Friday, 19 October 2018

Persolaise Review: Samsara from Guerlain (Jean-Paul Guerlain; 1989)


Does anyone else play this game? A few weeks ago, Madame Persolaise and I found ourselves in a medium-sized European airport and, as she usually does in such situations, she’d arrived unscented so that I could look around the shop and choose something for her. As most Duty Frees still don’t stock non-mainstream releases - they can’t all be like Dubai International, I suppose - I always find this an interesting little exercise in working out what I’d wear - or buy for someone else - if I didn’t have access to the wares of the independent sector, or even the ‘exclusive’ lines from the more familiar brands. As my eyes glanced over the Versaces, the Armanis and the D&G’s, I wondered if my interest in perfumery would have been as strong as it is today if I’d been brought up on a diet of current mainstream fare (ie Invictus, YSL L’Homme and Eros) rather than that of the 80s and 90s (Antaeus, Fahrenheit, CK One).

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.]

Persolaise

14 comments:

  1. Carolyn Middleton19 October 2018 at 16:48

    I am so glad you found something at DF, Persolaise - I tend not to even bother these days, although sometimes Schipol is worth a more in depth exploration. Unfortunately my next international trip involves Heathrow & Houston, so I'm not holding my breath - although a visit to the local Sephora while in Texas is something I am looking forward to. Distinct lack of independent perfume shops where our friends live, north of Houston, unfortunately.

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    1. Carolyn, thanks for writing. Depending on which Heathrow terminal you're going through, you may actually have a few interesting things to sniff... but then there are always the crowds to contend with.

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  2. I can relate to the game of 'what would you wear if...'...When I was in an airport last summer in Portland, Oregon, I was lucky enough to stumble across a Kiehl's boutique and bought a travel-sized bottle of Original Musk, which is really quite a nice scent and a great traveling companion.

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    1. John, thanks very much for the comment. And yes, their Musk is still pretty good stuff!

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  3. I love these big fragrances from the 80s. Great review!

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    1. Richard, thanks very much indeed. Yes, I have a soft spot for them too.

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  4. I’m so happy to read this review. Thank you Persolaise!


    Yes, I’ve played the same perfume game :) last time was at Newark airport - there wasn’t a duty free shop, but there were perfume and cosmetic stands in the terminal. The Tom Ford stand many empty bottles, but I tried Champaca Absolute on a whim and it was delightful!

    Testing Samsara in a duty free shop is the perfect lense to consider it’s past and compare it to current trends.

    I have a Samsara and am enjoying it a lot these days!

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    1. Blehnner, thanks so much for writing. And yes, you're right: opportunities like these are perfect for looking at the past anew... as long as it hasn't been reformulated beyond recognition.

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  5. As someone who was born in the same year as Samsara, I have never experienced the original. I wonder if you would prefer EDP (discontinued?) or EDT?

    Love your latest 'Love at first scent' episode 21 BTW! The press release of XS is one of the reasons why I no longer buy new releases from designer brands. Haha!

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    1. Christine, thanks so much for writing.

      Oooh, no question: edp over edt. Although I do think the edt is great too. Of course, the best version is still the extrait, which you often stumble upon at French antique fairs... but I appreciate France may not be on your doorstep.

      As for that press release, yes, I know what you mean. Totally took me surprise... which is part of the fun of those videos, of course.

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  6. I agree with your comments about Samsara - especially the opening notes. However on my skin it develops into a very romantic and tender fragrance and at the end of the day it is powdery and soft like baby talcum powder. I love Samsara, always have, since its release, but at the time I was young and broke so I would stop at Selfridges on my way to or back from work and spray it on me. Last Christmas my children offered me a bottle of the EDP and although I noticed the difference in the potency of the headier notes I think it's a pleasure to wear it and I'll make sure I always have it in my collection now that I can afford it.:)

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    1. Phew! I found your comment :-)

      Thanks so much for writing... and what a wonderful gift to receive from your children.

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  7. Awesome post! I love your work and all the Guerlain classics to death. Was this the bee bottle Samsara you tried? And you say it’s not too far from the original? Or the last red bottle formula?

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    1. Thanks so much for writing, Jonathan. This was one of the modern bee bottles. And it didn't seem too bad to me at all :-)

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