Someone is probably going to call the Basenotes police on me, but I have to get this off my chest: I have trouble with Shalimar. It was the scent of choice for several of my best friends in the late 80s, and I loved it--on them.
But for some reason--chemistry, temprament, something--Shalimar doesn't work on me. If you've ever seen an actress on TV or in a film wearing an ill-fitting wig in a bad color Sheryl Lee in that weird dark wig as Maddy in Twin Peaks always comes to mind here), you might understand the discomfort I feel in Shalimar. I want to wear it, but it doesn't work. On my skin, it gives off a strong metallic whang that, once smelled, is unforgettable--especially at the opaque density Shalimar throws off. I feel washed out. It's just wrong.
So I found the idea of a sort of "blonde" (if you will) sister intriguing. Plus I need fragrances for spring. And this is, I am happy to say, exactly perfect. At heart, there is still all the spice of Shalimar (and a little of the foil-chewing metal, for me), but it's preceded by a zesty pink-lemonade citrus opening, surrounded by fresh florals and cushioned by classy Guerlain vanilla.
Overall, this reimagining of Shalimar feels more like wearing chiffon rather than moving in heavy silks. It also strikes me as incredibly versatile. I would happily wear this to a day job, out to lunch with the girls, to a spring or summer event--or give a bottle to a young female relative.
Sadly, Guerlain has axed this from their catalogue, so I suppose it's going to be a seasonal treat this year. I haven't tried any of the other Shali flankers yet, but since I can wear this, I think I'll have to. This may even lead me down the royal road to donning the real thing. We'll see.
(It's also worth noting that this wears very well, for quite a long time, for a "lighter" formulation. I easily get a day's worth of wear from a couple of spritzes--thank goodness, because I don't want to run out of this anytime soon.)
The opening combines citrus notes with bergamot and neroli, but is is less fresh on my skin than the to notes seem to suggest. Not unpleasant, but a bit colourless and with a slightly too synthetic bent. The heart notes soon add some sweetness, mainly a rose aroma and a nice jasmine, than blends in very well with a good, light-hearted iris in the drydown.
The base remains sweet, but the sweetness, which, by the way, is never cloying or too thick. At this stage a well-executed vanilla is dominant, with hints of wood towards the end.
The performance is excellent, with moderate sillage, very good projection and nine hours of longevity.
This is a nice flanker, that remains interesting throughout the whole development. Not overly synthetic, it is a good for a cooler spring day. 3.25/5.
I love this one, and it's also been a funny surprise. I blind bought it in the Si Sensuelle presentation, seduced by the pink feather tassel. However, it's become the most femme bottle and least femme juice in my current collection, easily unisex.
The hesperidic aspect of L'Eau felt happily familiar to me, having gone through buckets of Goutal's Hadrien in previous decades. I also noticed a particular green/rose/iris accord from Bulgari's The Vert. The rose and grapefruit smell modern together, a nod towards current trends that I might not usually like, yet I do here, because nothing shrieks.
Maybe I'm so close to Shalimar that I can no longer "smell" it, though any resemblance between L'Eau and classic Shalimar seems, to me, to be more in terms of craft than actual resemblance. I can tell the singular Guerlain craft is at work here - contrasts are reconciled, and the end result is tender and elegant and French.
I can't believe they just discontinued this little beauty, the bastards. This was my introduction to the classic Shalimar, and what a discovery that was. I know that people are a bit sneery about this being a flanker of a flanker, but, honestly, it is just a fabulous-smelling perfume. Whereas Parfum Initial is heavy on the iris/berry/patchouli and more than a few degrees closer to Dior Homme Intense than Shalimar, this one is much closer to the classic Shalimar.
L'Eau is also, dare I say, a whole lot better than Parfum Initial. It is like a summer sketch of the original Shalimar using only the lightest and most gauzy of notes. The heavy, stinky bergamot opening of the original, which can be utterly frightening, has been replaced by sunny, zippy orange, neroli, and grapefruit, which feels like a welcome shot of vitamin D to your arm. The opening is so irresistibly delicious and aromatic, you will want to drink your wrist. There is a misty, rosy heart, but I don't pick up too much of the florals here. The scent, being simple and direct, reaches the heart and base very quickly, where it stays in a lightly spiced, lightly creamy vanilla register for the duration. The overall effect of the zingy citruses in the opening and the only slightly creamy vanilla in the heart/base is that of a tart/sweet lemon cheesecake or a key lime pie. It is utterly delicious. It makes me ridiculously happy.
Of course, don't go into this expecting Shalimar - there is no smoke, heavy vanilla, leather, civet, or amber here. But this works fantastically as a sort of summer cologne-style version of Shalimar when you want to stay on the lighter side of things. Highly recommended, and stock up while you can still find this in shops. Knowing Guerlain, they will probably re-release this or Parfum Initial in the bee bottles in twenty years and try to charge us all $450 a bottle for it. So....buy it now.
Part of the original Shalimar's and the Parfum Initial's final complexity is here alive and alluring but for a long part of the development the aroma appears more fizzy (due to a really heady grapefruit combined with the classic Guerlain's hesperides), slightly lemony and with a more dynamic (more fluidy) twist. Yes, less powdery and less strong over the powdery/patchouli side while a rose/iris combo is heady, versatile and joyful despite the aroma also includes a notable amount of final vanilla (vanilla more than dirty amber for sure). L'Eau is closer to the original Shalimar than to Parfum Initial and can easily be ranked as a lighter Shalimar's version with more grapefruit/citrus and a softer dry down (in which the notable amount of Shalimar's trademark animalic amber is replaced by an "easier" and less massive vanilla. I appreciate this new flanker but recommend everybody deflecting towards the wonderful Parfum Initial.