Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial

...a Shalimar training bra.

Shalimar Parfum Initial is the latest version of Guerlain's pretty, pettable warhorse (My Little War Pony?), Shalimar. The original Shalimar is crème brûlée vanilla with smoky chamois leather and a citrus twist. Shalimar Parfum Initial features Shalimar's citrus, rose, iris, vanilla and tonka, but paints a different picture with them. It's much more transparent than the original, it doesn't have Shalimar's spicy cinnamon side, and it's a LOT less powdery. According to perfumer Thierry Wasser, the concept behind Shalimar Parfum Initial is that it's a young lady's “first Shalimar”, hence that “Initial” thing. Fittingly, the whole approach is girlier: it's got pink juice and the formula is lighter and sweeter. Oh, and Shalimar is reinterpreted as a fruitchouli.
Shalimar Parfum Initial starts as Flowerbomb, then quotes Shalimar's burnt custard in the middle, then dries down to Narciso Rodriguez for Her: a sweet rose/patchouli musk. It's kind of fun, and not too urpy-slurpy syrupy. It's a decent way to forcibly "graduate" young Pink Sugar lovers to hitherto-unexplored levels of sophistication.
Shalimar Parfum Initial is available from and starting at $67 for 1.3 oz


  1. I only briefly tried this in the store and must say it was not the disaster I was expecting. It's actually quite decent, if you like this sort of thing. Seems competently well put-together. And it definitely smells like a Guerlain (and I was really, really worried it wouldn't.)

  2. Brian, you reminded me that I also had a 2-tiered assessment with this. Just like you, my first focus was "does this still smell like a Guerlain, and does it suck?" Once I ascertained the answers "yes" and "no", respectively, I could then go onto taking in Initial's personality.

  3. This was the perfume that convinced me that Thierry Wasser might be able to perform at Guerlain. I too was expecting a contemporary mess but was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really liked it. Yes it's sweet like cotton candy and yes it's pink but hey, it's Shalimar for the 21th century. As long as I'm able to douse myself in the glorious original now and then, I'm all good.

  4. I too was surprised by how much I like Parfum Initial from the first sniff. After wearing it myself (the iris is the most prominent note on me, and it's quite nice) I came away kind of impressed by how well it managed to honor an iconic fragrance while updating it, not to mention, it pulls off being youthful AND tasteful quite well.

    Oddly enough, despite it's pinkness, the shade of pink that they ended up with actually does a pretty good job of letting you know what's in store. It completely avoids neon-pastel Barbie territory for a lovely shade of rosey blush.

  5. I really dislike Flowerbomb, and Lolita L, but love NR for Her and Angel. I wonder if I would like this one.... Thanks for the review...

  6. Do you think this is a confused perfume,which doesn't know where it's heading?

    I'm holding back from training my bargain-nabbing gunsight on this one,mainly because I feel it's sacrilege to tamper with perfection,although I do own & love Shalimar Light.

    Plus, after you've worn the REAL bra, it makes no sense to go back to the training one,n'est pas?

  7. It's very fortuitous for me that this was brought up, for a couple of reasons.

    One, getting into perfume and exploring more and more scents makes me truly realize just how our noses have become accustomed to "fruit" and sweetness in our fragrances. I checked out Azuree recently, and it was difficult for me to "get" it. Even though I am consciously making an effort to have a more mature nose-palate, I don't immediately appreciate fragrances that have become inaccessible to the general public, as they are considered "old lady." It's like kids who are starting to drink coffee but who can't drink it without cream and sugar.

    Secondly, is the Cologne version of Shalimar horrible?

  8. Too right, Julia - as long as Shalimar's still available, I'm happy to indulge the flankers.

    Spike, ditto your "youthful and tasteful" findings, although I know that in the past 4-5 years I've found myself in Nora's position of becoming accustomed to ever fruitier and sweeter perfumes. If I'd stumbled across the likes of Shalimar Initial in the mid 00s, I'm sure I would have found it absurdly sugary. But that was then and this is now, and I count the fact that Initial doesn't have a Windex or nail polish or Little Tree Air Freshener note a big tick in the "Classy" column.

  9. Fleurine, given your preferences, your chances of success with Initial are solidly 50/50, but I'm going to bet that you'll love it.

    DomPerrier, this bra analogy is really going places, isn't it? Re whether Initial is confused: I'm too confused myself to properly assess that point. When I smell Initial, I've got grown-up Shalimar dancing around in my head, and there's a lot of comparing/contrasting going on. I'd like to know what a real live teenage girl who's never smelled Shalimar thinks of Initial. I've got too many preconceptions getting in the way.

    Nora, DomPerrier might be the person to answer the cologne question; I've never smelled it.

    I know just what you mean about the strangeness of those perfumes from our not-too-distant past. "What? Where's the vanilla? What's with all this bitterness?"

  10. Nora, the vintage EDC(pre-'90s) is strong, and unmistakably Shalimar!

    Katie, I've "worn" the vintage adult leather "bra", steeped in cigarette smoke: no training version will ever suffice!

    (Just needed to get that thought out. There, that particular metaphor has worn its usefulness out!)

  11. Somewhat getting back to the topic of how our noses have become more accustomed to fragrances that are ever sugarier, sweeter and fruitier, has anyone else ever NOT purchased a fragrance because you're worried that other people will have a total gag-attack over it?

    My birthday was this weekend (yay!) and I had narrowed my present down to two choices. I slightly preferred one, but went for the second choice because I thought it would be easier on those around me.

    Second question: have you ever been so seduced by the description of a fragrance that you're more willing to give it a chance? That was why I kept going back to Azuree. "The Guide," calls it a "confident leather," and I was infatuated with the idea of wearing a leather fragrance that I tried it over and over until I fell in love.

    And when I say "infatuated," I mean that reading the description was like poetry. It game me the same beautiful feeling that I have when it's September and I watch the intro of Twin Peaks. The cinematography and music are so gorgeous to me that I do this every year. But it must be in September.

  12. Hi Katie, I just love your little" movies" . And the way you discribe fragrances almost make's it possible to smell them. I am not a great fan of Shalimar but maybe this one is worth a sample.
    Looking forward to your next mail!!!

  13. Nora, I talked myself out of buying a bottle of Angel a couple years back, b/c even when applied very lightly, some people react as though they have just been bludgeoned by a candied patchouli hammer. An overreaction that I think sometimes has more to do with its recognition factor than the scent itself. So I've contented myself with a tester mini of it that I only dab on occasionally during the winter months.

    Katie, loved this review. You're going to get a lot of mileage out that training bra analogy. I tried SPI last weekend at the dept store (not Sephora) and I wonder if the tester went bad, b/c I got nothing but a lonely iris until the pleasant dry down. Will try again.

    I'm a Guerlain fan looking for a work appropriate scent that my co-workers will be ok with... I even went with the very quiet Eau de Shalimar (1 spray!) and received a "you smell like diapers" comment. I wanted to kill him. If perfume could be a weapon directed at just ONE person at a time, my assassins of choice would be Shalimar, Samsara, and perhaps YSL Opium. Unfortunately we know that's not the case and they'd wipe out my entire building.

  14. Nora, I've been seduced and pulled back from giving up on a scent by florid descriptions and rave reviews too many times to mention. It just delays the inevitable; 9 times out of 10 I know upon first spray, if I'm being honest with myself, whether a fragrance will work for me or not. Retrying and "forcing" myself to like a perfume never works in the long run - I'll end up giving it a few solid wearings, appreciating its structure and composition but all the while feeling like I'm wearing someone else's clothing, and then surreptitiously pushing it toward the back of the drawer. And then onto eBay.

  15. Darryl, I too have felt I *should* like certain perfumes, and really, love cannot be forced. Perfume is one area in life which is purely about enjoyment and beauty. --AnnieA

  16. Kristabel--I suppose the logical conclusion that you and I should have come to would be to just purchase a bottle of whatever we like and only wear it whilst out and about socially or at home. I think it's polite to consider other people when choosing a fragrance, but there's a tiny part of me that wishes the general public would relax a little bit. Especially with the "you smell like diapers," comment. I think that people compete with each other to see whose nose is the most delicate and tender and intolerant of perfume.

    Daryl--There are lots of perfumes that have grown on me. When I first smelled Odalisque (oh my gosh, I am such a one-trick pony) all I could get out of it was wintergreen and I was very put off. Now I love it.

    Also, concerning the sugaring-up of our frags, it was something that my brain knew because I heard people say "blah blah blah fruity-florals can get lost!" but now I really FEEL like "They're totally right!"

    What will be the next perfume trend, I wonder?


  17. Kristabel71, I wear Petit Guerlain when I want a very low key Guerlain feeling. Basenotes says it's still in production, but you'll probably have to look around some to find it online. I got it at a local discounter who had tons of back stock they were selling out.

    I traveled to China a couple of years back and that was one of the fragrances I took along because I figured it was so unlikely to offend. Asians in general really dislike perfume, I've found. It's been a tough market to crack for the manufacturers.

    I have the EdT and it's definitely got the Guerlainade. It's a light floral. Jean-Paul Guerlain is credited with it but Olivia Giacobetti says she worked on it as well, so you know it has a wonderful transparency.

  18. kkrizani--

    Do you have any more information about what is and isn't popular, fragrance-wise, within different places in the world? Also, is fragrance unpopular PERIOD in Asia? Because that blows my mind.

  19. Also, I got a chance to try "Initial," today, and I really miss the big, confident, "That's right, baby. I am here," from the original.

    Katie, you are so absolutely adorable, please don't smack me for saying that.

  20. Thanks, Nora and kkrizani - I will seek me out some Petit Guerlain ;)

  21. It's amazing, huh?

    I know mostly about China, and that having any sort of strong personal odor is considered the height of rudeness. I believe this has also been true in Japan. This has only been slowly changing with western influence.

    Companies formulate fragrances completely differently for those markets and they tend to be much lighter and more floral - and male and female preferences are very different from here. I remember reading about some of the fragrance campaigns around the time of the Olympics in Beijing.

    I know from reading here and there that when the Europeans first arrived in Japan the Japanese couldn't believe the stench of the newcomers. I bet if a European from those times walked up to us today, we wouldn't be able to stand it either!

    I do know from being vegetarian for a few years way back when that I could tell what was in a person's diet from their smell and often could guess what they'd eaten just before coming in to the hair salon where I worked as a hairdresser. Meat eaters sure didn't smell very good to me then, and I can still tell if someone is ill from how they smell. Used to be that doctors relied on a person's odor for diagnosis, too.

    It's an interesting topic.

  22. So many points to ponder in these comments, y'all!

    kkrizani: I believe the stinky European problem was down to the fact that bathing wasn't a part of their culture as it was for the Japanese. That and the fact that they'd been on a long ocean voyage with limited onboard spa facilities.

    I once read that the Viet Cong could smell American soldiers in the jungle because of their distinctive milk smell!

    Nora, your query about cultural differences in perfume appreciation impelled me to break out the bottle of "Kanazawa" edp that a friend kindly brought back from his recent trip to Japan. I don't know where Kanazawa stacks up in the hierarchy of local scents, but this thing is ferociously soapy - almost metallic. It smells more like a household product than a perfume.

    An interesting contrast to the faux pas of having too strong a personal smell is Japan's ancient culture of burning incense. The same friend brought me back some incense - I can't wait to try it out!

  23. Nora - Happy Birthday! I'm curious to know what your 2 choices were. I'm the same as you: if someone whose opinion I respect adores a perfume, I'll keep revisiting it until I at least understand what it's doing for them...if not for me. And Azuree is one of the very ones I revisit when I'm at the Estee Lauder counter.

    I love the sound of your "Twin Peaks" ritual.

    And I do agree that Initial doesn't possess Shalimar's emphatic persona. There will be no smacking.

    Daryl, you're right - fragrance love is such an emotional connection - if the best thing you can say about a scent you're wearing is, "Nice structure!" then it's just taking up space on your shelf.

  24. Kristabel71: I'm an advocate of the perfume oil version of Angel to deliver the same fragrance more quietly. Being an oil, it doesn't possess the insane projection of the perfume.

    I'll throw in another "work-friendly" Guerlain: Vetiver pour Elle. No diapers in that one.

    Anonymous, thanks so much for digging my little movies!

  25. kkrizani--I remember that a professor told my class once that Asian people are like Americans in that we prefer to have our personal space. Maybe that's the connection between toning it down with the fragrance? 'Cause Americans can be serious fragrance-phobes, too.

    Katie, let me know how you dig both the Kanazawa and the incense. I just called it "The Kanazawa." And since you asked, the choice was between the Azuree and the Alliage, too. I'm so lame, I picked Alliage because I thought "Oh, this won't offend my co-workers," and it's described as a green and I don't even remember what it smells like. I haven't worn it yet because on my way out of Macy's I squirted myself with Initial, No. 5, and Womanity (NOT PLEASANT) making me highly unpopular with the Japanese.

    Ha, ha, Daryl--it's like going out with a girl and the best thing you can say is, "She has a great personality!"

    Kristabel--report back to us with your Petit Guerlain findings!

  26. Nora, I remember hearing somewhere that the only people that need more personal space than Americans are Asians and maybe the British. Cultures vary widely on what kind of contact is appropriate and expected. Can you imagine going somewhere that nodding means no and shaking your head means yes? Yikes.

    I'm beginning to think that the fragrance-phobe thing has something to do with notions of cleanliness - on several levels, not just physical - and also it's the new thing you can bash now that smoking has been regulated like crazy.

    To be fair, I think that many of us have hit critical mass with chemical and toxin exposure and things that weren't a problem in the past are triggering symptoms in people - sort of the last straw effect. I can tolerate fine fragrance but the smell of laundry products left in clothing can make me really sick really fast. It's a strange paradox sometimes.

    Katie, I can't imagine living on board a ship like that with the bathing customs (or lack thereof) like that, phew! And yah, diet matters in your "fragrance" too, like the Viet Cong used to their advantage, presumably. I've traveled some and one of the things I loved about Paris is its smell - very distinctive. It smelled... historical, somehow, unlike other cities I've been to.

  27. kkrizani--

    While I'm all for looking into the effect of various chemicals on our health, I am not willing to part with fragrance. Sorry. Unless I was very sure that wearing it was causing serious damage to my body, I'm not giving it up.

    That being said, sometimes if I'm sick I only want essential oils, which to me are comforting and uplifting and make me feel good. But perfumes are exciting. And with the "critical mass," comment, people are healthier now in many ways than they ever have been. What was the life expectancy of the average man or woman living in Europe during the middle ages? I bet it wasn't 82 or whatever it is now. It's possible for us to treat diseases that at one time were either death sentences or undiagnosed. Again, I am not in any way wanting to rain on the environmentalist parade. There's a river very close to my house that a few decades ago was so polluted that it smelled like sewage. But I don't think anyone ever died from occasionally wearing Quelques Fleurs.

    Also, concerning the Viet Cong--my dad served in the military during the Vietnam war, and he was in the jungle. He said you would go for weeks without bathing or changing your clothes, so I'm not sure if American soldiers smelled like milk or just...really extreme body odor.

  28. Katie, I donned the leather bra last night and it was almost a religious experience when I woke up this morning.

    Opoponax as Catholic incense? Go figure...

  29. Katie, I can't get into Initial even after I tested it several times. I still prefer the vintage Shalimar, it is both sexy and sophisticated:)

  30. I just wanted to chime in with the leather bra thing. I have no other point to make.
    Oh, wait. Maybe I do. I want to say thanks for the Miller Harris Fleur Oriental 411. I just blind bought it (based on your review) (not in the fume-finder BTW), the EdP...and it is so incredibly divine. Never would have had a clue about it if you did not include it in your reviews.
    So thank you so much!!! I hope you don't mind if I copy your collection...a teensy maybe Coromandel too...

  31. Interesting points, Nora

    I love perfume too, or I wouldn't be here :>D Ain't nobody gonna get between me and my perfume cabinet!

    Sounds like you're a healthy person - I surely hope you stay that way! I, on the other hand, am part of the "critical mass" and I find myself in the company of literally millions of people who are sick and/or disabled. It is a whole other dimension of living that was completely invisible to me until I joined the ranks. Yes, we can usually expect a greater lifespan, however there are an increasing number of chronic diseases that modern medicine is at a loss to treat effectively, much less accurately diagnose. I know, I have one. As the old joke goes: "the good news is, it won't kill you. The bad news is, it won't kill you."

    I do find myself wary of people with control issues who try to impose their personal and/or political agendas about fragrance, etc., onto my personal choice. Relatives, for instance.

    So, I've found a middle ground by wearing low-key stuff out in public just in case, or nothing at all if requested in certain situations. Seems to be part of the give and take of things sometimes /shrug

  32. Nora, what an unimaginably harsh experience your father lived through.

    DomPerrier, your "I donned the leather bra last night and it was almost a religious experience when I woke up this morning" comment is most colorful if one didn't know the context. And it's colorful if one does!

    Rola, agreed that Initial can't touch the grande dame Shalimar for sexy sophistication.

  33. Fleurine, I always breathe a sigh of relief when a blind buy hits the spot. (I did just double check - Fleur Oriental is indeed in my Fume Finder app - you can plop it in the search box and find it that way.) Go ahead and copy my collection - if we share the same tastes, then it only makes sense!

  34. Dom, Fleurine--every time you use the phrase "leather bra," an angel gets its wings.


    I'm so sorry to hear about your health issues. I'm trying to find a balance between avoiding things that cause poor health for myself and others around me, while not turning into a patchouli-oil smeared hippy who never washes her hair and has a composting toilet. I don't want to get too off topic in this thread, so could you please e-mail me? If you don't mind.

  35. Rola--I agree, although I've tried Initial only once, I'm really not that interested in getting to know it better. I just don't feel like there's any point in doing so when I prefer the original.

  36. Here's another leather-bra non sequitor, KP I think it is *so* funny when you refer to the fragrance as "this thing", I'm not sure if you did it here with this thing...

  37. Gosh, you're right, Fleurine, I do say "this thing" when referring to perfume.

  38. Wait Katie! I tried this thing twice at Sephora, after your enabling video review, and then I bought a TRAINING BRA tester on eBay and it is all your fault...I also bought a tester of Eau Claire Des Merveilles on eBay as well...

  39. Fleurine--

    Enabling, what a perfect way to describe Le Puckrik's videos.

  40. Heh-heh, Fleurine, pleased that you found a tester of the training bra. I was wearing it again yesterday, intrigued by the hide-and-seek game classic Shalimar plays within the kiddified version of itself.

  41. I tried Shalimar Parfum Initial and it reminded me of Narcisco Rodriguez For Her. It was classy, sexy, and somehow boring. I was disappointed because I too have been looking for an everyday Guerlain. What I'd really love to see is a Mitsouko Pafum Initial. Katie once suggested that Fresh Sake is kinda a "mall Mitsouko," which is true... but it still doesn't satisfy my love of the Guerlain skank. I haven't smelled the Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus. I think it's only for release (interesting enough in light of this conversation) in the Asian market. Are there any other Mitsouko flankers in production?

  42. Lana - I love the idea of a Mitsouko Parfum Initial. Or considering what a great job Chanel did with their No. 5 spinoff, a Mitsouko Eau Premiere. Abigail on I Smell Therefore I Am called Fleur de Lotus an "aquatic Mitsouko", which sounds hard to digest and an artistic letdown (read her review here: I don't know of any other Mitsouko flankers.

    Après Coeur strikes me as somewhat Mitsouko-y with its peachy ambered skank, perhaps more daytime than Mitsouko, but I hear tell that's been phased out...? Anyway, that's my top suggestion for a daytime Guerlain skank number.

  43. I haven't heard of Après Coeur... is it the same as Attrape Coeur? ;)

    I smelled Attrape Coeur, and I came CLOSE to buying what I think was the last bottle at Saks, but it just too sweet. It DID have the skank and it was more daytime appropriate but it just so so sugary on me. Nevertheless, it furthered my belief that an everyday Mitsouko with skank can be done! Maybe soon...

  44. Haha, you haven't heard of it because I just made it up by tiredly conflating Attrape Coeur with Apres L'Ondee. Yes, you knew I really meant Attrape Coeur. And yes, it's on the sweeter side.

    Did we already discuss Acqua di Parma Profumo as possible Mitsouko-lite?

  45. Katie: there is now another training bra (training wheels?) on my wish list. Chanel no.19 Poudre. Have you smelled it? Would love too see you review this as well as Jersey....

  46. Haven't wrapped my head around No. 19 Poudre yet.

  47. Hi, Katie. Just saw your Shalimar Initial vid and loved it. You're right on the money in your characterization (esp the Shalimar Sandwich) but your description of anticipation-of-distaste face was brilliant! I've called the Guerlain Aqua Allegorias training bras, but I think your use re. Initial is more apt.

  48. jtd - I don't remember your training bra usage, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had seeped into my terminology, since I've read plenty of your fab reviews on Basenotes. Just the whole idea of having to "train" breasts is funny.

  49. Hey Katie, (Put ypur feet up. Here comes a
    l-o-n-g one.)
    I just stumbled upon your site by accident, and am certainly glad that I did. I'm thinking that, perhaps, you can "HELP ME". I'm afraid that I must just be one of those people who have real difficulty finding a perfume that works with my strange chemistry. I've tried the original Shalimar so many times that I can't possibly remember, and it truly makes me smell like a cupcake. (not totally bad if one is hungry.) After waiting for some time to pass, the dry down is wonderful..... except for an underlying sour note that simply cannot be ignored. All of this is said because I too sprayed myself with Shalimar Initial while walking through Nordstroms, and it seemed to dry down very soft and light on my skin, without the sour note that has always ruined my encounters with the original scent. I, by the way, am far from being a teenager. )-: I'm now very confused, as I don't want to smell like cotton candy or kool-aid. What suggestions do you have for those of us whose chemestry causes us to have problems making wonderful scents smell far less than wonderful? (I can often wear a scent for just about an hour, and think that I've finally found a winner, before something truly sinister happens....The formerly beautiful fragrance somehow changes to a heavy, unplesant, headache worthy THING that I can't get off my skin even after using alcohol at the counter and then dashing to the restroom for a healthy dose of soap and water. I LOVE fragrances. I love soft beautiful scents. I do not like heavy scents or unisex scents. Do you (or your readers) have any suggestions for me at all?? You can't even imagine how much I thank you in advance!! BTW, I sometimes wear Guerlain Cruel Gardenia, but must use only a very small amount in order to avoid my usual, "Oh my God, what have I done to myself" comment. I have a full bottle of L'Heure Blue, which makes me smell like a little old lady. )-: I can (for my husband) sometimes wear the original Prada, but ONLY if I spray it in the air and quickly run through the spray. If I apply it directly to my skin I can't even stand to be around myself. Woe is me!

  50. Anonymous, welcome aboard! You blame the "strange chemistry" of your skin, but your perfume finickiness could also be down to what your nose picks up (we're all wired slightly differently). But that's splitting (nose) hairs, because the point is that you're looking for a perfume that you love for the whole ride, not just the beginning or the end.

    The general answer is to keep looking, smelling and trying, because only you will know what works on you. But to zero in on some possibilities, Prada L'Eau Ambrée might offer a subtler variation in the Original Prada/Shalimar arena; Van Cleef & Arpels Gardénia Pétale might be a less "perfumey" Cruel Gardenia; Cuir de Lancôme could supply the comfort leather of Shalimar without the gourmand element. Check out my fragrance web app, Fume Finder, at
    for more suggestions.

  51. Thanks for your lovely review Katie!

    I didn't have the enjoyment of smelling the original shalimar, since Guerlain is unheard of in my country Malaysia when I was growing up and the Guerlain brand is more popular for their makeup than perfumes here recently. I have smelt the shalimar initial and I think it's doing a great job of being an introductory Shalimar, or as you say, "training bra". It served as a doorway to understanding the original for me, and now I'm fully in love with original Shalimar, thanks to Mr Wasser's creation. I also think it's a good perfume to introduce young women into the world of Guerlain. The classics of Guerlain are masterpieces but not approachable or easy going. I have introduced Shalimar Initial and Idylle to my friends, and all of them loved the perfumes. Hopefully they will graduate to the classics. And my boyfriend loves the original Shalimar and wears it himself, and he used to be a guy who loves those boring aquatic scents! Spreading the love for Guerlain!

  52. Hi Natasha - so interesting to get your Guerlain report from Malaysia. Glad to hear Initial was successful in leading your further into Guerlain Land. Your boyfriend sounds like an interesting and adventurous sort!