There are lots of fragrances out there and every celebrity has one, but for me it is “Shalimar”.
Shalimar is a women’s fragrance originally created by Jacques Guerlain in 1921 as a classic soft amber (Oriental) parfum, and currently produced by Guerlain.
Popular for 90 years, Shalimar was created in 1921 and re-released in 1925 in a bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain and made by Cristalleries de Baccarat (bottle design # 597) and launched at the Decorative Arts Exhibition as an antidote to The Great Depression.
According to Elisabeth Barille, “while examining a sample of vanillin, Jacques Guerlain suddenly poured the entire contents into a nearby bottle of Jicky, just to see what would happen.” The result: Shalimar.
Jacques Guerlain was inspired by Mumtaz Mahal, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite wife, was so great that he built her the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, Pakistan (and indeed, the Taj Mahal).
The meaning of the word Shalimar remains a mystery, but it is certainly of Arab or Persian origin as asserted by Anna Suvorova in her book Lahore: Topophilia of Space and Place.
In 1985, it was repackaged and presented encased in a Lucite box to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its original launch.
In 2004, Guerlain issued Shalimar Light by perfumer Mathilde Laurent. However, Shalimar Light was taken off the market and replaced by Eau de Shalimar in 2008.
Shalimar itself is currently produced in Shalimar Extract, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Fleur de Shalimar Edition.
Guerlain also markets Shalimar Parfum Initial, which has a different formula, color and fragrance than Shalimar.
Shalimar is preserved in its original 1925 formulation in the archives of the Osmothèque, donated by Jean-Paul Guerlain.
The fragrance can be described as vanilla, powdery, and sweet. The fragrance contains bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, iris, incense, opopanax, tonka bean, and vanilla. It is considered to be an Oriental perfume (see Fragrance Wheel); spicy perfumes were popular during Shalimar’s conception. The top note of the fragrance is bergamot. The middle notes are iris and opopanax. The base note is vanilla.
Over the years, Shalimar has had numerous ad campaigns.
In the 1950s, the illustrations created for Shalimar and other Guerlain perfumes, for the classic French advertising posters of the era, were some of the greatest works by the major illustrators of the day, such as Lyse Darcy, Cassandre, and so on.
I was never a big scent person. Yes, guys get a line of smelly stuff too. I started getting those little bottles when I was first starting to shave, around middle school. It was also the time dating started coming.
My father used Old Spice for all his shaving products, so I guess I just picked up that scent. It was (and is) manly and every guy splashed it on. We cut our pimpled faces with Gillette blades then washed the blood down with an alcohol follow-up.
By the time I was in high school, pharmaceutical companies realized a growing market, so new bottles and brands started appearing on the shelves of drug store. Marketing with cowboys and sailors and even ninjas, guys started to buy all these brands and really smelled up the place.
The ladies had the tradition of liquid perfumes for years. Department store had entire counters to present that special scent to announce a lady entering a room before she got there. There was one store that even had a fountain the ladies to dip into to dab before they shopped.
Perfume or fragrances were always a sure thing to give at Christmas. If the aroma appealed to the receiver there would probably be a kiss to the giver. The problem was these little bottles were expensive.
My mother had a special area with these tiny bottles with colored water. I thought they stank. I never saw her use them. I think when we cleaned out her house I threw them away and each bottle was still full. Like I said, I was never a scent guy.
Today there are balms and rubs and powders and all sorts of concoctions to make a person not smell like a person. You can tell at those Christmas parties when a room full of people all wearing a different scent, the marketing must be working. It can make your eyes water. And some people must really have a body odor problem because is smells as if they are bathing in the fragrance.
So getting back to the original subject, why do I like Shalimar? I don’t remember where I bought the first bottle, but the young lady enjoyed it and I enjoyed the young lady. It became our scent.
I gave the same brand to other ladies but it always reminded me of a previous time and a previous person (don’t tell them). I found a bottle in the house when I was cleaning up my wife’s toiletries but could not throw it out. I took the gold bottle out to my studio during the clean up and it has been sitting there.
Yesterday, I sprayed the room with Shalimar, just as if it were an air freshener. It brought a smile to my face. By the way, a little goes a long way. This morning when I went out to get my bike out of the studio, the yard smelled like Shalimar. (Place smile here)
And just as a follow up, that young lady I bought the first bottle for had lunch with me the other day. It was a pleasant reunion and ended gracefully. She wore Shalimar.