Almost 100 years after the legendary perfume Shalimar was launched, we are entering the new twenties – they probably won’t be as extravagant and exuberant as before, but the Guerlain’s iconic scent certainly may witness its renaissance among the younger public, with a bottle selling every minute in the world. It is not an easy scent to wear and to fall in love with – but I promise you, it’s worth the effort.
The inspiration behind Shalimar
The history of Shalimar is as striking as the fragrance itself. The first oriental perfume was created in 1921 by Jacques Guerlain, inspired by the love story between the emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. After she passed away giving birth to their fourteenth child, heartbroken Shah Jahan ordered the construction of a mausoleum in memory of his wife and their love – Taj Mahal. Shalimar perfume is named after Mumtaz Mahal’s favorite garden in Srinagar (now India).
Shalimar was first launched as pure perfume, with many versions released afterward. I fell in love with the lighter classic – an Eau de Toilette. I don’t believe that any perfume has age but in this particular case, I felt like the classic EDP suits rather a more mature woman. Eau the Toilette may have different notes listed but you can definitely feel the opulence and complexity of the original here.
The scent of Shalimar
It opens with a fresh whiff of bergamot, however a person not familiar with oriental scents might be a bit overwhelmed with the potent resins of the base right from the start. Then the scent becomes more powdery and floral, thanks to iris and rose, however you can still feel the resinous oriental base throughout. On my skin it lasts 8h+, with time unveiling more and more creaminess thanks to the vanilla and tonka bean base notes. Although not listed in the Guerlain website nor Fragrantica, I can definitely smell the opoponax and incense notes, just like in the EDP but not as powerful. They are always there, peeking from the citruses, the powdery iris, and then the creamy vanilla, adding that oriental soul and vintage feel.
Once a scent of the unruly and “immoral” flapper girls, Shalimar is definitely dedicated to confident women.
A lady must never: smoke cigarettes, dance the tango and wear Shalimar– it was said by stately ladies.
When I wear it, the scent brings me to one of my favorite movies: “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, starring Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson. As the character played by Wilson is brought back in time to the bohemian life and parties of the Parisian société in the 1920s, I can’t help but imagine the scent of Shalimar filling those rooms crowded with the new it-girls – the artists’ muses, the rebels. It’s not the insane opulence of “The Great Gatsby”, it’s the smoky and dusty Paris, with its artistic ferment and the creators like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, or Josephine Baker crossing paths.
Shalimar, even in the Eau de Toilette version, is not a scent for everyone and I would say it requires a nose that’s used to the more vintage fragrances. I wouldn’t recommend it to those of you who prefer sweet floral or fruity scents. But to any perfume lover, familiar with the niche and willing to experiment, Shalimar is a must-have in the collection. Also if you, like me, prefer oriental fragrances over anything else, this is simply a classic – now much more affordable than it used to – that I believe you will love reaching for.
Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Toilette
Perfumer: Jacques Guerlain
Top notes: Bergamot
Middle notes: Iris, Rose, Jasmine
Base notes: Vanilla and Tonka bean