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 prior to trying it 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, 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 late 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), old-fashioned 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.


  1. My local Sephora doesn't even carry Shalimar anymore - only the new pink Initial version. My theory of why Shalimar has been showing up at Marshalls and TJMaxx is because it's being dumped there to get rid of the previous version in the batwing bottle. Those who love Shalimar should pick up a bottle or two there - I've sniffed the new version of the EDP in the "Jade Jagger" bottle and it's been completely neutered.

  2. That's a shame, it's a formidable scent that shouldn't be tampered with. I usually only see the eau de cologne at Walgreens and Marshalls, but I'm sure they offer the EDT depending on which store you visit. The same bottle of Shalimar EDC has been sitting at my local Marshalls for the last two months. They run through Ed Hardy and CK in2u like water, and a classic gathers dust. Frightening. Maybe I'll buy it - it's only $48.

  3. I read this a few days ago and was super excited to comment -- and then I couldn't, as blogger is still messed up. Is there any way you can enable name/url commenting until blogger stops blocking all us Wordpress people from commenting?

  4. Not that I know of, but I'm looking into it. Sorry to hear you had difficulty with the site. But thanks for reading!

  5. Sorry for he bump (as usual) but I'm always interested in going back and reading your older reviews, even if, as sometimes is the case, you've had one or more revisions of opinion in the meantime. I'm very curious to better understand Shalimar. Last summer I tried to order a small decant of the Eau de Cologne as a cautious step towards interesting my daughter in a classic. She is 17 and just now entering a new phase having moved through Pink Sugar, Black Opium and Rose Jam from Lush, the latter a scent so intensely powerful that everything in our house smelled like it for months (and this, friends, was just the body spray...) Anyway the Shalimar sample turned out to be something called Shalimar Cologne Eau de Toilette (jeez, what?) a newer EDT in a pink-tinged bottle that, though clearly an entry-level Shalimar, with a juicier citrus medley in the top sweetened by a touch of freesia, was still a lovely composition with that smoking vanilla and a touch of the infamous civet-diaper accord. She loved it. I followed up by tracking down a bottle of the regular EDT and am now a little terrified. Will this work I wonder? Anyway, I was curious to know if the bottle in your picture is your own; the one I've just bought is a batwing bottle like the one pictured. I've tried perusing blogs comparing the various Shalimar but (surprise!) most of them spend 3/4 of the piece telling you how terrible everything is besides the vintage extrait... I thought you might have a clearer perspective.

    1. If she likes the oddball Shalimar flanker, she'll probably like the EDT pictured here. The structure of Shalimar is traditional, whilst the various concentrations push and pull various proportions in and out of focus. It is topped by fresh citrus, followed by a floral descent into rich amber, with a baseboard of vanilla. I'd wager the lighter concentrations will appeal to a teenager more than the heavier - EDP gets awfully "mature" in that the freshness tapers off and the resins and ambers amp way up. The version I tried in 2012 was from the bottle pictured, although I never bought it. Ironically just last year I hemmed and hawed over buying a 3 oz "refill bottle" of Shalimar EDP from Marshalls for $10. Awkward utilitarian bottle, somewhat hard to use, but still a great deal. I passed on it and can't recall what I bought instead, if anything.


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