It’s one of the all-time greats of 20th-century perfumery and is still the benchmark for oriental fragrances
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Founded by perfumer Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain in 1828 in Paris, Guerlain is one of the iconic houses of French perfumery and is revered for its numerous ground-breaking classics, including Jicky (1889), L’Heure Bleue (1912), Mitsouko (1919) and Samsara (1989). But it’s Guerlain Shalimar EDP, launched in 1925, that continues to top the lists of 20th-century fragrance greats.
Jacques Guerlain, who succeeded the legendary Aimé Guerlain, created Guerlain Shalimar EDP. Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest noses of the 20th century, he was a prolific creator and is responsible for numerous Guerlain classics, including Guerlain Mitsouko, GuerlainL’Heure Bleue, Guerlain Vol de Nuit and Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur.
A romantic oriental fragrance deserves a grand love story and Guerlain Shalimar EDP certainly has that. According to Fragrantica, Jacques Guerlain took his inspiration for Guerlain Shalimar from the love story between Mughul Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. When she died during the birth of their 14th child, he built the magnificent Taj Mahal and Gardens of Shalimar in her honour.
The original Guerlain Shalimar bottle, designed by Raymond Guerlain and Baccarat, was inspired by the Shalimar gardens’ curvy basins and fountains of water. It won first prize at the Paris Decorative Arts Exhibition during the year of its launch.
The batwing design has undergone various changes over the decades. The current look is based on Jade Jagger’s collector’s edition design, which was unveiled in 2010. It now features a curvy black bottle, blue plastic cap and black leather ribbon around the neck of the bottle. While not as elaborate as (and no doubt cheaper to produce than) the original, it still has an iconic feel.
Citrus notes, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, may rose, opoponax, tonka bean, vanilla, iris, Peru balsam, grey amber.
How to review a perfume that’s considered one of the greats of the 20th century? With much trepidation, it seems. After all, what could I add to the many expert reviews that has not been said already? Needless to say, this fragrance is too important not to have an opinion about it…
When I apply this fragrance I always first get a thoroughly seductive swirl of citrus notes. It’s a brief hint of freshness, for sure, but not the usual sharpness of citrus notes. It’s more powdery than anything else.
Throughout, it’s a warm and intimate scent, which is most prevalent in the drydown. Here, notes of vanilla, tonka bean, sandalwood and opoponax are introduced, with incense playing a major role. This smoky quality is one of the defining characterisics of Shalimar, but it’s a delicate treatment to entice the wearer.
I could use any number of adjectives to describe Guerlain Shalimar – sensual, enveloping, intoxicating, etc. None of which would do justice to it. The one that seems the best to me is “romantic”, in the best sense of the word.
A true and complex classic, little wonder it has spawned numerous flankers over the last decade, the most recent being Shalimar Soufflé de Parfum 2018. The proliferation of recent spin-offs is a realization by LVMH that Shalimar is a huge money-spinner for Guerlain.
Who would like it
Nostalgic yet still so relevant, Guerlain Shalimar will appeal to those who love a rich and unique oriental fragrance. The brand claims it’s the first oriental in history.
Wear to wear it
When you want to create a sense of occasion and are in a romantic mood. It’s also the perfect choice to wear to bed.