Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial
December 1, 2011

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By Mark David Boberick
Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles
In last month’s issue, I posed the question, “What becomes a Modern Classic?” If the original Guerlain Shalimar (1925) was released today, would it go on to achieve legendary status; becoming an absolute icon of the perfume industry?

For the incredible success of Shalimar throughout its 86 years as the Empress of the Oriental category, it has only seen a handful of flankers, branches of inspiration off its central stem. Eau Legere (2003), Eau de Shalimar (2008), and Ode a la Vanille (2010) – all have taken a facet of the original Shalimar and turned up the volume. Eau Legere (Shalimar Light) embraced its famous bergamot opening, adding zesty lime and lemon. To accomplish this, its floral heart was ever so slightly quieted, allowing for a mesmerizing citrus meeting the smooth, warm vanillic base. For Ode a la Vanille, the vanilla base is amped to a greater proportion than usual. Vanilla is to Shalimar what aldehyde C-12 mna is to Chanel No. 5. Take either away and everything else falls to pieces. No flanker could possibly carry the Shalimar name if it lacked a noticeable presence of vanilla.

The latest fragrance to carry on the Shalimar legacy is the brand-new Shalimar Parfum Initial. Parfum Initial is the final piece of the flanker trilogy puzzle – it narrows in on the only facet left to embrace – the floral heart. To say that Parfum Initial turns up the volume on the floral heart would actually be an understatement because really, this floral heart comes at you through a Bose surround-sound system. The signature floral heart of Shalimar has always been jasmine, rose, and iris – but for Parfum Initial, Guerlain’s in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser decided to fade out jasmine allowing the rose and the iris to reign supreme. All of the signature parts are present – we have a citrus top, if only slightly, and of course there is that sensual and mesmerizing vanillic base. This is not so much a re-interpretation of a classic fragrance as it is a game show called “Proportion.”

And yet – at the end of the day, Parfum Initial is completely distinct. Were this fragrance to carry a completely different name, separate of any indication that it belonged to Shalimar - the Royal Family of fragrance, it would still work, it would still be glorious and it would still captivate. Parfum Initial is a stunning work of Modern Art - because every work of true Modern Art references, in some way, a great work or artist from the past.

The concept behind Shalimar Parfum Initial is the initiation – the first step towards the progression that leads to the ultimate – loving and understanding the original Shalimar. For the modern woman, asking them to fall in love with an 86 year-old fragrance can be asking a lot, especially because the modern fragrances that they have become accustomed to at the fragrance counter couldn’t be further from the original Shalimar. They need to be eased towards it and that is where this latest fragrance comes in. In fact, it is being publicized by Guerlain as “My First Shalimar.” And although it is not MY first Shalimar, it could most certainly become yours.

Or even – someone else’s. You will notice that our Holiday Gift guides in this issue are sparse on one thing – Perfume. And perhaps you’re wondering why.

Because a person’s sense of smell and scent-association is so specific, It is difficult, in fact, VERY difficult, to purchase perfume for someone unless you have a true idea of what they prefer. If you know what they already wear, you might just as well get them another bottle of it – at least you know they will use it. I do feel, however, that occasionally a high-quality fragrance arrives on the market that is more than likely to appeal to numerous individuals. To be honest – it’s a rare occurrence and it hasn’t happened too often, but I do believe that is has happened this year with Shalimar Parfum Initial. It is an incredibly comfortable, wearable, and stunning fragrance.

This Holiday season, if you must take a risk on buying someone a brand-new fragrance without truly knowing their specific scent preference, you might in fact strike gold with Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial.

My vote for the best fragrance of 2011.

Hands down.


Listen to Guerlain In-House Perfumer Thierry Wasser discuss his concepts and inspiration for Shalimar Parfum Initial in this video.

Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial can be found now in most major department stores including Nordstrom.

$84 | 2 oz.     $119 | 3.4 oz.

Thierry Wasser
Famed French Fragrance House Guerlain breathes stunning new life into a perfume legend.