Shalimar by Guerlain
February 8, 2019
Perfumer: Jacques Guerlain
Year of creation: 1925 (or 1921, see interesting facts)
Pyramid according to the H&R Fragrance Guide:
Top notes: Citrusy, Fresh
Supported by: Bergamot, Mandarine, Rosewood
Heart notes: Woody, Floral
Supported by: Rose, Jasmin, Orris, Vetiver
Base notes: Sweet, Powdery, Balsamic
Supported by: Vanilla, Benzoin Siam, Peru Balsem, Leather
Classification by H&R Genealogy:
Feminine, Oriental, Sweet
Pyramid according to “Perfume Legends” by Michael Edwards:
Head notes: Sparkling
Heart notes: Fleeting
Soul notes: Seductive
Opopanax, Vanilla, Iris, Tonka Bean
Classifications according to the Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards: Oriental, Classical subgroup
Classification by Symrise Genealogy:
Feminine, Oriental, Ambery, Citrus
Classification by SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs):
F3f – Ambrée, Ambrée doux (sweet/soft amber) according to the old classification. In 1984 classification F3 is reserved for Ambrée hespéridé (citrusy amber) and F1 is Ambrée doux (sweet/soft amber).
Guerlain (guerlain.com) describes the perfume as:
Voluptuous, sensual, spellbinding.
A flight of flowers and bergamot whips up the top notes with a breeze of freshness. The heart is warmed by enveloping and delicately powdery notes of iris, jasmine and rose. To conclude, the presence of vanilla, rounded balmy notes and the gourmand warmth of tonka bean orchestrate a sensual symphony for the dry-down.
There is also a short movie by Guerlain about Shalimar:
Luca Turin verdict: 5 stars of 5, reference oriental
This fragrance is compared to:
Shalimar is often referred as the first Oriental perfume. Its sweet vanilla accord has inspired many other creations (often recognized by the word “amber” in their name). Luca Turin uses Shalimar as a reference point and compares many other scents to it.
Habit Rouge, another Guerlain perfume, is often called a “Shalimar pour homme” among the perfumista.
There is a lot of resemblance between Shalimar and Emeraude by Coty (old formulation). There are even rumors suggesting that Coty has sold his formula to Guerlain (which seems to be less likely if you take 1921 as the year of Shalimar’s creation, same as Emeraude).
“Shalimar” means “abode of love” in Sanskrit.
The inspiration behind Shalimar is the story of love told to Guerlain by a maharajah. It’s about Shah Jahangir, the emperor of Mughal who laid the gardens of Shalimar, his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who died during the child birth and the famous Taj Mahal created in her memory.
A version of this story is worked out in a beautiful movie about Shalimar:
The original urn shaped bottle (often referred as chauve suris or the bat flacon) is designed by Raymond Guerlain and Baccarat and represents a bowl of fruits. The blue stopper is inspired by a palm fan.
A glimpse on evolution of Shalimar Flacons
Jean-Paul Guerlain tells that the main accord of Shalimar was created by his grandfather by adding a new vanilla material (ethyl vanillin presented to him by Justin Dupont) to the bottle of Jicky.
A famous quote by Ernest Beaux (creator of Chanel N5) on Shalimar is: “If I had used so much vanilla, I would have made only a crème anglaise, whereas Jacques Guerlain creates a Shalimar!”
Some sources mention 1921 as the year of creation. And indeed the perfume was finished by 1921. But Jacques Guerlain waited till April 1925 to present Shalimar at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris.
Shalimar was also known as “No. 90” (for export bottles to UK) for a short time during a legal battle with another company using its name (probably Shalimar by DuBarry PerfumeryCo, England from 1927).
- “Perfume Legends” by Michael Edwards, p. 54-59.
- A blog post about the Chauve Souris or The Bat flacon of Shalimar and the perfume itself.
- A story of Shalimar by Perfume Shrine.