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.
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: