Guerlain Shalimar

One of my favourite quotes in perfume lore is about Guerlain Shalimar, from Ernest Beaux: “When I do vanilla I get crème anglaise, when Guerlain does it he gets Shalimar”.

Had a haircut yesterday. Had to get ok from GP to do it. Split-endy ragtail now gone. I could manage trimming my fringe, but a ‘real’ haircut is beyond my talents. In place of the hot mess, I now have chic – at least I’d like to believe that. I’m back to my short, graduated bob (shorter in back, comes to points at chin). Interestingly, the highlights from ages ago are actually growing out quite nicely. I wore Guerlain Shalimar to salon. Being masked up in Shalimar was sort of perfect and perfectly ironic.

The notes list for this perfume is sort of like reading the Cliff Notes of perfumery: bergamot, lemon, iris, jasmine, rose, patchouli, vetiver, opopanax, tonka bean, frankincense, sandalwood, musk, civet, ambergris, leather and vanilla.

Shalimar wasn’t my first Guerlain. That would be Vol de Nuit. I have a long and happy relationship with Mitsouko which for a period was all I wore. I guess you could say Guerlain is my house, as I’ve yet to find a fragrance that isn’t at least decent on me. Even Shalimar Parfum Initial (which I consider a shunda and has nothing to do with Shalimar) was ok on me.

But Shalimar. It’s sort of in a different galaxy. I feel different when I wear it.

I think I’ve said it before on Posse that on me Shalimar is the best, the most wonderful, most beautiful lemon floor wax. At least it is for the first hour. It dries down to something a bit more orthodox, what with the flowers, resins and that vanilla. But there’s pong there, under it all.

It’s that opening that really hooked me, however.

Never fails. When I need to return to some sense of equilibrium I’ll spray on a bit of Shalimar. When I need to gird my loins for some reason Shalimar is it. When I need to feel like I look better than I know I do (ie, like when my hair hasn’t been cut for seven months) clearly I wear Shalimar.

When I exited the salon post haircut, back to some small semblance of what I hope was ever so slightly chic, Shalimar wafted alongside in confirmation that the world was a bit less upside down.

So, what do you spray on when you need that oomph, when you need to feel stronger on the inside than you think you look on the outside so that you can at least act like you look like a million bucks?


  • Patty says:

    I always FEEL like Shalimar should be that for me, and I envy everyone like you who it works like that. Steel in my spine scent is probably Tubereuse Criminelle or Iris Silver Mist or de Profundis, they just make me feel somewhat invincible.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Always interesting to hear other people’s gird your loins fragrances. TC on me is indeed stand-offish but it’s still flirtatious, which Shalimar is decidedly not.

  • rosarita says:

    Shalimar is my choice too, unless it’s a meeting where I have a demonstration or something else that makes me nervous, then I wear Chanel No 19. It’s funny but the only Guerlains that really work on me are Shalimar and Nahema,.Chanel is definitely “my” house.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Haven’t had to make any presentations in years. What is it about No 19 that helps the process?

      • rosarita says:

        For one, I’ve worn it continuously since 1977 (senior year of high school) so it truly is “me.” And that cool galbanum/iris combo just stiffens my spine and gives me a confidence boost.

  • Dina C. says:

    Delighted for you that you got a decent haircut. My go to scents would be No 19 edp, 31 Rue Cambon, Bois des Iles. Favorite Guerlains include Mademoiselle Guerlain, Apres L’Ondee, Vol de Nuit Evasion, Mitsouko. I’m not a Shalimar gal. Lemon and vanilla don’t send me, but your description is awesome.

  • March says:

    “the notes list is like reading the Cliff notes of perfumery” TRUE, made me laugh. When my allergies settle down my next project is going to be Shalimar. I should love it, everything about it is right, including “lemon floor wax.”

    • Musette says:

      somewhere… in the Messy Armoire… there are a couple of teeny little vintage extrait bottles of Shalimar – and every time I pull it out I wonder why I don’t LOVE it more. Perhaps because it was one of my mother’s sigs (not that I didn’t love my mother – just that ‘it was her sig thing?)? She always wore it from that blue and white canister…

      • Musette says:

        … but that doesn’t make sense, as the Cotys were her Daily JAM and I wear the snot out of them, happily. Huh. Maybe I just don’t like Shalimar! xoxo

    • Cinnamon says:

      It took me absolutely ages to even try it. Can’t recall why now. On a different note there’s that great scene in Working Girl between Katherine and Tess featuring Shalimar.

  • Portia says:

    YAY! Another Shalimar groupie!
    I have a few fragrances that give me power and Shalimar has definitely been used for it. The old Boucheron Femme is another. CHANEL No 19 and the whole oeuvre of Floral Chypre. Midnight Oud by JHaG.

    Perfume can be so many things.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      It can indeed. I have a musk a friend brought back from Pakistan which is my keep your distance fragrance. It’s beautiful, but you have to like that sort of beauty.

  • KimB says:

    Chanel woman here. For courage it’s No 5 or Cuir de Russie. No 19 or La Pausa if I want to intimidate. Love Shalimar, not for courage but rather for a quiet evening at home as an occasional break from 31 Rue Cambon.

  • Maggiecat says:

    Anything Chanel, which is for me what Guerlain is to you. Liquid courage!

  • Musette says:

    No5 or Mitsouko for battle – I even dab a bit behind The Girl’s ears if we are going into battle together (which never happens because On That Day, folks will Diiiiiie). But seriously, I have dabbed a bit of No5 behind her ears – she doesn’t care – it’s not like she can smell it.


    • Cinnamon says:

      Mitsouko isn’t battle for me. The only scent Joe the lab gets is rose geranium oil to keep the ticks away. I imagine the girl stands up a bit straighter when she’s wearing No 5.

  • matty1649 says:

    I’m a Guerlain girl too. Love Shalimar. I’m also a fan of Black Perfecto.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I have this idea that once it’s really (and I do mean really) safe to travel again I am going to take myself up to London and do the longest sniffathon ever — and that way I’ll get to smell all the thing it’s hard to get here as samples.

  • Ruth says:

    I love Shalimar and I love your take on it. ‘gird my loins’ ???

  • Tara C says:

    I’m a Guerlain girl too. I love to wear Mon Précieux Nectar or Cuir Beluga to feel elegant and uplifted. Shalimar unfortunately smells like petrol on me, the only vintage Guerlain I can wear is Chamade. Oh, and Après l’Ondée, which lasts about 20 minutes so I rarely bother unless it’s just before hopping into bed.