Saturday, June 03, 2006

Perfumes of Passion

Guerlain Nahéma is unique in that it has a following of singers: Shirley Manson, Natalie Cole, Madonna, Joan Jett. What is it about Nahéma that makes the cut with divas in the spotlight? It is an intense, powerful perfume, a robust blend of roses, passionfruit, vanilla, amber and woods, a huge perfume that intimidates most women but one that can keep up with the dynamic energy of women in Rock and in the limelight in general. Created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1979, it was a passionate composition inspired by his muse of the moment, French art film actress Catherine Deneuve. Did she wear it? I'm not sure, although she is known to have worn other Guerlain creations such as L'Heure Bleue and Chamade. I also don't know if Jean-Paul Guerlain's passion for Ms. Deneuve was ever reciprocated, but the important thing, at least in this perfume story, is that Nahéma has survived the years since its birth in '79 and continues to enjoy a cult following of women who aren't afraid of its power.

The beautiful bottle pictured is known for having a small teardrop etched in it. This design is no longer being produced. Sadly, I'm not sure if Nahéma is still made in its purest parfum form anymore.

Jan Moran's notes:
Nahéma--(Floral-Aldehyde) 1979
Top Notes: Peach, bergamot, greens, aldehydes
Heart Notes: Rose hyacinth, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lilac, lily of the valley
Base Notes: Passion fruit, Peru balsam, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, sandalwood

Samsara is another creation by Jean-Paul Guerlain that was dedicated to a different woman, but this time, according to legend, it was this woman's inner beauty that enthralled him most of all. For her, he had dedicated not one but two perfumes: this Floral Oriental beauty called Samsara (1989) and later, a sultry white floral called Mahora (2000). Both perfumes are extraordinarily heady, passionate blends revealing the status of his heart. Samsara is a warm, powdery, musky, smoky, firey yet meditative, serene blend made for a woman who loved Eastern religion and spirituality. Her favorite notes, jasmine and sandalwood, embody the heart and soul of this intoxicating composition. The bottle design, according to Michael Edwards' book, Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, was inspired by Chinese and Japanese pagodas. Samsara became a huge commercial success and is still a Guerlain bestseller.

Michael Edwards' notes:
Samsara (Woody Floral Oriental) 1989
Top: Bergamot
Heart: Jasmine, rose, narcissus, ylang-ylang
Base: Sandalwood, iris, tonka, vanilla

Sometime later, the lady had tired of Samsara when it became so popular around the world that everyone was wearing it. Even if Jean-Paul had blended her special blend by hand, Samsara was still Samsara and it was time for a new and exciting change. The perfumer created the devastating Mahora, described by Jan Moran as "a lush floral Oriental fragrance which draws its name from the native dialect of Mayotte, an island in the Indian Ocean where perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain once had a home". Based on frangipani, an exotic white flower known as "the Flower of the Gods", Mahora is another intense fragrance but this time, it's a fragrance full of light and tranquility, the scent of love once requited even if for one perfect moment in time, if only in a dream. If paradise had a scent, Mahora might be its languid overture of bliss.

According to Michael Edwards:
Mahora (Floral Oriental) 2000
Bewitching top notes of tuberose & essence of frangipani heightened by neroli & jasmine on a voluptuous bed of vetiver, vanilla & sandalwood.

(Images: Image de Parfums, Perfumes4less,