How to be a nomad, Guerlain Samsara

There is this word in sanskrit – संसार. Those symbols read as saṅsāra or saṃsāra. In Hinduism and Buddhism this term means the “continuous flow”, the circle of life and death. There’s one more hidden meaning behind samsara. A literal translation means “a wandering through” and it refers to the style of life when you never settle in one place for good, you change locations every now and then, you become a nomad, an eternal wanderer through world and different stages of life. This must have fascinated Jean-Paul Guerlain, if he launched a Samsara perfume in 1989.

The opening of Guerlain Samsara treats me to luscious and juicy tones. First of all I smell tart lemon with a brisky shot of bergamot on top of it. The feeling is slightly sour and acidic yet very pleasing. Those citrusy tones don’t last more than 15 minutes on my skin, that’s when the peach accord enters. Also juicy but with additional milky, lactonic effect. It smells very soft and warm, with an aroma of sun-kissed fuzzy peel. This impression lasts for around 20-30 minutes and then the milkiness gets more condensed and it eventually turns into something much more creamy, velvety and less fruity.

To mark the end of 1st hour of wearing this fragrance Samsara gives you the creamy and floral bouquet created with the use of ylang-ylang essence. This tropical flower has something incredibly delicate and alluring about its smell. It’s a little bit citrusy, kind of like a coconut yet the floral heart dominates. After 1,5 hours the luxurious creamy vibe transforms into something more powdery when iris takes the lead. It’s delicate and rendered in a traditional way. It provides the powdery aroma with dewy facets mingling in the background. Then another change is about to appear.

Closer to the end of the second hour Guerlain Samsara gains the beautiful richness of the woods. The main feature of this woody accord is the sandalwood, here presented in the rather light, sophisticated and smooth way. Still noticeable ylang adds the creaminess to it. After a while the wood becomes warmer but it doesn’t develop the dry facet. The growing feeling of warmth is the doing of tonka bean – it introduces the typical warm and spicy element to the composition. This note is creamy, soft and tender. A luminous amber chord makes this stage even more pretty, adding some golden shades to the blend.

Later on the concoction of amber and tonka become stronger together, adding each other some power to bring the balsamic vibe. It lasts for a while and after some time it’s stopped with the floralities of jasmine note. It’s a little bit heady with a lot of white flowers but it doesn’t bring the animalic indolic smell, so the effect obtained is quite clean and nice. Some time later I could smell the powdery earthiness provided by orris root. I love the aroma it gives!

After a few hours of smelling different elements of Guerlain Samsara – mostly the sandalwood, tonka, less iris and jasmine you will most likely notice a short-lasting refreshing and watery, ozonic vibe. No worries, that’s not a calone. It’s just a bit of violet flowers. This stage quickly vanishes because vanilla appears really shortly after the violet, adding some tender sweetness that mimics the meringue smell. Narcissus/daffodill accord adds some more milkiness combined with yellow floral tones to the scent. In my opinion it smells very nice and matches the entire perfume idea.

Lately I could smell a little bit of rose. Not very prominent, not intensively red, with a smell between the velvety and dewy sides of the aroma spectrum. But I could smell more musk which I found to be rather soft and creamy, delicate and clean in style. But there was a little bit of sweaty dirtiness to it as well. In this form it lasted on my skin for the rest of the day.

Guerlain Samsara is a very pretty perfume. At first whiff it seems to an incredibly feminine perfume but when you get to know this composition better you will notice more clearly that men can also wear it. I don’t know if this perfume evokes the spirit of being a nomad, if it agrees with the samsara ideology. From a perfume with such background tale you’d expect something more in style of contemporary L’Air du Desert Marocain from Andy Tauer. But I enjoy Guerlain Samsara eau de toilette (as this review was written based on the sample of eau de toilette concentration) and the ideology doesn’t have a prior meaning to me. Perfume is the most important.

Samsara from Guerlain was launched in 1989, so it’s 25 years old now, just one year older that I am! Basically it comes as eau de toilette, eau de parfum and as an extrait – all these concentrations share in common a red glass flacon with golden details.

[note] Samsara ads: picture 2 –, picture 4 – theperfumebaseline

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12 thoughts on “How to be a nomad, Guerlain Samsara

  1. jillie says:

    Aaaah, Samsara….. Another perfume that I bought as soon as it was launched and have worn on and off ever since. It was quite a groundbreaker when it first appeared, and unlike any other fragrance then. You describe it so well. I just wonder what you would make of the original formulation – and in the edp strength – which was wonderful, rich and smooth. I believe in those days they used Mysore sandalwood, which of course the current version doesn’t. These days it is still beautiful, but much thinner and slightly harsh to my nose.

    I was shopping in a big hardware store one day and became aware of a chap following me. Finally he came up to me and said “What perfume are you wearing? It is so lovely and reminds me of my holiday in Provence.” What a compliment for Samsara!

    • lucasai says:

      So Samsara for you is like an old friend? I can imagine that it was something different for the begininng of nineties of XX century. EdP of vintage would be probably harder to describe, but I’m sure they were luxurious. And the mysore sandalwood, mhm…

      That is a lovely compliment that you and Samsara got!

  2. hajusuuri says:

    Woo hoo! I am at the airport and will pop in to duty-free to smell this. What a lovely description! My free wi-if will probably expire by the time I do that so will comment later over tomorrow with my thoughts.

  3. I love Samsara. It’s one of those fragrances that is unique to itself and have found no other sandalwood perfume quite like it. Thanks for the incredible review.

  4. Undina says:

    Lucas, I just have to share with you this post I did a couple of years ago!
    I like Samsara and even have a bottle of EdT (as you know) but I don’t wear it – something else comes before it every time I think of wearing it. After all, I have two other “siblings” in my collection as well.

    • lucasai says:

      Thanks for sharing that deja vu post. Great that you have a bottle but too bad that you rarely wear it. But it’s a bit justified by the fact of having other “sibilings” of Samsara

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