Guerlain Nahema : Perfume Review

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Guerlain Nahéma was inspired by the French actress Catherine Deneuve. Perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain explained to Elle Magazine that when he saw her in the film Benjamin ou Les mémoires d’un puceau, Deneuve enthralled him. “She appeared in a gilded cage scattered with roses… She was wearing a dress of white silk, and her hair was loose and ruffled like a golden halo — absolutely breathtaking.”

Danae

Nahéma, introduced in 1979, is likewise stunning–a voluptuous blend of rose, plum and ylang ylang, with dark accents of sandalwood and musk. It is a bold and dramatic fragrance foreshadowing the generation of big perfumes that would embody the glam & glitz of the 1980s–Dior Poison, Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Giorgio. Unfortunately, Nahéma arrived on the scene too early to appeal to the general public, and it flopped so badly that Guerlain had to sell a part of its real estate to keep the company afloat. Yet, even today Jean-Paul Guerlain names it as his most distinctive and original creation.

While Nahéma was toned down somewhat after its initial launch, it was not discontinued. Even today it can be found at the Guerlain counter, and it should not be missed. This sensual oriental perfume explores a brilliant combination of cool, watery hyacinth and rich-as-chocolate roses, with a haunting undercurrent of vanilla, dark woods and amber.

Nahéma often makes me think of Titian’s golden haired beauties. If the great master’s Danae is wearing a fragrance, it has to be something opulent and rich like Nahéma. The painting depicts a voluptuous woman whose pearly white flesh is gleaming on the canvas. Her golden hair is streaming down her shoulders in its resplendent glory. The white arm with a ruby bracelet is caressing a small dog, whilst her gaze is directed towards the ceiling as Zeus, her lover, is descending into her chamber in the guise of golden rain. The eager expectation and sheer passion is captured masterfully by Titian and that is a befitting setting for Nahéma.

I have this fragrance in the extrait de parfum and find it warmer and richer than both the parfum de toilette and the eau de toilette versions.

On Reformulation (added 12/17/10):
Nahéma went through several reformulations, but the latest one is the one I like the most. The lush floral accord of rose, ylang ylang and jasmine has the same complexity and dramatic aura as that of my mid 1980s parfum. There is a stronger green note in Nahéma now, and the fruity-rose richness of damascones has been attenuated. However, overall, it is a splendid fragrance with a great sillage and tenacity.

Painting: abcgallery.com.

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11 Comments

  • LaureAnne: V!!! Remember our idea of the book you would write and I would illustrate?? This is all so interesting and I’m really relieved that you finally sat down and did some work after the year you’ve spent loafing around. tsk.
    But seriously, folks. I will bookmark this blog today!
    Best of luck!
    xoxo,
    Laura May 25, 2005 at 1:48pm Reply

  • N aka parislondres: Hello V! I love Nahema now after so many years of loathing it and I aslo do know that there are no plans of Nahema being discontinued in extrait version in France. They may not export to the US but I did ask a few reliable sources.

    xoxo May 25, 2005 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Diane: These days I’ve hit the Nahema bug. It’s become my narcotic. I feel very feminine and indulgent when I wear it. May 25, 2005 at 9:50pm Reply

  • Terri K: What a lovely, informative site – thank you. I have loved Nahema since I discovered it in 1982. It’s such a sexy scent and I agree about the Parfum being the best way to experience it. June 10, 2006 at 1:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Terri, thank you for your nice compliment. I also love Nahema in all forms. It is a fascinating fragrance. June 13, 2006 at 12:36pm Reply

  • Romina: I do love this one.
    It’s not for every day, it’s voluptuous and sexy, but in a happy way, with an edge of “dizzy broad”. Healthy sexy, not Theda Bara-vampy sexy.
    Like an Ingres painting or Manet, maybe even Matisse. A keeper. June 23, 2006 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Romina: ps: okay, I meant “crazy b–ch”, not dizzy broad, but in the best way. Meaning glimpses of temper, at times demanding, but a warm heart of gold. Nothing deadly here. It’s got a lust for life, this one. June 23, 2006 at 10:40pm Reply

  • Andreea: Lovely review, I agree!!
    Happened that someone said on a prty: Who smells here like an old woman? It was me ;-) I went and sprayed SOME MORE. Haha!
    The extrait is only sold in 30ml which is just too much and of course really expensive. The first time I tried it it was the extrait, oh these SAs! but I could and can not afford it. I bought a refill EdP and finished it nearly (I have a few… quite a few perfumes…).
    I love Catherine Deneuve, but I am really a lot on the opposite side of her. Funny that I am driven to such scents though! October 25, 2013 at 4:29pm Reply

  • Little Red: Nahema in parfum is my other great Guerlain love. November 8, 2013 at 9:56pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: I am not able to get it in Austria anymore. Getting frustrated because I used to love it like anything and wore it almost addicted. I have a relatively ok collection in my treasure boxes, but nothing bits Nahema and fact that I can’t find it anywhere nowadays is a good reason to make me sad. Planning to fly to London in the near future, hopefully in Duty Free I get a bottle left for me, :-) although I am fearing if I ask for it I will find out many of the young vanila- strawberry loving Duty Free shop assistance have never heard about it. :( November 21, 2013 at 3:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Are there any big perfumeries that stock Guerlain? Another idea is Guerlain website, which should have a shipping option. November 21, 2013 at 10:07am Reply

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