Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau: Fragrance Review

Shalimar PI Leau

Shalimar. Shalimar. Shalimar.

Shalimar is Guerlain’s flagship fragrance. So makes sense from that perspective to ride on the renown of the original fragrance to churn out flanker after flanker. I’m reviewing Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau, which is the lighter version of Shalimar Parfum Intial. Think of it as Shalimar minus the skank and leather and incense, with candy thrown in for good measure. Although marked as “L’eau,” if you think it is yet another light and fresh candy-floral perfume, boy will you be in for a shock!

Fragrance Structure

Many fragrance fans have remarked that Shalimar Parfum Initial and the L’eau flanker smell nothing like Shalimar. I think they are both right and wrong. They are obviously different perfumes, but Wasser has kept the structure of Shalimar intact. An overdosed bergamot top, a powdery-woody heart (iris), and a tonka-vanilla base that reminds me again and again, that this is a Guerlain. There is no skank, no leather, no smoke in this piece, and this is going to appeal to you if you’ve always loved the idea of Shalimar but hated the civet in it.

The opening is a blast of bergamot and other citrus notes that can be a bit rough, but which also gives a “fizz” to to the general atmosphere and adding a touch of “green-ness” to a sweet fragrance. Once the bergamot settles down, the powdery iris starts to appear, reminding me of the great gender bending Dior Homme, also created around an iris heart. Heat activates the tonka bean and vanilla base, giving this perfume such sensuality. Being a Guerlain, the vanilla is not an edible one, but a very sensual one. The bergamot continues offers a bitter and astringent contrast to the sweet tonka and powdery iris, giving it a bright, sunny color, while the tonka-bean and vanilla keeps the astringency of the bergamot in check and affords it sweetness, depth and sensuality. This fragrance never gets cloying or overwhelming sugary at any point. This is a very balanced composition that demonstrates the skill of Thierry Wasser.


Wearing Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau makes me feels like a very sensual tonka and vanilla “second-skin” that I have thrown around my body. I wear it when I feel like having a perk me up – use it for an instant lift to your spirits! Although marketed to (young) ladies, Shalimar Parfum Intial L’eau are nothing like the candybombs or the fruit salads out there that smell thin and weak in the base. This fragrance projects well. Longevity is excellent, easily lasting an entire day. Suggested wearing is spring and light summer weather – as long as it doesn’t get too hot. Use it for an instant lift to your spirits.

Both Shalimar Parfum Initial and Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau have ceased production, so if you are thinking of getting either fragrance, this is the time to stock up. In later bottles of Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau, Guerlain switched to using the same flacon (without the L’eau – probably to cut cost) for both perfumes, so just take note if you’re going to buy either fragrance as you could be getting what you didn’t intend to!