Shalimar Eau de Toilette (Guerlain)

I was hanging around Marshalls today when I saw a bottle of Shalimar in eau de cologne concentration, which reminded me that I've worn and analyzed the EDT version. By the way, does anyone else find it odd that Shalimar is now widely available in both concentrations in places like Marshalls and Walgreens? Kinda sorta woulda thunk Shalimar was better than that. But then again, Walgreens sells Creed now. I know that comparing Guerlain to Creed may ruffle feathers, but what can I say? Everything is at a convenience in 2012, including luxury perfumes.

Due to its iconic status, my expectations of Shalimar were very high. Every now and then I realize there's a legend that I haven't worn, and I formulate an opinion before the fact. It's an unwise practice, but I usually temper the habit by bracing for the worst just before the juice hits my skin. Countless fragrance atomizers have been gateways to heaven and hell, and that first cherry-popping sniff is always make-it or break-it. With Shalimar (as with any Guerlain), I needn't have worried.

Shalimar's stunning array of citrus top notes is the brightest and most satisfying fragrance intro that I've encountered. The bergamot, lemon, and neroli accords sparkle and have my nose begging for more. Eventually animalic notes peer through the citrus haze, with civet and opoponax warming things up nicely. Everything coalesces into a very rich, leathery, inedible vanilla, its musty character both archaic and modern, and pure class. This accord hangs around until the incense and rose appear and highlight the dry down. I'm reminded of Caron's vanilla in Pour un Homme, a dryly stark note that never shouts, but also never shrinks. Shalimar boasts very good sillage, excellent longevity, and is the perfect vanilla oriental for adult women of all persuasions.

My only problem - and yeah, there's usually a problem - is with the question of Shalimar's utility in these energetic postmodern times. Jacques Guerlain's creation comes from 1925, which is almost 90 years ago now. Times have, for better or worse, changed. I suppose in 1935, '45, '55, '65, and '75, it was still stylistically relevant, as the modes of those decades were aligned with dry vanillic orientals. Even the bombastic '80s, with things like Opium and Cinnebar on store shelves, would have been a decade for Shalimar. 

But by the '90s, with the ascension of three re-invigorated styles (fresh fougères, aquatics, gourmands), orientals that predated Opium were losing market share. Die hard classicists still held onto them, but the ladies and gents I went to high school with weren't interested in grandma and grandpa's dusty old Guerlain. While out shopping this past holiday season, I happened to stop at Sephora. Despite the hordes of shoppers that were testing scents, Shalimar was lonely and neglected, and seemed invisible to them. They were too busy trying out the latest from Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, and Prada.

Still, I think this scent holds up well. I wouldn't wear it, but a sophisticated woman in her thirties could pull Shalimar off without a hitch. Too bad the ones I meet wear Innocent Secret and Pink Sugar instead.