Guerlain Samsara is definitely a bombastic perfume. There are two stories about the origin of this perfume which was released in 1989. The romantic story of the scent itself tells us that Jean-Paul Guerlain sought inspiration in China and Tibet to create Samsara, The Sanskrit word, translated, means “continuous flow”.
“Samsara is a Sanskrit word that has its roots in Hinduism. It signifies the cycle of birth and rebirth, the perpetual voyage from one existence to the next, the wheel of life that keeps on turning. Samsara is an invitation to serenity and harmony, with oneself and with the world. It is an homage to the woman who is ever in search of serenity.”
How fitting that sandalwood would figure in this scent- again images of temples, incense, prayer and meditation come to mind when one gets a whiff of sandalwood. The marketing story reminds us that it was 1985, an era of power scents and Samsara was created to get in on this action. Opium, Obsession and Chanel Coco were hot selling heavy orientals in a big 80s way, and Guerlain did a perfect job creating a contender with Samsara.
Back to bombastic. The notes from Guerlain speak of “a spellbinding predominance of jasmine. Rose, narcissus and ylang-ylang embellish the fragrance, the better to unite it with the radiant and generous warmth of sandalwood. Lastly, iris, Tonka bean and vanilla render this remarkable fragrance sublime”. I totally agree. There is the classic Guerlain base, commonly known as “Guerlinade” that most (not all) of the classic Guerlains have in common. This is a composition of several perfume notes but notably jasmine, iris, tonka and vanilla. I could drink this it is so divine- it makes you want to lean in and devour the wearer. So, take the Guerlinade, amp up the jasmine to almost obscene levels (in the best way!), then add a combination of pure and synthetic sandalwood at top volume and somehow the sandalwood grounds the jasmine and the jasmine lightens the sandalwood. A perfect and magical combination.
As with many perfumes today, there are different vintages of Samsara, the earlier ones containing more pure sandalwood. There is parfum (purest concentration of perfume), eau de parfum (more alchohol and not as concentrated than parfum) and eau de toilette (most common and less concentrated than eau de parfum and parfum) available in the Samsara line. I have the “vintage” (pre 1990) parfum and eau de toilette as I find the eau de parfum to be the 80s killer BIG PERFUME, but your mileage may vary. They are all powerful in that 80s sense but it’s all in the application. I lightly mist the eau de toilette with divine results. A few dabs of the parfum are intoxicating, the jasmine mingling with the sandalwood in a magical dance that teases forth from the skin. I often dab some on at bedtime (I never get into bed without perfume) and in the morning I can still smell it on my wrists. Samsara’s density makes it wear beautifully in cooler temperatures.
Samsara is one of those perfumes that smell wonderful wafting up from a pashmina or sweater. What are your favourite cozy scarf and sweater perfumes?