Figue-Iris opens with sweet but crisp fig notes. It’s more of a purple fig than a green one. The iris is there from the start, first crisp and paper-clean, chiming with the fig in a harmony that brings to mind the melancholy of peach skin and lilacs in early summer rain, and makes me wonder if Figue-Iris hasn’t by any chance taken its inspiration from Apres l’Ondee (and do I detect some anise there as well or was it just a ghost in my imagination?) and with the underlining heliotropine it also gives an obvious wink to l’Herue Bleau. But this is only in the beginning. Once the top notes fade out all we are left with is a toned-down version of what used ot be the glorious Guerlinade – an accord of iris, tonka and vanilla that can be found in some proportion in nearly all Guerlain’s perfumes. In this case it’s a modernized version, and gives off a linear impression, losing the initial interest and intrigue.

That being said, I find Figue-Iris to be one of my more favourable Aqua Allegoria installments, and one that is more balanced and easy to wear. My previous favourite, Herba Fresca was most original, but unfortunately it was too sharp and therefore unwearable for me. Another favourite of mine from the line is previous year’s Mandarine-Basilic.

Figue-Iris was almost a love at first sniff. However, what started up promising – both fig and iris are favourite notes of mine – lead to a disappointment. I was ready to pull out superlative sentences that I was saving for a long time for the house of Guerlain – but I suppose I will have to wait for something else to come up. For now I will just say that this is for me the most easy to wear Aqua Allegoria albeit not the most interesting in the way of the dry down, which is a little sweeter and a lot more generic than I hoped for. Still, it is so much better than nearly anything else that has come out recently, and even though I think the idea could have been executed differently and create a thoroughly original fragrance – I think it is one that deserves your attention, especially if you like either iris or fig or are just a die-har Guerlain fan. It may pale in comparison to the Guerlain classics of yesteryear, but it is so much better than Insolence and any of the sticky-fruity Samsara flankers.

On the positive side, thanks for Jean-Paul Guerlain (the nose behind Figue-Iris) for using this opportunity to remind younger audiences of Apres l’Ondee and l’Heure Bleue. I’d like to think that the disappointing dry down was a commercial compromise imposed by Guerlain’s marketing department.


Without going too much into the meaning of the name, I would just hint that the sound of it is actually much more attractive than the actual meaning. Perhaps Guerlain overlooked some of the deeper meaning of the name while making their decisions, as Samsara being the “endless cycle of birth and re-birth” is exactly what, according to Budhism, we’re trying to redeem ourselves from to reach nirvana. I also heard at certain point that metaphorically, the concept of Samsara is likened to seven heaps of dung, being the different stages of life which we go through and symbolize our attachment to the physical worlds. But nevertheless, this is a beautiful perfume, and perhaps it reflects very well the beauty of the cycle of life, the beauty which probably makes us attached to it and have the illusion that we have reached nirvana even though we are very far from it…

Samsara has become a modern classic, and is perhaps one of the best creations of Jean-Paul Guerlain, in my opinion. Perhaps the one scent that he will be most significantly remembered for.

Perhaps the one thing that characterizes Samsara most of all is its homogenous scent, without being flat or one-dimensional. The theme of Sandalwood-Jasmine accord pervades throughout the composition, but at every stage it has a different nuance to it, which adds interest and depth. In that sense, Samsara is at once simple (a-la the modern linear scents), and complex (because, thanks god, it is NOT linear!). Samsara is circular, it’s an olfactory cycle, dynamicly flowing, yet always comes back to the same things, the three element that make it such a unique fragrance, a combination of sheer pleasure and an almost ecstatic religious experience: Woody notes (mostly sandalwood), White Florals (jasmine and ylang ylang), and culinary sweetness (vanilla and tonka bean). You really couldn’t have asked for anything better put together.

Sweet and fresh fruity top notes of peach and bergamot and the light, soft powdery allure of linalool (perhaps from rosewood?) engages you to explore the creamy, fruity-floral ylang ylang notes. That brings you to the heart of Samsara – a few different types of Indian jasmine (grandiflorum and sambac) and indolic yet subtle notes of narcissus dusted with the butteriness of Orris root in the classical tradition of Guerlain.

The base is dominated by a rich, vanilla-infused woody note of fine Mysore Sandalwood and is further rounded by the warmth of Atlas Cedarwood.

Buddha and Plastic Flowers, originally uploaded by Curious_Spider

The overall impression is sweet, woody, and subtly floral. It is an ideal for floriental fans, and is excellent for almost all seasons. I find the EDT nicer, where as the Parfum is a bit overly sweet, and for some reason smells rubbery, plasticy and more synthetic than the EDT (hence the above image, courtesy of C. David Wendig). The woody-powdery notes are more accentuated in the EDT which makes it particularly suitable for warm weather. I also like the EDP, which offers the best of both worlds – the extreme smoothness of the parfum, minus the plasticy feeling, and I believe can be enjoyed in warm weather as well. The body lotion, by the way, is heavenly, and has a sillage that requires no further enhancement (meaning: you can wear it on its own and won’t need any perfume added…). It has a different scent though, it’s far more sweet and the peach and cedar notes are more pronounced.

Top notes: Peach, Citrus, Ylang Ylang, Linalool (rosewood?)
Heart notes: Jasmine Sambac, Jasmine Grandiflorum, , Narcissus, Orris root

Base notes: Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Amber, Atlas Cedarwood, Vanilla

If you have become obsessed with Samsara, here are a couple of clips for you, including the trailer for Pan Nalin's film by this name:


I Surrender, originally uploaded by Ana Santos.

Chamade. A perfume like no other. Green. Fruity. Floral. Aldehydic. Mossy. Balsamic.
When I first read about it in the Guerlain pamphlet I received at The Bay, I did not expect to like it at all because it was described as an aldehydic floral. But to sum it up as belonging to one category or another would be missing the whole point: Chamade is Chamade. You must enjoy it for what it is rather than attempt to classify and categorize it. This would be likened to locking a beautiful songbird in a cage, or a free spirited woman in a house and tell her what to wear, eat or do. If you love Chamade you should know better than that!

Yet, the magic of Chamade is not so much in the fact that it is so versatile, but rather, in the unusual assembly of notes that are so different, yet harmonize perfectly with one another. Notes that seemingly contradict each other so much you wouldn’t think they’ll get along at all: the briskness of galbanum and the caramely sweetness of vanilla; the fruitiness of black currant buds and the acrid oakmoss; Not to mention the florals and aldehydes in between which on the paper create an unresolved olfactory mess.

Yet in the Cupid’s arrow-stricken reversed heart bottle, these elements form a balanced tension that leads from the briskness of galbanum and fruity sharpness of cassis to an oily-urinal aldehydes combines with the above mentioned berries. Creamy and hot, pulsating floral notes of ylang ylang mingle with the powdery, green yet sweet hyacinth creating an impression of a flower warmed in a sunny spring garden. And this all leads to a base that is first mossy, slightly acrid-bitter-dry-woody of sandalwood and oakmoss. Hourse later, the magical vanilla that only the dynasty of Guerlain could use so appropriately without making it seem banal or overdone. The same vanilla of Shalimar parfum – dark, resinous-sweet and sexy in the most intimate, close-to-the-skin tastefulness of the classic parfum extrait of this house.

I’ve been fortunate to wear Chamade in a few concentrations and vintages: vintage EDT from the generous Char (I won a contest, can you believe it?), a Parfum Extrait from eBay, in a pristine 30ml sealed bottle; and of course, a brand new EDT, which is delicious and quite true to the original I think (though this will probably change any minute because of the strict oakmoss regulations in the EU and by IFRA). The new Chamade of course smells fresher, and the top notes are more apparent. It shows its vanillic face faster than the vintage I would say. Yet I can still feel the same Chamadeness beating in there. The vintage EDT is fantastic, the top notes are less pronounced, but you can still feel them, and overall the perfume feels much softer, rounder, and goes form phase to phase seamlessly. The powderiness of the aldehydes and ylang ylang is more pronounced, and there is also a bit of a note that I can only liken to the Mousse de Saxe of Caron, or otherwise to Peru Balsam essential oil (rather than the balsam itself). The parfum extrait is a completely different story altogether. It has such pronounced notes of rose and jasmine (and wow! what a jasmine!) that is barely resembles what I learned to know as Chamade from the other two versions. There is some of the galbanum though, but hardly any cassis (if at all) or ylang ylang at first. Which makes me think, it was probably reformulated after all, though I will not be able to give you any dates. The reformulation primarily seems to be downplaying the rose and jasmine to insusceptible quantities and replacing them mostly by the more cost-effective ylang ylang (probably from Guerlain's own plantations; I wonder in which year they got these...).

Top notes: Galbanum, Black Currant Buds, Aldehydes

Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Hyacinth

Base notes: Oakmoss, Vanilla, Sandalwood

A few words about the timing for this perfume: designed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last in the line of the Guerlain heritage of exemplary high-class perfumery (which lasted for almost two decades and was brutally interrupted only in recent years by globalization and greed). The timeless beauty of Chamade only got to show you that Jean-Paul did not lack inspiration before LVMH got into the picture (rather, stole the picture) and perhaps than it was finances that designed the fragrances more than its own talented nose. Chamade was launched in 1969, marking the beginning of the 70's, which in the perfume world was significantly characterized by the emergance of soapy and green compositions, such as No. 19, Private Collection, Silences, Ivoire, Diorella, and very much influenced AnaisAnais which launched almost a decade later, as well as the much later excellent celebrity perfume Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve.
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