Nanshe feels full of contrasts, pushing and pulling, tender and rough, powdery and watery, flowing and glowing – its dynamics, and the way how wearing Nanshe makes me feel were the main reason why I chose it as the matching perfume for the Scent Semantics word of the month – FAMILY.

FAMILY – Daisy chose this word for Scent Semantics, and it wasn’t an easy one for me. This time I won’t start with the usual, a quote from a dictionary describing the noun with a classic definition and meaning of this social group. I think that the word family means many things, something different for everyone.

What one calls their family can be so different from the official definition (father, mother, children living under one roof + relatives), and yet have more love and commitment shared than in any traditional family.

Nanshe Nishane photo by Nishane
Nanshe, photo by Nishane

I come from a nuclear family, and I have a family of my own. And yet, family for me is a much broader definition. I believe you can have many families in your life, even several at the same time. Some family members one better let go if they’re toxic to your wellbeing, and some members can be added by your choice: when he was a little kid (and even today) when asked about his family members, my son always includes our Maltese – Candy. Talking about unconditional love in a family? Pets can become crucial members of a family unit, loved dearly.

When I think about my family (ies), and perfume, I also think about the unit of friends, perfume lovers, who became my extended family. Well, considering that you cannot choose your blood relatives, choosing your friends is an enhancement for a wider family structure. I am surrounded by loving and supportive people! We share the same interests, support, and love each other, even when miles apart. For that, I am extremely grateful.

I’ve been thinking for days about which perfume to choose to match the word and the meaning of FAMILY: most of the perfumes I kept thinking about were powdery-musky, gentle, feminine, soothing, and touching my soul. Expression of love, unconditional love, acceptance, and support, I guess. It seems that these choices were the closest to fragrantly describing the word, and yet none exhibited the “other side”: tension, sometimes unease, standing out boldly, being different – and yet blending perfectly with other accords.

Among these, Nanshe stood out: this fragrance is quite different, it has its individuality, there are contrasts of accords that make it interesting, it stands out, and yet everything is blended to perfection. Yes, Cecile Zarokian manages to keep it lively, changing directions, spices up your life – and then makes it flow, with ease and elegance.

I chose Nanshe by Nishane, not thinking about how my idea of a family might be represented by a perfume, but thinking about what fragrant message I would like to convey to my family, how would I like them to feel me, all members of all my families, traditional and unique, blood-related and chosen ones. I asked myself, not how my idea of the family would be described by a perfume, but what olfactory impression I would like my family to rember me by.

Nishane Nanshe (2020)
Goddess Nanshe, photo by Nishane

Nanshe is the name of a Sumerian goddess of fertility, water, and social justice, which was believed to be the patron of dreams and prophecy. She watched over orphans and widows, oversaw fairness, fresh water, birds and fish, fertility, and favored prophets, giving them the ability to interpret dreams accurately. – Nishane 

Just like Nanshe, I might seem a bit strange at first: maybe too direct, maybe not sporting a (fake) smile immediately. Nanshe does have that almost alien quality about it – it’s nothing like I’ve smelled before, and yet it was so easy to fall in love and identify with. There’s also that no-nonsense approach which I also might be known for: straightforward right from the start, down to earth, with carrot seeds and contrasting yuzu and cardamom dancing an unusual dance together: a bit of freshness, a bit of sweetness, a bit of herbal tinge.

It feels as if it’s saying “I see you, soul deep, and I accept all of you, for better or for worse, from the things that could spice up our lives, bring fresh new ideas or adventures, down to the sour moments in life that always occur – we’ll glide through them together. With style.

Once we pass through “no b*sh*t, opening and initial tension of letting go of ego, once the trust settles in, just feel the flow: feel the wind coming from a sea, the flow of liquid movement all around us, and you will see watery fruits growing above fields of transparent roses, mixing with warm cardamom and leathery saffron, enveloping you softly.

Safe and protected, you can float on layers of powder with watery depths beneath, velvety and swaying gently, feeling in touch with each other and the whole Universe. It somehow reminds me of moments when I go for a night swim, close my eyes, and float freely on the surface of the sea, totally relaxed. Trusting the power of the sea to keep me above the darkness of depths and cold undercurrents, detached from the world and attached to the whole world at the same time, with the reflection of stars in the dark sky above my head mirroring under my closed eyes, I am the Universe and the whole Universe is inside of me, and all I can feel is love, encompassing, caring, enabling and limitless love.

Powdery hugs and soft, musky smiles as expressions of love, a sweet ylng-ylang fluffy feeling of acceptance, belonging, and understanding. Nanshe is ancient and youthful at the same time, self-aware and giving, kind and compassionate. As it connects to waters and skies, it also connects to earth: the deep, musks and the orris-earthy base are strengthened by patchouli and sandalwood. Calming and comforting, it lasts and projects for a long time.

Nanshe feels different and yet well-known, creating a new universe just for you, and making your life a better and richer experience. Like a family member, you can always rely on, the one that understands with no questions asked accepts you at your worst, and celebrates you at your best. This is what I want my family(ies) members to feel as a gift from me, on deeper levels.

Let’s celebrate life here and now and dreams, find our balance, lose it willingly sometimes, laugh and cry together – I love you. And all is well. Nanshe will protect you.

Nanshe Nishane / Perfume Bottle
Photo by Elena Cvjetkovic

Nanshe Notes (as listed by the brand): bergamot, carrot seeds, cardamom, yuzu, water fruits&flowers, rose absolute, jasmine sambac absolute, ylang-ylang, orris, powdery notes, musk, patchouli, sandalwood. Available as 50 and 100 ml Extrait de Parfum, at Nishane and authorized sellers.

Scent Semantics
Please do check out the rest of our Scent Semantics crew, blogging about FAMILY:
The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: Nishane, Elena Cvjetkovic
Gifted by the brand, opinions of my own.

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  1. Lovely review Elena, especially your recognition of the families that we choose or choose us. I’m with the boy who chooses canine Candy as family too.
    Even the name Nanshe is familial. Nan – grandmother, mother substitute.
    She – her, female, matriarch
    Those or my own definition of those words ymmv of course.

  2. WOW Elena,
    What a perfect scent choice and I loved your review. Family is so much more than the group we are born into. Thanks for the reminder.
    Portia x

  3. I adored reading this Elena! I love the direction that you took to choose a fragrance that conveys what you would like to send to your family and friends. And what a beautiful, generous, and warm message! I haven’t smelled Nanshe yet, but can’t wait to. It sounds like the kind of fragrance you have to wear and spend time with in order to truly appreciate — which are really the ones that touch your heart the most.

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