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.
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.