Tag Archives: Guerlain Shalimar

All tomorrow’s parties… Shalimar by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

“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.

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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.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

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Some impressions of a city that impressed us much more than we could have expected.

Important and self-important all at once, fitted out in wall to wall marble punctuated by red velvet ropes and heavy curtains.

A Capitol and Capital of Imperial Proportions, like a vast movie set Rome in elongated letterbox Cinemascope: inflated and stretched almost to the horizon and absurdity.

And yet, and yet at once quite profoundly beautiful, marked out everywhere by memorials for lost souls and past presidents.

And the Art so much of it and all around and so very, very good…

1. The Hotel

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The place is vast, as American hotels seem to be.

The lobby long enough to accommodate a golf range if so chose it.

Apparently the Inauguration Ball for newly sworn in Presidents is held here. They must do something right as two have chosen to stay while their own abode was being fixed up.

The fixtures here are something very special, harking back to an age in which gold leaf was elegant rather than merely gauche.

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That peculiar rams head motif on each side of the patriarch’s broad face reminds us how much like rutting goats politicians are: so obstinate and unnecessarily aggressive, and with invariably voracious appetites (for food, for fame, for fornication) .

I reflect on the neo-classical surroundings, the pomp, the powerful people who have been here, their presidential or even imperial ambitions and can think of only one perfume…

Van Cleef and Arpels Tsar.

I wonder if anyone wears this egocentric aromatic fougere extraordinaire any more?

Then a thought occurs: if… when a woman occupies The White House, as anything other than a First Lady, will she be allowed to break perfume rules as well as glass ceilings?

Could she where a fougere herself?

Tauer Perfumes 04 Reverie au Jardin?

Its creamy coniferousness, its resinous, iris and lavender could usher in an entirely new type of perfumed executive power.

2. That House

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Of course the place is terribly grand.

But not ostentatiously so.

It’s nothing that could outshine the megalomaniac follies of the magnates who made their fortunes on the vast continent in the nineteenth and America’s century, the twentieth.

Just modest enough, in fact, to remind the inhabitant that the Commander in Chief is ultimately meant to be a servant  and not master of the people.

So the President may not have anything approaching absolute power, but he is still allowed his toys.

The whirring of helicopters the whole time in Washington bears testament to this.

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On this occasion at least, so the policewoman told me, it was  The Man.

Creating a whirlwind off to visit the victims of a real storm in Oklahoma.

Helicopters, an infrequent sight in London save for the military and police, are synonymous in my mind with war.

With war in Vietnam in particular.

The cinema that retells that conflict has fixed this association.

Helicopters, ‘Apocalypse’ and Wagner.

Strangely, I begin to ponder whether there was a perfume like Worth’s Je Reviens that sweethearts wore to remember their far away soldiers in the sixties and seventies. Or a scent like Shalimar by Guerlain than men brought back as a gift.

Then I reflect that there were no couture houses in Saigon, no Chanel or Guerlain boutiques in Hanoi.

Perhaps the perfume the women left back home wore depended more on their political persuasion than fashion.

Jane Fonda and protesters in patchouli oil smelling as rough and ready as le labo’s 24.

Marine wives holding it together in Avon, or No.5.

A decade later it would have been easy, Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

3. Angels in Leather

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The hum of choppers comes and goes, but the first part of Memorial Weekend is accompanied by the constant roar of engines.

Harleys mainly, but other American motorcycles too.

Men, who when they were considered or were counter cultural, were called Hell’s Angels have descended on the Capital.

From across the Continent they have come on thousand mile sponsored rides to remember the POWs and MIAs as their banners, fluttering along side stars and stripes, proclaim.

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The machines all around smell of petrol and polish, of gasoline and grime-defying sheen.

The men, almost invariably men, that drive them smell of gas, and sweat and unusually of sweet fruity sodas they drink all day through straws from the enormous buckets of sugary liquid they carry around with them.

Only one scent comes to mind.

That of the first mechanised war.

The perfume of petrol and peaches that is The Great Fragrance of the end of The Great War.

The war that was supposed to end all wars but didn’t.

The faded photographs and photocopies of lost brothers, friends and perhaps lovers show that.

All attached with sellotape and tender care to mudguards and windshields of shining machines.

The unmistakable smell of Mitsouko is in my nose and on my mind as we turn and walk towards The National Mall and the formal memorials…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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