Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial : Fragrance Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

I confess that I did not expect much from Shalimar Parfum Initial, especially when I read that it is supposed to be a modern fruity version of a jewel in Guerlain’s crown, Shalimar. Picking up a blue faceted bottle to spray the perfume on my wrist, I braced myself for a pink berry compote, the likes of which test remarkably well, and as a result, suffocate the fragrance market. What I experienced instead came as a surprise—a lighthearted, yet elegant blend, in which the velvety oriental notes of Shalimar are embroidered with the effervescence of sweet orange and tangerine.

While Shalimar Parfum Initial does not have the magnificence of the classical Guerlain fragrances, it is very well-made for a modern oriental that aims for broad appeal. If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I do not mean it that way. In fact, I admire perfumers’ attempts to revisit commercial themes and reinterpret them in new ways. Shalimar Parfum Initial smells au courant, but it does not have anything trite about it. It has a bubbly, vivacious character, however it is not yet another candy bar and lollipop banality that seems to be a common theme for women’s fragrances today.

The fragrance opens up on a bright accord of fruity notes, with strong accents of citrus and raspberries. The pleasant warm sensation unfolds almost right away, with the soft iris and sandalwood notes lending the perfume a sophisticated twist. While the original Shalimar was based on an accord of bergamot and vanilla, Shalimar Parfum Initial makes the citrus sweeter and softer. The green leafy accent replaces the peppery bite of the original, while the sheer rose is all that remains of Shalimar’s opulent floral heart.

As the composition dries down, the strong patchouli accents become more apparent, linking Shalimar Parfum Initial to the gourmand genre of Thierry Mugler Angel and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. It nevertheless has some elements that set it apart from other fruity patchouli scents. I like the cool layer of vetiver that dispels the heft of the gourmand accord. The suggestion of crisp green notes is likewise an interesting embellishment. It is a charming scent, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those who like gourmand oriental fragrances. Still, as much as I like Shalimar Parfum Initial, I cannot help wishing for Guerlain to resume working on classics, rather than doing twists on the existing collection. Hope springs eternal!

Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial includes notes of bergamot, orange, jasmine, rose, patchouli, musk, tonka bean and vanilla. It is available from Sephora, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman and other department stores. $67 (1.3oz), $84 (2oz) of Eau de Parfum.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Elizabeth: I guess this perfume just didn’t agree with me. All I got was a light, powdery iris, like somebody split Apres l’Ondee in half, then bottled the iris half. Ode a la Vanille is my favorite Shalimar flanker. August 2, 2011 at 12:08pm Reply

  • sweetlife: I am completely and utterly behind in trying new things. Haven’t smelled this or Ode a la Vanille. Pleased to hear that Guerlain is keeping up its good name, though! August 2, 2011 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Marla: I have to admit, this smelled like plastic synthetic fruit layered over a pale ghost of the real Shalimar to me. I live in the tropics, maybe the tester got cooked en route??
    -Marla August 2, 2011 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also prefer Ode a la Vanille by far, but this one is quite well-done too. Much better than Idylle or Ma Petite Robe Noire.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 2, 2011 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Elisa: I only sniffed this quickly on paper, but I too got mostly iris, which surprised me (because iris doesn’t smell pink!) August 2, 2011 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ode a la Vanille is even better–a warm, velvety version of Shalimar. I miss the animalic notes, of course, but its layers of warm, luscious vanilla are so alluring. August 2, 2011 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Victoria: Perhaps, that's just what it smells like to you. Money saved, I say! 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 2, 2011 at 8:33pm Reply

  • dee: I get mostly iris from this new Shalimar too, at least until the creaminess kicks in: I love it! What a surprise it was to see some of the Shalimar heritage retained—I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but I’m pleased to have been surprised.

    I have yet to meet a Shalimar I don’t love 🙂 August 2, 2011 at 11:22pm Reply

  • Ann C.: I’m happy to hear that you like it! I, too, love Ode a la Vanille, but I ordered a bottle of Initial and like it a lot. I got my bottle during one of our rare heat waves so I haven’t worn it yet, but I think it will be a nice addition to my fall/winter fragrance wardrobe. August 3, 2011 at 6:35am Reply

  • Nina: I loved it upon first spay (and as a longtime Shalimar user in any concentration) i was literally afraid of my beloved being spoiled – honestly: i LOVE it, i really adore this concentration and connot wait until my bottle arrives.
    I also detect a strong (or better say: spicy) patchouli note and this is one of the facets i really adore in it, as well as a lesser amount of civet (which can be suffocation in the Shalimar (classic) EdP, for example). August 3, 2011 at 8:00am Reply

  • Suzanna: I haven’t been able to tolerate Shalimar for years because of the loss of the stronger elements (bergamot, leather) in favor of too much powder. This take sounds interesting and I’m glad you reviewed it. It just about has me curious about Shalimar again, while continuing to bemoan the changes to the original. August 3, 2011 at 8:43am Reply

  • dleep: I tried this and like it very much. August 3, 2011 at 11:54am Reply

  • perfume connection: I like Shalimar Parfum Initial. I have been using this perfume scent since June. 🙂 August 3, 2011 at 7:23pm Reply

  • Mia Bella: Just a fabulous scent and very invigerating to the perfect evening out. August 4, 2011 at 7:27am Reply

  • Victoria: I was so pleased with it. I really expected something dull and uninteresting. August 4, 2011 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also think that it would be a better fall/winter scent, but even so, I have been wearing it in the evenings. I love Ode a la Vanille too. August 4, 2011 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are right, patchouli replaces the animalic notes in this Shalimar. I actually love the civet and castoreum in old Shalimar, but since patchouli is one of my favorites notes, I do not miss the animalic accents that much in Initial. August 4, 2011 at 2:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is not an improvement on the original Shalimar, of course. Just a different version. I also wish that the original was retained in all of its glory… August 4, 2011 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: Glad to hear that I am not the only one! 🙂 August 4, 2011 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Victoria: June and July were very hot here, so I have been waiting to wear it when the temperature dropped a bit. August 4, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree! August 4, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Suzanna: I tried this yesterday and ended up preferring it to what passes for Shalimar nowadays. For anyone with a Nordstrom nearby (mine was 155 miles away in Tampa, sigh), they had a display with a fishbowl full of sample atomizers and they were happy to make up a sample in exchange for your listening to the sales pitch. August 5, 2011 at 9:01am Reply

  • debra: Shalimar Initial is a fabulous, one-of-a-kind scent, just like Shalimar. Love, love, love Shalimar Initial. September 8, 2012 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Berengaria: I tried it today…what a lovely scent. I get a caroty iris, and a little bit of vanilla in the background. Not Shalimar at all. Really surprised. October 29, 2012 at 3:50pm Reply

  • Ekaterina: Tried it just today received as a sample from PR and realised that for me as a beauty editor it was totally foolish not to try it earlier! Love it! I don’t know anything about the original version sadly but this is great. January 25, 2013 at 3:00am Reply

  • SDMama: My mother has worn Shalimar for years. I am not a fan. I find it way too powdery, too “old lady”. If I smelled leather notes I’d give it a whirl, but sweet powder doesn’t do it for me. Mother bought a bottle of Shalimar Perfume Initial and found it have her a headache. She gave it to me to try and I FELL IN LOVE!
    I get lush, creamy, structured iris, vanilla, patchouli, and tonka bean. There is a little orange but I don’t really experience much fruit. This does not smell like popular fragrances, especially the “young ones.”. And I am grateful for that. August 31, 2013 at 9:03pm Reply

  • Jamie K.: It’s worth mentioning for fans of this flanker that it seems to have been discontinued – along with the L’Eau edition – to make way for a new flanker, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.

    A lot of places seem to be running low of Parfum Initial stocks, and it’s a shame they’re ditching it because I don’t think they gave it much of a chance. The Shalimar association meant that Shalimar buffs saw it as a lesser flanker, and those who didn’t like the original ignored the new version due to association. It also seems not to have had the huge promotion that La Petite Robe Noire received last year, which is a shame because I thought Parfum Initial was a much better fragrance.

    So yes, if you’re a fan of this, it might be time to stock up. June 27, 2014 at 7:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that’s just too bad! I agree with everything you say. It’s a wonderful perfume that needs no comparisons to Shalimar. It should have been launched separately. June 27, 2014 at 7:33am Reply

  • Nati: I liked it a lot! I felt like I was wrapped in light pink tulle, with pastel colored flowers in my hair, chasing floating iridescent bubbles. November 15, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Love this description, Nati! So perfect! November 24, 2014 at 12:55pm Reply

  • Olga: I love this perfume and wear it regularly in winter/fall. I smell 99% percent patchouli in it, but I do not mind, because I simply cannot stand the “pink” commercial scents (bubble bubble bubble gum). If you want a perfume that stands out from the crowd, go for it, but be prepared to stand up to it – it is a big perfume to wear with its own character! February 4, 2015 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s certainly not a wallflower perfume! I also like its big character. February 9, 2015 at 7:42am Reply

  • Heather: I really do want to try Shalimar, but I liked the lighter, fresher, modern sensibilities of this one, so I thought I’d start with this and work my way over to the real thing. Sort of a Shalimar with training wheels. 🙂 I love it soo much, though, that I may stock up while it’s still available! It’s in that oriental-gourmand category, but it doesn’t feel cliche like some of the others in that category. It retains enough of the character of the original. And I respect that. December 10, 2015 at 8:23am Reply

    • Victoria: A perfect description, Heather. I also agree that it’s approachable but not dull, and it has interesting elements of its own. December 10, 2015 at 2:02pm Reply

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