Friday, April 18, 2014

Guerlain Shalimar Light/Shalimar Eau Legere

I guess I'm still in an Amalfi Coast kind of mood, as I can't get enough of the lemony confection of Guerlain Shalimar Eau Legere and its fraternal twin, Shalimar Light. Normally I'm rather old school when it comes to Guerlain perfumes, collecting and wearing vintage and pre-reformulation versions. Vintage Shalimar in every concentration is among my most worn fragrances, but that didn't stop me from falling in love with the 2003/2004 modernized take on the classic oriental.

The original Shalimar was meant to be grand and complex. Smoky and animalic just as much as powdery and sweet. Obviously, by making a light Shalimar, perfumers Mathilde Laurent and Jean Paul Guerlain were set to strip Shalimar of its more complicated facets to make the fragrance more accessible to the Aqua Allegoria generation. The magic here is that it is still a recognizable Guerlain perfume that is clearly related to Shalimar, giving us all the fun just without all the drama.

But there was some behind-the-scenes turmoil around this perfume, as evident by the two versions realeased one year apart. You can read more about it on Perfume Shrine, where Elena gets into the details, including how to tell the two apart.  In short, the first incarnation, Eau Legere was the golden juice in a bottle that had a blue cast. The later Shalimar Light is plain blue. I've been gathering as many bottles of both as I could get my hands on back when their  price was ridiculously low, trying to ensure a lifetime supply. I used to spray Light and Legere side by side, challenging myself to find all the subtle differences. Occasionally I'd get it and have an Aha! moment, but eventually I stopped doing that. These two perfumes, especially now that the juice has aged nicely, are so similar and so beautiful it no longer matters to me. Henceforth I'll use the name Shalimar Light when referring to either one.

Shalimar Light opens with a frothy cloud of lemon meringue. If you were to make a pavlova with fresh Italian lemon curd from Campania, this would be its scent. Unapologetic sweet and delectable, quite fluffy, full of life and sunshine. The more Shalimar-like facets emerge soon: powder and vanilla, a less-than-clean floral touch, and that intricate and rich vanilla-plus base that could only come from Guerlain. It's not heavy or too plush for daytime, and it's clear that the modernization of Shalimar aimed towards the "yummy" side that by 2003 was already an industry standard for a bestseller. Still, Shalimar Light managed to remain interesting and quite chic, easy-going but never low-brow.

It's no secret that Guerlain as it is today, another LVMH label, is not what it used to be. Roja Dove thinks, and I fully agree, that the brand is trying to be all things to all people at the cost of what made it so special. I wonder what would have happened had Guerlain kept the gem that was Shalimar Light in production and stayed that particular course instead of producing all those Robe Noire flankers and the unbelievably bad Aqua Allegoria Limon Verde. It might have made it easier to swallow the more outrageously packaged and priced bottles for Guerlain's favorite market segment, the Russian mobsters and their mistresses.  In any case, the disappearance of Shalimar Light in favor of the 2008 paler, less tenacious and slightly more sugared Eau de Shalimar (also discontinued, but still very easy to find) tells the story. It's our loss, but also Guerlain's.

Notes:  lemon , bergamot, jasmine, iris, orange, vanilla, and amber.

1 comment:

  1. Shalimar Light really was a beautiful, stockpile worthy scent. Definitely unfortunate about the direction Guerlain has chosen.
    And thanks for that ad with Patti and her daughters. The first issue of Vogue I got as a young teen had Patti on the cover and before that had several issues of Seventeen with her on the cover. Absolutely loved those old oversized issues of Vogue and Bazaar. Saved them for years and years till they were lost in a move at one point. Sob!


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