As rose perfumes go, Nahema by Guerlain is a force to be reckoned with. It’s without doubt one of the most bold and dramatic rose compositions I’ve ever encountered: so opulent, rich and voluptuous that it’s clear why Nahema is considered one of the all-time classic perfume by top perfume experts.
It reminds me a little of Guerlain’s Shalimar in that they are both extremely uninhibited and sensuous but Shalimar is much more in the Oriental/woody camp.
Nahema was introduced in 1979 and there have been several reformulations since then. When it was first launched, it flopped so badly that Guerlain had to hemorrhage serious money to keep it afloat. Nahema was created by Jean Paul Guerlain, who loved roses to the point of adoration, and it is still considered his favorite fragrance. He reportedly spent spent four years to achieve the results that he was striving for.
This isn’t an easy, comfortable and always suitable fragrance. It smells like a brilliant combination of cool, watery hyacinth, richly decadent (almost dying) roses, vanilla dark woods and amber. The rose is definitely baked in the cake but it’s a deceptive, mysterious rose. It’s a lot less garden rose, such as Diptique Eau Rose, than a majestic imaginary rose in HD.
After trying it and not really getting what the rose was all about, I was curious to learn more behind this elusive rose note…
In his Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, fragrance expert Luca Turin writes: “Guerlain’s greatest rose, is in fact done without using any rose at all…It would seem that the rose at Nahema’s core is a geometric locus bounded by a dozen facets, each due to a different ingredient. Whether that is true or false, accident or skill, it is certainly true that the unearthly radiance of Nahema is without equal among perfumery roses, and so awe-inspiring that nobody even tries.”
The name Nahema is taken from a character in Scheherazade’s tale Thousand and One Nights about twin princesses with contrasting personalities. The first, Mahane, was known as the “daughter of water”. Mahane was gentle and modest and happily married at a young age. The other, Nahema, was restless, headstrong and intense and was known as the “daughter of fire”. Naturally, Guerlain chose the passionate one as the inspiration for his perfume. (Fabulous Fragrances II by Countess Jan Moran)
If you want to try this feisty rose fragrance, it may be difficult to find. A recent check confirmed that it’s not carried by most major department stores or Sephora, is currently sold out on FragranceNet.com and even the Guerlain website doesn’t sell it online. There are only a handful of Guerlain boutiques in the US so if you aren’t anywhere near one you are out of luck.
Fortunately refillable bottles which include the spray mechanism can be purchased on Amazon. Amazon to the rescue once again:-)