His inspiration for the perfume was none other than actress Catherine Deneuve, of whom he had seen her in the film, Benjamin. Though Deneuve was an inspiration, she never appeared in any of the ads for the perfume. Other references claim that Bolero,an orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel got his attention as an inspiration as well.
The name Nahema, means “the daughter of fire” and was mentioned in the fabulous tale 1001 Nights by Scheherazade.
“Once upon a time, far away in the Orient, a sultan had twin daughters. They were so much alike that their father gave them each names that were formed using the same letters: Mahane and Nahema. Their beauty was soon renowned throughout the land. But their resemblance was only skin-deep, for insofar as Mahane was gentle, timid and obedient, Nahema, whose symbol of femininity was the flower, was filled with fire, indomitable and passionate. One day a prince came to court them, but his heart was divided and he did not know which sister to choose. The fiery Nahema, whose nature was to devour everything, understood her fate and let her gentle sister marry the prince, then departed for a faraway land. Nahema is the perfume of provocation, seduction and absolute femininity.”
So what does it smell like? It is classified as floral oriental fragrance for women.
- Top notes: peach, bergamot, hesperides, aldehydes, green notes
- Middle notes: Bulgarian rose, rose de Mai, rose hyacinth, ylang ylang, lilac, jasmine, muguet, violet
- Base notes: passion fruit, Peru balsam, benzoin, vanilla, cinnamon, vetiver, sandalwood, styrax
I have read that Jean Paul Guerlain took advantage of the innovative aroma chemicals known as damascenones, of the time period to help amplify and extend the scent of an actual rose. After 900 attempts at making the perfect rose accord, Jean Paul finally settled on what would become Nahema’s heart, a fruit rose smoldering with sensuality.
I tested a vintage 1990s sample and it started off with bright bergamot, then the lush roses and sweet violet became more prominent followed by a drydown of sandalwood, benzoin and styrax.
The parfum flacon for Nahema was designed to showcase the first drop of essence that comes out of a distiller. Nahema has been through a slight reformulation. Today, you can find Nahema in extrait in the standard quadrille flacon and eau de parfum concentrations in the habit de fete canister. Occasionally you can still find the original extrait flacon for Nahema and the 1980s parfum de toilette on eBay.
photos by ebay seller nsnowdon