Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

I rushed into Shalimar.

I rushed into Shalimar, and I sort of … Missed its beauty.

Well. No, that’s not entirely true. Comprehending Shalimar’s beauty is quite easy, far easier than L’Heure Bleue for instance, but Shalimar is the most enveloping, most arresting, and most outward in its transcendental beauty.

It is easy to comprehend Shalimar – its vanillic overdosing, trails of incense smoke, and powdery reverberations, all melded together to build a scent in well-tuned harmony – attuned towards natural balance and contrasts. But it is not easy to get to the inmost depths of Shalimar; an exotic breeze of immediate scintillation and scented awe. Shalimar is undefinable – and that is awe-worthy. It is not entirely what Shalimar is in terms of its composition, but it is the fine, razor-thin equilibrium of a melange of different interplays. A constant tension at all times: Ladylike, tramplike. Masculine, feminine. Gourmand, abstract.  Clean, then dirty, dirty then immediately clean. Without the balance that Shalimar expresses, it would topple into a territory of imbalance and polarity. The fragrance itself is about the concurrency of its parts, altogether forming a wholeness – a lovingly rounded and supple quality resembling long mornings in-between the bedsheets, the warmth of a partner’s embrace, and the sentiment of the evening just past.

Its beauty exists at a point of equidistance – Shalimar is both subtle and pronounced at once. It must be viewed from all of its seemingly endless angles, and that is a lifetime experience in itself.

Shalimar Parfum © 2015 Liam Sardea

© 2015 Liam Sardea


The parfum is without a doubt the best medium for this scent with its high concentration of ingredients naturally suiting oriental and baroque creations – allowing a depth to be achieved with a smooth regal richness.

Shalimar’s equidistance between the physical and the ephemeral realm makes it a haunting perfume – promptly evocative. How is the effect is achieved? Through an overdosing. Vanilla and its milky yellow warmth is glazed all over, adding a richness that manages to pull away from the expected gorging effect. A sweet, moreish note of vanilla is juxtaposed against the sincerely mature and balsamic flecks of resin, incense, and solid woods – adding a universal recognisability to these exotic notes related to the mysterious and magical orient.

The ethylvanillin that gives Shalimar its sweet edge is an interesting aromamolecule, in that alone it is brisk, and unsubstantial – hinting at a rich vanilla potential. When I added an equal amount of diluted ethylvanillin to the already vanilla-rich Shalimar, I was surrounded in a whirl of continued and intensified richness, never compromising itself to density. This contributes to Shalimar’s hovering quality, an intensity seen from afar.

Shalimar parfum opens with the brightness of bergamot, maintaining an intoxicating oiliness in the field of gasoline, leather, and tar with the expected citrus rush calling to mind Earl Grey tea. It bares a natural quality – a hint rooty, something like vetiver, with a citrus accord most likely borrowed from Cologne Imperial. This creates a shiny aspect, a sparkling, almost refreshing barrage of nuances, then detracting into a purely balsamic direction – a large leap immediately into base notes. Find leather: a birch tar laden section of the composition adding breadth and definite nasal intrigue. Then, a wave of smoke. The vintage powdery feel of orris root freshened with a coating of classic florals – jasmine, rose, carnation, iris, and then a resounding woodiness working in tandem with the smoke.

Sandalwood, tonka bean, and patchouli add the edible feature to Shalimar in conjunction with the vanilla: giving an effect of both creaminess and deliciousness – teetering on the edges of gluttony, ecstasy, and sensuality when considered as a coherent and whole perfume. Any less balance and refinement would turn Shalimar into either a sickly dessert or a strictly carnal, totally raunchy product. It is a meditation and a guide to what counterpoint is, and how it is done to perfection in the art of perfume. The civet for instance? The perfect purr in the background; a chesty, French accented and leather-wearing utterance relaying a series of sweet nothings surrounded in bittersweet opoponax. Thick, offensive, full bodied, and then totally rewarding. It goes on burnt and discordant, and softens delightfully into a warm amber amalgam.

A note regarding the current 2015 parfum: It is, by all means, still a deeply oriental creation with a curvaceous balsamic body. What’s fascinating is its prominence of a milky note resembling green almond: Sublimely bitter and then creamy, it calls to mind contemporary tonka beans scents; presenting at once something lactic and something waxy.

The imperative oriental, incense, vanilla, symphony… The imperative scent! 

Subjective rating: 5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

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3 thoughts on “Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

  1. Wonderfully expressive as expected. I think you summed it up perfectly with “a lovingly rounded and supple quality resembling long mornings in-between the bedsheets, the warmth of a partner’s embrace, and the sentiment of the evening just past.” That pretty much says it all. 😉
    I’m impressed you can appreciate this classic at such a young age. I know I didn’t. Of course I can never tell if that is the fault of the formulation way back when, or my immature shnoz. I think it was a combo. My point being I only appreciated this when I was older. I now own many versions and the Eau de Cologne is my favorite for some reason.
    Shalimar is named for a garden. Most certainly not a flower garden but more a garden of earthly delights.

    • Thanks David.
      I think I’m in the luxurious position that the world currently is full of perfume information – there is just so much to read from so many people. Turin, M. Guerlain, other blogs, Basenotes, Fragrantica… All of these help me to understand Shalimar too. My job is just to weave this tapestry of tales together and add a hint of my personal flair and seasoning.

      A beautiful phrase you made too. “Earthly Delights”. Love!!!

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