Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Guerlain- Shalimar Parfum Initial

Last summer my then two year old niece was sitting on  her mother's lap in my dressing room as I was presenting my sister with various perfume samples and trying to predict (quite successfully)  what she'd like and what she wouldn't. My niece was an active participant, smelling each tester after my sister, happily giggling and declaring what she liked. You'd be delighted to hear she gave Mona di Orio's first Les Nombres d'Or trio a pink and chubby thumb up (it didn't fare as well with my sister, but she did enjoy several Miller Harris perfumes).

I have every intention to not only spoil my niece rotten (it's our family sport, actually), but also to lavish her with perfume and perfume knowledge. There's no doubt she's going to be able to identify notes before she'll be able to drive and recognize some of the classics, including in vintage formulation. I sometime wonder what will be the very first perfume I'll buy her. The answer is whatever she'd like, of course. It's going to be interesting to see if she asks for a classic, a contemporary or maybe something niche and semi-obscure (we're already on the right way, after all).

The backstory for Shalimar Parfum Initial was that Thierry Wasser, Guerlain's in-house perfumer composed it at the request of his niece who found the original inaccessible. I'm sure the niece is not alone. After all, there are many a perfume lover who can't wear Shalimar or other Guerlain classics. I might not understand it but I fully accept this as fact. Guerlain has already created a full line of entry level perfumes, the Aqua Allegoria range. Personally, I think the vast majority of them suck. They are thin, pale and limp bunch of dreck that has absolutely none of Guerlain's mystique and are not likely to make anyone graduate from Tutti Kiwi to L'Heure Bleue.  This is why the concept of an introductory Guerlain perfume that actually corresponds with the house's heritage is not a bad idea at all.

If you ask Octavian from 1000 Fragrances, Shalimar Parfum Initial is an abomination that should never have happened. Since you're here and therefore asking me, I'll tell you that I have never met a Shalimar I didn't like. Apparently this still holds true with a pink one that is loaded with patchouli.

There's no doubt that Wasser stripped Shalimar of its iconic dirtiness, the one that made countless of men buy a bottle for their lovers. Gone are the animalic notes and the smoky ones (but as we all know, not much of that was left in the current version on the market. Reformulations have cleaned Shalimar up to a degree while still insisting it's the real thing). I do get a hit of the familiar pleasure in the opening- the citrus/vanilla/leather with an unmistakable Guerlain seal and a little powdery orris. Shalimar was definitely not thinned down, sheered out or made in any way less of a powerhouse. It still wears stilettos and a black gown.

The pink patchouli accord that burns down to sweet musk is the one that requires some adjusting. Yes, we've met this before. Chanel made a screechy horror one for Coco Mademoiselle. Dior shoves it down our throats with Miss Dior Cherie until we beg for mercy. And let's not forget the hell dimension that is Angel. But Shalimar Parfum Initial is none of those. We're talking Guerlain here and this is still unmistakably an offspring from that house. I've spent the last five days immersing myself in Parfum Initial, wearing it inside the house and outside, in the heat, humidity and in air-conditioned rooms. I wore it while dinning out and when going to bed. I've been wearing while marathon-blogging the fall collections of Chanel makeup. Even that didn't feel wrong.

What I'm trying to say is that despite the very prominent presence of an accord I usually dislike, the way Thierry Wasser adjusted it into a Guerlain formula is very pleasant. More than pleasant, really. Shalimar Parfum Initial is delicious, warm and corresponds very well with my skin. It's more girly and uncomplicated than my usual fare, but it smells like a Guerlain perfume and it's just another way to wear Shalimar on a summer day.

Back to my niece: would I buy her a My First Shalimar-type perfume? Well, I might, if she shows interest. Then again I'm hoping to get her to like Bandit and MKK even more. They have the benefit of not requiring a naked Natalia Vodianova to drive people into the stores to buy it.

Notes: citrus, green notes, bergamot, orange, rose, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, white musk, tonka bean.

Shalimar Parfum Initial ($67, 1.3oz EDP, other sizes also available) is sold at most department stores.

Art: Charles Dwyer, After The Dance


  1. I was lucky to receive a sample from Paris (as it's still not available here, and probably won't be, like every other Shalimar flanker so far).
    To me it also smells like a girly version of Shalimar, one I consider much more accessible to people. Like a Shalimar mixed with Insolence (or some similar Guerlain that I cannot stand and differentiate) but it seems to work fine in combination with Shalimar.

  2. I love Shalimar so I will probably sample this one eventually.

    I had a couple of aunts who gave me my first perfumes. They are my favorite aunts! :)

  3. Interesting...

    I was fully prepared to Ignore this new rendition of Shalimar. But, truth be told, I'm one of the few perfumistas who *never* wear the original Shalimar because it smells like baby vomit on me. Maybe Shalimar Parfum Initial is the answer? I'll give it a go now. Thanks :)

  4. I tried this at Nordies last week and I liked it! I could smell it all night.

  5. I love Shalimar-I was working from home this winter, and so could wear whatever fragrance I wanted. I ended up wearing many classic Guerlains-including a ton of vintage Shalimar EDP, and L'Heure Bleue recent PDT. I think it educated my nose ( I don't know how to explain it). Repeated exposure to the classics redefined my nose.

    I will try the new Shalimar, because I must be the only perfumista who loves Idylle. I tried it, expecting to not be impressed, and found I loved it. Since I appreciate TW work, I'll approach SPI and see if it works for me. Thank you for the review! You will need a rest after the marathon Chanel blogging. Is there some sort of convalescent home for tired bloggers?!


  6. I'm one of those strange people for whom Shalimar doesn't work at all. I tried Initial a couple of day ago. My verdict: unlike Shalimar, this one I could wear but I do not want to. It's not interesting enough for me to warrant any time/skin RE when there are so many perfumes that I love or want to try.

  7. I was able to try this this week in Paris and I have to say I was disappointed - it's pleasant enough but bland and unremarkable on me, something for a very young girl, I feel, rather than a woman. I'm not sure why there's a need for it either while Shalimar Light/Eau Legere exists and fits the bill so well. I'm interested to see that Idylle was also TW because I find that to be a screechy abomination. Lord knows JP Guerlain was disappointing compared to his illustrious ancestors but I feel full of foreboding about what TW is going to do, based on these two efforts.

  8. Shalimar was one of the first grown up perfumes I bought. In fact, I still have the half full bottle, and it is probably 25 years old! It came in a fancy gold lattice case, and the funny thing is, if you take the lid off and take a sniff, it is absolutely gorgeous! I've tried sniffing the new bottles in the shop and none come close to the richness in mine. Must be all that tweaking they like to do.

    Next time I'm at a guerlain counter I will definitely check out the Shalimar Initial.
    Your niece is lucky to have you as an aunt :-)


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