its spell were treated to an olfactory epiphany unlike any other. A tornado of petals, blazing with crimson gasps. A caress of pepper. Fine particles of super-heated star dust. An embrace of fruit: velvet, silk and satin in a single peach-coloured cocoon. Blades of grass on fire. Sandalwood whispering creamy promises. The scent is an unapologetic expression of excess in a bottle. And yet it never loses its balance and not for one second does it tip into becoming crude. In short, it is the stuff of which masterpieces are made.

And now it's leaving us... which, with a bitter pang, brings me back to that original idea of mine: "The scent of the house after Madame Persolaise has sprayed Nahéma." I'm probably going to have to steal her bottle and hide it, because I cannot bear the thought that when she uses up the last drop, the scent's incomparable, knee-melting, mind-expanding perfection will be relegated to the past. I'll have to conceal it well and bring it out very rarely, when the nights are dark, the curtains are drawn and I'm listening to a grief-stricken ballad by Googoosh, so that I can properly mark the passing of such great beauty.

Persolaise

* For some telling comments made in 2013 by Guerlain's current perfumer, Thierry Wasser, please click here.

20 comments:

  1. Hello - what a wonderful review! Do you know where I could find the pure parfum in the United States? I believe my grandmother used to wear it and I would love to have a bottle! Thank you!

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    1. Veronica, thanks for stopping by. I'm really sorry, but I don't know much about Guerlain availability in the US. Perhaps someone else reading this could help out?

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    2. I bought my bottle this summer at Saks in Houston, TX.

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    3. Anon, thanks so much for that :-)

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  2. The reasons for its discontinuation are complicated and varied but the EDP is still an excellent interpretation of the source, and surely better to have that than nothing at all? The Parfum has already sold out of most UK stores so grab it if you can.

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    Replies
    1. Stephan, I'd agree that the edp is better than nothing at all... but it simply isn't as grand and memorable as the parfum. It's interesting that the parfum is selling out.

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  3. i am shocked...you would think it would be maintained out of respect to jean-paul guerlain and it's importance to the history of the brand..capitalism is depressing : (

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    Replies
    1. Flowergirlbee, I know what you mean, but I'm not sure capitalism is the sole deciding factor in this case. Still, the discontinuation is very sad indeed.

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    2. i was thinking it was mainly lack of sales driven but i guess apres parfum was discontinued because of IFRA regulations so are you thinking the same applies here?

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    3. I wouldn't be at all surprised if anti-allergen standards had something to do with this. If Nahema contains substantial proportions of rose materials (which it purportedly does) then it would have fallen foul of the standards. Do have a look at the comments made by Thierry Wasser (see the link at the end of the article).

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  4. Thank you so much for alerting us to the fact the parfum is being discontinued. I just bought a bottle. So sad. I'm sure Theirry tried his best to keep it. I do wish that Guerlain would give the classics a decent advertising campaign - I really believe that once folk tried those beautifully crafted perfumes, they would appreciate them. With regard to my precious bottle, I read that rose absolute deteriorates quickly, how long can I keep it (in a cool and dark place) before I can open the bottle? Kind regards, Stephi

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    1. Stephi, yes, I couldn't agree more. Very sad news.

      Hmm... how to advise you on your storage question? This isn't an easy one to answer. I'll tell you what I'd do. I would always keep it in the fridge, even after opening it. I'd use it... umm... wisely, but I wouldn't be stingy. It is meant to be enjoyed, after all. And I'd certainly expect it to stay in good condition for years.

      Does that help? :-)

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  5. I just confirmed with Guerlain in Vegas that Nahema extrait is NOT discontinued. Apparently only Nahema available in bee bottles will no longer be produced .. The extrait is not discontinued.
    Confirmed from Guerlain Las Vegas as of December 1st

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    1. Hi Mimi,

      Thanks very much for this. I'm afraid your info contradicts what I've ascertained. As far as I'm aware, Nahema extrait will be deleted from the line-up from January 2016.

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  6. Persolaise ..it is v strange. The Guerlain manager is adamant that Nahema is staying in extrait. I was there in person in Vegas and had a long conversation with her about Nahema. Oh well ! I really hope Nahema will not be discontinued but as usual the customer has no control .

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    1. Mimi, yes, it's weird. And goodness knows, it wouldn't be the first time a brand had given out conflicting information. Let's see what happens. I just hope I turn out to be wrong!

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  7. You inspired me to buy some. I'm having a hard time keeping my arms and wrists away from my nose long enough to type this. Thank you for another late-blooming favourite.

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    1. Really? I'm so pleased - and relieved! - that you like it. Isn't it just the most swoon-inducing rose ever?

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    2. It is glorious indeed. And pretty long-lasting; a good 5-6 hours at least on me. The only other perfumes with a similarly "inspiring" effect (literally; I must have doubled my lung capacity since your post) are Amouage Homage and my beloved Or Noir (Pascal Morabito). I am truly thankful.

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    3. Hanamini, I'm not sure I can take much credit, but you're welcome. Nahema is very special indeed.

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