The Initial Post – Shalimar Parfum Initial Perfume Review

It seems fitting that my initial post on this blog should be a review of the latest edition of Shalimar by Guerlain; Shalimar Parfum Initial.

My first thought when seeing the news about Shalimar Parfum Initial was ‘Nooooooooooo, it’s PINK, you can’t pinkify Shalimar!!’ Well, as it turns out you can, and the end result isn’t half bad at all.

Shalimar Parfum Initial was created by Guerlain’s In-House Perfumer Thierry Wasser and was made for his niece after she requested he make a version of Shalimar for her. The idea behind Parfum Initial is very similar to that of Chanel’s Eau Premiere for No 5 – a modern, lighter version of the perfume for younger customers who are not quite ready for the original. Guerlain describe the scent as an ‘Initiation into Shalimar’ [1] but it also serves as an initiation to the brand, for those who are unfamiliar with or intimidated by the classic Guerlains.

The Notes

Top: Bergamot
Heart: Rose, Iris, Jasmine, Candied Fruit
Base: Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Patchouli, Caramel, Amber [2]

How Does it Smell?

Parfum Initial opens with Shalimar’s signature top note of bergamot, however the bergamot is very much muted in comparison to the original’s blast of citrus. The iris comes through very quickly, powdery and rooty and ever so slightly cold. There is a tinge of something bitter, like liqourice, lurking in the background.

The coolness of the opening doesn’t last for long, this is an Oriental scent after all. The florals and candied fruit are sweet, and add a warm, burned sugar nuance that works beautifully with the vanilla and tonka in the base. The powder of the iris keeps going throughout the development of the scent and whilst the powder aspect is velvety soft Parfum Initial feels considerably more powdery than the original.

In place of the smoky base of the original Wasser has used a soft white musk, which coupled with vanilla and tonka gives Parfum Initial a wonderfully sweet base. The musk, which could have cheapened the base adds to the velvety texture of the fragrance.

If what you love about Shalimar is the big dose of ‘skank’ then you may be disappointed with Parfum Initial, the skank and smoke have been completely removed. That said, Parfum Initial cannot be described as a clean scent, it retains the balsamic aspect of the original thanks to a touch of patchouli.

Shalimar Parfum Initial is unmistakably Shalimar in it’s DNA and Thierry Wasser has done an excellent job in modernising the original. I wouldn’t say that Parfum Initial is a fresher take on Shalimar (in the same vein as Eau Legere, Shalimar Light and Eau de Shalimar) but it certainly is lighter and less dramatic. In the recent BBC4 Perfume documentary Wasser explained that when it comes to creating a Guerlain you cannot ‘betray the book’ (the old formula books) and in this case, I believe he has respectfully created something that does not betray the Guerlain perfumers of the past.

For those who are intimidated by Shalimar’s smokiness or animalic notes, Parfum Initial is a lighter, easier to wear alternative. For those who adore Shalimar (I include myself here), this is a beautiful, every-day alternative to the drama of the original.

The Bottle

The juice is a beautiful blush colour and the bottle is a slightly less squat version of the new Shalimar Flacon designed by Jade Jagger last year. Instead of leather, the bottle is adorned with a blue tassel.


Shalimar Parfum Initial is available in 40, 60 and 100ml Eau de Parfum and is currently exclusive to Selfridges in the UK. Overseas it is available in Guerlain Boutiques and selected Department Stores.


This review is based on a bottle of Shalimar Parfum Initial purchased by myself.