Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial, 2011

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Perfumer Thierry Wasser

Guerlain are getting smarter about their ‘younger’ entries into what is essentially a house composed of classics. I’m not saying that the young Insolence buyer will necessarily move onto L’Heuere Bleue in later years, but there is a conceptual continuity between the two fragrances. With both Insolence and Shalimar Parfum Initial, Guerlain are giving those new to the house a primer on the catalogue of over a century of classics.

Shalimar Parfum Initial ties to the classics in a tidy fashion. It seems less a flanker and more of a gentle introduction to the principals of classic Guerlain perfumery. A flanker (eg. Shalimar eau Legère, Shalimar Light, Shalimar Ode a Vanille…) must hold closely to the form or intent of its eponymous original. Parfum Initial is more primer than flanker.

Like the original 1925 Shalimar, Parfum Initial is a vanilla perfume, so it will appeal to a nose raised on the gourmands of the past 15 years. But it still has a growly start and noticeable complexity. The basenotes are where Parfum Initial veers away most from Shalimar. The basenotes are a sweet, musky woody affair of less interest than the top and heart. The drydown feels deliberate, though. It’s the sort of woody, uncomplicated drydown that the buyers Guerlain are targeting would find comfortable.

Guerlain Chant d’Aromes was a blatant attempt to inculcate a younger, perhaps not so bourgoise client to the Guerlain world. Parfum Initial might be able to follow that example. It’s widely available from Sephora to Bloomingdales, sitting between Shalimar (similar bottle) and Insolence edt (similar pink color.) Smart if you ask me.

Any popular Guerlain release gives Guerlain the income that supports the continuation of the classics. I’d be thrilled  to see it succeed, just as I was Insolence and even the maligned My Insolence.

12/2014. Guerlain have discontinued Shalimar Parfum Initial. La Petite Robe Noire accomplishes Guerlain’s goal of bringing a new generation into the Guerlain fold at the same time that it creates a new franchise of flankers and makes Parfum Initial unnecessary.


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