Grossmith Shem-el-Nessim: Romantic Beauty

An exquisite floral beauty worthy of a queen in a bygone era. That is Shem-el-Nessim, a fragrance from Grossmith London that harkens back to the very best of grand perfumery, with a strong resemblance to vintage L’Heure Bleue in parfum form. Rich neroli orange blossoms swirl together with geranium, roses, deep bergamot, orris, and plush patchouli greenness to create an opulent, luxurious floriental. I find it truly beautiful, carrying the full weight of its 108 year old history in its powdered floral start, but ending with a very timeless, perhaps even modern, finish of creamy neroli-vanilla mousse. Shem-el-Nessim is not for everyone, and most definitely not for modern tastes. But for women who bemoan the loss of the vintage greats, it is a fragrance that they must try.

Grossmith's Baccarat set of the original fragrances, £23,250. Photo: Grossmith via The Telegraph newspaper.

Grossmith’s Baccarat set of the original fragrances, £23,250. Photo: Grossmith via The Telegraph newspaper.

Grossmith is a very old British perfume house that was originally established in 1835. It has a truly fascinating history, from its time as a favorite of various European royal families, to its troubles following World War II, and its eventual 21st century return as a family business. It is a story of rise and fall, of formula ledgers seemingly lost forever in the London Blitz, of an accidental genealogy discovery, and the intervention of two modern royal families to help in a rebirth. It almost seems like the stuff of legend. So, if you’re interested at all, you can read the history in my review for Phul-Nana, a famous Grossmith scent from the Victorian era that was the Chanel No. 5 of its day. (It also has a Downton Abbey connection involving the Dowager Countess Grantham.)

Vintage Shem-el-Nessim poster. Source:

Vintage Shem-el-Nessim poster. Source:

To return to the issue of Shem-el-Nessim, it is a fragrance that originally debuted in 1906  and was returned to life with essentially the same exact formula in 2009 by Trevor Nicholl. Like its siblings, it was released in both eau de parfum and extrait de parfum concentrations. This review is for Shem-el-Nessim Eau de Parfum.

Grossmith describes the fragrance as follows:

Arabic for smelling the breeze
An Arabian Spring time festival celebrated in 
Egypt on the Nile

The current trend for orris comes full circle with the rebirth of Shem-el-Nessim.

The original Shem-el-Nessim bottle. Source: Fragrantica.

The original Shem-el-Nessim bottle. Source: Fragrantica.

This fragrance reprises the original orris formula, using Florentine iris, known for its rarity and expense, costing three times more than gold bullion.

Originally created in 1906, this rich, luxurious creation typifies the L’Origan style with its warm, soft, powdery, floral aspect. A scent which personifies the Edwardian era in which femininity was fêted.

According to Luckyscent, the notes include:

Bergamot, neroli, geranium, jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, orris, musk, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, heliotrope and vanilla.

The current, modern Shem-el-Nessim. Source: the Grossmith website.

The current, modern Shem-el-Nessim. Source: the Grossmith website.

Shem-el-Nessim opens on my skin with rich, sweet bergamot and very spicy, neroli orange blossoms, all infused with mossy greenness and piquant geranium. On their heels follows streaks of a pale, pink rose, sweet jasmine, and velvety ylang-ylang.

"Fractal Orange Blossoms" by wolfepaw on (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Fractal Orange Blossoms” by wolfepaw on (Website link embedded within photo.)

There are a lot of things that are interesting about Shem-el-Nessim’s opening. Take, for example, one of the central notes in the perfume: the neroli. It can sometimes feel very pungent, green, and more bitter than the flowers from which it is distilled. In fact, distillation methodology is the only thing which actually separates “neroli” from “orange blossoms.” Here, the aroma lies midway between both elements. There is also a tiny touch of woodiness, too, as if petitgrain (the twigs of the orange tree) had been used as well. The overall effect is of very spicy, extremely dense, very lush, neroli orange blossom that is both purely floral and sweet, but also green and spicy at the same time.



The other thing that is interesting is the green streak in Shem-el-Nessim. The neroli is one small reason, but the geranium and patchouli both amplify that impression. Here, the patchouli is neither the original, brown, spicy kind, nor the modern, purple fruitchouli molasses, but a very mossy, dark plushness. It merges with the strong bergamot blast in the opening to consistently evoke something about the chypre genre for me. If you didn’t look at the notes, you would really wonder if Shem-el-Nessim had a touch of oakmoss in it.

Yet, at its core, Shem-el-Nessim is primarily a floral oriental. Grossmith may talk extensively about all the iris in the fragrance, but the scent on my skin is consistently about the spicy orange blossoms, first and foremost, and from start to finish. What follows after that seems to depend on the quantity that I apply. The smaller the dose, the more the jasmine is the second trailblazer, infusing Shem-el-Nessim with a narcotic sweetness that I find hard to resist.

Painting: Anastasiia Grygorieva. Source:

Painting: Anastasiia Grygorieva. Source:

However, the larger the quantity that I apply, the more the rose steps forward as a key part of the perfume’s opening hours. At first, it is pale pink and merely sweet, but it is soon dusted by orris makeup powder along with sweet vanilla. As regular readers know, I’m not particularly a fan of powdery perfumes, but Shem-el-Nessim is a complete exception. One reason is that the orris powder doesn’t really evoke lipsticks for me. Another, and more important one, is that I truly don’t think Shem-el-Nessim is all that powdery. This is no Lipstick Rose or, even worse, Oriza‘s Jardins d’Armide. This is a sweetened powder that is heavily infused with vanilla and heliotrope. The latter doesn’t appear on my skin in any distinct, individual form, but it works indirectly with the other notes to create something very similar to Guerlainade, the signature base for many Guerlain fragrances.

That brings me to one of the most important things you should know about Shem-el-Nessim: it’s got a incredibly strong resemblance to L’Heure Bleue in all its vintage glory. I love that Guerlain fragrance with a passion, our relationship goes back over 20 years, and its haunting beauty has always moved me. I’ve been very bitter about its reformulation, which I find has sapped L’Heure Bleue of much of its soul. Smelling Shem-el-Nessim takes me back to the first moment I smelled L’Heure Bleue. Oh, how it takes me back.

Yet, there are differences, too. Shem-el-Nessim isn’t as melancholic, reflective or blue as the Guerlain can sometimes be. I find it brighter, sweeter, less powdery, and greener. Shem-el-Nessim also has none of L’Heure Bleue’s heavily peppered bits or its anisic nuance, and I think it actually has less powder. In terms of the current L’Heure Bleue formulation, I find it to be rather woody on my skin, with a dryness that Shem-el-Nessim lacks. The old version of the Guerlain was very floral, but the new one is less so. Most of all, it lacks a plush richness in every aspect or element.

Source: Fragrances of Wine Facebook page.

Source: Fragrances of Wine Facebook page.

Shem-el-Nessim steps into the breach. My word, is this luxuriously opulent, especially at the start. The florals are rich, and there is real depth to the concentrated bergamot flourish at the start. I’m not hugely enthused about the more rose-centric element that appears on my skin when I apply a greater quantity of Shem-el-Nessim, but the jasmine is truly lovely when I apply a lesser dose. And, throughout it all, its main mix of narcotic orange blossom headiness and spicy, green neroli is stunning.

As you will see later, Luca Turin‘s highly positive review for Shem-el-Nessim brings up Coty‘s vintage L’Origan as well as L’Heure Bleue. The Coty fragrance was released in 1905, while L’Heure Bleue came out in 1912. Shem-el-Nessim was released in 1909, midway between the two, so it must owe far more to the influence of the very famous Coty scent than to the Guerlain one. I’m afraid I’ve never tried L’Origan to know. All I can say is that Shem-el-Nessim is a lovely substitute for the woes of modern, reformulated L’Heure Bleue.

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

From afar, Shem-el-Nessim in the opening hours is a seamless blend of florals dominated by the neroli, then lightly sprinkled with heliotrope-orris powder. Up close, you see the layers of orange blossom, the feminine powdered roses, the touch of green geranium, the concentrated bergamot, the sweet jasmine, and the vanilla-scented powder. The flowers feel almost narcotic in their headiness, and are flecked by a touch of wintergreen which hints at their indolic nature.

Yet, unlike Phul-Nana, these orange blossoms never evoke heated flesh, quivering bosoms, or half-dressed courtesans for me. The perfume feels too formal and elegant, verging on the regal. This would a scent for Lady Astor, Queen Alexandra, or any number of formidable, social leaders whose bosoms were covered with a veritable blanket of diamonds. On Season 3 of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith bought Phul-Nana for the Dowager Countess, something which always struck me as a rather odd choice. I see her far more in Shem-el-Nessim, as it has a more obviously feminine nature than Phul-Nana with its stronger dose of masculine geranium and is aromatic fougère opening.

Painting by Jean Haines. Source:

Painting by Jean Haines. Source:

Shem-el-Nessim isn’t a hugely complex, twisting, morphing fragrance. On my skin, it is largely split into two main phases. The opening which I’ve described here only changes by subtle degrees over the next few hours of the perfume’s development. At the start of the 2nd hour, Shem-el-Nessim becomes softer. It is a blur of spicy florals dominated by the neroli, infused with sweetness and heliotrope-vanilla powder, and lightly flecked by wisps of greenness and bergamot. The rose continues to trail behind the orange blossoms, but it is starting to weaken. Over the next hour, it becomes much less of a distinct, individual presence, and sinks into the general “floral” haze along with the jasmine. At the same time, the vanilla begins to grow stronger, and the powder lessens.

The second and final stage of Shem-el-Nessim is beautiful in a very different way. The powder vanishes to a trickle, and the creamy vanilla takes over. By the end of the 4th hour, Shem-el-Nessim is a simple duet of orange blossom neroli with vanilla, lightly dusted with a faint trace of sweetened heliotrope.

When the 9th hour rolls around, the silky vanilla has thoroughly infused every part of the orange blossoms, and frequently dominates them entirely. The result is a delicious, airy, frothy, and completely silky vanilla mousse with a microscopic touch of bright orange fruits amidst a stronger streak of delicate, slightly green orange blossom flowers. The powder is minor, and certainly nothing like hardcore Guerlainade. Instead, you have a rather timeless, perhaps even modern, neroli-vanilla cream. It’s incredibly smooth, and as soft as silk. It is also surprisingly rich in nature for such a delicate, discreet wisp of a scent. In its final moments, Shem-el-Nessim is nothing more than creamy sweetness that is vaguely vanillic and floral.



All in all, Shem-el-Nessim has good longevity on my skin, but very soft, discrete sillage. When I applied the equivalent of 2 big sprays from a bottle, the perfume lasted just under 13 hours. However, when I sprayed on less, I had only 9.75 hours. I think. It’s hard for me to be certain because the sillage is very low on me after its very rich, heady opening, and I really had to apply a greater quantity of Shem-el-Nessim to detect it without difficulty after the 7th hour. When I used a small quantity, equivalent to 1 spray, Shem-el-Nessim became a skin scent on me at the end of the 3rd hour, while 2 sprays increased that number only to 4.5. It may feel like a super rich scent, but it’s not a powerhouse in terms of projection, and is almost airy when taken as a general whole. Others, however, have a very different experience, as you will see, and some even describe the sillage as “extreme.”

The first time I tried Shem-el-Nessim was at Jovoy Paris, and its orange blossoms caught my attention from the very start. I thought it was beautiful, and wanted to buy it, but had to see how the sillage and longevity would be. I used two tiny spritzes from one of their bottles. By the time I left, four hours later, the sillage had dropped significantly enough that it felt almost like a skin scent. Even the Jovoy manager with whom I had been conversing to notice how discreet it was on me. However, an hour later, a friend of mine could noticed it when he brought his nose right to my skin. He loved it, and thought Shem-el-Nessim was the chic-est thing out of all the various perfumes that I had on my skin, but, then, he’s French, loves the classics, and prefers very soft, intimate scents. He said, “that’s the one! Go back tomorrow and buy it.” Unfortunately, Jovoy was closed the next day (Sunday), I was leaving on Monday, and I was dubious about both the price and the sillage which wasn’t (and isn’t) Wagnerian on me in the way that I prefer.

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via

I’m still dubious about the sillage, but I sometimes wish I had bought Shem-el-Nessim in Jovoy, especially as the price has gone up considerably since then. It is such a beautifully golden scent, with such enormous plushness that it oozes sophistication, opulence, and elegance. Most of all, it feels romantic. Some admirers on Fragrantica talk about fairy princesses or Marie-Antoinette, so I’m not the only one to find a certain regalness to Shem-el-Nessim. Its opening certainly feels formal and extravagant. Plus, how is someone like me with my love for vintage L’Heure Bleue going to be immune to a brighter, sweeter version which eventually turns into creamy neroli vanilla mousse at the end?

It may be very appealing for me, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend Shem-el-Nessim to everyone. Not by a long shot. You have to love classic perfumery, the romantic aspects of the vintage style, L’Heure Bleu, and some powder to enjoy Shem-el-Nessim. If you don’t appreciate all of those things, then I suspect you’re going to be screaming “old lady.” In fact, one person uses precisely that word in her comment on Luckyscent, where the reviews are mixed, but mostly negative.

"Sweet Repose" by Pino Daeni (1939-2010). Source:

“Sweet Repose” by Pino Daeni (1939-2010). Source:

It’s the opposite story on Fragrantica where the majority of posters seem to love Shem-el-Nessim and find it very beautiful. I wasn’t surprised to see that 21 people voted for a similarity to L’Heure Bleue. However, I was a bit taken aback to see the votes for main perfume notes.

The geranium led the pack by quite a margin (41), followed by the heliotrope (27) and the orris (21). The neroli doesn’t come close. In fact, for one commentator, the entire first stage of Shem-el-Nessim was focused largely on the geranium, before turning to a “sweet, powdery vanilla” on an animalic base that she found to be “skanky yet elegant, sensual, warm, sweet.” (I’ve never seen anyone else call Shem-el-Nessim “animalic” in any way.) For another Fragrantica poster, her “overall impression [was]… a soft, powdery, fluffy, hazy, ethereal blend of rose and violet.” Several people found the sillage to be “extreme,” so I suppose I was merely unlucky in that regard, or perhaps I have a different definition for the term. In terms of other elements, a lot of people talked about the powderiness of Shem-el-Nessim at the start, but several add that the fragrance veers away from that after a while, and mention the “soft, creamy base of vanilla.” One person writes that Shem-el-Nessim “is the only perfume I have tested that I believe allows me to know how perfumery was once.”

Source: Té de Violetas. Portrait by Giovanni Boldini of Mrs. Howard Johnston, 1906.

Source: Té de Violetas. Portrait by Giovanni Boldini of Mrs. Howard Johnston, 1906.

The weight of the past is something that comes up in every single review of either Shem-el-Nessim or its siblings in Grossmith’s Classic Collection. For Caro of Té de Violetas, a friend who loves feminine florals, the Belle Epoque feel was not a bad thing. In fact, Shem-el-Nessim made her want to weep with joy:

Upon application, Shem-el-Nessim doesn’t fail to satisfy.  A powdery floral cloud surrounds me, almost threatening to permeate my every pore.  Once the initial blast subsides, I am able to fully appreciate its many subtleties. Bergamot and geranium are responsible for the initial tingle.  The fragrance later acquires a decidedly floral character, when honeyed notes of jasmine, rose and ylang-ylang infuse the blend with their sensuality. While individual notes are easy to identify, the transition between them is seamless, continuous and the overall feel is one of refinement. Orris graces the composition with its aristocratic presence, but feels unusually warm, almost golden, since it is paired with heliotrope, vanilla, sandalwood and musk.

This delicate, powdered beauty makes me want to weep and cry with joy at the same time (cry with joy? how improper!), unlike current L’Heure Bleue which only makes me want to cry. The only drawback I can think of is that Shem-el-Nessim eau de parfum doesn’t have much  longevity on my skin. [¶] I will dream about the magnificent parfum version until I am able to purchase a bottle.

Luca Turin. Source:

Luca Turin. Source:

Luca Turin shares our enthusiasm for Shem-el-Nessim, and gave it Four Stars in his recent Arabia Style magazine series. I’ve quoted his entire review verbatim, altered only by paragraph breaks to make it easier for you to read:

Long experience has taught perfume lovers to regard revivals of ancient fragrance houses with the deepest suspicion. Sometimes the house never existed in the first place (Rancé), sometimes a name has gone through so many hands that any pretense of continuity is a sad joke (Houbigant). Occasionally (Crown Perfumery) an honest effort is made, but the perfume composition firms usually devote so little time to small brands that the fragrances are hasty lash-ups or old dregs in drums rescued from a warehouse and sold to the naïve client as painstaking recreations.

Which is why Grossmith deserves to do very well: these guys, astonishingly, appear to be the real thing. The firm demonstrably existed since 1835, and was successful in its day. It is now in the hands of a descendant of the founder. The revived Grossmith — was there ever a brand name less evocative of fragrant refinement? — began by re-issuing three classics from the early years of the 20th century. Reassuringly, they smell exactly as they should, i.e. solid, voluptuous, expensive and terribly old-fashioned. But you could say that of a Rubens and it wouldn’t make it any less desirable.

The best one, in my view, is arguably also the least original, Shem-el-Nessim. Named after an Egyptian Spring festival, literally smell-the-breeze, it is none other than an enthusiastic copy of François Coty’s magnificent 1905 L’Origan, which begat L’Heure Bleue and countless others. Grossmith did not waste time and released Shem-el-Nessim in 1906. They are touchingly candid about this, which makes me like them even more. Bear in mind that the real L’Origan is long gone, and that the reptiles at Coty make money with fragrances named after minor celebs instead of their classic masterpieces. Given that, Grossmith becomes Plan A, particularly since everything from fragrance to bottle to packaging is of exquisite, painstaking quality. Well done. [Paragraph breaks and bold font inserted by me.]

Alexandra of Denmark, Queen of England, wife to Edward VII. Source:

Alexandra of Denmark, Queen of England, wife to Edward VII. Source:

Grain de Musc, however, was wholly disdainful, summing up all three fragrances as “ghosts” who should stay dead and whose “séance” she’d rather not attend. For her, the issue seems to be the richness of their scents and their dated feel. She writes, in part:

The result is the olfactory equivalent of tight-lacing: a surfeit of rich notes which manages to be both as stifling as the corsets of the women who wore the perfumes back in the Belle Époque and as flaccid as their flesh when they removed it. Sensuous in an overbearing, costume-drama way that might appeal to tastes frustrated by today’s skinny juices the way a pastry cart will make a dieter drool…

The reason why she hates the fragrances is exactly why I enjoyed Shem-el-Nessim so much. “Sensuous,” dramatic, full-bodied, and with a “surfeit of rich notes” is my idea of what fragrances should be like, and, in fact, precisely why certain perfumes like those of Roja Dove are so popular. (By the way, Roja Dove played small role in returning Grossmith to life as a perfume house and served as a sort of mentor in the re-issuance of the classic scents like Shem-el-Nessim. I think his influence shows.)

As Luca Turin says, there is nothing edgy, revolutionary, complex, or even remotely original about Shem-el-Nessim by today’s standards, but I think it smells luxurious and old-school in the best way possible. I would absolutely wear it if one of the “cheap,” regular, non-Baccarat bottles ever fell into my lap. Yet, something consistently stops me from buying the perfume for myself, and it’s because the prices are steep at $295, €210, or £170 for a 50 ml bottle. I’ll be frank in saying that I think they’re a little too steep for the scent in question. For all that I love the L’Heure Bleue similarities, for all that the real Guerlain scent is so lacking in its current reformulation, and for all that Shem-el-Nessim feels beautifully lush, I seem to have a real mental block towards paying the money in question.

Empress Sissi of Austria, portrait by Winterhalter. Source:

Empress Sissi of Austria, portrait by Winterhalter. Source:

However, price is always a subjective, individual valuation, so if you like fragrances that have the feel of vintage Guerlains with some of the richness of a Roja Dove perfume, then I think you should at least give Shem-el-Nessim a passing sniff. As I wrote in my review for Phul-Nana, these are scents that would appeal to perfumistas with more ornate, dense tastes, and who are fed up with the diet of “today’s skinny juices[,]” as Grain de Musc put it.

In contrast, I think young women used to modern fragrances with their “clean, fresh” notes, white musk, fruitchouli, and/or gourmand gooeyiness are going to find Shem-el-Nessim to be their grandmother’s scent. They shouldn’t bother going anywhere near it, and should stick to their Eau Chance and their Flowerbombs. In fact, anyone expecting an edgy, complicated, morphing, modern scent will be completely disappointed in Shem-el-Nessim. Same with those who don’t like “dated” scents. You can’t expect a perfume based on a 108-year old formula to smell fresh, bright, and different. It’s simply not possible.

Shem-el-Nessim skews firmly feminine, in my opinion. I think a really confident man who loves vintage Guerlain florientals (and L’Heure Bleue in specific) could wear it, but I would steer everyone else towards Phul-Nana which has a more unisex edge, thanks to its geranium, neroli, and aromatic fougère qualities. I truly cannot see the average male perfumista wearing Shem-el-Nessim. It is simply too floral and powdery in nature.

All in all, I’m damned impressed by this Belle Époque old lady and her opulence. I don’t usually agree with Luca Turin, but I do here. I think he’s right in everything he says about Shem-el-Nessim, right down to his Four Stars. Or, perhaps, it should be Five…

Cost & Availability: The version of Shem-el-Nessim being reviewed here is the Eau de Parfum which comes in two sizes: a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle that costs $295, €210, or £170; or a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle that costs $425, either €305 or €295, and £245. Shem-el-Nessim is also available as pure parfum or extrait de parfum, and a 10 ml bottle costs $320. Finally, there is also an extremely expensive coffret of all three of the Grossmith classics available for both the eau de parfum and pure parfum concentrations. In the U.S.Luckyscent has Shem-el-Nessim in all sizes and versions, but they are completely sold-out of the 50 ml eau de parfum at the time of this post. They’re also back-ordered on the large one, which is perhaps why they’re not selling samples at this specific time (6/19/14). Twisted Lily only has the 100 ml bottle on its website, and sells samples. Shem-el-Nessim is also available at The Perfume ShoppeOutside the U.S.: The Canadian branch of The Perfume Shoppe used to carry the Grossmith line and still does on its U.S. website, but the brand is no longer listed on the Canadian one. You can perhaps send them an email to inquire as to its availability. In the U.K., Shem-el-Nessim is available at Roja Dove’s Harrod’s Haute Parfumerie. Bloom Parfumery sells the 50 ml size, along with a sample. Les Senteurs has both sizes, and also sells samples. Fortnum & Mason carries Grossmith, but only lists the modern scents and not the classics like Shem-el-Nessim on their website. In continental Europe, Shem-el-Nessim is sold at Paris’ Jovoy, Belgium’s Senteurs d’Ailleurs, Italy’s Al Sacro Cuore, the Netherlands’ Lianne Tio, Spain’s Xazz Perfumery, and Germany’s First in Fragrance (which ships world-wide). In Greece, Shem-el-Nessim is sold at Rosina Perfumery, but I’m not sure they have an e-store. In Australia, Peony Melbourne is said to carry the brand, but I don’t see it listed on their website. For everyone else, Grossmith is available at numerous other vendors from Dubai to Iran, Kuwait, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden, the Ukraine, and more. You can look for a vendor near you at Grossmith’s Stockist page. Samples: You can find samples at many of the sites linked above. I obtained mine from Jovoy in Paris. I’m afraid Surrender to Chance no longer carries Grossmith, so your best bets in the U.S. are generally Luckyscent or Twisted Lily.

34 thoughts on “Grossmith Shem-el-Nessim: Romantic Beauty

  1. What a splendid review! I was wafting on the scent cloud you created with your eloquent description of this gorgeous sounding perfume. The words, ‘neroli vanilla cream’ alone are enough to have me sighing with the desire to experience Shem-el-Nessim. The way you describe the opening is breathtaking. I tried to imagine the perfect middle ground between neroli and orange blossom. Then the woosh of greenness, the bite of bergamot, and I was just done in. Well done Kafka. I love it when you love something. It is quite sad that it is so pricey, and I notice they do not offer samples at Luckyscent either. Hmmm, where there is a will, there is a way. I do hope to try this someday.

    • Oh, I think you’ll love this, Tora, especially if you get something like what I experienced and not the geranium-orris-heliotrope start that others describe. We’re all pretty uniform on the deliciousness of that vanilla drydown, though, and that’s where I think you’ll fall in particular.

      In general, I’m pretty sure Luckyscent sells samples of the Grossmith line as I bought my Phul-Nana one from them. Perhaps right now, it’s some temporary glitch because they’re sold out of Shem-el-Nessim, seemingly in BOTH sizes? I know that Grossmith is not one of the lines for which they have weird exceptions, and I’d swear I’d seen Shem-el-Nessim sold in sample form before. In fact, now that I think about it, before I tested it in Jovoy, I had almost ordered a sample from Luckyscent. It must be because they’re back-ordered on the perfume right now.

      Somehow, I only noticed the “Sold Out” part for the 50 ml size. My apologies, Tora. I’m in a bit of a daze after a very long 2 days, and I guess that my eyes blurred over the specifics re. samples.

  2. I have a couple of bottles of vintage L’Origan (which I love), as well as one precious bottle of vintage L’Heure Bleue parfum. If my memory is accurate, I found Shem-el-Nessim to be a little closer to L’Origan when I tried it. I wonder if we will lose this one to reformulation too. I would grab a bottle now, if it wasn’t quite so expensive.

    • Lucky, lucky devil re. vintage L’Origan. My word! I can’t remember ever seeing that one on eBay, or anywhere else. It’s practically like a perfume unicorn. Your comment about Shem-el-Nessim being very close to it echoes that of Luca Turin. It definitely lacks L’Heure Bleue’s peppered bit and, imo, some of its heavier powder characteristics.

      As for Shem-el-Nessim’s price, it sounds like you have a slight mental block against it too, even if you like the scent. I wonder why that is? I’ve certainly bought more expensive fragrances than Shem-el-Nessim. For me, I think it’s partially because of the smallish size, and also BECAUSE the scent is somewhat similar to things like vintage L’Heure Bleue (for me) and L’Origan (for you). Then again, the Grossmith has a richness of a vintage parfum and a Roja Dove scent from today, so I suppose I should just get over it. LOL.

      And, you’re right, with all that neroli, orange blossom, bergamot — precisely the sorts of things that the EU wouldn’t mind targeting in terms of ingredient levels — then it’s bound to get reformulated sooner or later into something quite terrible. Hm… I shall have to mull this over.

      • The impending EU restrictions are a real danger. Sooner or later, all those scents precious to us will be reformulated, and then we will “kick ourselves”. Stock up, or not, that is the question.

  3. oh, this sounds incredibly gorgeous!! i love vintage l’heure bleue (although i’m one of the freaks who prefers vintage edt to parfum… there’s something weirdly “salty” about the vintage parfum on my skin, although i do still love it) and honestly, i don’t find the price of this too bad, considering i shelled out full price for neelas mohur which is approximately the same price. that said, not sure i need it when i already have some l’heure bleue parfum. i’ll have to get a sample from somewhere.

    • I hope you do get a sample. There are enough differences with L’Heure Bleue to make it worth while. For example, Shem-el-Nessim on my skin was primarily orange blossom/neroli, which L’Heure Bleue definitely isn’t. Hopefully, it will be that way on you, too.

      With regard to Mohur, unless you’re talking about the Extrait version, the EDP is cheaper than Shem-el-Nessim for much more. Mohur costs $260 for 60 ml. Shem-el-Nessim costs $295 (almost $300) for 50 ml. I really think the price is an obstacle to more sales. Many of the Neela Vermeires are unique in feel, vibe, and composition. With Shem-el-Nessim, it’s a little harder to shell out money for something which has such a strongly similar vibe to existing or established fragrances. That said, a number of places seem sold out of the 50 ml bottles, so clearly someone is buying them. lol

  4. I remember when you mentioned trying this at Jovoy and really enjoying it. I was very surprised since I find it very powdery (which I adore!) and I know that’s not your cup of tea typically. But you are right, it is not just powder it has so much more and it certainly does have similarities to L’Heure Bleue. It truly is a classic and I’m so glad I happened upon a full yet used bottle from someone on a FB group. The price always kept me from getting a bottle until then. Another wonderful review, thank you!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the review and even more so that you got a bottle of Shem-el-Nessim at a good price. It’s such a lovely scent, but I think the price is going to be an impediment to a lot of people since it isn’t a really original scent.

  5. Thank you for another review with impeccable analytical and descriptive power.

    The fact that you praise Grossmith has prompted me to seek your advice since there is a niche boutique in Athens which sells some of their perfumes. Can I kindly ask you to check out the relevant site page and let me know what you think would be appropriate for someone with a craving for more animalic, and with a strong sillage preferably, fragrances?!grossmith-products/c3ck

    There does not seem to be an explicitly oriental fragrance in there, but perhaps the Saffron Rose one? Please let me know.

    Greetings, D

    • Dimitris, I don’t think any of Grossmith’s fragrances would truly qualify as animalic, but that is just a sense that I have from their general style and from what I’ve heard. The problem is that I’ve only tried 2 of their fragrances, so I’m not qualified to talk about the rest. I’ve heard mixed reviews on their Black Label collection, and about Golden Chypre in specific. Some have said they found the collection underwhelming as a whole, a few have liked them. It seems split.

      I have the impression that almost all the fragrances are primarily floral in nature, with a few having oriental aspects. But animalic? Or really genuinely masculine? No.

      I personally don’t think you’ll find a true love amongst the lot from what little I know of your tastes, but perhaps Rosina offers samples or you can go to the store to give them a sniff? Let me know what you find.

  6. Lovely review, Kafka, as always. I’ve been meaning to get samples of some of the Grossman perfumes ever since I saw the BBC perfume documentary. I know their perfumes hearken to another time, and I want to smell it! 🙂 Although I’m a newbie, I’ve had a chance to get a decant of vintage L’Heure Bleue and it is magic in a bottle so now I’m even more intrigued by the Grossman scents, based on your description. Totally price-prohibitive for me but samples are doable!

    • Hurrah for more vintage L’Heure Bleue love! As for Grossmith, I hope you manage to track down some samples. I’d love to know what you thought of Shem-el-Nessim. (BTW, it’s Grossmith, not Grossman. A slip of the fingers, no doubt. 🙂 )

  7. Hello!

    Every time I read “Old Lady” in a review, my skin begins to crawl.

    Firstly because of the impoliteness of the expression and secondly because it
    awakens my cravings as I usually like the scents so labeled.

    Which is also the case for “Shem el Nessim”. Some time ago I bought the
    3 x 10 ml perfume set on ebay for a song and am very happy I did so.

    Maybe I like “Phul Nana” best…

    By the way, I have never read about an “Old Gents” perfume.


    • It is funny that there’s no equivalent term. Maybe we just aren’t reading the right blogs. (I only just learned the term “panty-dropper.”) It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if something like Habit Rouge was considered old-fashioned–or even something like Polo.

      • Hello Laurels,

        The sales ladies at the perfume shop I usually frequent call the a bit dated or out of fashion scents “classic”.

        So every time I smell something and want to express my appreciation for the scent by calling it “classic” in its classical sense, I earn some big eyed looks.

        I tend to call a classic scent classic and a terrible one terrible.

        To my great astonishment Habit Rouge is rather often being labeled as old-fashioned, probably by those people who think (and write) that Shalimar is an Old Lady Perfume.

        Best regards


        • People who euphemistically label Habit Rouge as “old-fashioned” and mean it as an insult are people who deserve to be stabbed with a sharp fork! Grrrrr.

          Honestly, the lack of appreciation for the classics (and yes, I mean YOUR definition of “classic”) is really appalling. God, I’m turning into that stereotype that Americans use about a grumpy old person shaking their cane and yelling at kids to “get off my lawn.” lol

      • Oh God, don’t get me started on the “panty dropper” phrase. URRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!

    • I hate the phrase “Old Lady,” too. Horrible, sexist, and ageist, among other things. I think it’s truly obnoxious beyond words. And you’re right that there is nothing comparable for men. That said, I did once write that a fragrance — Dior’s Patchouli Imperiale — smelled the very worst parts of a very old man in a shabby, brown sweater and imbued with dust. lol

      I’m glad you enjoy both Shem-el-Nessim and Phul-Nana. 🙂

      • Hello again!

        I found the “panties” part to be quite amusing because it lacks the contempt insinuated in the other expression.

        Many bloggers use this other terrible denomination which is very close to “skunk”. I wish they’d use the latter, because sometimes it would fit perfectly.

        The picture you draw to describe Dior’s Patchouli is, alas, quite accurate.

        You are being very kind wanting to stab those special people with a sharp fork, by the way. I can easily see myself running down a garden path crying out loudly and brandishing one with sawn off prongs.

        Best regards


        • I use “skanky” myself, because it does convey a certain something and because it is a phrase whose meaning other people understand, but I will be sure to use “skunky” if something ever smells like a skunk. (Having had a dog actually SPRAYED by a skunk means I won’t use that comparison lightly, as that smell is like few things I’ve ever encountered.)

          In terms of “panty-dropper,” I think it is just as bad as “old lady” because it is loaded with implications about men and women, how women will become this pliable thing that will surrender to sex upon the mere sniff of a certain fragrance on a man, and so much more. The problem is the culture, context, or people who use it, because it’s often men who are bragging about how their “Juiizzz,” “beast mode” and how the beast will….. Well, to put it crudely, the implication is that their “beast” of a “panty dropper” will make a woman all wet and she’ll throw herself on the man, losing all control in a state of lust. It’s just disgusting and gross on so many levels. Perhaps you have to be here in America to see how it is used here and the sorts of people who use it. I’m telling you, it’s just as offensive as “old lady” in my opinion. Ugghh.

          • Hello Kafkaesque,

            As there is no Y-Fronts-dropper, I agree.

            How about “sensual”? Probably this does no longer fit when everything has to be so flashy.

            In my opinion advertisment is terrible worldwide:
            the promise of perpetual youth and bliss and fulfillment, so that it even doesn’t matter anymore which merchandise is on offer.

            Best regards


      • Oh my God, I can’t stop laughing at your description of Dior’s Patchouli Imperiale!! ROFL!!!! Too funny!
        As far as Shem-el-Nassim, you had me at the very start, when you remarked on a similarity to my beloved vintage L’HB!!! Your beautifully written, detailed review actually lulled me into a dreamy state of bliss, as I remembered the scent and the way it made me feel… This was quickly followed by excitement at the thought of smelling a another beauty that has such history. I LOVE the thought of wearing a scent that was created in another time, just imagining the women who would have chosen to perfume themselves with that specific scent!!
        I doubt I will rest until I have a sample of Shem-el-Nassim in my sweaty, shaking hand with my finger about to press down on the spray nozzle…. 😉

  8. Another beautiful review, another perfume with “aspirational” pricing. Samples and splits seem more and more like the way to go, which is a shame when the company bothers to put out a beautiful bottle.

    • As compared to some fragrances in today’s crazy world, Shem-el-Nessim is almost… er… affordable. LOL. But, yes, it is a shame. I hope yo get to try it, though, Laurels. I’d love to know what you thought of it.

      • Here I go again:

        Every now and then some affordable Grossmiths turn up on ebay, especially the classics as Hasu no Hana, Phul Nana and
        Shem el Nessim.

        I suppose we owe the pricing and the Heure Bleue “reminiscence” to Mr. Dove.


  9. Haven’t tried any of the Grossmiths (though I did catch the Downton Abbey reference! and grabbed my daughter’s arm in excitement. She was all, “what? oh, perfume,” and rolled her eyes at me.), as I haven’t had the opportunity.

    I *like* L’Heure Bleue in parfum, but don’t love it. Especially compared to vintage L’Origan, of which I have a .5 oz bottle of parfum; it appears to be 50s packaging, and it is smooth and gorgeous. But then, something about the old Cotys really just grabs me and makes me swoon. I get all emotional and everything. Should get that L’Origan out and wear it, it’s absolutely lovely – definitely *related* to L’Heure Bleue but more perfumey, perhaps, with less of that pastry thing.

    • I’d love to know what you thought of the Grossmith line in general, including Phul-nana. I think you’d really enjoy them, Mals, though probably not enough to be tempted by a full bottle. I really hope you get samples at some point, perhaps from Luckyscent or Twisted Lily. Who knows, perhaps they may end up appealing to you as a modern, new, more accessible Coty-like brand with their aesthetic?

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  12. I have a FB of Phul-Nana. Love it. Shem-El nessim made it to this year’s “gift me” Xmas list (I can now get 50ml Bottle due to proximity with Europe). I read and re-read the vintage Guerlain posts – Oh Heure Bleue….and have slurped up the remainder of my S-El-N sample.
    It’s always so interesting to see how a relationship to a perfume evolves over time, emotional space, weather, and practicing taste. I liked it the first time. But more and more now 🙂

    • With your tastes, Shem-el-Nessim will be a fantastic Christmas present to yourself. How are you faring in your hunt for vintage LHB? I thought of you a lot while writing the review. xox

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