Samsara by Guerlain vintage EdT and extrait

Hey Posse peeps, I madly love Samsara by Guerlain and have a bunch of vintage EdP, EdT and extrait hoarded. You may have read me talk about being a Guerlain squirt bitch as one of my first jobs and buying Samsara for my Mum. She wore that bottle to the dregs and always told the complimenters that it was a gift from her son. I think maybe her real gratitude and love for it coloured the way I see perfume. Not just a part of getting dressed but also part of how we feel about our lives and the world we inhabit. Mum’s perfume became a story.

So strange to finally think these thoughts. That was back in the 1980s. Mum’s been gone since 2001. Still I’m learning things about our far too short time together and my molding as an adult. Mother’s Day here in Oz is on May 12 so I grabbed them out and gave them a whirl. I’ve got them back out to write for you all about them because it was so enjoyable .

Now only listed now on Australian, US and French Guerlain sites in EdT and EdP. Extrait seems to have gone the way of the dodo. What a shame.

Samsara is a memory fragrance. My wear of it is colored by links to my past. I’ll do my best to give you an accurate ride but obviously YMMV.

Samsara by Guerlain 1989 vintage EdT and extrait

Samsara by Guerlain

Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Ylang-Ylang Peach Green Notes Bergamot Lemon
Heart: Jasmine Iris Narcissus Rose Orris Violet
Base: Sandalwood Iris Vanilla Amber Tonka Bean Musk

Opening spritz is creamy tropical flowers and fruit, a little sharp. It doesn’t take long to settle on my skin and become a slightly banana-ish yellow floral with BWF aspirations. Mildly flower feral, it wears in parfum close and seductive. When I add the EdT it becomes a larger, more exhibitionist fragrance. A glamorous shimmering dense silk brocade of a scent.

Once the initial extravaganza calms I’m left with a nebulous bouquet backed by a sweet, dry-ish vanilla and creamy resinous sandalwood till fade. Recently I read that even back in 1989 Samsara was mainly faux sandalwood, doesn’t matter to me. Lastly I smell sandalwood and musks. The musk might even be the real deal. It really smells like it.

Samsara by Guerlain vintage EdT and extrait

Some people talk about how outrageous and overbearing Samsara is. That’s definitely not how I experience it. Maybe because of my Mum reference Samsara is a warm, elegant, vanilla/sandalwood fragrance that is both otherworldly and incredibly comforting. Back in the 1980s Samsara was armchair travel to faraway places, a hint of the multifarious peoples of Asia and the Middle East. Even then I knew world travel was what I wanted to do as a life hobby.

Tom reviews some Guerlains too, including Samsara.
Surrender To Chance has the modern EdT

Do you remember the early Samsara? Love the modern?
Portia xx


*Todays post is reimagined from a piece I wrote years ago but it still holds true, words have been changed for less colonial reference and the whole is edited to sound more like me now.

  • Kathleen says:

    This is a lovely post Portia. I adore memory fragrances and keep them close to my heart. Perfume has a way of taking you right back to that place and time when it meant something to you. I appreciate you sharing your story of Samsara and your Mum! I wish I knew the early Samsara, I only have the modern and love the notes. Thank you for the reminder, haven’t worn it in awhile and will do so. Fragrant Samsara hug!

    • Portia says:

      A real life hug from you Kathleen is on my bucket list. One day we’ll be back in the Americas.
      Fragrant hugs right back,
      Portia xx

  • carole says:

    Portia, I loved this! Here’s the thing about scents: they’re shared memories of shared pleasures. I love you talking about your squirt beesh past. Love that you have such good memories of your mom wearing this, and telling people you gave it to her.

    My mom brought me this, in the meteorites perfume case, with the lipstick holder and compact that matched. I still have a Samsara parfum refill for it. I still love it, but I find when I wear it I get zapped mentally right back to 1993, and have to be a bit careful because of some of the memories it evokes.

    Beautiful posts about one of my favourite evocative scents – thanks, Portia 🙂

    • Portia says:

      Heya Carole,
      I have that Meteorites case and parfum too. So decadent. So over the top. From the days when expensive little luxuries were affordable to the middle of the road.
      Portia x

  • cinnamon says:

    Ah, Portia, this is lovely. I haven’t tried this on skin for ages and your post makes me want to have another go. I do recall the ads for this — that they did indeed implied magic and mystery and a larger world worth seeking out.

    • Portia says:

      OOOHHH! Here’s a good reason to get yourself back into London for a day. Shall I call the gang and get them to meet you?
      Portia xx

  • March says:

    Oh, those memories — how delightful. I have a mini here somewhere since I’m always banging on about Guerlain … I like it just fine, but my heart apparently belongs to Mitsouko. However, it strikes me that this would be the perfect weather for it, so I’m off to find it. Thanks for the reminder!

  • AnnieA says:

    Years ago a friend passed along a jar of the Samsara body creme. I was a little apprehensive as I thought it would be Too Much, but that was when I learned that sometimes a body product really this the spot.

  • Maya says:

    Lovely post.
    I have a mini bottle of Samsara from the 80’s and dug it up and am wearing it now. It is very nice and I think it could grow on me. We’ll see.
    Bonus for me – I also found a 1/2 oz vintage bottle of bath oil from Tatiana by Diane von Furstenberg. I completely forgot I had it. I will be wearing that one for a while. I do love BWF!

  • Tom says:

    Funny how time changes things. I now have a FB or l’Heure Bleu (which started to work on me after that review published) but never got one of Samsara. But I might have to.

    I wish I got a bit of banana in Samsara. It’s the thing that makes me like Sira des Indes and that toouch of wackiness would be fun here.

    • Portia says:

      Tom! I love Sira des Indes, so clever and subtly ra-sha-sha.
      See if you can find an older Samsara bottle but also check out the current.
      Portia xx

  • Dina C. says:

    Beautiful post, Portia, with lovely memories of your mom. We have a somewhat similar story in our family. My husband’s stepmother loves Samsara and considers it her signature scent because his dad bought it for her way back when. He passed in 2016. Whenever I run across a vintage bottle I buy it for her, and she goes into raptures over it. It certainly has a special place in her heart. I like the scent of sandalwood though I prefer Bois des Iles and Tam Dao.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I love Samsara. I have an older bottle of the EDT- not exactly sure how old – probably not the very original version. I also have a teeny tiny splash bottle – probably a GWP or from a set of minis – not even sure what concentration. I’m afraid to open it! Samsara is one of the few perfumes that someone has recognized on me – one of my friends wore it exclusively in high school so she named it right away. I never really had a signature so I can only do that with a few perfumes that were just everywhere at different times in the past.

  • alityke says:

    Oh boy Samsara. I still have my first bottle from 1990. Bought after I stopped feeding the youngest, hence why I know the year. Still smells great but not my favourite Guerlain. That award goes to Mitsouko, ye big ol’ chypre

    • Portia says:

      I hear you Alityke,
      While Shalimar is my all time fave and Samsara is full of a certain times memory, it’s Mitsouko that gets the most wear, by far.
      Portia xx