At long last I’ve come to appreciate Shalimar and truly understand her. I knew for years that there must be a reason for why people love Shalimar so much that I’m just not seeing. I kept reading on about how the dry down is this rich, deep, sensual vanilla but the top notes just turned me away. Then I decided to hell with it, and needed to see what I was missing for myself. And now, I think I’ve finally got it.
In Bottle: Smoky, slightly sweet and very spicy. Like taking in a lungful of cigar smoke. The bottle phase of Shalimar is excellent at hiding the vanilla deep in a hole somewhere and it’s just begging for you to come dig it up. To be completely honest, I am not wild about how Shalimar smells in the bottle or off-skin. It was the major thing holding me back for years from actually trying it on. And let me just say, Shalimar is strong. It’s not the kind of fragrance that sneaks into a scene and sits behind everyone else and stays quiet. Shalimar’s best trait is its projection. You don’t wear Shalimar to blend in with people. You wear it because you want your presence to be known. In short, it is powerful.
Applied: Initial burst of citrus, bergamot and lemon at work I’m thinking, but it’s very quick to go away. There’s cloves in this that lend to its spiciness. To me, cloves have this slightly plastic quality to it. But, hey, I’m warming up to them. As the initial lemon and clove notes starts to dry down I get more smoky sweetness from Shalimar as it leads me into the much raved about vanilla phase. The final vanilla phase for me is not what would be expected of vanilla. These days, people think sweet and gourmand when they hear vanilla. The vanilla in Shalimar is an incense laden, smooth, and dense smoked vanilla layered over powder. I know Shalimar is a classic. I’ve always known it was to be respected but up until now, I only respected it from afar. This is one perfume that needs to be allowed to age as its dry down is simply masterful.
Extra: Launched in 1925, Shalimar was the trademark of the daring, sensual woman. Shalimar, in Sanskrit means “Temple of Love”. Shalimar has a somewhat mixed reception these days. As more often than not, people opt for lighter, cleaner fragrances. As a result, Shalimar’s been called a lot of names. “Old lady” is one of the predominant criticisms. And “too strong” is another. It’s true, Shalimar is an old lady. It’s a classic, beautiful, timeless old lady. It’s also true that Shalimar is too strong. It has tremendous projection and is inappropriate for the office, public transit, and dinner parties held in close quarters. Like I said, this scent projects like mad. You need to pick the right places to wear it because it won’t go on lightly.
Design: Shalimar’s most well-known classic design inspired the current modern version. The classic design was based on the shape of a fan. A very romantic, lovely piece of art and design history. The modern design, though modern and hip, has lost quite a bit of that romantic and classic look. I prefer the old design. This new one isn’t bad, of course, but it feels a little mismatched for a classic fragrance so well-loved and well-known. As if the modern version was trying to take it away from the 1920s when it was born. The version I have comes in a clear glass bottle in the modern style. It has a plastic cap with “Guerlain Paris” written on it.
Fragrance Family: Oriental
Notes: Bergamot, cloves, smoke, iris, opopanax, vanilla.
All right, I fully admit my embarrassingly slow warm up to Shalimar. I think some people need to work up to this fragrance. Try it out enough times before they finally get it. I hear the same could be said for Jicky. Jicky being one of the Guerlain classics I’m really hesitant to try due to its infamously civet treatment. Ah well, Shalimar today and now that I finally understand her, it’s time to hunt down Vol de Nuit, Habit Rouge and Apres L’Ondee.
Reviewed in This Post: Shalimar, 2010, Eau de Parfum.