So rare to find a perfume that I would describe as heaven in a bottle. I want this as extract, not the EDP, and will wait until I can afford it.
Nahema is a perfume that I am struggling to wrap my head around. Part of the problem is that it smells nothing like the image I had built up in my head based on descriptors used over and over in the many reviews on this famous perfume, words like “lush”, “honeyed”, “sexy”, and “bombastic”. On my skin, it reads as a pale, vegetal rose choked back by a bush of oily green thorns and the pale green talc of hyacinth. In fact, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the spicy, resinous green floral of Chamade than to other perfumes in the fruity, oriental rose category such as Amouage’s Lyric Woman.
My first impression was not favorable. But I persisted, knowing that some of the classic Guerlains can take years of testing before truly understanding and loving the perfume. After weeks of sustained testing from my decant, I began to notice an interesting thing – Nahema comes alive as a rose only in its far sillage. I sprayed some on as a mid-course refresher during a family lunch, and my niece nearly swooned. “What do you smell?” I asked her. “Roses, big red roses, and maybe some fruit?”, she replied, “Definitely spices too. Oh, it is so beautiful!”
Ever since then, I’ve wondered if I am hunting the mystical rose in Nahema the same way I hunted for Mitsouko’s peach for a whole year – that is, in completely the wrong way, with my nose pressed anxiously against my wrist, like a detective looking so hard for a clue that he fails to notice the obvious. Perhaps Nahema’s rose just needs some room to breathe and unfold into being, on her own time. It’s funny, but I expected Nahema to be simpler than Mitsouko, which it is, but I hadn't expected the main advertised note to be so damn elusive.
As always with Guerlain classics, the concentration and the vintage of the version one is testing tend to differ wildly. This certainly holds true for Nahema. I have a small decant of the 1980’s Parfum de Toilette and a 2ml bottle of the pure parfum (modern, I believe). The Parfum de Toilette is green, tart, and strident all the way through, and recalls Chamade more than anything else. Here and there in the PDT, I do catch whiffs of a pale, chalky rose and some fruit, but on the whole, it is not particularly inviting.
The pure parfum is much better, and presents itself as an exuberantly fruity, winey, almost decaying rose and peach or passion fruit combination. However, it lacks the bombastic punch I had been expecting of a perfume so stuffed with different varieties of rose oils that Thierry Wasser of Guerlain thinks that if IFRA caught wind of it, it would be immediately deemed a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”. Neither the pure parfum nor the PDT give me any hint of the famous red rose dripping in honey and fruit that I’d read so much about, and longed for.
Layered, the pure parfum and the Parfum de Toilette do eventually come together to provide an image of a rose – the green talc of the poisonous hyacinth suggesting the thorns, the rotting fruit and wine of the pure parfum suggesting the petals. Luca Turin said of Nahema in the Guide that it is too complex to analyze, and that the first few minutes are like “an explosion played in reverse: a hundred disparate, torn shreds of fragrance propelled by a fierce, accelerating vortex to coalesce into a perfect form that you fancy would then walk towards you, smiling as if nothing had happened.” Reading his words, I long for his experience of Nahema, because I wanted it to be mine too – but I simply can’t match it to the polite, muted, oddly sour mixed green floral I am smelling.
I'm kind of amazed at how boring an expensive parfum extrait can be on my skin. Aside from a brief moment when there was a hint of Mitsouko, it settled into smelling like peach Jell-O and never varied. Sadness.
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This one just didn't work with my chemistry. Or whatever. For at least an hour at first blast I got a screechy note of pencil lead, strong! After that the rose finally emerged, but I didn't like the interpretation at all, and I love roses. It was a skinscent for me so I could barely detect it a couple hours later. I eagerly awaited the vanilla but even that was disappointing; its richness spoiled. In the end, I really don't have anything good to say about it.
10th February, 2015 (last edited: 23rd February, 2015)
Genre: Floral Oriental
Nahéma is often spoken of as a rose soliflore, but I think of it more as a spicy, fruity floral-oriental that’s just stronger on the rose than most. While Nahéma’s heart contains plenty of rose, there’s just as much peach and cinnamon in the blend, plus plenty of Guerlain’s trademark vanilla securing the foundation.
The powdery peach note aligns Nahéma with both Mitsouko and Chant d’Aromes within the Guerlain constellation. In depth and weight it lies somewhere between the two – lighter than Mitsouko, but more dense than Chant d’Aromes. With its vanillic base notes, it also happens to be sweeter than either. The smoky vanilla and cinnamon meanwhile bear relation to Shalimar, though abundant aldehydes carry Nahéma far from its elder sister’s dark viscosity. Among contemporary scents, Nahéma also stands comparison with Amouage’s recent Lyric and Lyric for Men, which are likewise centered on spiced fruit and rose. Lacking the dark woods and incense of either Amouage, however, Nahéma is a far softer, fresher, and more buoyant fragrance.
With its aldehydes, powder, and sweet fruit, Nahéma strikes me as less comfortably unisex than Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue, and far less so than the very gender neutral Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko. Lacking the crisp, refreshing green notes of Chamade and Chant d’Aromes, Nahéma also reads to me as the most unabashedly romantic of the modern Guerlain florals. Nahéma is potent stuff, radiating its larger-than-life rose and fruit for miles from the skin in its parfum concentration, and leaving great clouds of sillage behind it. If you’re going to wear Nahéma, you’d better really like it, because everyone in the vicinity is going to know it’s there.
Viewed in historical perspective, Nahéma’s central rose and fruit accord could be taken as a precursor of the fruity floral tidal wave that’s swamped women’s perfumes for the last couple of decades. To blame Guerlain would be unfair, however. Nahéma has never been popular or well recognized enough to spur a mass market trend, and where Nahéma is characteristically elegant, poised and beautifully balanced, the degenerate mob that has followed is invariably crude, awkward, and marred by grossly inferior ingredients. It’s a credit to Nahéma’s composition that the ongoing run of gawky fruity florals has not debased it in the slightest.
This was mainly a nutty, creamy sandalwood with traces of waxy honey and some low-level animalic facets. There’s a green, stemmy note that slides in later—a subtly bitter kind of thing—but aside from that and a splash of peach aldehyde and ionones, there’s not much going on with this. Quite balsamic and polite, but lacks any real adventure. It’s a solid enough fragrance, but feels anachronistic as, for me, it conjures up the impression of a bustling 1970s fragrance counter with lots of bad fashion and bad decor floating around. It certainly feels old, but not in a vintage sense.
Nice, but not compelling
I'm wearing it for the first time today after receiving a miniature and it's not a scent I'll return to. Not so much because there's anything wrong with it, but more because there's nothing powerfully right in this pleasant floral. Do I smell pumpkins? The Jasmine's there and, for me, that's usually essential. I can smell peach and I love the sandalwood I think I detect. But somehow it reminds me of old clothes. Okay, it's not me. Washing it off to try my vintage Shalimar.
Structurally and as a chemical creation, Nahema is certainly interesting for its famed simulated super complex "digital rose" impression. Yet for wear I do not find current Nahema compelling, more like one of those it's-been-done-to-death rose ankle tattoos. The vintage extrait is much better, though I couldn't quite figure it out enough to review (the sample I had of the parfum may have been slightly off, so it's up in the air).
In current pdt, it's earthy, almost vegetal but too luxe and Guerlain to be naturalistic. Nahema reminds me of a backyard garden dotted with rotting pumpkins just after Halloween, and some kids threw their less desirable candies into the mix with that opening hint of a burnt chocolatey sugar shoved into all of the wild, ornate abstraction. An oily brightness evokes sunflowers even more than roses.
The lasting power of the current pdt isn't great: loud for a few minutes then very quiet for two hours, then gone (this may be due to proverbial "perfume-eating skin"). I also don't get along well with Samsara for being similarly overly complex but simplistic. Maybe Jean-Paul Guerlain's post-60s later baroque, almost prog rock style just doesn't appeal to me. Likely this is a case of not seeing the perfumer's point of view but being able to admire the effect only at a distance.
On repeat wears and sniffs, another American candy holiday keeps coming to mind in flashes of memory: Valentine's Day. The contrived romance, unappetizing glut of chocolates, plasticky dew drop roses. And this very same evocation could be delightfully irreverent, romantic, or disco cool to someone else. And some of the times I wore Nahema were quite enjoyable--a tough opening and an interesting drydown. Nahema does smell very modern, almost futuristic, kind of like a pared-down Poison for punk and grunge revivalist girls of the endless nostalgic future. Of a slightly different bent, I prefer scary Aromatics Elixir, notorious La Nuit, and eerily perfect Voleur de Roses for unsettling rose with thorns intact, not digitized.
This sweet scent smelled fine in the bottle but on my skin took on a strange personality, not horrible just strange. It was a rainy humid day and it seemed like the sweetness just grew and grew until it became almost sickening.
I'd like to try it again under better weather conditions. But isn't that bottle one of the most gorgeous you have ever seen?
Soft, buttery, creamy, definitely Guerlain. Six hours down the line it ends up more as skimmed milk than cream, but regardless of this, its entire duration is a breath of fresh air.
NAHEMA – Guerlain – 1979 [floral/rose]
There is a pleasant green note to this dry, light rose scent that makes it a perfect summer cologne. Well worth the investment, financially, as it is a loyal soldier in one’s supporting scent collection, always there to perform admirably when one just can’t choose.
Top Notes: Peach, Bergamot
Middle Notes: Bulgarian Rose, Rose de Mai, Rose Hyacinth, Ylang Ylang, Lilac, Jasmine, Muguet
Base Notes: Passion Fruit, Peru Balsam, Benzoin, Vanilla, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Styrax
The first spray of this induced something of a swoon; this was no mere fragrance, it had the sweep of a constellation. When, after a few moments, my eyes opened again, I found myself asking the charming shop owner this completely unnecessary question: 'Why do people bother with the evergrowing ranks of the unimaginative when something like this exists?' (One knows the answer to that, really: taste, budgets, and humankind not being able to bear too much mastery.)
That Nahema has a rose or a peach or a balsamic note is beside the point almost, one feels, so vertiginously incredible is its execution. It evokes memories of beautiful perfumes encountered in the past yet remains entirely itself. It has a myriad facets in perfect balance without collapsing into density. Its radiance catches me in a blinding searchlight beam of romance to which surrender is the only possibility. When it settles, it spreads a mood of dreaminess and calm – fatal for work! I love it for telling me that sometimes life can be like this.
Guerlain NAHEMA is a truly unique creation. It actually reminds me of chewing on crayons for some reason. Not that I've ever chewed on crayons, but the texture feels the same to me as I imagine it would feel to chew on crayons. What is odd, however, is that instead of being put off by the slightly soft crayon wax, I actually love it!
In spite of all that has been written about the lack of any true rose in this composition, I myself do smell a dark red, very rich rose quality here. True, it is nothing like the rose notes of typical rose perfumes--whether soliflores or fruity florals. And I also prefer the quality of the rose note here to that of rose geranium, which often accompanies or substitutes for rose. What marks NAHEMA as distinct is that this "rose" is coated with wax: these "petals" are dense and thick and waiting to be shaved--or chewed.
Is NAHEMA the queen of all rose perfumes? I think that to make such a claim is to do a great disservice to this sui generis perfume, as it exhausts its own genre. It doesn't really make sense to compare this to anything else. It is what it is, and it's not what it's not. One thing is clear: it's definitely nothing like any other perfume known to me.
Twolf, thank you so much for introducing me to this beauty!
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Is Nahéma still (again) available in South Africa? I have not seen advertisements in decades, literally, and was told some 20 - 25 yrs ago that it was not on the market any more. Tragically.
When I tried it the first time, I got the impression of earth, raw earthy soil with earthen leaves in late autumn. I was thrilled by the unspoiled wood-and- leaves-in-rainwet-soil- sensation of that fragrance. And then came the roses, as soft as dew, lasting forever, nearly.
Nahéma was my wedding perfume, and I would always be a bride while wearing that.
I'm just not a Guerlain fan. I have tried and tried to appreciate some of their classics and even some of the newer ones like Insolence. But the only one I truly love is Nahema. It's rose and . . . wheat germ! I do get the geranium, wood, vanilla, peach, and rose, as "bearinheart" said in one review. And the drydown has more sandalwood coming out. It's just yummy to me, and I didn't have to try hard to love it. I like fragrances that don't make me work too hard to appreciate them. No patchouli in this one. And that helps me like it as well.
The smell itself is overly sweet for my taste. I get Peach and a Green-lemony edge, it's strong at the beginning, but it became increasingly a fruity Green-rose more soft and pleasant as time progresses.
I feel a little disappointed, because i love Guerlain, and have big expectations about this fragrance, but nahema doesn't convince me. One of the less complex Guerlain i tried..
Nahema smells like rose the way Paco Rabanne’s Metal smells like green flowers, which is to say scarcely at all. I know it’s hardly a secret that Nahema is a virtual rose, an implied rose. I see the parts, but I don’t see the rose. Not a complaint, mind you. I love Nahema. I see it as the spiritual predecessor to Gucci Rush. It’s Rush’s disco auntie.
I know that Nahema took advantage of new-at-the-time aromachemicals that were used elsewhere to amplify and extend actual rose. Here these chemicals are used to create a perfume of crystalline flowery fruit with balsams and wood. Actually this smells like a peachy iris on a base of Guerlain’s earlier stunner Chamade. The heartnotes are like Chamade’s, but stoned and giggling.
In the long run, the rather chemical nature of Nahema allows the fragrance to be focused on abstract qualities. Nahema isn’t floral. It’s glassy and shimmering, and its upper register is about an inch from shrill. These qualities give it it excitement and vibrance. Does it simulate a rose? Not to me. Is it a blast to wear? Every single time.
11th December, 2010 (last edited: 26th February, 2011)
t seems that Nahéma elicits a wide range of responses among the previous reviewers, and that strikes me as typical of many Guerlain fragrances. There are some Guerlains I've worn for most of my life--then there are those that I've tried and tried again because I find it difficult to give up on a Guerlain I didn't like first time around. Some, like Vol de Nuit, eventually grew on me. But we all know by now that a Guerlain fragrance picks its wearer, not vice-versa. I've tried to make Nahéma love me, but apparently she's unwilling to go there.
The worst part of the experience is the first five to ten minutes with that knock-you-off-your-feet aldehydic slap. (Indeed, I experienced this fragrance as a floral aldehyde rather than a floral oriental, as the aldehyde and rose notes completely obscure the woods and spices for me.) On me, the aldehydes stayed around a lot longer than they do with other perfumes and, quite frankly, wore out their welcome.
I hoped it would get better, but when the drydown actually began (between ten and fifteen minutes in various tests), I was left with an old-fashioned bitter rose fragrance redolent of my childhood--even though I can't associate any particular individual with it. Rather, it's a certain vibe from decades ago, more of an ambiance than anything else. There's something about it that just shouts "I'm wearing perfume!" in a unsubtle way. It's difficult to define, but I'd call say it has a 1960s-style haughtiness (as opposed to the far less serious "swinging 60s" youth vibe of, say, Yardley Oh! de London). I find the same characteristic in Guy Laroche Fidji, Robert Piguet Bandit, and Yves Saint Laurent Y, for example--a sort of glamorous coldness.
It pains me to say it, but to me Nahéma is church-lady-ish. In effect, its murky blend of bitter florals (with rose leading the pack) combined with the aldehyde reminds me of many of the Estee Lauder fragrances that tell the world: "I'm respectable, I have money, and I'm utterly repressed and not enjoying myself." But I expect a Guerlain fragrance to smell a whole lot more exciting and interesting than an Estee Lauder one.
That being said, Nahéma might be the sexiest thing on earth on someone else--and that someone is more than welcome to it.
very extrovert + feminine, flushing
My mother was a great fan of Mitsouko and must have grieved over my taste when I was a feckless teenager with a distressing tendency to buy the latest from Avon, so it must have been a great relief to her when I discovered Nahema. I can still remember it as a sort of Damascene Conversion - it came billowing out of the tester with roses so rich that I could almost feel the petals, deep, dark and velvety, but with them peach, spice, and vanilla. The first time you try this you get whisked away on the Golden Journey to Samarkand (which is probably the best way to go there - after Nahema the real thing would probably be a huge let-down).
This isn't a fragrance for wearing into the office - at least not if you expect to get any work done - but it is a fragrance for the evening, or for days when you need to be reassured that your life has some beauty in it.
I have tried more fragrances than I can remember & bought more than I can really afford, but when I was standing by the Guerlain counter one bitter day not long after my mother died - thinking of her and how she loved fine fragrances, and remembering the day she said 'Try this one, darling, it's new - you may like it.' I decided to try it again. It had been a long time; I had worn Mitsouko myself, also Jicky; I was quite a fan of Joy and had fallen in love with Tocade - but when I sprayed Nahema again it was like coming home.
I don't just love Nahema for the memories, although those are pretty powerful; this is simply one of the most beautiful and complete fragrances ever - lovely in every aspect.
Pity those who lack the soul to appreciate anything better than the latest celebrity rubbish..
Introduced to this by stepmother--it's her signature scent. On her it is amazing: dressy, feminine, confident...and unlike any other I'd smelled. I coveted this but got the EDP which, on me, was less interesting than the parfum is on her. I love it but opt for Floris's China Rose for my own use.
My love for Guerlain ebbs and flows. I have so many of their bottles and browse through them wondering whether or not i'm in the mood. My constants are Bois d'Armenie, Chamade and Vol de Nuit, but I dip into the crushing sadness of L'Heure Bleue whenever i want to mope and drape myself around my appartment. Others have been vindictive blows to the senses, cruel and deceiving. Yes, Iris Ganache, I wanted to love you but oh how you lied.....
So when skimming my fingers over the perfumes at my local Guerlain counter I realised it has been well over 15 years since i last tried Nahema. I had memories of lush roses, chocolate and velvet swings, laughter in the dark and the most poignant of drydowns. I was literally stopped dead by the shock of smelling it again. My god what a rush, a peachy mohair and rose drenched sensual assault. The powder, the powder. My heart raced, skin flushed, i felt the nostalgic tug of addiction. Everything slowed just a little, long enough for me to realise I'd fallen in love again, head over heels in love. I may actually be a little obsessed with it. This will wear off in time, but for now I am content to trail bloodblack, operatic roses everywhere i go.
A beautiful rendition of rose that could only be a Guerlain. This is for the EDP - the box is gold and black - so not the latest . Predominantly rose on me but the fruitiness spices it up a bit. Lovely woods. I will try the extrait after reading BayKat's review ! I'm not a rose kind of gal but this, I can do.
This has been stated more eloquently by others, but the truth bears repeating: Nahéma is an explosive vortex of genius. From the first few seconds of its opening, it seduces with a spiralling tornado of smoky rose, followed by pepper, crushed petals, a soft powderiness and a myriad other notes which suggest shimmering, endless desert expanses. Then, just when your pulse threatens to race past the point of no return, things calm down and you’re gently guided inside a warm, plush, dimly-lit bedroom in Udaipur where your head and your heart are surrounded by wisps of incense and gripped by the power of the rose, which has now returned, but in more iridescent form. You have no choice but to close your eyes and succumb.
This is perfumery at its most intense and sensual. Make no mistake, Nahéma is a one-of-a-kind, earthy masterpiece.
04th March, 2010 (last edited: 22nd March, 2010)
I wore this yesterday (not at work) and can only marvel at how gloriously smooth a peachy rose can be. Most rose scents are too overwhelming, but Guerlain allows the rose to move in and out of the swirl, making brief appearances behind the vanilla, above the peach or below the aldehydes. One moment it sparkles and the next it whispers. When will Guerlain come to it's senses, particularly olfactory. I realize most people will not spend the money for a bottle of Nahema, but surely, once they smell it, it will be difficult to return to Britney, Celine, J-Lo and Mariah. Perhaps this blog may help to educate a starving public.
(Extrait review, 2008 batch)
Nahema is a peppery, seasoned rose that comes with no apologies: you either like this bad girl or you don’t. It is not suggestive, it is not bold. It is a confident fragrance that wears the same way as Mona Lisa wears her smile.
I prefer the extrait form, as it is lighter on the aldehydes and smoother with the finish. If you sit patiently you’ll detect a delicate sweet note that whispers something more fragile lies beneath.
Lasts a good 6-8 hours on me. I hear the parfums are becoming more scarce, not sure if this was a marketing ploy or not. But in general, I’ve tried many ‘hot rose’ wanna be’s but this is one of my favorites.
08th February, 2010 (last edited: 14th October, 2010)
It's taken me a very long time to get my head around Nahema... roughly 7-8 months in fact. Nahema is simultaneously simple yet excruciatingly complex. The best analogy I can think of is to imagine a mechanical watch with no additional complications, a toubillion, etc. You see a simple face - an hour hand and a minute hand - but what's going on behind the face is absurdly intricate and detailed. Hundreds of pieces move together in concert to create a deceptively simple movement. Nahema's simple 'honeyed rose and vanilla' feels the just the same - we're not smelling simple rose and vanilla but a whole lot of other things that create this simple olfactory impression. One thing about Nahema is for certain... you do not know it and you can not know it until you've worn and sampled it many times. For months I've been playing with my various Nahema samples and bottles and every time I wear it something new is revealed. Were I to have written this review a month or two after first trying Nahema it would have markedly different.
Between EdT, PdT, EdP and parfum - and various reformulations - getting a handle on what Nahema 'is' can be a daunting task. If I had to pick a favorite (and well yes, a superior) formula my vote is for the vintage PdT. The fragrance itself is an unnatural day-glo orange, compared to the simple yellow of today's EdP. As Somerville Metro Man correctly points out, there is simply no way to identify individual notes. It cannot be done. Instead the effect is one of a huuuuuge rose, smelled in 360 degrees, laying on a bed of fruity honey. The boldness of the rose meanders to a honeyed woody vanilla, though the rose never fully vanishes. It all sounds so simple and generic, but in this simplicity lays Nahema's beauty. Sillage borders on dangerous and longevity is absurd. I really enjoyed Vibert's review here because he's so right. To call Nahema a fruity floral is an insult, even if that's what it technically is, because it really is so much more.
Today's EdT and EdP are lacking in the boldness of the rose accord that make Nahema so incredibly distinctive and enjoyable. Instead the 'honeyed' vanilla is much more front and center and competes too much with the rose accord. As if it wasn't confusing enough, the modern parfum puts the rose note right up front and isn't nearly as sweet and honeyed as the lower concentrations. If you're buying a modern formula go for the parfum - otherwise seek out a vintage PdT bottle.
I'm not smelling the magic here. For the vast majority of its development, Nahema reminds me of some some musty rose oil heavily diluted in vegetable oil. It is not strange per se, but it's a smell I expect from a "fragrance oil" rack at a drug-store and not from a Guerlain classic. In addition to this rose accord, I smell an artificial-smelling vanilla and peach, and something almost akin to sunscreen.
It doesn't smell like any fruity-floral fragrance I've smelled, but as much as I'm not a fan of the category, most of them smell quite a bit nicer than this. At least they usually have a little life and vibrancy, quite unlike this sad, dull juice.
Have owned and loved this one for years - I remember my mother wearing it to dressy parties when I was younger and maybe that's why to this day it strikes in me notes of confidence and sophistication, when you know you're at your best (it's also one of the very few scents that my mother and I have in common, as our tastes seem to be markedly different on that score). And despite having known it for years, not once have I thought of it as a rose scent. Even now, as I smell it, I feel it's so much greater than any of its individual components, the end result is so big and bold and beautiful, that it becomes almost undescribable. A classic that has endured and will remain on my list of staples.
As most makers of potpourri know, one of the best, least expensive ways to achieve a rose scent is to use crushed or bruised rose geranium leaves. And that is precisely what I detect in Nahema. Nothing extraodinary, nothing exotic...just the leaves of this widely grown herb. Having said that, I can only recommend Nahema to scent your home. Once again, I am truly disappointed in Guerlain. This house is in great need of something beautiful or at least something interesting. In the past 25 years, Chanel may have given us Allure (ugh), but Chanel also gave us Cristalle, Coco and the reissue of many of their great, classic scents. Guerlain has given us Samsara (the last incarnation of this used cheap sandalwood which smells unpleasant) and Insolence (cute, but not great). May I take back my Basenotes vote for best perfume house? PS Okay, okay...I tried this again and I liked it. Nahema goes through this brandied rose stage during the drydown which is, well, beautiful. I find this easier to wear than some other rose fragrances, but my favorite rose remains Tocade.
12th September, 2009 (last edited: 20th January, 2010)