Guerlain Samsara: I Can’t, I Simply Can’t

samsara   Everyone has one.  A fragrance that is associated so strongly with another person or time that it cannot be seen as a stand alone fragrance to be viewed objectively.  It could be the signature scent of a former colleague, or in-law, or it could be the smell of a disastrous night out or date. Whatever the reason, many perfume lovers have a smell they cannot detach from, no matter how random or illogical the association.

For me, that smell is Guerlain Samsara.  It may explain why it has taken me so long to get around to reviewing it. Years ago, I knew a couple who had appalling personal hygiene. The smell of Samsara in their flat was all pervading day and night and masked the strong, unwashed smell of hair and clothes and body so that I was never sure if the perfume was musky or if it was the unwashed clothes.  It served to put me right off, good and proper, like the opposite of Pavlov’s dogs.  I see a bottle of Samsara and I walk away, swerving with almost comical briskness.

Decades later, I steeled myself to chase away the perfumed ghosts.

It wasn’t until I spent a few days wearing it that I realised how similar Samsara is to Serge Lutens Feminité du Bois.  Feminité du Bois is woodier and has rougher edges (deliberately) but the robustness and dusty spice is similar.  Sadly, to me, Feminité du Bois smells like unwashed knickers ( which I tried to Google and wished I hadn’t), so I guess we’re back to square one on that one.   Or maybe one explains the other.

On first spray Samsara is immediately woody, green and juicy.  The sandalwood is then the strongest note, followed by the Musk, at least to my nose. There’s a touch of earthy iris and orris root, and its rich with amber, but the opening is fruity and juicy and spicy all at once.  There is a waft of definite banana like ylang in the top notes, but it skidaddles before the mood gets serious. The base note holds that unmistakable musky sandalwood that means you can spot Samsara from 20 paces, and longevity is of course, excellent, whether you like it or not.

You could wear Guerlain Samsara on a date and you (and your date) would still be enjoying olfactory reminders three days later.  The success of this is up to you.  Please wear Samsara responsibly. Whatever way I look at it though, and whichever angle I come from, it will sadly always be the smell of a girl who uses perfume instead of soap.

I’m sorry Samsara fans, it’s not you, and it’s definitely me.

PS If you are a friend of mine and you are reading this, you are not the unhygienic couple.  They are long gone.

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6 Comments

  1. I love Samsara…but completely understand your phobia towards it. What a funny story…I guess these people were old school by not showering and then masking with perfume. How 17th Century of them :) Fun read.

    • My dear Mr Hound,

      Always a pleasure when you drop by. I like your diplomatic use of “Old School”. I think that works really well with Bal A Versailles, but Samsara in the mid 1990s just doesn’t have the same audacity!

  2. I think we all have particular memories of those 80s big bombshell perfumes – this, Giorgio, Opium, Poison… and I confess to occasionally having taken what my totally politically incorrect ex calls ‘a Spanish shower’ where you spray on a load of deodorant and then a load more fragrance.
    (No, I’m not the Smelly Nelly of the story, just in case anyone is asking – though I know this because I only came to Samsara later in life, by which time I had discovered that you’re never too pushed for time to take a shower when you honk.)

    • Thank you my dear for the kind loan of the bottle. I think Samsara is a good perfume but I don’t think I will ever like it. Isn’t it a shame when it gets ruined for you?

      And no, when it comes to smells, you are the friend I am most interesting in sniffing. I know how bad that sounds but you know what I mean! xxx

  3. Now this is one that I discovered a few years ago in a thrift store and fell for. I don’t wear it much away from home (it can be LOUD), but I do carry a small atomizer in my purse and take a sniff from the sprayer when I encounter obnoxious smells on transit.

    • Hi Lindaloo, always lovely to hear from you. Your comment makes me LOL as I carry perfume to ward off Samsara fumes! Seriously, it’s a beautiful perfume that has been sadly ruined for me. :-(

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