Top of my list of must try classic perfumes is Shalimar. It’s easily accessible, it’s a Guerlain, it’s French and simply a beautifully intoxicating creation. The current EDP version smells pretty good to me so god knows how brilliant the Parfum Extrait– the Queen Bee Shalimar must be. I’ll take everyone’s word for it.
The perfume, created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain was apparently inspired by the love story of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his preferred wife, Mumtaz Mahal (or perhaps this inspiration was just clever marketing on the part of Guerlain). The Emperor famously built the Taj Mahal as a monument to his wife’s memory and the Gardens of Shalimar were one of her favourite spots. Quite a legacy.
According to perfume legend Jacques Guerlain was experimenting with ethyl vanillin – a new synthetic ingredient, and dropped some into Jicky to see what would happen et voila – Shalimar was born.
For me this perfume is simply THE oriental queen. She’s regal yet tempestuously passionate.
Shalimar opens up effervescently, all sparkles and brightness with sprinkles of bergamot and citrus. Her golden shimmer makes way for a silky sexiness as the floral heart turns up the heat with a delicate dance between the iris, rose, jasmine and patchouli. The passion really flourishes though when the leather and smoky incense – with a dash of civet takes over. This is when the perfume makes the transition to the dark side and becomes swoon worthy. As the dance slows, Shalimar becomes a luxurious vanilla, in the Guerlain style. Simply divine.
The key to Shalimar’s success is the contrast between the light and dark elements and the transformation to that exquisite vanilla with coumarin for extra richness. Shalimar is undoubtedly one of the best vanillas in existence. I know it’s not the only story in this perfume but the Guerlain vanilla reigns supreme and if you can wait for its arrival in the dry down and not be put off by the raunch, it is special indeed.
Perfumer Ernest Beaux (creator of Chanel No 5, No 22, Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles amongst others) spoke of Jacques Guerlain’s talent for vanilla in his compositions.
“When I use vanilla, I make crème caramel, when he uses vanilla, he makes Shalimar”.
This was the perfume of flapper girls with an attitude back in the day. Apparently Americans took to it faster than the French. I doubt this would be the case today with the state side preference for clean, fresh laundry scents. Try wearing this Regal Queen when you want to channel some of that flapper attitude with a touch of sparkle, passion and sassy sexiness.