A Duo of ‘L’Eaus’ From Guerlain – Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau & Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée Perfume Reviews

Thierry Wasser

Guerlain is one of my favourite perfume houses, heck it may be most people’s favourite perfume house, and they’ve certainly had their up’s and down’s over the years. But despite many blips, discontinuations and the odd controversy, things definitely seem to be looking up over at Maison Guerlain. One of the smartest moves they have made in recent times is snatch-up the very talented Thierry Wasser for their in-house perfumer.

Since joining Guerlain, M. Wasser has created; two new major feminines, one major masculine, a new cologne and several flankers, limited editions and exclusives. He has tinkered with Guerlain’s heritage whilst adding his own contemporary stamp for the future.

February sees the release of two new flankers signed by M. Wasser; Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau and Homme L’Eau Boisée, and as with everything he has done since he started with Guerlain (OK maybe not everything) they are top notch. ‘L’Eau’ very much seems to be the fashion at Guerlain at the moment, but to write these two new editions of as simply lighter, watered down versions of the originals would be a grave mistake.

Shalimar Parfum Initial L'Eau

Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau

The Notes

Top: Bergamot, Grapefruit and Neroli
Heart: Iris Absolute, Grandiflora Jasmine and Damascena Rose
Base: Tonka Bean and Vanilla [2] *

How Does it Smell?

Despite my initial reservations (absolutely no pun intended) on Guerlain’s decision to release a younger, introductory version of their flagship fragrance Shalimar, I have to admit that I fell in love with the result. Shalimar Parfum Initial is a beautiful interpretation of Shalimar that I believe is worthy of the classic name that it possesses.

Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau is the first flanker to the flanker that is Shalimar Parfum Initial. I shall to try and refrain from making a joke about the confusing nature of Guerlain’s current fetish for flankering, mainly because I believe that they intend for L’Eau to be the permanent Eau de Toilette for Parfum Initial, rather than a limited edition summer fragrance, don’t quote me on that though…

Guerlain are billing L’Eau as “a lighter and drier spring bouquet” [2] and that pretty much sums it up. The opening is decidedly more floral, fruity and green than Parfum Initial. A strong dose of grapefruit makes L’Eau light and sparkly, and the sweet, green florals definitely give it a spring-like feel.

The iris has been toned down considerably in L’Eau, but there is still a good amount of powder, it is a relative of Shalimar after all. The earthy and rooty iris of Parfum Initial has been cast aside in exchange for more emphasis on the soft, cosy and caramelised vanilla that makes Parfum Initial and Shalimar so wonderful.

Despite the fact that it is lighter than Parfum Initial, L’Eau does not feel like yet another watering down of Shalimar, which it may be viewed as by some people. Smelling the two side-by-side the differences are clear, but they are subtle; something lighter here, a touch of green there, less powder here and an overall cull of that balsamic facet that makes Shalimar so famous. Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau may be yet another flanker in the Shalimar stable but it is still recognisably ‘Shalimar’.

Homme L'Eau Boisée

Homme L’Eau Boisée

The Notes

Lime, Mint, Rum, Woods and Vetiver [3]

How Does it Smell?

I wear very few masculines, but one of my favourites is Guerlain Homme. Wearing Guerlain Homme is akin to sipping on an ice-cold Mojito, it’s clean and fresh without being bland or cheap. Guerlain Purists may say that it isn’t ‘Guerlain Enough’ but to them I say “Pfft, who cares?! It’s awesome!”

Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée is the third of Homme’s flankers (after Homme Intense and Homme L’Eau) and is definitely the best. I’d even go as far as saying that it is nothing short of exceptional. The original Homme was a refreshing blend of lime, mint and rum laid over strong woods. L’Eau Boisée preserves the Mojito accord, tones down the wood and adds vetiver.

Vetiver, one of life’s greatest joys, is the main focus of L’Eau Boisée and it serves as the inspiration for the fragrance. Thierry Wasser discovered a new kind of vetiver from Southern India and it’s use in L’Eau Boisée has a positive environmental affect, it gives “the opportunity to bring a new activity to the local population based on a rational and eco-friendly culture.” [4] This new kind of vetiver is rich and velvety with incredibly deep earthy and rooty nuances. In his review, Persolaise described the vetiver as “wonderfully metallic and licorice-like” and he’s spot on.

The blend of vetiver and lime is truly wonderful, so wonderful in fact that you wonder why it’s not been done in such a bold way before. The freshness of the lime works perfectly with the rooty, earthy nature of the vetiver, it’s so good that I find myself regularly respraying just to experience the full effect of these notes again and again.

One of Guerlain Homme’s only pitfalls was it’s emphasis on Iso E Super, a strong woody synthetic, that whilst adding a rich texture, unfortunately has a tendency to be brash and push other notes aside. This emphasis has been almost entirely removed in L’Eau Boisée, which places the majority of it’s emphasis on the vetiver and drier and more refined woody notes.

Guerlain Homme is a relatively casual and dressed-down fragrance, and L’Eau Boisée runs along the same lines, it’s not smarter, but it is more classic, it has a brilliantly masculine elegance to it that means it could work in any situation, formal or otherwise. L’Eau Boisée is a terrific fragrance that can stand proud alongside such classic masculines as Vetiver and Habit Rouge, it would be a crime if Guerlain doesn’t add it to their permanent collection.


Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau is available in 40ml, 60ml and 100ml Eau de Toilette. Prices range from £37-£64.

Homme L’Eau Boisée is available in 80ml Eau de Toilette for £46.


This review is based on testers of Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau and Homme L’Eau Boisée supplied by Escentual.com.

[1] & [3] fragrantica.com
[2] escentual.com
[4] johnlewis.com 

Image 1 precious-womens-perfumes.com
Image 2 & 3 johnlewis.com

* Updated with full pyramid on 31 Jan 2012