Intermission: If I had to pick just one – The Queen Mother: Shalimar


There were so many reasons to look the other way.

She was old, outdated, irrelevant to my life.

She smelled funny.

Or so I thought.

Shalimar by Guerlain was a perfume for old ladies, something my Mom perhaps could wear and not at all appropriate for a free spirit such as myself. I half heartedly sprayed a tester of the eau de toilette in a local department store and just couldn’t relate. I got as far as the lemony top note which struck me as harsh and out of place. I didn’t stick around for the rest. There was even that movie reference I recall from Working Girl, where Shalimar was the favored scent of the manipulative antagonist, the mean, power hungry boss played by Sigourney Weaver. Why would I want to smell like her? I wanted to wear what smart yet sexy, righteous yet sweet Melanie Griffith was wearing.

When Sephora’s had a mini bottle giveaway of the eau de parfum version of Shalimar in the new bottle designed by Jade Jagger, I gave the legendary perfume another try and was pleasantly surprised. Here was a Shalimar that was smooth and sensual. The topnote that I found offputting in the edt, was now a fascinating provocative opening, and the drydown was mouthwatering. Instead of giving away the mini, I ended up springing for a full bottle.

Little did I know there was more to discover.

A dear basenotes buddy insisted that if I thought I loved the current edp, I must try the parfum version of Shalimar, not just any version, mind you,  but the one from the year 1967. In the zebra striped box. That one.

Just in time for my fiftieth birthday, I happened upon an ebay find: a boxed, sealed, half ounce bottle of Shalimar extrait from the year 1967. Zebra outer box. Purple inner box with the Marley horse in gold. Made in France. I think I paid $71.00 for it. I waited in eager anticipation. It felt as if I were opening up a time capsule.

Sure enough, when I opened the bottle (with no small degree of ceremony) on the morning of my birthday, I was swept off my feet. This Shalimar has some serious smoke in the base, incense that intertwines with the vanilla, and a round soft dimension that embraces the wearer and stays with you all day. She has ruined me for all my other perfumes. (strains Sinead O’Connor singing Nothing Compares to You beginning in the background) Others more articulate ( Now Smell This, Katie Puckrick, Perfume Shrine and Bois de Jasmin) and informed about perfumes have written detailed reviews and historical details about Shalimar – this post is simply a personal rave for my most treasured bottle in my collection.

Is it that, like a fine wine, finely crafted perfumes only improve over time? I’ll never know what this perfume would have been like had it found an owner the year it was released. I do know that this baby must have had my name on it from the time I was five years old and waited for me for forty five years!

listed notes of Shalimar include: bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, iris, incense, oppopanax, civet, amber, tonka bean and vanilla

If you could only keep one and only one perfume from your collection, which one would it be?

Image: Mini Lover boots by John Fluevog, vintage Shalimar by Guerlain.

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About reneetamara

Writing about death, mental illness, spirituality, art and perfume. Because beauty feeds the soul, and love is beyond what we think.

3 responses to “Intermission: If I had to pick just one – The Queen Mother: Shalimar”

  1. Undina says :

    I have to say that first on the picture I recognized Fluevogs 🙂

    I hope I will never have to make that choice but if I absolutely have to, I’d go back to my first and eternal perfume love: Lancome Climat.

    • reneetamara says :

      Nice to meet another Fluevog fan, Undina!

      I have a dear friend who loves Climat but I admit I have yet to experience this classic. Something to look forward to.

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