Perfume Directory

Samsara Eau de Parfum (1989)
by Guerlain

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Samsara Eau de Parfum information

Year of Launch1989
GenderFeminine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 640 votes)

People and companies

HouseGuerlain
PerfumerJean Paul Guerlain
PackagingRobert Granai
Parent CompanyLVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton
Parent Company at launchGuerlain

About Samsara Eau de Parfum

Samsara is a Sanskrit word signifying "the cycle of birth and rebirth", and is the path to nirvana. The scent is a woody-floral oriental.

Samsara Eau de Parfum fragrance notes

Reviews of Samsara Eau de Parfum

Well isn't this just a gorgeous perfume? Jean-Paul Guerlain seems to have co-opted the multitude of notes and massive blending of his predecessor Jacques Guerlain and created a lush, creamy, sandalwood-based oriental seemingly an ode to both his Grandfather's work and the Middle East, which itself inspired many of Jacques' creations. "Samsara" is sanskrit for the circle of birth and rebirth, signifying the eventual path to Nirvana, and there is little else heavenly as this fragrance. Early formulations of Samsara (1989) are also noted for their heavy use of Mysore sandalwood in the composition, and although no blended Western perfume is really a good reference for the now over-harvested and scarce prized sandalwood variety, Samsara in its original configuration was among some of the richest displays of the note in the base of a Western perfume, making vintage bottles particularly prized by sandalwood fans. Modern Samsara does what it can to achieve the same accord admirably, and is recognizable as the same perfume, but extremely divisive opinions leading to combativeness can happen when discussing Samsara among enthusiasts.

My review sample hails from an opaque red plastic 3.4oz/100ml eau de parfum example of undetermined age used as a tester for those looking to compare observations. The opening of Samara has a fantastically sharp chypre plume of bergamot, peach, lemon, and galbanum, like a thicker, greener, drier Mitsouko (1919), bridging the fresher aspects of that style with the woody creamy base which follows. Jasmine and rose do their fleshy indolic dance atop orris butter and clean ylang-ylang, with narcissus and violet leading up the chorus and disappearing into the harmony. The sandalwood has already made its presence known even by the heart, but its dryness is passed with coumarin, amber, vanilla, musk, and a touch of animalic benzoin to build up a buttery finish which is the coveted finale of the perfume. The florals are definitely more stern than in Shalimar (1924) and the finish less vanillic, powdery, or like the foundation makeup that often bore a proxy of Guerlinade, but that core house note is still there. I find Samsara perfectly suitable for a dandy but less flamboyant guys won't want to go near this stuff, as its tune is dead center unisex at best but will most likely read feminine to the average nose.

Various concentrations and reformulations to account for price points and the dwindling (then depleted) amounts of Mysore make Samsara impossible to rank on performance, but my EdP example in the red plastic bottle was strong at first, then soft but ever-present for hours and hours afterwards, which is not entirely different from the grandiose wake of fragrance Shalimar leaves, just scaled back further to more-contemporary tolerances. Samsara along with Héritage (1992) would be among the last of the classically-styled Guerlain perfumes made by a member of the Guerlain family given widespread release, and signified the end of an era for the prestigious house that would enter into more trend-focused compositions to keep the boat afloat after the house was sold by the family to LVMH. Samsara is just plain gorgeous for many more reasons than I can fit into a review, but if lovely green citrus and rounded florals over creamy sandalwood and vanilla don't at least sound a little appealing to you, I'm not entirely sure you're in the right place. Samsara is best in median temperatures but really is neutral enough to be worn any time, although its character absolutely leans romantic to my nose. Very much worth a sniff in any form, but obviously vintage preferred. Thumbs up!
10th June, 2019 (last edited: 17th June, 2019)
I’m wearing a 1980s vintage parfum (extrait) and it’s quite mellow with sweet, top notes that are floral and herbal. Very beautiful.

14th February, 2019
I am sniffing some 1980's-vintage SAMSARA EDT on my hand now. After not having experienced it for years. I had remembered I once liked it, but now might have to re-evaluate.

I know it had been initially released during the rise of the New Age/Yoga movement, intended to be a relaxing and meditative and "spiritual" fragrance.

Yet that's not how I'm reading it now. I am very surprised to see just how powerful the aldehyde topnotes are... the "cosmetic" components of the scent, which make it seem very "perfume-y" indeed, and not as "mellow" and woody as I thought I'd remembered it...

The scent on my hand here is very tart floral and brilliantly aldehydic, with the aldehydic topnotes not evanescing quickly at all... They last for a long time, with an almost "coriander"-like sharpness... plenty of iris, and hints of something anisic, in keeping with the "Guerlinade" that haunts things like L'HEURE BLEUE (which used to be much more licorice-y than it is today).

And of course, I'm getting the pronounced heliotrope with its hint of vanilla.

Oddly the sandalwood here seems very restrained... not especially "mystical" or "Indian" or "meditative". It has no chance to get milky/spicy/warm, what with the intense, sharp green-floral-aldehydes here.

I'm pretty sure I detect ambergris, with its curious quality like a woman's lips, breath and skin. SAMSARA is much more "femme" than I had remembered it.

Guerlain always does a good job... even their lesser-scents have an undeniable quality and integrity. And this is indeed a fine, quality perfume. Quite pleasant, but not really my thing...
12th November, 2018
Lorette with Turban Yellow Jacket By Henri Matisse
27th August, 2018
I’ve got a Parfum miniature from the 90’s of this very potent potion. There’s nothing I dislike about it. The bitter opening is great, the fruity-floral dry down is gorgeous, and the powdery base beautiful.
02nd March, 2018
I have a weird thing with sandalwood fragrances: when I spray them on a card, I smell no sandalwood at all. This is the reason it took me over a year to try Samsara, because on the tester strip it smelled very unappealing.

However, trying it on skin is a completely different story! It's a gorgeous, creamy, sweet sandalwood; unapologetic, sexy, and bordering on garish, for a Guerlain.

The current EdT gives me the most pencil-shaving-sandalwood, which I love, but the base is too vanillic and plastic-ey. The current day EdP is massive in projection and sillage, almost too much for me. The vintage EdP is the baby bear of Samsaras for me; rounder and slightly more chic, and the sandalwood in this reminds me a bit of Bois des Iles.

The only thing that's missing is the lovely pencil-shaving note from the EdT, so I'm going to experiment with layering this with Diptique's Tam Dao, which has that in spades.

It's the loudest, least subtle fragrance I own, but I absolutely love it.
19th November, 2017

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