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The Five Best Guerlain Perfumes to Buy in France

Wendy moved to France in 2005, where she fell in love with everything French.

A perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar. Perfume is the perfect gift for women who love to leave an unforgetable trail behind them.

A perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar. Perfume is the perfect gift for women who love to leave an unforgetable trail behind them.

Guerlain Perfumes

Perfumes have the power to bring back memories and forgotten moments. Guerlain has mastered this power, and for more than 180 years, they have gifted the world with their unforgettable scents.

The perfume is the most intense form of the memory"

— Jean-Paul Guerlain

Five Famous Guerlain Perfumes You Must Try

Guerlain is one of the oldest Perfume houses in the world. For four generations, the House of Guerlain has gifted the world with some of the most unique and luxurious fragrances.

Some of the most emblematic Perfumes by Guerlain are:

  1. Vetiver (1959)
  2. Shalimar (1925)
  3. Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853)
  4. Nahéma (1979)
  5. Samsara (1989)

1. Vetiver

An elegant perfume for men.

At its origins in 1956, as admitted by Jean-Paul Guerlain himself, this perfume was composed of only roots of vetiver, a perennial bunchgrass from India diluted in alcohol. Vetiver is a common ingredient in fragrances for men and is found in 90% of all western perfumes. The scent is very strong with excellent fixative properties.

There is an anecdote told by Jean-Paul Guerlain about Vetiver. One day while walking in the countryside with a friend, his friend's dog rolled on a fox's rotting carcass. The smell, as one can imagine, was overpowering. Even after a bath, the dog was still smelling awful until Jean-Paul Guerlain had the idea to spray it with his new fragrance: Vetiver. Much to everyone's surprise, the Vetiver got rid of the awful smell on the dog!

Although very masculine, Vetiver is a fragrance that can be worn by women. You can also try the feminine, less aggressive version Vetiver Pour Elle released as a limited edition in some countries.

2. Shalimar the Temple of Love

Shalimar is one of my favorite evening and winter perfumes.

Created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, inspired by the love story of the Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. During their romantic days, the Shah offered his wife the luxurious Gardens of Shalimar, a place where they could live their passion for each other. At the death of his wife, the Shah built one of the greatest mausoleums in the world to honor his wife: The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.

Shalimar is an arousing and seductive fragrance. It was at its launching an avant-garde perfume, the first one with oriental notes. Its name means "Temple of Love," and its dense scent brings to our senses an intense desire, a promise of eternal love.


The keynotes of this luxurious perfume are iris, jasmine, rose, vanilla, tonka bean (the Guerlinade), and opoponax. At first, we feel the scent of fresh flowers quickly warming up to an envelope of jasmine, iris, and rose. What stays is the scent of vanilla and the warmth of the tonka beans, a sensual symphony. Shalimar is one of the first perfumes to successfully incorporate large amounts of vanillin in its composition.

To celebrate the 85th anniversary of this iconic fragrance, Jade Jagger designed a collectors edition bottle with soft curves juxtaposed against contemporary lines. A blue jewel-like stopper and fine black ribbon add the finishing touch to this striking bottle.

Shalimar is currently produced in Shalimar Extract, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Fleur de Shalimar Edition. This is the perfect gift for a woman who loves to leave an unforgettable trail behind her.

Wearing Shalimar means letting your senses take control."

— Jacques Guerlain

3. Eau de Cologne Impériale

Talk about colognes with history! Guerlain composed this classic cologne in 1853 as a gift for Empress Eugénie, the wife of French emperor Napoléon III. Almost 150 years later, the cologne is still in regular production, which means that you too can smell like royalty!

4. Nahéma (1979)

This floral oriental fragrance was inspired by the legend of a sultan who had twin daughters, the gentle and obedient Mahane and the fiery and passionate Nahéma.

Built predominantly around rose notes, Nahéma was an early fragrance to feature damascones. The use of Rose as the main ingredient was chosen for its power of seduction through the centuries. For Guerlain, like Ovidio, Homero, and Proust, the rose symbolizes women.

Jean-Paul Guerlain created this perfume after seeing Catherine Deneuve in the film "Benjamin" (original title: Benjamin ou les Mémoires d'un puceau). He later said that he couldn't take off his mind the image of a Catherine Deneuve dressed in white silk wandering around a gold cage. That was an image that haunted him until the creation of his "Nahema," a fragrance that symbolizes the sensuality of a refined woman -Catherine Deneuve- an expert in the game of seduction.

This is a perfume for a Woman with capital letters, a rich and sumptuous woman. Nahema is the result of 4 years of work and more than 500 trials.

5. Samsara Perfume

The name Samsara means "wheel of Life." Created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1989, this is a heady oriental fragrance featuring jasmine and sandalwood. In his book "Les Routes De Mes Parfums," Guerlain tells us that Samsara, like all his other perfumes, was inspired by a muse. Samsara's muse was the English Decia de Pauw, his muse for more than 20 years. Guerlain says that when he met Decia, she didn't use to wear any perfume because she couldn't find one to suit her, tell her story and feel like part of herself. This confession started Jean-Paul Guerlain on the task of creating a perfume to resemble her loved one.

After more than 300 trials, Guerlain came with the Samsara fragrance, a perfume with which Decia felt completely identified. Samsara is not only an original fragrance; its flask is also a work of art created by sculptor Robert Granai in 1988. It is meant to look like an Indian Goddess sitting cross-legged.

Guerlain's History

Guerlain, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world, was founded in 1828 when Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain opened his perfume store at 42 rue de Rivoli in Paris. The perfumes sold were all his own creations.

In 1840, following great success in the Parisian high society, the second store was open at 15 rue de la Paix, Paris.

In 1853, Pierre-François Guerlain became the official perfumer for French Emperor Napoleon III with the creation of Eau de Cologne Impériale. After that, Guerlain went on to create perfumes for Queen Isabella II of Spain and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

In 1994, The House of Guerlain was bought by the LVMH group, a multinational investment corporation specializing in luxury brands.

Why Are Guerlain Perfumes So Special?

Guerlain perfumes are really special because behind each of their perfumes is a muse. It was Jean-Paul Guerlain's wish to be able to create a customized perfume for each woman. Unfortunately, this was not possible for many reasons, but at least he created more than 43 perfumes for his muses, and, since its foundation in 1828, The House of Guerlain has created over 300 fragrances.

One of the main characteristics of Guerlain perfumes is the ability to create perfumes without overdosing on ingredients and using concise formulas. An example of this is the emblematic Vetiver. This might seem very simple, but in fact, using very short formulas means that the fragrance is very difficult to stabilize. But it makes it gain in character.

Guerlain's Stamp

Another feature of Guerlain's perfumes is what they called the "Guerlinade," which is Guerlain's seal. The Guerlinade is what allows connoisseurs to recognize a Guerlain perfume from all the others.

The famous Guerlinade is composed of around six essential scents:

  • Tonka bean
  • Iris
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Vanilla
  • Bergamot

These six scents are always present to some extent in all recent and ancient perfumes from Guerlain. A perfume by the same name Guerlinade was launched by Guerlain in 1921.

Each one of my perfumes is the portrait of a woman!

— Jean-Paul Guerlain

What To Buy, A Parfum Or An Eau de Toilette?

A Parfum is the most concentrated fragrance, and it lasts five to six hours. An Eau de Parfum is the next level of concentration, followed by the Eau de Toilette and then Eau de Cologne, the least concentrated lasting about an hour.

Guerlain More Than Just Perfumes

Although, for a long time, Guerlain specialized exclusively in perfumes, today, Guerlain has expanded to offer a large range of makeup and skincare. Guerlain also maintains thirteen international beauty and spa 'boutiques,' five within France, of which two are in Paris.

Guerlain Boutiques in Paris

Over the years, there have been several Guerlain shops in Paris. They have all been conceived by great architects with a wish to create not only a store but a boutique where luxury, beauty, and design are expressed to perfection. These boutiques are a must-see for anyone who wants to have a luxurious experience.

Some of the most beautiful Guerlain boutiques are the ones on the Champs Elysées conceived by the architect Charles Méwes and the one on the Place Vendome, decorated by the famous Jean-Michel Franck.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Wendy Iturrizaga