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