Guerlain Shalimar and Shalimar Eau Legere : Perfume Review

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Shalimar

According to Guerlain, Shalimar was inspired by a love story of Shah Jahangir and his wife, Mumtaz Majal. Upon her death, Shah build a mausoleum in her honor, which is Taj Mahal. The fragrance was named after the Gardens of Shalimar, so beloved by Mumtaz Majal. Whether the story is true, or just an example of clever marketing playing upon the contemporary fascination with the exotic, the magic of Shalimar is indisputable. Ever since it was launched in 1925, it has been an important trendsetter for so-called oriental fragrances, perfumes inspired by the aromas of the East.

Shalim

The initial sensation is of cool citrus burst that quickly melds into a rich floral heart. The undercurrent of dark sensual pervades even the initial chilly note, setting the stage for the warmth of the base. Vanilla stands out rather strongly against the backdrop of bergamot, which while fading by the time fragrance dries down, nevertheless maintains its pleasant astringency. The interplay between cold and hot is the most magnificent aspect of Shalimar. The eau de toilette and eau de parfum are lovely, but the extrait de parfum is incomparable, as is the case for most of the Guerlain fragrances. Bergamot is much softer, while the dry down is remarkably luminous and rich.

For a similar idea, but different aura, Jicky is my preferred fragrance. In fact, many perfumers think that Shalimar was created when perfumer Jacques Guerlain added a heavier than necessary doze of vanillin to Jicky.

Shalimar Eau Légère

Imagine sitting by the pool and eating lemon-jasmine sorbet. The wind is carrying the scent of blooming orange groves and briny sea air. Unlike traditional Shalimar, Eau Légère, introduced in 2003, skips the leather-balsamic portion of Shalimar and juxtaposes the cool lemon with creamy vanilla and woods. It was created by Mathilde Laurent, a young in-house Guerlain perfumer, however in 2004, Jean Paul Guerlain slightly changed the composition. Shalimar is the full blown fin de siècle decadence, resplendent in its radiance. Shalimar Light is like its reflection in the water. It is still an ornate Guerlain composition, but far more restrained. It is lighter as the name suggests and less complex. Nevertheless, it is an interesting take on the beautiful classic Shalimar. Eau Légère, on the other hand, is effervescent and lighthearted, yet preserving the seductive quality of the original.

On Reformulation (added 12/17/10):
Out of all Guerlain reformulations, Shalimar appealed to me the most. It has the character of the original, with the dark, rich, oriental accord still intact. Of course, it is missing the radiance of ambergris and some natural animalic notes in the original, but frankly, if it is a choice between a nice perfume and ecology, I will take the latter. The genius of the effervescent bergamot juxtaposed with the dark, rich vanilla still amazes me, despite this idea being used extensively in many fragrances created since 1924. I also compared the parfum concentration and the available eau de parfum. The leathery-castoreum notes are not as pronounced in the EdP, but the essential Shalimar structure is in place. For the richness and complexity, I prefer the parfum.

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15 Comments

  • Ralu: I finally discovered Shalimar. It happened when I least expected, as it happens with love. I smelled it on someone and was shocked to hear they were wearing Shalimar perfume. My first guess for the fragrance was Musc Ravageur. Here is the secret. I tried Shalimar EdP a million times, trying to figure out what was special about it and failing to find that. The EdP smells like something burning, and not in a good way. The perfume smells the same way for the first 20 minutes but after that it settles into a warm, comforting scent. I wonder if I’m the only one who find similarities between Shalimar and Musc Ravageur. May 22, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

  • Nickolas: This review deserves more than one comment. I have been a fan of fragrance for years, and came to fell head over heels with Shalimar just a few years back, at the beginning of my new found fascination. As with most fragrances I own (or think of owning), I’ve made myself familiar with most of the reviews published about the fragrance. Never before has someone described Shalimar’s developing stages so beautifully, but also so literally. Your description of Shalimar and how it evolves completely puts pure emotion into words and demonstrates that a great fragrance moves transcends boundaries. I am a male New Yorker of 29 years old who is more commonly mistaken for a football player than an artist. You are amazing. May 27, 2012 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nickolas! I’m so glad to hear that my description resonated with you. This is an amazing perfume, and like you say, it transcends gender boundaries effortlessly. I think that it smells great on a man and very sexy. After all, it has such a large dose of bergamot that it’s almost a cologne. May 27, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

  • JennyJo: I tried to love Shalimar from when I was 16 or so and never managed it. I always felt choked and miserable by it and gave up after trying for about 20 years.

    The other day I was at my local perfume store and I tried Shalimar EdT. I loved it and the sales lady filled a tester for me to try at home. My husband adored it and so did I, we love the sharp citrus at the start and the soft wood-vanilla after that. It made us happy and we couldn’t stop drooling over it.

    I returned to the shop, to buy a big bottle, but the sales assistent (not the lady who gave me the EdT sample) said I absolutely should buy the EdP or the perfume, as the EdT was not like Shalimar at all. So I tried the EdP again and felt sick again smelling it. He then let me try Shalimar Parfum Initial, but as I had fallen in love with Shalimar EdT that didn’t work. So I left the shop with nothing, feeling very stupid about myself for loving such an utterly wrong version of Shalimar.

    :-( August 5, 2012 at 5:18am Reply

    • Niyah: Hello JennyJo!
      As someone who has tried loving Shalimar, albeit only for the last 1 year (me- late bloomer), I totally get your frustration. However, there is one thing I have come to realize in “trying to desperately love” a fragrance which is SO ICONIC, but I am just not ready for…at least not yet! –
      A) A fragrance is a matter of personal choice and skin chemistry. Does not matter if it is an ICON or not! If it works for you, it is yours!
      B) There is nothing like a “wrong” Shalimar; only a right one that works for you.

      After trying samples and samples of Shalimar EDP in the last year, hoping against hope for my nose to fall irrevocably in love, I chanced upon Shalimar Initial version, which worked so much better on my skin. I still shudder at the initial blast of Bergamot/Citrus (its getting better) but patiently wait a couple of minutes for it to lift off to reveal the notes in the middle and at the base. Those are my favourite notes as they stay so close to the skin and comfort me.

      If Shalimar EDT does that for you, GO FOR IT! You have not loved the wrong Shalimar. You have just discovered a Shalimar concentration/version you love and the one which works perfectly for you!

      Either way, remember, the Shalimar you get today, as glorious as it might be, is not the original recipe, but a reformulation of the original anyway. Even if for this reason alone, you really have nothing to feel bad about.
      If anything, you have inspired me to go try out the Shalimar EDT concentration because I never gave that one a chance – now look who is feeling stupid for not trying that one out yet ;-) August 7, 2012 at 12:03am Reply

      • JennyJo: I love many Guerlain’s and L’Heure Bleue has always been my ultimate comfort scent, even more so when I was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. During that time, whenever I was anxious or depressed I would go up to our bedroom and sniff my HB and it never failed to comfort me and calm me down. So I so much wanted to love Shalimar as well, decided to try again and fell head over heels in love with the new EdT.

        “…A) A fragrance is a matter of personal choice and skin chemistry. Does not matter if it is an ICON or not! If it works for you, it is yours!

        I think that’s the point, there’s something in Shalimar that violently disagrees with me in certain quantities and it just doesn’t seem to wear off, so after half an hour there’s nothing else for me to do but scrub it. In the EdT, because of it being so much lighter, this doesn’t happen.

        “…B) There is nothing like a “wrong” Shalimar; only a right one that works for you.”

        Thank you so much! I’ll just go and buy it and be happy with it. :-) August 7, 2012 at 4:50am Reply

        • Niyah: I am so glad you have decided to embrace the Shalimar EDT you so love. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and joy and many exciting & happy adventures with your new found love :)

          I will give it a go this month along with L’Heure Bleue when I get the chance.

          I am fairly new to Guerlain and have just tried a handful of them. Its been a mixed bag of hits and misses. But I am enjoying exploring the line.

          P.S: I admire and salute your strength and courage in face of such a scary trial, especially at such a young age. I know one cannot do it without the support of loved ones, but even so, its lovely how little things (L’Heure Bleue) can act as anchors and tide us through trying times. I sincerely pray you are doing a lot better in every way. August 8, 2012 at 5:27am Reply

          • Niyah: Oh and look what I found – A post written yesterday and perhaps just in time -

            http://boisdejasmin.com/2012/08/perfume-pursuit-is-fragrance-worth-a-long-courtship.html

            We are not alone in our pursuits :D Happy reading! August 8, 2012 at 5:40am Reply

          • JennyJo: Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m doing very well, I’m fit, healthy and happy. I’m not that young anymore btw, the last time I sniffed some Shalimar was when I was pregnant with my daughter (who is now 24) and that was also the last time, I decided to give it up then and there.

            Then came the internet I discovered there was such a thing as perfume bloggers who were all raving about Shalimar, so I decided to pluck up my courage and give it just one more try – and there was this wonderful EdT.

            Yesterday my husband and I went shopping and I decided to try something else I was sure I wouldn’t like, an amber perfume, so I tried Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens. And I absolutely loved it, I was completely bowled over. Sadly it was out of stock so they ordered it for me and then my husband bought me a bottle of Shalimar EdT, bless him. I feel extremely spoilt and happy now, drinking my tea, sniffing my pulse and admiring the lovely bottle in front of me. :-) August 8, 2012 at 8:20am Reply

            • Niyah: “…I feel extremely spoilt and happy now, drinking my tea, sniffing my pulse and admiring the lovely bottle in front of me.”
              I can totally picture you…and that makes me smile :) God Bless! August 9, 2012 at 7:50am Reply

            • Victoria: What a lovely image! I’m so happy that you found your Shalimar. The EDT is great, and there is nothing wrong with it. It has such a gorgeous shimmery top layer of bergamot and lemon, and it’s always a surprise when the vanilla rises up to meet it. I love the parfum too, but lately I’ve been wearing the EDT during the summer. Shalimar Light is another great version.

              Thank you both for such a warm and nice discussion. I had such a pleasure reading your comments, nodding along at several points. August 9, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

  • Niyah: Awww, thank you for your sweet words Victoria.

    It is such an immense pleasure to read all of your insightful fragrance reviews and articles. Cannot tell you how much I admire your hard work on this blog.

    In the last year or two, that I have been following your blog, I have learnt so much about various fragrances, ingredients, fragrance houses, iconic perfumes and so much more. It has literally broadened my olfactory palette. And introduced me to so many treasured gems…for that, and the many happy hours I get to spend here, I remain eternally grateful. Thank you.
    -Many Regards. xoxo August 9, 2012 at 2:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Niyah! I’m so touched for your kind words, and I’m happy that you enjoy Bois de Jasmin. It’s such a pleasure to have a group of people who share my passion and who understand that perfume can touch one on such a deep level. Your conversation with JennyJo was a perfect illustration of this. August 9, 2012 at 5:12pm Reply

      • JennyJo: @Victoria,

        I completely concur with Niyah in her praise for your blog. I discovered your blog about 6 years ago and have since been reading it on a daily basis. It has truly enriched my life, I think your writing is poetic as well as intellectually stimulating and it has taught me immensely about the universe of fragrance and the wonderful art of creating perfume. August 12, 2012 at 5:17am Reply

  • Jessica: Hello Ladies,
    I just tried this scent today to experience it for myself. I happened upon a bottle of the Eau de Cologne at Marshalls and snatched it up, eager for my initiation to this most sacred of scents.
    When I got to the car I opened the box and gasped at the beautiful bottle and sprayed my wrists and inner elbows, then I got in the car.
    I was enveloped by the most heavenly sensation, like being in an incense filled cathedral. It was so beautiful I knew I was in love. As time elapsed and my chemistry had time to react though, the Iris made itself known. Within 5 minutes I had to put the windows down. The Iris was rotting all around me. By the time I got home I had a terrible headache, but still resisted the urge to wash. Within an hour and a half the Iris was still there, but she wasn’t rotting anymore. She seemed to have met up somewhere with Coty powder and brought her along to hang out on my skin.
    I am a little devastated. The initial scent of incense, wood, and citrus was so heavenly, that I want to cry for its loss. Perhaps I am not sophisticated enough, perhaps the Cologne is another animal (although I read the comparison reviews before I went for it and it seemed like a good idea), or perhaps my chemistry really wanted that Iris to paint the town red, but no matter the reason this is not for me. I don’t think I’ll being wearing anything with iris again soon either. December 1, 2012 at 10:35pm Reply

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