But anyway, this was about Madame P, not me. I did a few rounds of the small-ish perfumery department, picking up the odd bottle, daring myself to sniff the post-reformulation incarnations of classics. As so often happens when I indulge in this particular spot of time-killing, I ended up at Guerlain. And I was reminded yet again that, think what some of us may about the brand’s more recent output, as a whole, its main collection remains impressive. Indeed, it’s a testament to the skills of Thierry Wasser and his team that the likes of Jicky, Apres L’Ondee and Shalimar still smell as relevant, intriguing and downright beautiful as they have for as long as I’ve known them. But which of them did I choose for my endlessly patient travelling companion?
Somewhat to my own surprise, I selected what could be called their last ‘grand’ perfume: 1989’s Samsara, composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain. Yes, it prompted a fair amount of consternation when it was released, but the passage of time has revealed it to be an assertive, immediately recognisable statement on a baroque style of perfumery that probably died with the 80s: a Taj-Mahal-sized marriage of white florals (mainly jasmine and ylang) with musks, vanilla and that controversial sandalwood note. Like human flesh as butter (and therefore better), it is creamy, decadent and carnal in that haughty manner only the finest French scents seem to pull off. And yes, I know from my personal collection that it was smoother in its original incarnation. But I'm pleased to say that it’s still a force to contend with. And it made our flight most enjoyable.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained by the author in 2018.]