“Really, I don’t understand why some people have such a problem with parties.”
“I do believe I was born to the sound of a champagne cork and I tell you I am determined to spend what little time I have on this Earth having the best possible time this planet can provide.”
A certain slyness in her eyes says there’s more to it.
Darkness flashes beneath the surface like a sea serpent in shallow water.
There’s danger here.
Best appreciated on her own, away from her set, she’s an incredible jewel of a thing.
Intricate and simple, worldy and naïve, sexy but oh so straight laced.
Happy, happy, happy all the time, but oh so inconsolably sad.
You see her at parties across the room, sipping fizz or gem stone cocktails, making small talk with big men, opening her eyes a little too wide when she smiles, throwing her head back a little too far, too fast when she laughs too wildly at another “too funny” unfunny joke.
And in the daylight?
Mostly her make up is too heavy, too sweet.
Her leather boots too high and her dresses too low on top, too short down below.
She looks always like an actress between scenes.
She smokes frankincense cigarettes through a filter three feet long, pours vanilla syrup in her coffee and always takes cream when everyone else settles for milk.
She insists on irises all year round to fill the rooms she shares with no one.
She’s too, too much for the real world.
For the real world was too, too much for her once.
She rolled in honey harvest time hay with a swell in uniform smelling of polished army boots and wood smoke cologne.
He promised her they were only “going across The Pond to finish things off”.
And they were, except he got finished off first.
The Roman Catholic funeral mass helped, but not much.
Not as much as a brace of Manhattan’s made with Canadian whiskey.
So now she settles for this life of extremes, for a pot bellied pig on a lead for a pet, for singing in Speakeasies for fun and smoking hashish for the giggles.
For flirting with everyone and sleeping with some. For forgetting half the time and never loving, no one except “the one”.
For staying out of the sunlight and hogging the limelight.
For being a star not a woman, though that’s all she ever wanted to be.
Except, occasionally, on a Winter’s day, when the light is thin and she can wrap up in furs without being the first thing they see.
Then she’ll go out without the makeup, the filter, the fans and even the pig.
And then she really is a woman, living in a real world, just one who really can’t help but be a star.
A lone star.
To talk of Shalimar merely as a party perfume is a little like dismissing Proust as a man who wrote about miniature cakes.
The original of the modern Oriental, it is both the most magnificent of going out scents and so much more besides.
Like those other great Guerlain’s of the period Mitsouko and l’Heure Bleue it is impossible to divorce from history.
If they are the perfumes of remembrance and contemplation respectively then this is fragrance of forced forgetfulness.
To understand the 1920s, the wild parties and wilful self-destruction it is perhaps necessary to consider the mass destruction and wide, seemingly endless pain of The Great War.
To comprehend Shalimar one must be aware of all the memories this ray of glamour sought to bleach out of millions of minds.
Yet at the same time it is new found wealth and extravagance, it is fresh pressed myths and the magic of the movies.
It is the olfactory equivalent of a Busby Berkeley Broadway show or the silent movie spectacle of Ben Hur.
It seeks to entice, amuse, enthral and amaze.
It seeks to be the ultimate diversion.
In all of this it is very nearly succeeds, for it is a joyous explosion of the senses, a smell synonymous with dressing up and going off down town.
But at once, in the thick saving face maquilage of powdery iris, the soothing crème-brulee-of-the-soul vanilla, in the taught leather gloves of motor sport drivers’ victory waves and army officers’ good bye salutes, in the high mass smoke and balsam of incense and bezoin, in all of this it is a record of all that has gone before.
Shalimar is darkness and light, pleasure and pain, hope and despair.
Shalimar is legend.
Forgive me for not talking too specifically of notes so far as Shalimar is concerned… it seems superfluous, there are so many and blended much as they might be in a symphony.
And like a symphony, or perhaps more aptly an opera, Shalimar is a work of art not a collection of crotchets and minims, A and B flats.
Needless to say The Dandy wears Shalimar as much as any other single perfume in his collection.
The Perfumed Dandy.