Rose Kaleidoscope- Nahema Guerlain (1979)

In my search for that perfect rose, the dark, decadent, luminous rosy rose, I have been through a mountain of samples through the entire rose spectrum from sweet innocent over photorealistic, decadent, oriental, avant-garde to Nahema!

Nahema gets a lot of mention when the talk is of dark, velvety roses. To me this doesn’t come across as dark but it is certainly a one of a kind. It spreads out a fan of greens, perhaps the bergamot and lily-of-the-valley together with some green aldehydes, it’s a smoke-screen for the up-coming rose tour. It’s like a walk through a rose garden presented with different varieties. There’s a fruity, tart rose, a wet mossy rose, a spicy one, a black tea flavoured one… There’s no denying the huge rose presence, but it’s kept almost bouncy by the feel as if on an emerald moss ‘carpet’ underneath your feet.image

Both photorealistic and abstract at the same time, it’s like watching a rose through a kaleidoscope, disintegrating before turning into another rose which turns into another rose again. Monsieur Guerlain-blog, writes that Jean-Paul Guerlain was inspired by Ravel’s Bolero, and its ongoing theme presentation in the various instruments. This is a somewhat tiresome piece of music in my opinion, and personally I find it easier to compare to Britten’s ‘A Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra’ which is based on a theme by Purcell, turned into theme and variations for each group of instruments in the orchestra, as a way of showing off the colours and capacities of the various sections of the orchestra, before ending on a huge fugue for the full orchestra. Yes, I find that Nahema can do that to the lucky ones for whom this perfume plays in perfect harmonies*, each rose is presented it its own perfect environment, showing off to highlight its qualities.

The base, or the end fugue if you will, lays all roses to rest on a bed of oriental notes; sandalwood, patchouli and tonka bean. This is a surprising twist for the first time wearer who might almost expect a mossy dry-down, which would have placed it firmly in the 70s. Even though everything up until now might sound like it could have been contemporary, a somewhat muffled green retro vibe maintained throughout the perfume’s wearing time, states loud and clear that it’s decidedly not. Nahema is a child of its time, but I’m thinking how oddly it sits as a perfume from 1979, with half its petals in the 70s greenery and the other half looking into the 80s of huge florientals. Is it nostalgically looking to its past or welcoming a new era? It’s hard to tell.


Here’s an interview by Persolaise with Thierry Wasser, the whole interview is wonderfully interesting, but about Nahema he says: “Nahema! There is so much rose in it. I think, with Après l’Ondée , it’s my second most-expensive concentrate. So much rose! Absolute, oil and everything. And that’s why IFRA is after it, because of the rose and the methyl eugenol. Rose from Bulgaria is between 1.5% to 2% methyl eugenol, and the absolute is 2.5% to 3%. And that’s the chemical which, allegedly, potentially, will kill us all. I really and truly suspect that Nahema is a weapon of mass destruction.”


*Unfortunately not me, but on others and the mouillette too. My Nahema is a bottle of the Parfum de Toilette from 1989, I think I like it better, just for knowing that it’s actually a WoMD.

Pictures are mine.


14 thoughts on “Rose Kaleidoscope- Nahema Guerlain (1979)

  1. Death by Nahema – love it.

    I thought you were going to say this was your rose but no. Which is it then? Have you said and I’ve stupidly forgotten?

    Sadly Nahema doesn’t work on me either. In Vienna the parfum tester was great on Val and everyone else but just sour on me, even after waiting it out. I guess it’s those retro greens not playing nice on my skin. Very annoying. I feel your pain 🙂

    • He, sadly no! And I haven’t said anything about it, but a fellow sour rose sufferer send me some Caron Or et Noir, which is everything I ever dreamed of from a Rose perfume. So there it it! 🙂 do you know it?
      Yes, retro green and rose in general becomes a mess, so sad…

      • Sour rose sufferers unite! Wow a Caron, that’s fantastic. No I haven’t heard of it but that doesn’t mean much. I’m not at all up on the Carons. Is it a recent one? I liked Parfum Sacre.

        • You know, it’s not very far from Parfum Sacre, apart from being rosier and perhaps even a bit darker… I would need to do a side by side, but from memory I’d say that, because it’s not as cosy as PS, a few more thornes perhaps 😉
          Yes a FB group perhaps, giggle!

          • Ah, it sounds fab.

            Haha! Yes, a FB support group 🙂

  2. Lovely review, especially what you say in THE end with half iTS Petals in THE 70ties. I haven’t used Nahema in quite a while and own a PdT bottle as Well. It is not my favorite Guerlain though. Have you tried a more recent version, Asali ?

    Great Thierry Wasser quote !

    • Thank you E., I tried the new version a few years back but no longer remember it. Have you got any experience with that? I also want to give the extrait a chance when I see it.
      Yes, the interview is great, and all the rose in Nahema made me even more sad it wasn’t for me. Ah well, it seems I’m certainly in good company 🙂

  3. Oh, I was really thinking as I read this that this was the rose perfume you finally fell for, until I got to the end. And then I read your comment to Tara and see that the one you fell in love with is from Caron, so I’ll look forward to your future review of it — and you must promise that you will, as I really love it when people support Caron. I get so tired of hearing others talk about the reformulations and how so many of their fragrances were ruined, when I find that so many of them are incredibly distinctive with a true signature — their feminine fragrances at least have that base that just says, “Oui, je m’appelle Caron! Enchantee …” 😀

    But of course, I should get back on track since you’re talking about Nahema. I’ve not tried it, but your description is so fascinating, and when you got to the part that talked about its inspiration being Ravel’s Bolero, I thought that the two descriptions (yours and theirs) matched up so well together, I could actually imagine this scent into being. Great review, great collages, Asali!

    • Dear Suzanne, I didn’t think of that, but now you mention it, it’s true Caron is not mentioned enough in a possitive light, execpt for its vintages. Actually I’m wearing another Caron today; Aimez Moi. Although this one hasn’t got the famous signature you talk about. And a lovely perfume friend just bought the new version of Parfum Sacre in the square bottle, saying that it’s every bit as good as its earlier incarnations. Yes, I know not true vintage Caron, but very much Caron signature, and a sign that not all is bad chez Caron.
      I was sure that you were going to be commenting on how much you love Nahema, I even looked if you’d done a review that I could link to, so I’m really surprised you haven’t even tried it. I must send you some, of all people I’m pretty sure it will wear amazingly on you.
      ps I know an e-mail is long overdue <3

  4. Oh another Caron rose lover, I’m as excited as a little girl!

    Nahema I’m convinced takes a big personality to pull off properly. Tried to wear N myself in the 90’s and though it attracted people they were all other ladies asking what I was wearing and not my husband so I only finished the one bottle. It was truly beyond me. You were so clever to point out how it straddles the era between the 80’s ad the 70’s. You’re right it does, and I’d never thought of that.

    As to Suzanne’s point about Caron not being all sad stories of decline, let me point to L’Accord 119 another success to my mind and a fascinating perfume.

    • Yes, indeed I think I can now officially join the Caron Rose Lovers Club, do let me know which others to try apart from NdN and PS (will do a search on your blog too, I remember the one about the gorgeous ‘other’ Xmas perfume)- and Accord 119 goes promptly on my test list 🙂
      Well, at least Nahema must smell good on you, although I understand that you perhaps didn’t feel quite at home in it. And thank you, I’m glad you agree that it has a foot in each of these two decades.

  5. I really enjoyed this review, especially the notion of the perfume cycling through a kaleidoscope of different roses. And the reference to the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra takes me right back to my earliest school days, when the staff used to file in to that piece of music on prize day. Rather grandiose it sounded, in fairness, but haunting and memorable. As for Nahema, it is very metallic on me, and I once likened it to ‘sucking on powdered girders’. That said, I don’t dislike it, but the metal facets seem to be amplified on my skin.

    • I wouldn’t mind the metal so much, but of course amplified to powdered girders 😉
      Haunting and memorable, I think it’s good for a piece of art meant to educate to evoke those terms. I wonder how old you were, when you say earliest school days, I’m thinking it must have been hard to comprehend a lot of what was going on. I think it’s wonderful, it both manages to do what it sets out to, and be a great piece of music in its own right.

      • Well, from the summer term of Primary 1, when I would have attended my first prize giving ceremony – so age 5 I would say.

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