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, not because it was made badly) 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.