Summer Series Part 2: Shalimar Showdown

Welcome to Perfume Polytechnic’s Summer Series. I’m taking a break over summer from writing new posts, but instead of stopping publishing altogether, I want to share with you some of my favourite posts from this year and earlier. I hope you enjoy reading them; you may even come across something you missed the first time round!

Today I’m sharing a post of mine from early 2015, Shalimar Showdown: The Originals and The Flankers Battle it Out, in which I compare and review eight different kinds of Shalimar (vintage, contemporary, different strengths and flankers) and one vintage Emeraude. It was fun to write and I hope you find it fun to read!

Shalimar Showdown is my most read post on Perfume Polytechnic. It’s interesting to read if you like Shalimar but don’t know which one to buy, or if you’re interested in collecting many of the different Shalimars, or even if you just want to find out what some of the differences are between them all. Obviously I haven’t reviewed every Shalimar there is: I do hope in a future post to review a few more of my vintage bottles and also the Shalimar flankers that have been released recently. But for now, pour yourself a cuppa, find a comfy chair, and enjoy the journey that is Shalimar ShowdownContinue reading

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A Taste of Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima

Recently I was fortunate to receive a Discovery Kit from Italian niche perfumer Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima to review. “Odori d’Anima” translates as “scents of the soul”, and this is certainly a soulful collection of perfumes, with interesting and emotive concepts underpinning them that collectively seem to hint at a yearning for the complete expression of the soul, a longing and nostalgia for the past, and a respect for the elemental beauty and wild spirit of nature.

The kit features samples of the entire range of Mendittorosa’s seven fragrances, presented in the most beautiful way with information cards and decorative packaging, all arriving sealed in a golden envelope. In fact, Mendittorosa’s packaging for their bottled perfumes is beautiful too, and sculptural, as you will see in the photographs below. The packaging has been designed in Italy, with the interesting bottle caps and metal features being crafted by hand.

Mendittorosa is a small-batch production perfumery, and sources its materials from Grasse, in the South of France. All of Mendittorosa’s fragrances are designed as unisex, to be worn by women and men.

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Mendittorosa Discovery Kit

Mendittorosa is the brain-child of Stefania Squeglia, who founded the house in 2011, after an epiphany about her true purpose in life, at the base of the Stromboli volcano in Sicily.

“It was here on this island at one of the most southern points in the Mediterranean that
Stefania Squeglia was gifted with her true vocation in the form of a memory that had been
out of reach until that moment: as a young girl in Naples, she would take the glass jars her
grandmother used to store homemade tomato sauce and fill them with foraged rose petals and oils. She would then hide them in the dark to discover them later. Erupted. Changed.” (courtesy of Mendittorosa marketing brochure)

Stefania works with perfumers Amelie Bourgeois and Anne-Sophie Behaghel to create the Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima range.

Today I will present to you a taste of Mendittorosa, a glimpse at and an impression of each of their seven fragrances. I have worn each of these fragrances a few times now, but to give each of the fragrances full justice would take a full blog post for each. Consider these mini-reviews to be an introduction to Mendittorosa. They are meant to convey how the perfumes smell to me, how I feel about them, and hopefully they will pique your curiosity to find out more and try them for yourself.

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Sogno Reale is the latest release from Mendittorosa. In fact, it is so new that there is a waiting period of 30-50 days to receive this fragrance! Sogno Reale translates to “real dream” in English, and is all about achieving one’s dreams in life. Sogno Reale is “Created for people, who will search and find their dream and make it come through. The ultimate companion for your way of life based on our philosophy: Search and you will find…” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

Sogno Reale sample

Sogno Reale sample

Concepts of dreams aside, as a scent, Sogno Reale is said by Mendittorosa to combine “a trilogy of sun, earth and sea blends together”, which gives a very accurate impression of this fragrance. Sogno Reale is a very sunny and interesting fragrance, and would be great for a hot summer’s day. To me the dominant characteristics are a salty marine note, something grainy, like unprocessed wheat, a bright lemon top note, and animalic notes. The combination of these ingredients results in a fascinating smell that is a little like salty, human skin that’s been in the ocean and then dried in the sun, overlaid with a touch of citrus, which fades as the perfume develops. The wheat note that I smell has no basis in the notes provided, but whatever ingredient creates this olfactory illusion, it hints at wheat grains and bread, and salty bread at that. There are some interesting basenotes used – including sandalwood and volcanic olibanum – and they are detectable, but not at all dominant. What they do is provide a grounding for this interesting and layered creation, in which the top, middle and base notes seem to hover, somewhat distinctly from one another. The sandalwood rounds out the composition slightly, while hyrax, an animalic note that is redolent of musk, civet and castoreum, helps create the skin-like and animalic characteristics of Sogno Reale. Unlike many animalic fragrances, this one is not heavy or overwhelming. It’s sweet, and it’s light and bright, yet very interesting and complex.

Le Mat

The philosophy behind Le Mat is as follows: “Le Mat is the “odour” of bravery, gumption and change. With a mantle of nutmeg and black pepper that protects its heart of geranium and rose, the scent unleashes whiffs of patchouli and cashmere wood. A blend of celestial and earthy aromas that instills a sensation of freedom.” (Source: Mendittorosa’s website)

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Le Mat. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Le Mat is my favourite of Mendittorosa’s creations. It is a rich creation housed in fabulous packaging, featuring the tarot card “Le Mat”, or “The Fool” as this card is known in English. The title of “The Fool” is somewhat deceptive in tarot – the fool does not represent a simpleton or an idiot – rather, he represents newness, purity and childlike innocence, or prophesies the beginnings of a new spiritual path.

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

Le Mat sample (right) shown with Sogno Reale sample (left)

I adore Le Mat. It’s a spicy, musky rose with honeyed nuances and an immortelle note that emerges more and more as the fragrance develops. It is sweet, but not too sweet, and a little woody. It reminds me of Turkish Delight, that rose-flavoured middle-eastern sweet, and Musk Lolly sticks. It smells like the most delectable, rich and luxurious blend of two fragrances I already own and love: L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Safran Troublant, and Mor’s Marshmallow. The rose melds with a geranium note (which has a rosy, green quality), and is supported by musky and woody cashmeran, loads of nutmeg, and pepper. Base notes consist of an earthy yet not overdone patchouli, and a hint of clove.

Trilogy: Alpha, Omega & Id

These three fragrances were conceived as a Trilogy. Mendittorosa has the following to say about the three fragrances: “Because in opposition, we find balance, the three scents in The Trilogy line—Alpha, Omega and Id—are designed not just to complement each other, but to complete a journey.” (quoted from Mendittorosa’s marketing brochure) These fragrances are designed to be worn alone, or layered. Due to time constraints, I did not layer these fragrances for this review, so I cannot comment on how they combine and work together.

Id

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Id. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa

Mendittorosa describes Id as follows: “Essential, rich, and wild, Id is the dark passion that drives us towards our dreams. Inspired by the nickname “Iddu” the locals give to the Stromboli volcano, Id is an olfactory dedication to the fiery being that first breathed Mendittorosa into life.”

I can imagine Id is a very popular fragrance in the Mendittorosa line. It is so appealing and woody-sweet, warm and very wearable. It smells so much to me like Donna Karan’s iconic Black Cashmere that I feel it is difficult to review it objectively. Id features nutmeg and incense (labdanum) and woods, a strong cinnamon note and a touch of clove. For those who loved Black Cashmere and can no longer find it, you will love Id and be thrilled to have a replacement. Compared to Black Cashmere, Id is a little softer, a bit less incensey, and also a touch sweeter than Black Cashmere.

Omega

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Omega. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa decribes Omega as: “The last letter of the Greek alphabet, ‘omega’ denotes the end, the final limit. It is Alfa’s polar opposite, deriving its elegance and composure from an awareness of its mortality. Its leather core is draped in velvet layers of Egyptian cumin and white musk.”

This description doesn’t match my experience of Omega. To me, Omega smells like a burnt vanilla fragrance with a hint of musk. On first application, I find this “burnt” aspect a little hard to handle. I think the burnt note is ambroxan, which often has this effect on me: I find it too much for my nose in this case, and a bit acrid and bitter. I believe that many perfumers use ambroxan to replicate the smoky qualities of oud, but this is just my suspicion. Despite my dislike of ambroxan, this note calms down about twenty minutes into the fragrance’s development, and Omega ends up smelling quite approachable and wearable, a bit like Rochas’ very popular Tocade, but without the rose. I do not detect any leather, cumin, iris or frankincense (all listed notes). There is a hint of very well blended jasmine that lifts and sweetens the composition. Omega will appeal to people who like vanilla but want something a little left of centre.

Alfa

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Alfa. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

Mendittorosa describes Alfa thus: “Alfa is the beginning—a naked Venus rising from a clear blue sea. Deceiving in its simplicity, it tells a tale of earth, milk, and vineyards, but its saffron heart contains deep yearnings for the sensuality of nutmeg, sandalwood, jasmine and thyme.”

When I first smelt this perfume (before I read the notes above) I thought it was a classic masculine fougère, which, sadly, is probably my least favourite category of perfume. I was then very surprised to find that conceptually, this fragrance is linked to Venus, the female and very feminine goddess “whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire.” (Source: Wikipedia) Nevertheless, let me continue with my own impressions of this fragrance, as they are very different to Mendittorosa’s description above. Alfa smells like a masculine fougère, with fresh citrussy, woody, and herbaceous notes dominating. The sharp (and in this case somewhat citrussy) note of ravensara dominates the opening of the fragrance, and white thyme is also apparent. It’s slightly woody too at first, with a soft frankincense in the base. The woods develop quite intensely about twenty minutes in: again, I smell the burnt note of ambroxan, or “oud”. If saffron is in this fragrance, it is used subtly as I find it hard to detect. A hint of jasmine warms and sweetens the composition ever-so-slightly. This is a well-constructed perfume and is a fresh and slightly interesting take on the classic fougère formula, even if it is not to my taste.

North & South

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North and South. Photo courtesy of Mendittorosa.

“Each North has its South, and each South, its North. Two opposites longing for completeness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

As with the Alfa/Omega/Id Trilogy above, North and South can be worn together, or alone. I did try them together, and will discuss my findings below.

North

“Bright and pure, light, and nostalgic, North evokes memories of empty white pages, dry leaves, crisp wood of Swedish saunas, children’s drawings.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

North features a light and airy cedar wood, like that used in Comme des Garçons’ Kyoto. This cedar dominates, but is blended with a lovely bergamot and pepper. My impression of North is that it is a fresh and woody forest scent and when I smell it I feel like I’m walking amongst a plantation of fragrant, camphoraceous trees. North has moderate  sillage, without being overwhelming. It is a calming, dry scent that would appeal equally to women and men.

South

“Sultry and slow-moving, South ushers 
in memories of hot bread, white linen sheets dried in the sun and of pure Marseille soap. It is the colourful clutter of our favourite things in a nest of softness.” (Source: Mendittorosa website)

South is sharp and creamy and slightly sweet all at once. Creamy sandalwood in the base is offset by a very lemony, citric basil top note. Hazelnut, a rounded, sweet and nutty note, is also quite detectable. Syringa (similar to orange blossom and jasmine) is quite noticeable too. South reminds me a little of a softish Samsara by Guerlain or Allure by Chanel, both of which feature a combination of jasmine and sandalwood, but here the composition is made much more interesting with the basil and hazelnut, and an interesting “hot bread” note that appears after about fifteen minutes of wear. This bread note reminds me of the “wheat” note I detected in Sogno Reale. South is quite soft in character and moderate in sillage and is more feminine than masculine. It is a very pretty, yet interesting scent.

North and South Layered

These two fragrances layer well. The notes of South dominate, in particular the hazelnut and bread notes, although the cedar is also very apparent. It probably goes without saying that this combination is much richer and more complex than North or South alone.


Summary and Where to Buy

I hope you’ve enjoyed my survey and brief impressions of Mendittorosa’s current range of fragrances. The Discovery Kit is an affordable way to try these lovely creations and to explore them for yourself.

You can buy the Discovery Kit on the Mendittorosa website for 40 Euros (including shipping), which includes a 20 Euro refund voucher to use with any full bottle purchase for two months.

Mendittorosa’s fragrances all come in 100ml, extrait de parfum strength bottles. They range in price from 185-225 Euros each and can be purchased from Mendittorosa’s online shop and from selected retailers.

Disclaimer

My Mendittorosa Discovery Kit was provided free of charge. Many thanks to Stefania Squeglia and Jakub Piotrovicz for generously providing the kit. All opinions are my own and I strive to be both honest and respectful to the perfumers and their creations in my reviews.

Smell of the Day: Almond Blossom

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Almond Blossom

Smell of The Day is about noticing and appreciating the smells around me. Just one smell. It might be a perfume, a fragrant flower, the odour of something cooking, an unpleasant smell. All smells are equal. All smells are interesting. All smells affect us. Smell of The Day posts will feature one smell that made an impact on me that day.

Smell of the Day: Almond Blossom

The old almond trees are now in full bloom. The weather oscillates between winter and spring: sun, rain and wind alternate rapidly. The almond blossom covers the tree in little white balls and an intoxicating, buttery, honey-like vapour radiates out for metres around. Hundreds of bees visit the blossoms, happily drunk on the sweet nectar. Their buzzing vibrates my eardrums. I want to lie on the grass and look up at the blue skies through the trees, but it’s still too cold. Already the wind and rain are blowing the blossoms off the tree. It snows blossom petals and they will soon be gone, but spring will soon be here.

Smell of the Day: Peach Blossom

Peach blossom

Peach blossom

Smell of The Day is about noticing and appreciating the smells around me. Just one smell. It might be a perfume, a fragrant flower, the odour of something cooking, an unpleasant smell. All smells are equal. All smells are interesting. All smells affect us. Smell of The Day posts will feature one smell that made an impact on me that day.

Smell of the Day: Peach Blossom

It’s late winter, and this year it’s been the kind of long, cold winter that I hope will end soon. Today I went for a walk in the cold, rugged up so much that I could barely move in multiple layers and my knee-length down coat. With wind chill the temperature was a brisk 2º celsius. I know that some parts of the world get much colder, but for a girl raised in sunny South Australia, 2 degrees is a shock to the system. The walk was challenging and cold, yet uplifting and energising. To reward myself at the end of it, I grabbed the secateurs and cut myself three stems of newly opened blossom from the old peach tree.

Peach blossom

Peach blossom

Blossom is so beautiful – leafless stems dotted with clumps of flowers, both in bloom and still in bud – it creates a kind of instant, effortless Ikebana in the vase. I couldn’t resist placing them on top of my piano with my Japanese kokeshi dolls. Blossom reminds me of Japan, of the Hanami cherry blossom festivals held there in spring, and of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Peach blossom

Peach blossom and kokeshis

Peach blossom smells like honey. It’s sweet, almost in a sickly way. The smell is strong and as I sniff the blossom deeply my nose intuitively pulls back, feeling drunk with the pleasure of this overwhelming and narcotic scent, and perhaps anticipating a sneeze. The smell reminds me of sugar syrup bubbling on the stove, waiting to be made into tooth-breaking toffee. If I sniff a little less deeply, I detect a scent a little like that of sweet hay, grassy and dry. Peach blossom reminds me that the bees will soon arrive and harvest the precious, deliriously sweet pollen from this very tree. It makes me happy and reminds me that winter will soon be over. Peach blossom is the promise of spring in a vase.

Shalimar Showdown: The Originals and The Flankers Battle it Out

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to...

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to… Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle.

Shalimar by Guerlain is my favourite fragrance of all time. It is the fragrance that got me interested in the notion of fragrance as an olfactory art, so I owe it a lot. So many words have been devoted to the history of Shalimar, the making of it, and the many versions of it over the 90 years it has been in production, that I hardly need to go into much of that now. Instead, here is a bit of trivia about this much loved fragrance:

  • Shalimar was created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain.
  • Shalimar is similar to Guerlain’s own Jicky (1889) with a mega-dose of vanilla added, although rumour also has it that it was based upon the formula for Francois Coty’s Emeraude, created in 1921.
  • Shalimar is often called the Queen of Orientals, or the reference oriental fragrance.
  • Shalimar is one of Guerlain’s bestselling products.

You can read more about the Shalimar and Emeraude connection over at The Perfume Vault, and ponder the origins of this iconic fragrance. If you want to look up the particular notes and ingredients used in Shalimar, Emeraude, or any of the flankers from my review, head on over to Fragrantica. It should be noted that this blog post is more for the seasoned perfume aficianado, in that it assumes some knowledge of Shalimar and its flankers, and how they smell.

Yesterday afternoon I tested eight versions of Shalimar, including four flankers, and one version of Coty’s Emeraude. I didn’t include Jicky in my survey this time, although it is remarkably similar to Shalimar.

I sprayed the originals on my left arm, and the flankers on my right. I wrote my initial impressions down over the first five minutes or so after spraying, and then came back to the fragrances after a period of about ninety minutes to see how they developed and changed over time.

The Originals

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Shalimar Originals and Emeraude by Coty

Emeraude

Emeraude Cologne Spray

1. Emeraude Cologne Spray by Coty

I have a vintage bottle of Emeraude – I’m guessing it dates from the 80s by the look of the bottle and the lettering on the sticker underneath. As far as Emeraude goes it’s not very old and it may not be the best version out there. Coty sold out (financially and creatively) a long time ago and sadly their classic and iconic fragrances have all but been destroyed over recent decades. However, this version seems quite good and it’s an interesting reference point to start my adventure from.

At first spray: it’s very much like Shalimar, but is softer, lighter and more powdery. There is less of the discordant harshness that I find in Shalimar, which is what I think makes Shalimar a great fragrance. I smell Johnson’s Baby Powder here, a zesty bergamot and a hint of fresh lemon is well blended with the vanilla and amber, and I also detect opoponax. If I didn’t know this was Emeraude, I might mistake this for a vintage (20-30 years old) Shalimar, in an EDT concentration. It’s yummy, but it’s not outstanding!

After ninety minutes it smells quite wan. The amber is there, as is a touch of baby powder vanilla, but any interesting qualities have faded and it just smells simple and a bit stale. My guess is Coty was already using inferior ingredients (compared to Guerlain) during the period this bottle was made. It just doesn’t cut the mustard in comparison to any of the Shalimars, sadly. Maybe one day I’ll get to smell an older, better Emeraude.

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Shalimar Eau de Toilette from 2000

2. Shalimar Eau de Toilette refill bottle from 2000

On first spray: this smells harsher than the Emeraude. It’s much more complex and I immediately notice a touch of civet, an unmistakable fecal note. The bergamot has a real edge to it, which contributes to the harshness. It’s much stronger than the Emeraude too. I smell leather, but it’s not concocted from birch tar; it has a softer, gentler, new leather handbag smell. The bergamot, amber and vanilla are the most dominant notes in the first few minutes, more or less equally.

After ninety minutes this is really interesting and is still moderately strong on my skin, which is great for an Eau de Toilette. It’s quite savoury for a Shalimar, and I can smell distinct layers of fragrance notes hovering over one another: amber at the base, a powdery soft vanilla in the middle, and a muted, yet still present bergamot adding a little bit of pizzazz up the top. This is good stuff.

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Shalimar Eau de Cologne c. 1990s and missing its label

3. Shalimar Eau de Cologne c. 1990s

Wowzers! At first sniff this is harsher again; there’s almost a hint of bug spray, and a very sharp leather note, but it quickly calms down to become a soft and rounded scent. The bergamot is much softer than in the Eau de Toilette. I’ve heard that natural, untampered-with bergamot was more rounded and complex than the version used in fragrance today, which has had its potentially skin-harming photosensitive molecules removed from it. I wonder if it’s been used here? It certainly doesn’t have the screechiness of the bergamot used in the newer versions of Shalimar. Overall, this version of Shalimar is much quieter in volume, being a cologne (the weakest concentration of fragrance), and the ingredients are more blended. I almost get a hint of licorice here, which is odd: I’ve never noticed licorice in Shalimar before! As with the Eau de Toilette (EDT), the bergamot, vanilla and amber are equally blended together, with no one note dominating. This is a divine skin scent. I’d love to splash it on lavishly all over and have someone think this was how I actually smelled, naturally.

After ninety minutes this has almost gone. A faint whisper of vanillic amber is barely detectable in the crook of my elbow.

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Shalimar Parfum from 2010

4. Shalimar Parfum from 2010

The first big difference I notice between this and the other Shalimars is an overtly strong, warm animalic smell. It’s civet again, but here it’s immediately dominant. Then a fresh, lemony bergamot swiftly rises up and hovers above the sweetly warm animalic smell. Amber appears and tussles with the civet for dominance. The vanilla sits there in the background quietly, supporting the composition. This is a very sophisticated and well-balanced fragrance. It’s strong, but as there is less alcohol in this parfum-strength Shalimar and a correspondingly higher proportion of delectable, smelly ingredients to enjoy, we don’t have to wait very long for the alcohol to evaporate before we can dive in, nose first, and enjoy the fragrance. Shalimar parfum is rich and refined.

After ninety minutes this is a cuddly, warm, sophisticated joy to smell. It’s faded quite a bit, but an almost sweet, vanillic amber wafts up from my skin. The civet has toned down considerably (only adding warmth, but no poopiness to the mix) and the bergamot has left the room entirely.

This is a scent that I use on special occasions only. It’s beautiful and well crafted.

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Shalimar Eau de Parfum, current version

5. Shalimar Eau de Parfum – current version

This is the exact fragrance (year and concentration) that got me excited about perfume, and which made me realise that fragrance can be an olfactory art. It’s the version of Shalimar that I wear most. But do I still love it the most, after this showdown?

There’s something quite rough and intense and dark about this brew. Goodness, I do love it so. I smell not only quite a strident bergamot and a touch of lemon, but rough, masculine woods, leather made from birch tar, smoke, strong amber, and quite a bit of civet. It’s so exotic and passionate: a mix of fresh and almost fetid, sweet and savoury, light and dark. The vanilla is only just starting to peek its head out at about two minutes in. At this stage the Eau de Parfum could be a unisex fragrance. Perhaps it’s this straddling of camps that I like about Shalimar: it’s such a great mix of so many seemingly contrary things that it’s not easily classifiable or even describable.

After ninety minutes this is still a complex and beautiful fragrance. It’s faded a bit, but is still quite noticeable with my nose a good six inches or so from my shoulder. Any rough edges have faded, and the vanilla is rising up to take on a starring role, alongside the ever-present, very dry and savoury amber.

I’m at the half-way point now, so I take a break for my nose’s sake. My left arm smells incredible, like it’s been coated with lemon meringue tart and Johnson’s Baby Powder. I feel lopsided with fragrance on only one side of my body!

The Flankers

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The Flankers

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Shalimar Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique from 2013

1. Shalimar Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique from 2013

I get an intense civet burst at first spray and almost a hint of cumin-like body odour deep in the background. I’m trying to smell the chocolate that’s listed in the notes but I’m struggling at this stage – perhaps all I can smell of it is a powdery, earthy cocoa smell, very faint. The bergamot is quite strident again and reminds me of that used in the Eau de Parfum (EDP). It’s on an equal footing with the civet and the amber is strong too. This flanker is very similar to the current EDP version of Shalimar at first spray, but with certain elements skewed or enhanced, especially the civet. If I didn’t know it was a flanker, I would probably just think it was another version of Shalimar that I didn’t already know well. It mellows reasonably quickly and the sweeter lolly-tones are emerging a couple of minutes in.

About ninety minutes in this fragrance has mellowed significantly and the animalic elements have blended beautifully with the caramel and chocolate notes, both of which are quite prominent now. It’s like a warmer, sweeter, lolly shop version of Shalimar, with amber and vanilla still intact, but in the background.

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Eau de Shalimar from 2011

2. Eau de Shalimar from 2011

Holy lemon starburst! This is lemon sherbet lollies and bright golden sunlight and a zesty bottle of sweet lemonade being opened on a hot day, all at once! The fizz! The sweetness! Underneath it all, like a layer of bedrock, is the signature Shalimar trademark blend of vanilla and amber, but it’s quite well disguised on first spray. This is edible!

Ninety minutes in this is more diminished than I would like: it’s now a soft, lovely melange of lemon, amber and vanilla, but it’s only sniffable about an inch from my skin.

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Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum – current version

3. Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum – current version

Oh! This is so dark and rich and intensely delicious. This fragrance, while it shares a name with Shalimar, is not particularly like the original. Its darkness, richness and complexity equals that of the current Shalimar Eau de Parfum, even if the two do not smell particularly closely related. I visualise dark purple velvet swathes of fabric when I smell this. Shalimar Parfum Initial contains enormous quantities of iris and molasses-infused caramel, which delightfully combine to give the impression of licorice. There’s a hint of bergamot, and though it’s kept in the background, it certainly creates a frisson with the warmer ingredients, including the ever-present vanilla and a rich, almost savoury amber. While this flanker contains gourmand ingredients, it’s far too complex and interesting to place firmly in the category of gourmand. Oriental-gourmand, perhaps?

After ninety minutes the licorice note has toned down, to leave a lovely combination of dark caramel and savoury amber. The iris is still strong and compliments this duet, and is now displaying a powdery quality that wasn’t present earlier.

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to...

Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau Si Sensuelle from 2013

4. Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle from 2013 (Eau de Toilette)

This is a flanker of a flanker of a flanker: first there was Shalimar Parfum Initial, then Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau, and then this one. Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle is, confusingly, the same fragrance as Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau; apparently it was merely repackaged in 2013 in a gorgeously girlish pink frosted bottle with an impossibly soft feather tassle. This fragrance also wins the contest for the silliest, longest fragrance name in history. But apart from all of this, SPILSS, as I shall now call it, is not a complete frippery. The iris is much softer here than in Shalimar Parfum Initial and shares centre stage with a more buttery caramel. As a result, the licorice effect is much more subdued in this version of the fragrance. Bergamot plays a supporting role here too, though it’s much subtler than in any of the original Shalimars, and vanilla is also in the background. Where has the amber gone? I’m not sure I can detect it at all, nor am I certain that it’s meant to even have any.

After ninety minutes this is a softer, sweeter version of Shalimar Parfum Initial. I smell mostly caramel and a soft powdery iris. It’s lovely and is moderately strong for an Eau de Toilette after an hour and a half.

And the Winner Is…

So, which Shalimar wins the showdown? Both the original Shalimar Eau de Parfum (current formula) and the Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum tickled my fancy the most. Shalimar EDP is complex, rich and interesting, remains interesting through its development and drydown, and exhibits a range of qualities and ingredients that create both friction and harmony. It’s a perfect blend of opposites, and it works incredibly well. Shalimar Parfum Initial is not quite as complex but is equally distinct in character as Shalimar EDP, and yet they are both dark and intense creatures. I love how the edible, gourmand ingredients of Shalimar Parfum Initial are offset with more classical perfume ingredients such as iris and bergamot. Again, it’s a beautiful blend of somewhat oppositional forces that somehow coalesce to create a marvellous composition. These two favourite versions are followed closely by the utter beauty and warm sophistication of the 2010 Shalimar Parfum, with its balanced and elegant use of exquisite raw materials.

There is no doubt that I love and enjoy wearing every one of the fragrances I’ve reviewed today, and this has been such a fun and educational experiment for me. I’ve been able to study, for the first time, the subtle and not-so-subtle differences and similarities between various versions of the original Shalimar and some of the flankers. I have a new take on all of them thanks to this exercise and I do hope it’s been interesting for you too!

Which Shalimar is your favourite? Do you own a version that I don’t have? If so, or if you have a different take on things, let me know in the comments box below!