Initial Thoughts


 by the Old Bat Musette

Most hard-core perfumistas bemoan the addition of flankers, especially when it’s a flanker of a True Classic.  I mean, c’mon – how on earth could you do a Mitsouko flanker?  What would you call it?  Mitsouko Mist?  How ’bout   L’Heure Aqua?  Jickette? Djediddy?

….can we stop with the collective grave-spinning, there,  Jacques  et al  – we’re just joking here…..or are we?


The House of Guerlain has been tinkering with the Shalimar ‘brand’ – again.   I usually ignore these ‘variations’ but Gaia over at the Non-Blonde had a practical,  laissez-faire point of view, regarding her niece,  here  which led me to Octavian’s elegantly enraged review here – two very interesting-but-different perspectives that piqued my curiosity. The newest, Initial, has been described as ShaLite,  My First Shalimar, Shalimar for People Who Hate Shalimar, etc….


So, .finally accepting that this trend is NOT GOING TO GO AWAY I decided to investigate.


Off to Neiman-Marcus to spritz.  Waaaaal….hum.  Huh Notes for Initial are citrus, green notes, bergamot, orange, rose, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, white musk, tonka bean.   But it doesn’t smell like any combination created by the venerable House of Guerlain.  Instead, it smells like a  concoction created by lovesick 14-yr old, mixing a bunch of scents in a plastic milk jug in the hot sun, listening to the same Justin Bieber song for the 356th time,  who lucked out because her mom had decent perfumes for her to play with.   Oddly enough, that is not as scathing an indictment of Initial as you would expect.  But let’s go back to the original Shalimar for a minute.   Love or hate it, nothing about the original Shalimar feels synthetic.  And generic is not a word ever associated with the Blue-topped Beast; if anything it sometimes feels too animalic, like an oily tiger ate an entire  bushel of vanilla beans or something equally terrifying.  I’m also not saying Shalimar smells natural – it has never aspired to that – but it smells like a perfume structured out of non-synthetic materials.  Shalimar Initial  has the barest of traces of Shalimar in its makeup  and it’s got a LOT of plastic- it’s designed for people who, most likely, got pulled into the display or the child-supermodel adverts.  They want to smell like their peers and Shalimar Initial will not disappoint .  There is no depth to this scent, no nuance – it’s a gourmandy floriental with about as much heft as one of those paper umbrellas you get in a fruity cocktail.   Very ‘youthful’, very innocuous – and for lovers of the real Shalimar, especially an Old Bat like me,  a real heartbreaker.  But I can totally understand how the House came to release such a thing; in my opinion, sad as it is, Shalimar’s reign is already over  – it and its contemporaries L’Heure Bleue, Jicky, Mitsouko, etc already languish behind the counter in so many upscale stores, upstaged bythe newbies and flankers for the larger, incoming mass market..

Ow!! Don’t bite me!  This is only  my heartbroken personal opinion, based on a bazillion years as a marketer.  It makes perfect marketing sense.   LVMH will never let the Shalimar name die – it is worth its weight in amber, even as interest in the original dwindles with each passing generation.  And I suspect they will always keep some semblance of the original  around for brand cred.   But with the LVMH focus  seemingly on mainstream marketing rather than creation of groundbreaking fragrances, it is a pretty sure bet  this is the wave of the future for the House of Guerlain.  And for a lot of perfumistas it’s a cryin’ shame – but …I mean, really – can you imagine the average 22 yr old wearing the original Shalimar?  Neither can I.

Have any of you sniffed this yet?  I’d love to hear from Shalimar haters as well as lovers as well as those in-between.  What are your thoughts about the direction Guerlain is headed?    Personally, I get it.  I don’t like it.  But I get it.


mary July 14, 2011

Anita-- I tried it and liked it. The bottle is beautiful, and the juice is really a very pretty color of pink. I love my vintage Shalimar, but this new stuff is very nice. I have liked the different iterations of Shalimar, and can see that the formula and the bottle are fun to play with. There is a special mystique to Shalimar-- I would rather have LVMH keep the mystique alive and add a new layer. I think this new juice could act as a gateway drug to the real Shalimar. This could be a good thing for the brand and for the rest of us. I love my little vintage bottle of parfum, but it isn't for every day. This flanker-- yeah, you can wear it to the office and not have a memo come out.

Dilana July 14, 2011

How about L'Huere Rouge (The Pink Hour) for a flanker? Rather than a fragrancescape of twilight, it would be a fragrancescape of the moment just before "dawn goes down to day." (per Robert Frost-who actually used gold as a metaphor for this time of day). Actually Iris Ganache, which smells like a white chocolate bar, re-priced and repackaged, would probably be a fun fragrance for a "younger" demographic.

Helenviolette July 14, 2011

ROFL!!! Djediddy!!!! Musette, you made my day my dear ^:)^ I have to admit that I liked this (and even bought a bottle for my daughter for her 17th b day in a few days). I am a BIG SHALIMAR FAN, btw. And of course I think Shalimar is head and shoulders above, but I thought this was pretty and younger and might lead to an eventual Shalimar appreciation down the line (baby steps you know?). And it does smell like a guerlain to me, kin to the progenitor...just a more sweetchoulie-er pink version....ok ok I am ready for the onslaught!

rednails July 13, 2011

So "Shalimar goes to the mall." The dumbing down of taste evidently is inevitable in a democratic mass society. I don't know that we're in for a revival of elegance anytime soon, but I would note that European, Japanese and to a certain extent American society are aging fast, so perhaps there's hope for an adult aesthetic.

LindaB July 13, 2011

I so want to love Shalimar and own at least two different bottles of it (one a little vintage) but Ijust can't get it to work on me. I love vanilla but don't get ANY at all. Wah. Anyhow, I don't think I will try this one as "gourmandy floriental" made my stomach lurch. :-&

AnnieA July 13, 2011

I've wanted to like Mitsouko, Shalimar and Vol de Nuit, but no. Evidently I can't appreciate a perfume if it is not right for me personally. It's how I go through museums: I ask myself whether I'd want whatever it is I'm looking at in my living room. I look at the outfits in Vogue with an eye as to whether I'd wear them, should I have a spare $2000. Solipsistic? Perhaps...

Vasily July 13, 2011

The average 22 year old's relationship with fragrance is like his/her relationship with pretty much anything: too inexperienced to appreciate a fine cognac or scotch, but full of strong opinions about everything. And judging from their Basenotes posts, most of them can't comprehend that anyone older than 25 wears scent and might know something about fragrance that they don't. In other words, "that smells like an old lady/man" really means "I don't know what I'm talking about but I have to present myself as though I'm sophisticated and know what I'm talking about." :) Me, I'm still mourning the unavailability of vintage Derby ...

Asali July 13, 2011

The way I see it Guerlain is trying to cater for all tastes. Mainstream with their big launches, like Initial, AA and Idylle +flanker, then they have there whole exclusive range, which is really quite exhaustive and then the classics. As you say Musette, even if you don't like the juice itself it does make sense. You don't want your brand to be labeled outdated. And also, something has to bring in the money. Somebody mentioned Hermes, but Hermes has got other means of bringing in the extra cash necessary for making exclusive fragrances. Several people are of the opinion that presented by quality, people will choose this over less quality, like watching the three tenors will get more people in the opera. This is not the case, it will bring more people to the three tenors! Or that people reading Harry Potter, will be inspired to read in general, which is also not true. Perhaps there are only so many people who can and want to appreciate quality perfume.

Cymbaline July 13, 2011

Hey, I grew up with no TV and loads of books also! Maybe that's the key:d

Rappleyea July 13, 2011

A., you said: "It makes perfect marketing sense." But...I'd have to argue that it doesn't quite make "perfect" sense. Why not have the best of BOTH worlds and intersperse these generic pink releases with a few well-chosen and well-placed campaigns advertising their classics as Chanel has done. I actually enjoyed the Keira Knightley Chanel spot! LVMH already owns the rights to the classics so the marketing and sales of them should be fairly profitable. And no, I won't be smelling this. :-p

Sherri M. July 13, 2011

First of all, I would never wear Shalimar because it is my mother-in-law's signature scent, not mention that of several long-gone great aunts'. I cannot help but admiring its true beauty, and over the years have accumulated several iterations. I can't wear any of them; I like the sillage but not the scent up close. Sometimes I use the EDT as room spray and it reminds me of dear sweet aunts on the holidays falling asleep with their Brandy I couldn't resist the new Parfum Initial at Dillards (Sadly our Dillards has remodeled and all the classics (Jicky, Mitsouko, Jardins de Bagatelle) but Shalimar are now GONE!) Anyway, I loved the bottle. It's nice and heavy, not like the cheap glass Shalimar EDT is presently in. It smelled to me like Shalimar and Coco Mademoiselle, with a touch of Angel thrown in for good measure. Very sad, and I really don't see this appealing to younger people, though I imagine their target audience was more the 30-ish set of Coco Mademoiselle and Angel fans than the fourteen year olds.

Olfacta July 13, 2011

Well, everything is about marketing isn't it? Which means focus groups (lowest common denominator) and questionnaires (subtle researcher bias) and so on. And, since the world capitals tend to be the big advertising/research capitals also, the "average" customer is looked down upon, often literally, from 35,000 feet. All of this results in crap, crap, crap. I thought the Tommy Hilfiger scene in the BBC documentary was hilarious. An overdressed middle aged fashionista telling the clients "what the young people like." I thought, "Where are Patsy and Edina now that we need them?"

rosarita July 13, 2011

I guess what makes me saddest is the continuation of *dumbing down* in every aspect of our culture. I know I sound like a cranky old bat, too (back 'atcha, Ms A) but think about it: I bought myself a bottle of Norell at the drugstore when I was about 12. First, drugstores had perfumes of substance available for a price that a 12 yr old could save out of her allowance and babysitting cash, but more importantly, I had smelled Norell and loved it enough to want it. Why do companies today assume that the younger market isn't going to like something classic? And if that's correct, then why is that? Of course, I was also reading John Updike when I was 12, as I would read anything I could get my hands on and had parents that were relieved I was quiet & didn't check for content. Kids today do the same with myriad electronic devices but they have the whole internet at their disposal - you'd think that would make them more curious about life but it has the opposite effect. *sigh* Anyway, I love Shalimar as it is, and obviously some younger people feel the same (thanks, Ari!) but not enough for LVMH to make ever bigger bucks.

Ari July 13, 2011

I found Parfum Initial to be insipid and kind of a travesty. I think that you are right, Musette, this is the direction in which Guerlain will be going in from now on, particularly now that Thierry Wasser is their perfumer. His work for them so far has been indistinctive (Idylle) or straight up unpleasant (Iris Ganache). And the fact that Wasser knew that he was going to create a "pink Shalimar" before he had any idea what it would smell like speaks volumes.

Marla July 13, 2011

I didn't bother trying it. LVMH is like a blight to me. It's ruined some of my favorite Kenzos, I don't much bother with those anymore, either! I am praying for Hermes to maintain its independence.

Jared July 13, 2011

What's odd to me is that when I was at the Guerlain counter in NYC a few years back and striking up conversation with the SA, he told me that, in France, Shalimar was what the 19yo girls wore. This is in contrast to the USA where Shalimar has a "mature woman" sort of connotation to it. So, why the flanker geared toward the young'ns if over on the continent they're wearing the real thing? I sure as hell don't know. At any rate, I will stick to my original Shalimar, thank you, while listening to Billie Holiday and Jane Monheit over a glass of carmenere.

Ronny July 13, 2011

cymbaline, i think there are young people out there who wear Shalimar. we just don't hear about them much. i recall wearing Opium at 21, which isn't quite the same thing, but at least makes the point that younguns can be interested and wear 'real' perfume rather than the (mostly) muck targeted at them. as to Shalimar i came to it late (i'm almost 50), making the point that it's never too late to try something (and fall in love)... finally, if you haven't watched the BBC's series called Perfume you can probably find it on BBC IPlayer. there's a bit on Wasser, the new Guerlain nose, who came up with Parfum Initial. well worth a look.

cymbaline July 13, 2011

Nevermind. Of course that was mostly a rhetorical question. I just get cranky sometimes. People really limit themselves.:(

cymbaline July 13, 2011

Waaay back in 1978, when I was 20, I discovered Shalimar at the local department store. It was my gateway to all things Guerlain. I still waear it occasionally(and love it). Haven't tried and am not interested in the flankers. What I'm try'n ta say is- if I could fall for it at 20 what's so different about young people today?

Joanna July 13, 2011

Years ago when I was a young, single mom I got a job at this archaic, family owned department store in small town Minnesota. I styled and did fittings for wigs, manned the fine gifts & china, jewelry and cosmetic counters. Most I just dusted things and polished silver because the store way dying and we were seldom busy. The store catered to old ladies so most of our mechandise was very grandma'esque. My favorite part of the job was that we were encouraged to wear the jewelry and the perfume/cosmetics. I was broke as a joke and scraping by on nothing but I could go to work and deck myself out in big gawdy cocktail rings, pearls...and Shalimar. I adore Shalimar. It smells like the lady I want to become...still. And I truly do love a man in Shalimar. But that is another memory. I'm not at all interested in testing this blasphemous newcomer. I hope Guerlain recovers it's soul.

nozknoz July 13, 2011

I hate to tell you, Musette, but there actually was a Mitsouko flanker - Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus, or something like that. I think Kevin reviewed it on NST. And it was ACQUA!