Curves – Review: Guerlain Shalimar Ode A La Vanille Sur La Route De Madagascar

Guerlain’s ten-word-long flanker to its classic oriental Shalimar, just recently came out as a limited edition. Shalimar is a perfume I like it almost all its many incarnations, and I also own the first Ode a la Vanille, that came out in 2010 and featured “infused” vanilla from the island of Mayotte.

This new edition features Madagascan vanilla and was created by Guerlain’s in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser.

The classic Shalimar features notes of mandarin, cedar, bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, iris, patchouli, vanilla, benzoin, peru balsam and leather. All I could find for the new Ode was: spices, balsams and Madacascan Vanilla (via

Ode a la Vanille sur la route de Madagascar (shall we call it just Madagascar for the sake of brevity?) will surely make every Shalimar lover happy.

Deep, smoky, with a feeling of “noir” (REAL noir, dear Chanel!) and the accent on the basenotes, Madagascar is truly bewitching.

Upon spraying we are hit with the familiar bergamot-lemon-cream opening, which is very sweet and almost reminiscent of Eau de Shalimar, the lighter, summery version of Shalimar. It dissipates after a while to showcase a smoky vanilla-leather in a big way. That is a kind of preview of things to come in the drydown. The sillage is very big at the beginning, but after half an hour it shrinks back (to my relief actually, I will remember to spray this on a good while before I have to leave the house!) to more comfortable levels. Now the floral heart becomes apparent, always with an undercurrent of dry patchouli, smoky leather and sweet benzoin.

Wrapping this arrangement like a soft, but warm cashmere throw, is the vanilla. Dark, spicy and nuanced, this is far from your run of the mill sweet ‘n happy vanilla. It is complex and alluring, it shows depth and sensuality, but it still manages to be roll-your-eyes-back-and-curl-your-toes delicious.

What are the differences to the 2010 edition of Ode a la Vanille?

Ode a la Vanille 2010 on the left and Route de Madagascar on the right.

The latter opens with a sharper, brighter lemon note, it is a tad sweeter as it develops, creamier, a bit more gourmand, it is softer, less smoky and less leathery. But we are talking nuances here. The differences are not dramatic, but noticeable.

I think Ode a la Vanille, in either version, is a very well done perfume and a splendid addition to the Guerlain line. It reworks and updates a classic in a respectful way and thereby helps to keep the legacy of such a venerable house intact.

I wrote in my review of the 2010 edition that Ode a la Vanille made me feel like a real woman, two years on I’d like to specify that a little:

Shalimar Ode a la Vanille sur la route de Madagascar adds curves where there are none and replaces a frown with a smile. It makes me feel like Joan Holloway, and that – at least certain times – is not a bad feeling at all.

Ode a la Vanille sur la route de Madagascar is available in 50ml Eau de Parfum in a special box (oh, I wish all Guerlains came in those!) I believe distribution is limited, similarly to the first edition (which is broader than the exclusive line though, at least here in Europe). It is available at Place Vendome for 96€.

Image source:, my own,

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56 Responses to Curves – Review: Guerlain Shalimar Ode A La Vanille Sur La Route De Madagascar

  1. Dubaiscents says:

    Thanks for the comparison between the two. I bought the 2010 version just recently (Dubai stores have some strange things in stock sometimes) and love it. The new one sounds wonderful too but, I don’t think I will feel the need to have yet another vanilla Shalimar. I do love the special display boxes though!

  2. Sandra says:

    Oh I am so happy you like it! Don’t you just adore that box? I found it very grown up, less sweet and loved it. Just wish I had had more space in my suitcase to buy it on the spot. Great addition to your collection!

  3. Zazie says:

    I’m so glad you are reviewing “Madagascar”!
    I am really in love with this version of Shalimar. Love, Love, Love.
    Indeed, it must be smokier and more leathery than “Mayotte”, since I didn’t care for the latter (Among the many versions of Shalimar I own, I strongly prefer those with more smoke and leather and animalic musks). In the end, the devil lies in the details!
    I might be under the “Curse of the Jade Scorpion”, – if you’ve seen this Woody Allen movie, you know how I react these days when I hear the word “Madagascar”!
    I am totally under the spell. Thanks for the review!!!!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hahaha, you are bewitched by Madagascar! So glad you love it, Zazie!
      I can’t shake the association with the Disney/Pixar movies unfortunately, since my kids love them, and I’m forced to watch more Disney than Woody Allen these days… 😉

  4. I would be happier for you Birgit if I wasn’t so outrageously jealous!!
    Hopefully they’ll still have some in January when I’m up top.
    Portia xx

  5. Ines says:

    Wait! There’s another Ode a la Vanille flanker to Shalimar!? I thought at first you just added your thoughts to how Ode smells like (with Madagascan vanilla).
    I’m completely behind the perfume times. 😦

    • Olfactoria says:

      Yes, there is! You missed a new Shalimar flanker??? Unbelievable! (joking).
      Shall I send you a bit?

      • Ines says:

        Yes, please? 😀
        It’s a Shalimar after all.

        Btw, I have to add – I should really be ashamed of myself, I have a bottle of Ode which I don’t use as I don’t want to end up without any. Stupid, I know, I should enjoy the things I have…

        • Olfactoria says:

          I know how that is, I use my Ode only sparingly as well, but now with the second bottle that hopefully will change. (I HATE limited edition, hate!)

          I’ll send some Madagascar on its way soon. 🙂

  6. czahltine says:

    Fun fact: Joan actually mentions wearing/recognizes the scent Shalimar (I can’t recall which) in an episode of ‘Mad Men’. So funny that it reminds you of her!

  7. lulllull says:

    I just got this limited edition and I’m so happy. It’s a wonderful variation on Shalimar. Smokier, softer and less powdery. On me it’s surprisingly soft with a medium sillage. Not the perfume bomb like Shalimar edt is on me. Very nice review! I haven’t smelled the 2010 version, I never got the chance. Fun reading the difference between the two. By the way, Place Vendome are sold out.

    Have you read the news about the limited edition L heure bleue, coming in october/november? Super gorgeous bottle and pricey as a Birkin bag, but it’s L heure bleue…..

  8. Anita T. Monroe says:

    I’m feeling so sad. Do any of you wonderful people know where people like me who live in little country towns can buy the new versions of Shalimar or the l”Heure Bleue trio? I love the original of both of those (like millions and millions of others) but it’s hard to find even a fresh bottle of these where I live.
    I was able to find a bottle of Cuir Lancome, so life is not all bad. (-: That is wonderful stuff and I am reveling in it. I wouldn’t have known about it without your posts, Birgit, so many thanks.

    • Suzanne says:

      Good lord, Birgit, you sure do know how to create a lemming! I bet you keep those two flankers in their respective boxes, yes? Otherwise it seems like you’d never know which one you were grabbing from the perfume shelf, the bottles look identical.

      • Olfactoria says:

        Haha, yes, I’m the great lemming inducer and proud of it! 😉

        I do keep them in their boxes, or get them out for their day on the vanity table separately. The bottles are identical, only the box and the juice is different.

    • Olfactoria says:

      The answer is online! It’s still the best bet to get your hands on such limited distribution beauties, Vienna is not in the absolute boondocks, but most of my perfumes are bought online anyway…

      I’m very happy that you are enjoying Cuir de Lancome, it’s such a beauty.

    • Woodgirl says:

      Anita, I live in the boondocks, with no real access to perfume. I’ve had good luck with the online perfume stores. And if I really want to sniff something that is unavailable locally, which is most of the time, I’ve had good experiences with the online perfume decant/sample sites. Kind of pricey, but if you wait until they have a sale, you can get a variety of samples for not too high a price. That’s been the only way for me to smell some of the perfumes that have piqued my interest. Not likely that I’ll be going to Paris any time soon, or New York, or Atlanta, last time I was in Tampa (closest “big city”) I couldn’t even find Prada Candy. And isn’t Cuir de Lancome lovely?

  9. lucasai says:

    Interesting. I just got a generous decant of Ode a la Vanille from a US friend, will have to try the first colder day, as soon as possible.

  10. I find the original Shalimar unwearable, despite many test spritzes of the different strengths. I continue to try it out in the hope that I will one day “get” Shalimar and lose the mouldy lemon custard vibe. I tried the first Ode back in 2010 on the advice of the Guerlain lady (in Debenhams, Inverness, thank you!) and it was love. In fact I have just got my bottle of Ode out again, it is right for Autumn. Mmmm. Can’t wait to try the new Ode!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’ve heard that often, Ode is just right for people who had problems wearing regular Shalimar. A great improvement, without losing the character of the original.

  11. Anita T. Monroe says:

    I had my first bottle of Shalimar as a gift from an aunt who traveled the world as a teacher. It had a glass stopper, and when I opened it, I had to sit down because I thought I would faint. I wore it for the years when I taught school. I had many other fragrances, but if I wore anything else, I got complaints. Children love it! So do I. I’m going to try to find a bottle of the new one.

  12. Melis says:

    Wow, that packaging is stunning!! Congratulations on your new bottle. Your description has almost created a lemming but I don’t think Shalimar likes me. All I get is powder, top to bottom. Even my boys turned their noses up at it on my skin.

  13. laniersmith says:

    Wonderful review… I love the smell of Shalimar but have never sniffed the flankers… This one sounds very VERY nice…. one question…when you are feeling like Joan Holloway do you bust out the old accordion and play “C’est Magnifique”?

  14. Oh no, another thing for me to lust after, thanks B 😛

  15. Flora says:

    Wow! I have a decant of this coming and now I can’t wait! I adore the 2010 version, this sounds even better if possible! Great review!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Donna,
      I actually prefer it to the 2010, and I didn’t think that could be improved on – but it apparently it could!
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy your decant.

  16. Civava says:

    Like to hear that “Noir”. I certainly will get my hand on.

  17. Undina says:

    What a beautiful box! Of my favorite color… 🙂 I tried the first version and it was nice. So if I were to come across this box… I might… We’ll see.

  18. goldiloks says:

    Does anyone know where I might find a sample of the new Ode? Or which UK (London!) shops stock it?

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Goldiloks,
      I would try Selfridges or Harrods, who stock the exclusive Guerlains, I didn’t see it, but I have to confess I didn’t exactly go looking for it either when I was there last week.
      Or you could try your luck to win a 5ml decant of this blog at the Bottle of the Month Giveaway, check back for details of the draw tomorrow. 🙂

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