Shalimar (perfume)

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Perfume Shalimar.jpg
Fragrance by Guerlain
Designed forWomen
Top notes
  • Bergamot
Heart notes
  • Iris
  • Jasmine
  • Rose
Base notes
  • Vanilla
  • Tonka Beans
Released1925; 98 years ago (1925)
Perfumer(s)Jacques Guerlain
ConcentrationEau de Parfum
    • Shalimar Ode à la Vanille
    • Shalimar Parfum Initial
    • Shalimar Souffle de Parfum
    • Shalimar Souffle Intense
    • Shalimar Souffle de Lumière
    • Shalimar Philtre de Parfum
    • Shalimar Millésime Vanilla Planifolia
    • Shalimar Millésime Tonka

Shalimar is a perfume originally created by Jacques Guerlain in 1921 for French perfume and cosmetics house Guerlain. In production continuously since 1925, Shalimar is currently a flagship product for Guerlain.[1]


Shalimar was created by perfumer Jacques Guerlain in 1921, but after another company claimed to already have a fragrance by the same name, Guerlain was forced to rename the fragrance "No. 90" until a legal dispute over the name was settled.[2] Shalimar was re-released in 1925 at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts.[2]

Jacques Guerlain was inspired by Mumtaz Mahal,[3] the wife of Shah Jahan, Mughal emperor of India,[4] and for whom the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore were built.[5] The harmony of Shalimar was created when Jacques Guerlain poured a bottle of ethylvanillin into a bottle of Jicky, a fragrance created by Guerlain in 1889.[1]

Raymond Guerlain designed the bottle for Shalimar, which was modeled after the basins of eastern gardens and Mongolian stupa art. Shalimar's blue, fan-shaped bottle topper was inspired by a piece of silverware owned by the Guerlain family. The bottle was manufactured by Baccarat Crystal and received the Decorative Arts Exhibition Award in 1925.[1][6]

During the 1920s, Shalimar was popular with flappers which helped give it a "bad girl" reputation.[7]

In 1985, Shalimar was repackaged and presented encased in a Lucite box to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its original launch.[5] In 2004, Guerlain issued Shalimar Light by perfumer Mathilde Laurent. However, Shalimar Light was taken off the market and replaced by Eau de Shalimar in 2008.[8]

Shalimar is preserved in its original 1925 formulation in the archives of the Osmothèque, donated by Jean-Paul Guerlain.[9] As of 2017, Shalimar was Guerlain's second best selling fragrance, behind La Petite Robe Noire, with approximately 108 bottles being sold every hour.[1]


The fragrance contains notes of bergamot, lemon, iris, jasmine, rose, patchouli, vetiver, opopanax, tonka bean, frankincense, sandalwood, musk, civet, ambergris, leather, and vanilla. It is considered to be an Oriental perfume (see Fragrance Wheel).[10]


Illustrator Lyse Darcy created many illustrated ads for Guerlain products, including Shalimar, from the 1930s through the 1950s.[11] Photographs taken by Helmut Newton were used in a print campaign for Shalimar in 1997.[12]

In 2013, Guerlain produced an advertisement titled "The Legend of Shalimar," featuring Natalia Vodianova.[13] The advertisement was directed by Bruno Aveillan and featured music by Hans Zimmer that had been originally composed for The Da Vinci Code.[14]

In popular culture[edit]


In his 1961 song about Ireland, "Forty Shades of Green", Johnny Cash wrote the line "where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar and there's forty shades of green".

In 1963, Eddie Barclay released an album called "Parfums", with one of the songs being named after Shalimar ("Shalimar de Guerlain").

In the musical La Cage Aux Folles, Shalimar is mentioned in the song "A Little More Mascara".[15]

In the song "Madame George" from his 1968 album Astral Weeks, Van Morrison sings, "of sweet Shalimar."

The lyrics of the song "On a Little Street in Singapore", contains the line "My sails tonight are filled with perfume of Shalimar".

Cheryl Bentyne's lyric for The Manhattan Transfer's 2018 cover of Grace Kelly's "Blues for Harry Bosch" includes two mentions of Shalimar, both in reference to the lyric's unnamed femme fatale, described initially as "her poison" and later, simply "the venom".[16][17]

Film and television[edit]

In the film California Split, the character of Helen Brown claims to be wearing Shalimar.

In the episode "In Camelot" of The Sopranos, Junior Soprano mentions sending bottles of Shalimar to Fran.[18]

In the 1989 Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor movie "See No Evil, Hear No Evil", Richard Pryor's blind character identifies the villainess played by Joan Severance by the smell of Shalimar.[19]

In the 1971 movie The Mephisto Waltz, Shalimar is the perfume favored by Jacqueline Bisset's character, Paula.[20]

Shalimar is mentioned during an episode of The Love Boat (Season 1, Episode 3).

In the 1981 movie The Four Seasons, Shalimar is given as a gift.[21]

Shalimar is mentioned during an episode of NCIS (Season 11, Episode 12).[22]

In the Mad Men episode "The Long Weekend", Joan Holloway's roommate notices that Joan is wearing Shalimar.[23]

In the 1988 movie Working Girl, Katharine asks Tess to get her bottle of Shalimar.[24]

In an episode of Orange Is the New Black (S1:E6 "WAC Pack"), Nicky describes Piper as smelling of Shalimar after she receives a hug from her mother during visitation.[25]

In season 2, episode 12 of The Nanny, Fran (Fran Drescher) remembers her aunt Mima smelling of stuffed cabbage and Shalimar under her mink coat. A season later, in season 3, episode 26, Mr. Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) is leaving the house to fly to Paris. When Fran tells him "Shalimar", he corrects her by saying it's "Au revoir", thinking she was telling him goodbye and not knowing she was actually asking him to buy Guerlain's Shalimar duty-free.

In season 3 episode 10 of Love, Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) tells her boyfriend Gus (Paul Rust) that his childhood home smells like "laundry detergent, ham, and Shalimar."

In season 1 episode 19 of "Person of Interest," villain Elias remembers his mother wearing Shalimar perfume.

In season 5 episode 11 of American Horror Story, while pouring herself a drink, the Countess realizes that Ramona Royale has entered her suite behind her back. Without turning around the Countess says, "It’s not the Shalimar that gives you away - it’s your blood."[26]


In the novel "L'Indic", by Roger Borniche the aristocrat Sylvia de Neyrac utilizes Shalimar to fascinate the policemen Roger Borniche.

In the novel "War Cry, by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill), Saffron is caught attempting to descend the Cresta Run in St. Moritz (for male skiers only) due to her forgetting that she had used the perfume Shalimar following her morning shower. Reminded of the smell of the perfume by Herr Zuber, the equipment shop manager, she washes the perfume off prior to attempting the descent.

In the novel Angel of Baker Street, by Catherine Bell, Olivia always pictures her mother in her mind whenever she caught a hint of the perfume. Olivia is also given a bottle of Shalimar as a gift by Dominique, who had protected her during Olivia's stay in Paris.

In 1991, Louise Bourgeois created Cell II, a work of art which featured multiple empty and nearly-empty bottles of Shalimar on top of a mirrored table and next to a sculpture of wringing hands.[27]

In the 1991 novel Wise Children by Angela Carter, Nora Chance wears Shalimar. This is the only way other characters can distinguish her from her twin sister Dora, who wears Mitsouko.

In the 2018 novel Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr, the anti-hero, Bernie Gunther (alias Christof Ganz) comments upon Elli Panatoniou's Shalimar perfume as having the effect of "making a woman smell like a woman and making a man want to behave like a rampaging gorilla".

In the 2018 novel Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, the private detective, Cormoran Strike about his ex girlfriend, Charlotte "...could smell what he knew to be Shalimar on her skin. She had worn it since she was nineteen and he had sometimes bought it for her."

Mentioned in two Fannie Flagg novels, in the plot of one (Welcome to the World, Baby Girl) of which it is a clue to the mystery.

Shalimar is part of 4 pianopieces Dutch composer Carolien Devilee wrote on perfumes of Guerlain (4 Fragances de Guerlain pour Piano: l'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Shalimar, Chamade). 'Fragances' as noun for a new music form in which the music is based on a specific scent/fragrance.


  1. ^ a b c d Pellen, Guénola (12 January 2017). "Iconic: Shalimar, the Perfume of the Roaring Twenties". France-Amérique. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Shalimar de Guerlain: Discover This Vintage Fragrance". Vintage Industrial Style. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Shalimar". Fragrantica. Retrieved 23 November 2022.
  4. ^ Zeidan, Adam (24 June 2019). "Mumtaz Mahal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b "The Encyclopaedia of Perfume". Perfume Intelligence. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  6. ^ Godin, Virginie (25 September 2014). "Getting to Know the Oldest Fragrances on the Market". Osmoz. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ Harrison, Marlen Elliot; Vosnaki, Elena; Biebel, John; Borisov, Sergey; Jähn, Stefanie (6 January 2018). "Best in Show: Shalimar by Guerlain (2017)". Fragrantica. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  8. ^ Burr, Chandler (13 March 2008). "Scent Notes | Eau de Shalimar by Guerlain". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  9. ^ "Conservatoire international des parfums". Osmothèque (in French). Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Shalimar by Guerlain (1925) - Basenotes Fragrance Directory". Base Notes. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  11. ^ Mercedes (9 January 2013). "Illustrated highlights of beauty ads from Guerlain". El Fashionista. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  12. ^ "New Campaigns: Eastern". AdWeek. 22 September 1997. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ Young, Katy (10 September 2013). "Natalia Vodianova stars in Guerlain's Legend of Shalimar". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  14. ^ Thielman, Sam (28 August 2013). "Ad of the Day: Guerlain Goes to the Ends of the Earth in the Year's Most Lavish Spot". AdWeek. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  15. ^ Kuchwara, Michael (18 April 2010). "A riotous 'La Cage aux Folles' returns to B'way". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  16. ^ ""Blues For Harry Bosch" Lyrics". LetsSingIt. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  17. ^ "CD booklet for The Junction". Mediafire. 8 September 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  18. ^ Zoromski, Brian (18 May 2012). "Taking Out The Sopranos". IGN. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  19. ^ Hinson, Hal (13 May 1989). "'See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  20. ^ "The Mephisto Waltz: An underrated doozy of a horror film". Fantasy Literature. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  21. ^ Maslin, Janet (22 May 1981). "'Four Seasons,' A Hymn to Ordinariness". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  22. ^ Stempel, Kim (7 January 2014). "'NCIS' Recap: Gibbs and the Case of the Ex". Buddy TV. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Mad Men S01E10 (Long Weekend)". Born Unicorn. 16 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  24. ^ Wright, Andy (7 March 2016). "The Secrets of Set Decoration from 'Working Girl'". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Orange is the New Black S01E06 (WAC Pack)". Born Unicorn. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  26. ^ AmericanHorrorStory [@AHSFX] (7 January 2016). ""It's not the Shalimar that gives you away - it's your blood." #AHSHotel" (Tweet). Retrieved 26 March 2018 – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "An Empty Bottle of Shalimar: The Art of Louise Bourgeois". Mad Perfumista. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2018.