A Blog about my love in perfumes, the aesthetics, the hedonism, the greatness of these artistic creations of the olfactory world. It is about my wish, my dream to create something like this one day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shalimar, the gift of life, the mother, the lover

Many years ago, when I first smelt Shalimar, it was as if I fell into a deep sleep and was wisked away into a dream world. This dream world is something I occassionally visit and go back to again and again.

Described by many as the most sensual perfume in existance, it was for me another thing altogether. That dream world was one of innocence, like as if I am being cuddled into my mother's bossom once more. The sweet smell of skin gently heated by the warmth of love and care. The delicate mix of roses, sandalwood, benzoin and vanilla (vanillin and ethyl vanillin) formed an accord so wonderfully comforting that now, people will instantly recognise this as the baby powder smell. Popularly adopted for J&J's talcum powder, that accord simply is everything about a mother's loving care and a baby's innocent dependence. It makes me want to cuddle and hug that person.

However, as I immerse myself further into this perfume, the outer veil peels away like a chiffon dress. Revealing a darker note, an uneasy accord of the bitter notes and poisonous peppery notes of oppopanax and the daringly wild leathery note, further enforced with civet and castoreum and styrax. These two are like the fiery red rubbies enclasped in the pale blue hue of a platinum bracelet. If I were to describe this smell, it will remind me of the deeper darker regions where my nose dare not go. The boundaries between the hair on the the neck behind, the playful creases of the ear, the bend of the elbows, the plunging bossoms, need I say more? This accord is so alluring, so sensual, yet it is so well hidden, that it ensnares without the person knowing what has happened.

If I said I was first attracted to Shalimar for its gentleness, I am in love with it for its smouldering sex accord. This duality is disarming.

This duality theme is again evident in the interplay between the luminous notes of the sparkling bergamot and lemon, cheerful and outgoing, and the dark sensual "oriental" ambery notes of labdanum and benzoin. The vanilla ties the two in, as vanilla acts in the first forming a perfect accord with the bergamot, to give the effect of a fluffy meringe pie, and persists all the way to the end, where the vanilla blends with the oppopanax and labdanum in a almost sugary sweet, burnt and caramel like feel of a creme brulee. The vanilla being the key to this fragrance. The dualistic play between the diffusive citrus notes and the sticky close to skin smell of the resinuous notes is again something that never fails to give interest to the wearer.

To say that this is the grand dame of gourmand pieces is an understatement. Guerlains have always been very gourmand. This is by no means the first gourmand creation, like a sinful dessert, a fatal delectation sitting innocently dressed in creme fraiche on the dessert tray. It allures sweetly, yet kills softly when you partake of it.

It is a very complex composition, full of changes, full of surprises on the skin. I tend to like the Eau de Parfum(vintage version) more than the Parfum(vintage), as the interplay between the notes are more noticeable. The luminuous nature of the EdP is more evident, the balance between the innocent and the sensual a bit more evened out. I would not comment on the modern version, which I do not feel much for.

Shalimar, created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, was inspired by a love story of Shah Jahangir and his wife, Mumtaz Majal. Upon her death, Shah build a mausoleum in her honour, which is Taj Mahal. The fragrance was named after the Gardens of Shalimar, so beloved by Mumtaz Majal. Whether the story is true, or just an example of clever marketing playing upon the fascination with the East in the 1920s, the magic of Shalimar is indisputable. The notes include: lemon, bergamot, jasmine, rose de mai, opopanax, tonka bean, vanilla, iris, incense, ambergris.

View the video here:

No comments: