Shalimar For Beginners – Review: Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial

By Tara

If I was forced to vote for the greatest perfume of all time I may well plump for Shalimar. The only problem is that I hardly ever wear it. It just seems very “evening-y” to me and that doesn’t really fit in with my less than glamorous, in-bed-by-ten lifestyle. As a consequence, the Shalimar flankers are my wearable friends. Having said that, I could understand ‘fume fans concern at the news in 2011 that Guerlain were releasing a version of Shalimar aimed at the youth market. A sort of entry level Guerlain to get you hooked on the good stuff from a young age.

Considering most perfumes aimed at teenagers are sugary confections it’s perhaps unsurprising that Parfum Initial is a gourmand rather than an oriental like its antecedent. It is much sweeter and fruitier but actually it is different enough from the original not to feel like sacrilege.

Shalimar Parfum Initial was created by Thierry Wasser and notes include bergamot, orange, jasmine, iris, rose, fruity notes, green notes, patchouli, tonka bean, vetiver, vanilla and musk.

On first spray, I very much miss the citrus-y tartness of the original, which is replaced here by caramelised fruit. A wonderfully raspy iris quickly makes its presence known and helps to take the edge off the sweetness. Once the opening fades, for the next couple of hours everything is obscured for me by an incredibly persistent white musk. It should be said that I am extremely sensitive to this type of material, whereas others may not register it at all.

After the musk subsides, a pleasant mix of red berries and sweet florals – mostly rose – comes to the fore. The best is yet to come though, in the form of a light and fluffy vanilla base with a whiff of bonfire about it. This is a nice reminder of the Shalimar I know and love. Far from being a watered down version of the original, this is pretty potent stuff and so sillage and lasting power are considerable.

Personally, I’ll stick with the sadly discontinued Shalimar Light or seek out the latest incarnation, Shalimar Ode A La Vanille Sur La Route De Madagascar, but then I’m not in Parfum Initial’s target demographic. It would be a good option for fans of post-Angel fruity gourmands or those seeking a starter Guerlain. It is definitely more than a couple of steps up from most mainstream perfumes aimed at today’s youth.

Lovers of the sexy and sophisticated original are unlikely to be satisfied by this people-pleasing upstart, but it does achieve its aim. It is a modern re-working of a classic that will appeal to a younger audience and if it introduces a whole new generation to the wonders of Guerlain, surely that can only be a good thing.

Shalimar Parfum Initial is available in 40ml, 60ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum.

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37 Responses to Shalimar For Beginners – Review: Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial

  1. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Now, we have to change that life style ! I might have something for you… 😉

  2. Alexandra says:

    Good morning, and what a spot on review – I found myself nodding all the way through. I love Shalimar (and continue to lust after a bottle of the parfum), but I too hardly wear it at all. It was my Mum who introduced me to Shalimar Initial, I was so busy turning my nose up at a learner Shalimar that I never actually got round to sniffing it, but everytime I commented that my Mum smelled nice it would turn out she was wearing this. I still find the opening a little too sweet (but then I find the opening of Shalimar a touch too citrus…), but the dry down is absolutely lovely and so I take back all my original arrogance and mutter an apology to Thierry Wasser. Oh and this is no light insubstantial thing – this stuff wafts!

    • Tara says:

      Morning Alex and thanks for the reassurance, I’m glad you agree. The drydown is really gorgeous and you do assume it will be a lot lighter than Shalimar, but it really does have some throw.

      How interesting that you learned to appreciate it through your Mum!

  3. poodle says:

    I’m going to have to revisit this one. I like Shalimar but did not like Parfum Initial when I tried it. I can’t remember why I didn’t like it though.
    On a side note, if I could stay up until 10 every night I’d feel like I was living life in the fast lane. On a good night I’m awake until 9:15. In my defense, I am up at 5am during the week. Not much glamour here either.

    • Tara says:

      Thanks for making me feel better poodle! You’re up an hour and a half before me so you have a good excuse.

      I would guess you didn’t get on with P.I. because of the opening. The sweetness coupled with some harsh aldehydes is pretty off-putting for many I imagine.

      • poodle says:

        I think I was expecting it to be more like Shalimar than it was so I might not have given it a chance. I have to go to Ulta later so I’ll give it a spritz. I know I didn’t love it but maybe without that expectation in my mind I can give it a fair testing.

        • Tara says:

          That makes sense. Those expecting something close to Shalimar are bound to be disappointed. It’s very much a perfume in it’s own right. The flankers such as Ode a la Vanille are much more Shalimar-like.

  4. Olfactoria says:

    I’m right there with you, Tara, and Poodle lifestyle-wise, so I’ve taken to wearing Shalimar out for grocery-shopping excursions. 😉
    I was just like you quick to initially (pun intended) dismiss Parfum Initial, but I’ve come to really appreciate it. If only all young women were wearing it, the world would be a much more tasteful place.
    Thank you for your spot-on review!

    • Tara says:

      I’m relieved you feel the same, B. I didn’t know your take on this one at all.

      I need to take a leaf out of your book and just make Shalimar fit my life-style, instead of the other way around 🙂

    • poodle says:

      I wear Shalimar during the day too. If I saved it for special occasions it would never get worn.

      • Tara says:

        That’s exactly my problem. Guess I need to get over my association with it as an evening/special occasion perfume and just wear it whatever.

  5. Annina (nina) says:

    I adore the original Shalimar; I’ve almost gone through a whole bottle, which is an extremely rare occasion for me. I tested Initial last year, expecting to scoff. But I did enjoy it, and found myself huffing my wrist for the rest of the night. It does have a ghost of Coco Mlle, to my nose, and a whiff of the berry. I would buy a large decant, but maybe not a fb.

    • Tara says:

      nina, almost getting through a whole bottle is a rare occurrance for most of us so Shalimar must be a great love of yours.

      I think many of us were scoffing at the thought of a “pinkified” Shalimar but it is well done and has a place, I think.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Tara, your review of Shalimar Initial is very thoughtful and well-expressed. I probably won’t be seeking this out, but I thought you did a great job pointing out that this could be a nice stepping-stone fragrance for young women who might eventually graduate on to the more sophisticated Guerlain fragrances, including the original Shalimar. Speaking of which, I think you should do as Poodle does and wear your original Shalimar during the daylight hours. Wear it with that black leather jacket of yours, the one you mentioned in connection with another review, maybe layered over a pencil skirt? (But if I’m being too bold in my suggestion, please forgive me. I just think you could totally rock Shalimar during the day!) 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Thanks so much for such a lovely comment, Suzanne. That means a lot as I admire your writing so much.

      After this I will definitely try wearing Shalimar during the day. I don’t have a pencil skirt but I have lots of dresses so I’ll pair one of those with my leather jacket and a discrete spray of Shalimar. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. lucasai says:

    Me and my mum we really enjoy Shalimar PI.

  8. Gretchen says:

    I absolutely adore Shalimar (and fully intend to shift to the parfum from the EDP once this bottle is gone, which will happen by Feb, I estimate), and wear it whenever the mood strikes. I haven’t reserved any fragrances for evenings…if I did, it would likely be Joy, but that’s because I’m not particularly fond of it and would need to add something else to get past whatever is bothering me about it. I may need to introduce my teenage daughter to the PI version – it smells nice, just not what I’m looking for, but it is such a great alternative to some of the flabby garbage out there.

    • Tara says:

      When I start wearing my edp and eventually finish it, I’ll switch to the parfum too. Guerlain is so much better in parfum if you can get it. It’s good to hear that you wear Shalimar whenever the mood strikes. I’ve never got on with Joy, I must admit.

      I agree that PI would be a good option for your daughter compared to the dross that is aimed at teenagers these days.

  9. reneetamara says:

    I too, wear Shalimar, morning, noon or night. Why wait until evening? I agree, it is the best I have experienced thus far aomong perfumes. But this appreciation came only in recent years.

    • Tara says:

      Shalimar was instant love for me but I can understand it taking time for others. I hope to follow your example and start wearing it at all times of the day. It’s a very special perfume that shouldn’t just be kept for special occasions.

  10. Ari says:

    Shalimar PI underwent the true test of a perfume: it spilled all over my bag. When this happened (to a different purse!) with Chanel No. 5, I cherished the smell for literally YEARS. When it happened with Shalimar PI, it was an honestly unpleasant experience. At least Longchamps are washable…

    • Tara says:

      Oh dear Ari, it failed the handbag test then. That’s a shame because the drydown is really nice, but it stalled at the caramelised fruit stage I can understand the need to wash!

  11. Mel says:

    Parfum Initial smells alot like Chanel Coromandel to me…

    • Tara says:

      There is certainly noticeable patchouli in PI and a lot more than in the original (if there is even any in the original?) but I didn’t get the Coromandel ressemblance. That’s interesting. It sure is cheaper!

  12. jamesdennard says:

    Enjoyed your review, Tara. The original is one of my favourite feminines, so it makes me wonder what I would think of this flanker.

  13. Undina says:

    While Shalimar smells unpleasant for me (at least on my skin) the younger sister is just not interesting enough for me to want to wear it (though I could – it doesn’t bother me as much as the original). But I keep going back to this perfume so maybe one day…

    • Tara says:

      Such a shame Shalimar doesn’t work on you. I have issues with L’Heure Bleue and Apres L’Ondee but I wouldn’t say they smell unpleasant on me.

      I wouldn’t imagine PI being sophisticated enough for you but never say never…

  14. Fab review Tara! You know, I fell completely for PI when I first smelled it and I probably wear it a lot more than I do Shalimar (sacrilege I know). The fruit, carroty iris and warm Shalimar base just work so wonderfully!

    • Tara says:

      Not sacrilege at all! I wear Shalimar Light loads more than the Shalimar edp I have and I’m sure it’s the same for others as well. It’s doesn’t mean we love Shalimar any less, it’s just not much of “a spray and go” scent, although I’m hoping to change that.

      I’m glad to hear you get so much wear out of PI.

  15. vicieuxrose says:

    Enjoyed reading your review Tara! Yes Shalimar parfum initial is indeed a good stepping stone into Guerlain. My little sister proves this. After getting PI, she explored more of the house of Guerlain and fell into the spell of Apres l’ondee.

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