Vintage Shalimar is a glorious, head-turning, spellbinding masterpiece of complexity and opulence in its pure parfum form, but the other concentrations can be appealing in different ways or suit different needs. Today, in Part II, we’ll look at the vintage Shalimar Eau de Toilette, Parfum de Toilette, and Eau de Parfum from three decades — the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s — and the ways in which their scent differs in several side-by-side comparisons. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m going to have save the technical analysis on how to date bottles of Shalimar for a previously unplanned and additional section, Part III.
I’m sorry about that because I know the dating analysis was what most of you were eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately, the olfactory descriptions of the other concentrations in four different bottles over three decades ended up being much longer than I had planned or anticipated. I couldn’t really skip over them, particularly since some of the lighter concentrations are far more popular than the extrait. So, that has forced me to leave the section on dating the many bottle types for a subsequent post. I had really hoped to keep everything together, but it would have been ridiculously and painfully long. The scent descriptions combined with only a partial explanation of the many bottle designs for Shalimar and their boxes ended up exceeding 8,200 words, and I hadn’t even gotten to the other indicators of age or date at that point! Given the sometimes technical nature of the dating analysis and the slew of different bottle or manufacturer names, I fear it would have tried your patience and made your eyes glaze over unless if I shortened things. So, I hope you’ll forgive me, and that you won’t mind waiting a bit longer until Part III. I’ve spent almost five days digging through Guerlain guides and old photos online to make the technical differences as accurate, simple, and clear as possible, but it’s a huge amount of information to absorb, so it’s best left to its own section without any of the scent analysis to take up your time.
THE VINTAGE PARFUM vs. THE VINTAGE EAU DE TOILETTE, PARFUM DE TOILETTE & EAU DE PARFUM:
None of the vintage Shalimar versions that I’ve tried in non-parfum concentrations from the 1970s to more modern times have the degree of complexity, the range of notes, or the emphasis on rose, leather, animalics, or dark musks of the older extraits. Instead, they bear the smell of Shalimar as we know it today, that widely recognized signature bouquet that is centered firmly on three fundamental, central notes: bergamot, smoky vanilla, and jasmine.
To my surprise, there wasn’t a massive difference between the three lighter concentrations, the Eau de Toilette, the Eau de Parfum, and the Parfum de Toilette. It was a question of degree, not of kind. Be that as it may, I noticed that different concentrations from different decades took a slightly different approach to Shalimar’s modern and basic olfactory model, and those differences were most noticeable during the first two or three hours. I thought that was significant enough to change my plans because, originally, I hadn’t intended to give a detailed analysis of each bottle but to focus merely on the overall nature of the three concentrations. I later concluded that more detailed olfactory breakdowns and descriptions would be useful, helpful, and perhaps necessary for those of you who are trying not only to decide between the different concentrations but also to navigate your way around the many eBay listings showing bottles from different decades.
Some of the popular or commonly found options are lovely, like wonderfully aged Eau de Toilettes or a mid-1980s bottle of Parfum de Toilette. That was Guerlain’s name for its eau de parfum prior to its release of something that it explicitly called an “eau de parfum” in 1990. I had a bottle of the latter which I used up a while back but I recall its specifics well enough to have a good idea of how it differed from the other two versions, and I’ll discuss that briefly. The fragrance which was actually an entirely different animal (disappointingly so) was a 1998 bottle of eau de toilette. To me, its scent seems to be closest to the modern versions currently being offered, so I’ll review that one in the most detail towards the end.
THE 1976 EAU DE TOILETTE:
I was lucky to find a huge, unopened 8 oz or 250 ml bottle of vintage eau de toilette on eBay for about $115. It came with a black and white “zebra” or “zig zag” box bearing a 1967 copyright date (which means nothing, by the way, when it comes to dating bottles) and whose long bar code gave the fragrance a 1976 release date. This version of vintage Shalimar opens on my skin with bright but extremely deep bergamot that smells like Earl Grey tea supplemented by a large slug of the raw oil. Dark musks and incense are layered within, giving the bouquet almost a smoky black tea vibe combined with a hint of plush furs. Flickering in the background are smoky vanilla, leather, syrupy jasmine and red roses, but they’re so minor, light, and quiet that I have to practically burrow my nose into my arm to detect one or two of them in the opening minutes. The roses are particularly elusive, and they don’t last long, either. Out of all the secondary notes, the only one with some weight and substance is the smoky, dry, but also slightly boozy vanilla. It joins the bergamot and darker notes on center stage about 10 minutes into the fragrance’s development. At that point, the 1976 EDT becomes a seamless blend of smoky Earl Grey bergamot layered with the more aromatic, fragrant, and bitter oils of its rind, then dark, slightly furry musks, incense smoke, and dark, smoky vanilla.
The fragrance shifts quickly, but in small degrees. Roughly 10-15 minutes in, the leather, dark musks, incense, and syrupy jasmine grow in strength, weakening the bergamot’s dominance to a small extent as a result. The roses try to do the same, but splutter out entirely not long after. When taken as a whole, the scent basically veers back and forth between two different main or central bouquets in its first hour: 1) bright bergamot layered with boozy, smoky vanilla and dark musks; and 2) bergamot layered with musky, slightly smoky leather. The first one is the main and strongest bouquet, and also the one which wins out after 75-90 minutes.
The vintage EDT changes again about 2.5 hours into its development. The boozy and increasingly smoky vanilla takes the lead, while the bergamot temporarily retreats to the sidelines. The jasmine joins it there, smelling more like another form of sweetness than anything clearly floral. The most important change, though, is that the ambered resins rise up from the base, smelling smoldering, treacly, and balsamic, and casting a haze of golden warmth atop everything. The leather and musks sink down to take their place in the base. The cumulative effect is a boozy, smoky vanilla fragrance imbued with dark, ambered resins above a thin base of leathery muskiness. There is nothing animalic or floral about it, nor anything that resembles Guerlainade or powderiness.
The fragrance continues to change in small degrees. The bergamot — never far away for long — returns about 3.25 hours in and fuses with the vanilla to create an aroma similar to lemon chiffon mousse infused with Earl Grey tea and bright, boldly yellow, slightly raw bergamot oil. Yet, the vanilla is strong and powerful in its own right, smelling boozy, smoky, and a lot like caramel as well. This is basically the first half of the vintage EDT’s drydown, a mix of balsamic, resinous darkness with smoky, boozy, caramel vanilla and multi-faceted bergamot. Everything blends together so seamlessly that it’s difficult to separate out the notes. It doesn’t help matters that the scent turns quite sheer and airy from the 2.5 hour mark onwards, losing much of its heft, body, potency, and sillage.
The second half of the drydown generally begins around the middle of the 5th hour. At this point, the fragrance is a diffuse blur of softly ambered, vanillic sweetness smudged at the edges with smokiness and a touch of resinous darkness. It dies away in much the same way. The longevity is usually between 7 to 8.5 hours from its start when I apply moderate amounts of scent, but more when I use a larger amount.
My EDT is a splash bottle and I find those unwieldy to use in large sizes (and with too much risk of accidental spillage), so I decanted the liquid into a small atomiser. It has a small, narrow spray nozzle, so the amounts are not equal to that from a regular bottle. When I use several good squirts equal to 2 to 2.5 light sprays from a bottle, the EDT typically opens with about 4 inches of projection and about 6-8 inches of sillage. Those numbers begin to drop after the first hour, even if the actual aroma is potent and strong up close. About 2.5 hours in, the projection hovers right above the skin and the sillage clings to the body unless I move my arms. The fragrance generally turns into a pure skin scent on me about 3.25 to 3.5 hours from its start when I use a moderate amount. With that amount, the longevity is closer to the 7.5 to 8 hour range. But if I apply quite a bit more — like 3 small squirts on each arm and one on either side of the neck — I’ve occasionally smelt thin, quiet wisps on my arm extending into the 10th hour, even the scent is fused so closely to the skin that it requires a bit of effort to detect it.
1980s PARFUM DE TOILETTE:
The Parfum de Toilette is surprisingly similar in its aroma and development, and the differences are slight ones that mostly apply to the opening hours. One reason might be that the EDT is older, so its scent has concentrated down to be stronger, richer, and deeper would otherwise be the case, thereby rendering it almost the equivalent of a younger eau de parfum. I tend to become confused with non-conventional names given to vintage concentrations and had thought that the “Parfum de Toilette” was an intermediate level between the EDT and EDP, but I was mistaken and it is actually the name given by Guerlain for the eau de parfums that it put out in the 1980s. You might be surprised to learn than the company actually didn’t have an official “eau de parfum” designation for any of its fragrances until 1990.
Every account that I’ve read for the “Parfum de Toilette” gives 1986 as its starting date of production, and says this version lasted only for a few years, roughly until 1989 or 1990. The odd thing, though, is that the batch code on the bottom of my little bottle corresponds to a 1984 release date, according to the very helpful, detailed guide compiled by Raiders of The Lost Scent. This is not a bottle that I bought on eBay but one which I remember receiving as a gift with purchase from the Guerlain mothership Paris boutique sometime around 1985 when I moved back to Paris for the second time. I’ve never seen anyone give a 1984 or 1985 release date for the PdTs and I have no explanation for the code, but I suppose it’s merely semantics at the end of the day and hardly as relevant as the actual smell.
The Parfum de Toilette opens on my skin with roughly the same type of bergamot found in the 1976 EDT, except it feels fractionally rawer in nature and not quite as smooth, warm, fragrant, or rounded. A very crisp, brisk, and refreshing lemon note peeks out from behind it, followed moments later by syrupy jasmine, vanilla, and smoky incense. There are no leather and dark musks swirled into the mix. On the sidelines, however, tiny tendrils of a demure, pale, pink rose and a powdery tonka flutter in the air but, once again, the rose is a ghostly presence that soon disappears. About 10 minutes in, small, thin streaks of dark resins stir in the base. Hovering between the layers and all around is a vague sense of something golden and warm. However, it doesn’t read as a balsamic resin or any specific, solid, or clear amber material. It’s simply an amorphous impression of goldenness.
For the most part, though, and just like the EDT, the vast majority of the composition is centered on the bergamot. To give you a rough estimate of the breakdown of notes, I’d guess that 55% consists of the bergamot, 25% is the jasmine, 15% is the smoky vanilla, and the remaining 5% would be everything else. The 1976 EDT felt more complex and nuanced in its notes, but had very much the same, overall bergamot-centric focus. Both versions have the same strength, richness and sort of light weightlessness in body. However, this 1984 (?) Parfum de Toilette is stronger than the 1990 Eau de Parfum that I owned.
The Parfum de Toilette changes course at the end of the 1st hour and the start of the 2nd. It turns ambered and resinous, with the boozy, smoky vanilla taking the lead, followed by the balsamic resins, then the bergamot that now smells like Earl Grey tea layered with bergamot mousse. Syrupy jasmine, incense, and leather lap at its edges, while thin threads of dark musks and thicker, stronger ones of powdery tonka tie everything together. In short, the Parfum de Toilette ends up smelling a lot like the 1976 EDT, but it does so hours sooner or earlier.
Both fragrances, though, are very much alike roughly 3.25 hours into their respective developments. The PdT is centered primarily on boozy, ambered, smoky vanilla layered with bergamot cream pie, tonka, and smoky, quietly smoldering resinous darkness atop a thin sliver of leathery muskiness. Touches of vanillic tonka powderiness float all around, while tendrils of jasmine-ish floral sweetness curl up at the edges. In its broadest parameters or nutshell essence, it’s basically the same bouquet as the 1976 EDT.
There are a few differences, though. One is that the PdT’s resins feels almost honeyed at times, almost as though some labdanum had been included. Another difference is that the notes seem to dissolve sooner into the drydown bouquet of smoky sweetness. Roughly 4 hours in, I had to really stick my nose deep into my arm, inhale hard, and focus in order to detect the tremulous wisps of bergamot, leather, or jasmine. Plus, the fragrance lies so close to the skin that it requires some effort to detect it after the 4.5 hour mark. One reason why may be because I smeared the PdT instead of sprayed, and atomization tends to increase a fragrance’s sillage, reach, and longevity. In total, the PdT lasts 7 to 8 hours, depending on how much I apply.
I did a side-by-side test of the two fragrances. After its first hour, the PdT feels lighter, softer, sheerer, and quieter than the 1976 EDT, but it’s a question of degree and there isn’t a massive gulf between the two. The EDT has more smoke, booze, leather, and musks that appear sooner, in addition to a stronger flutter of roses. The PdT is brighter and more golden, with a suggestion of Guerlainade at times that none of the vintage Shalimar versions had except for the 1985 spray parfum (see, Part I) and the late 1990s eau de toilette. However, in all fairness, both the 1976 EDT and the 1984 PdT turn airier, thinner, and gauzier about 75-90 minutes into their respective developments, in addition to smelling smokier and more vanillic in terms of their actual notes. They don’t feel like different animals, which is what the 1998 eau de toilette felt like to me on occasion.
1990 EAU DE PARFUM:
I no longer have my bottle of vintage 1990 EDP, so I was unable to do a side-by-side comparison of it with the other versions, but I recall its scent as being extremely similar to the 1984 PdT. However, there were a few differences. There was more lemon in the opening, and it took longer for the bergamot to develop an Earl Grey aroma. There were soft, quiet streaks of sandalwood in the base right at the start, and a passing, quiet suggestion of Guerlainade hovering in the background. There were almost no flutters of rose at all, pale or otherwise, no furry animalics, no sense of dark musks, and only a ghostly, elusive whisper of leather that died out quite quickly. The dominant focus right from the start was on the core trio of bergamot, smoky vanilla, and syrupy jasmine.
The vintage EDP followed the same basic path and development as the PdT, but again there were a few exceptions. The sandalwood gradually became a noticeable presence after a few hours before being replaced by benzoin resin and, then, later, by a light dusting of Guerlainade tonka and vanillic powder. To my memory, the notes dissolved more quickly into a blur than they did with the Parfum de Toilette. In terms of weight, body, power, sillage, and longevity, everything felt very much the same. It wasn’t a powerhouse, but it wasn’t wispy or sheer, either.
It was an enjoyable scent, but it was also the sort of thing that I tended to forget about for some reason and it wouldn’t linger in my mind. Every time I wore it (usually after a long absence), I tended to think, “Why don’t I wear this more often? It’s nice.” It was a nice, cozy, pretty, and wearable everyday sort of fragrance, but took me almost 20 years to finish a bottle because it wasn’t intensely rich, so it never my first choice for a cozy comfort scent, and it lacked the divaesque, baroque character that I really gravitate to, so it didn’t suit other purposes either. It was only when I tried the 1970s pure parfum that Shalimar truly grabbed my attention and my heart, but I think it’s really dependent on the wearer’s personality, style, and scent preferences. The vintage Eau de Parfum will work for those people who find the extrait too heavy, intense, or overbearing for their personal style.
I personally think the Parfum de Toilette version is much prettier, but the problem with that is that large sizes (30 ml or 50 ml) are not widely found as compared to the tiny 7.5 ml (1/4 oz) minis. That makes a difference for people who don’t want to apply miserly amounts of scent and who prefer more generous applications. To my surprise, though, the Eau de Parfum actually proved to be less widely available than I had thought, at least judging by my recent eBay searches. The EDPs bottles typically come in 75 ml or 2.5 oz sizes which, obviously, is a better choice for some than 7.5 ml of PdT. In the end, it’s really going to be up to you, your budget, and the available options, but I’ve provided an eBay search link for the Parfum de Toilette at the end of this post because I think it’s the more accessible and prettiest choice, in addition to being the cheapest, even if its low price is usually because of how small the bottles are. Before we get to that, though, we should look at a late 1990s Eau de Toilette which, in my opinion, is the closest in scent profile to the modern eau de toilette’s scent, style, and composition.
1998 EAU DE TOILETTE:
As compared to everything that came before it, the opening and first three hours of a modern, late 1990s eau de toilette can only be described as “dire,” at least in my eyes. I have a bottle from 1998 that used to belong to my sister and that she gave me as a gift around 2005. It’s not as godawful as a 2010 EDT and also, if I remember correctly, 2010 EDP that I tried in a department store (the first of which made me yelp out loud with horror and recoil to the extent that I physically stumbled back into a shopper behind me), but I thought this 1998 one was terrible long before I did my recent comparisons. Soon after my sister gave me the fragrance, I sprayed some on, grimaced, and promptly stuck the bottle at the back of the armoire where I used to keep all my vintage fragrances, never to be applied again until last month.
The 1998 vintage eau de toilette opens on my skin as the predominantly synthetic, sharp, and watery version of the 1976 EDT. There is a massive blast of extremely synthetic pepperiness followed by a synthetic, beige, dry woodiness. I think they’re meant to be “civet” and “sandalwood,” respectively, but they’re both so generic, indeterminate, and diluted (except for their synthetic sharpness and pepperiness) that it’s difficult to tell with certainty. All I know is that I find both of them to be of atrocious quality, and they make me grit my teeth.
The rest of the notes aren’t better. Following quickly on their heels is a high-pitched, almost razor sharp, supposed “bergamot” note that smells mostly like sharp lemoniness. There is not one iota of “Earl Grey,” lemon chiffon bergamot mousse, or even the bold, richly fragrant, rawer type of bergamot from the older fragrances. Not one iota. The bergamot doesn’t shriek like nails down a chalkboard the way the 2010 EDT did, but it’s bad enough. Matters aren’t helped by a very powerful note of actual lemon that is layered within and smells sour. Hovering on the sidelines are powdery Guerlainade tonka and something very fresh which resembles clean white musk far too much for my liking. Thin ribbons of vanilla tie everything together, but it’s a diffuse, sheer, and very synthetic note, not a rich, silky, or creamy one. There is no leather, no dirty musks, no rose, no jasmine syrup, and no incense, although the latter appears shortly.
The 1998 EDT shifts quickly. After 10 minutes, the vanilla grows stronger and joins the main notes on center stage. At the same time, a bland, generic, supposed “incense” smokiness appears but, like everything else, its quality feels rather dubious to me. The order of notes in terms of their strength and power is: lemon, bergamot, civet, sandalwood, vanilla, and incense. While Shalimar has never been an all-natural fragrance, this is the first time where the notes feel synthetic — not just some of them, but all of them, and excessively, overpoweringly, and overtly so.
As a whole, the bouquet lacks body and substance. It actually feels anemic both in terms of its weight and in the depth of the notes, almost like a watery cologne concentration of the 1976 eau de toilette, except the synthetics give the scent a forceful strength when I smell my arm up close. Even the colour of the liquid is watery and pale in comparison to the 1976 one, as you can see in the close-up photo of the two EDTs below:
Putting aside the issue of synthetics, I find the actual scent itself to be flat, lifeless, and deeply uninteresting. There is a one-dimensional quality to both the individual notes and to the overall bouquet. Everything feels hollow and dull, like translucent, muddy, hasty watercolour smears done on cheap quality paper. To me, they have zero personality or memorable characteristics beyond their synthetic character. If the Marly Horse 1950s and 1960s extraits felt like one was wearing jewel-studded satins, velvets, leathers, and furs, if the 1984 Parfum de Toilette and 1976 Eau de Toilette felt like rich silks, then this 1998 eau de toilette is the equivalent of grey sweatpants and a faded, worn, ditchwater-coloured, hole-y, t-shirt. The scent is definitely recognisable as Shalimar, but it’s the C- or D version.
It takes a while for things to get better. First, at the start of the second hour, the scent gradually gains substance and body, losing some of its wishy-washy translucency and blandness, and it’s mostly due to the syrupy jasmine. It becomes one of the three main notes; the other two are the dry, smoky (but not particularly boozy) vanilla and the citrus mix. Roughly 75 minutes in, the atrocious peppery civet and faux, generic sandalwood thankfully recede to the sidelines. Not longer after, the bergamot improves a hair, no longer wailing quite so much like a banshee with an ear-piercing falsetto, but it’s a relative matter.
It’s not until the middle of the 3rd hour however, that the fragrance turns smoother, better balanced, and more appealing. At that point, the bergamot and lemon not only weaken, but also become more rounded as well. The bergamot finally begins to waft small puffs of Earl Grey in addition to its lemony briskness. The jasmine smells mostly like a blurry, floral, syrupy sweetness, and licks the vanilla’s edges. The latter is, for the first time, slightly creamy. A new note takes the bergamot’s place on center stage: benzoin. It smells just like ambered, caramel candy, and it wafts gusts of cinnamon all over the other notes. The civet has completely disappeared, while the incense is merely darkness enveloped within the vanilla. The sandalwood has sunk into the base, but it’s now smoother, softer, no longer dry and egregiously synthetic in feel. While all of this is happening, the tonka gradually begins to grow stronger, smelling powdery and vanillic. When combined with the vanilla, the eventual result is a strong blanket of Guerlainade that hangs over everything.
The new bouquet actually becomes so pretty by the start of the 5th hour that I smelt my arm with appreciation. It’s improved so much that it’s almost hard to believe it’s the same fragrance. The scent is now a blur of quietly smoky and creamy vanilla layered with Earl Grey bergamot, candied benzoin resin, floral sweetness, and the benzoin’s cinnamon spiciness. It’s dusted with Guerlainade tonka powder, then placed atop a base of soft sandalwood before the whole thing is cocooned within a generalized golden warmth. It’s quite delectable and very cozy, but I think one must have a fair tolerance for sweetness and powderiness to enjoy it.
From this point in the 5th hour until the fragrance’s final hours, there isn’t any significant development. The notes simply turn blurrier, simpler, and quieter, largely becoming nothing more than a soft smudge of ambery, powdered, and minimally smoky vanillic sweetness upon the skin.
The 1998 vintage eau de toilette had average longevity, low projection, and average sillage. With 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 2.5 inches of projection and 3-4 inches of scent trail. The numbers drop incrementally after that, and the fragrance feels quite soft by the middle of the 3rd hour. It becomes a skin scent about 3.75 hours in, and lasted just short of 8 hours. However, my skin tends to hold onto and also amplify the reach of fragrances with a significant amount of synthetics for longer than most, so I suspect some of you would have lower numbers.
ALL IN ALL:
The bottom line is that, if you’re going to go the vintage route, you can do much better than the 1990s EDT, in my opinion. If you don’t want the parfum or if you want a more versatile, everyday, and affordable version of vintage Shalimar, then my advice is to go after the older versions of the eau de toilette instead. It’s more widely available than the lovely Parfum de Toilette and comes in bigger sizes, too. Focus on finding a bottle that has the darkest or most amber coloured liquid in order to get the richest and deepest scent possible. That’s what I did, and I was extremely happy with the results. I looked for darkest liquid and stumbled across the tear-shaped or “goutte” bottle that I’ve shown you for my 1976 EDT.
You don’t even need to wait for Part III or to use the wonderful, authoritative batch code guide from Raiders of The Lost Scent to be in safe territory so long as you use the most basic rule of thumb or starting point (for the non-extraits): just look for the black-and-white, zig-zag, “zebra” box since they date from roughly 1967 to the mid-80s but not beyond. (If the box shown is a black-and-gold one, then the bottle dates from the mid-80s up to 1999.) Those “zebra” boxes are the simplest guideline and starting point. I’ve read that the eau de toilette’s tear-shaped or “goutte” bottle was technically in use until roughly 2001, so that’s not the best indicator by itself. If you want, you can ask the eBay seller for any codes on the back or the side of the box just to be certain.
However, if no box is shown in the listing, you should definitely ask the seller for the numbers on the base of the bottle itself (or for a photo of it). In theory, there should always be some alpha-numeric code stuck on the bottom on any bottle from the late 1960s onwards. You can use it to search the batch code guide to find what specific decade it’s from.
But whatever the precise decade prior to the 1990s, those bottles are a good bet. A better one, in my opinion, than opting for a bottle from a more recent or modern era. Even if the 1998 EDT eventually improved to become quite pretty towards the end, the much older bottles are usually lovely, sometimes even absolutely gorgeous and addictive, right from the very first moment.
EBAY TIPS & SEARCHES:
One thing that I would emphasize is that you should be patient in order to find a bottle at a price that fits your budget. That may not be right away. You can use this eBay link to pull up a search for the vintage EDT. At the time of this post, there are about 6 or 7 tear-shaped, “Goutte” EDT bottles offered, many with the black and white zebra boxes. Their prices are all over the place. There is a half-full 100 ml bottle for less than $40; a full 3 oz (so 90 ml) one for over $245; and a 8 oz or roughly 250 ml for about $350. That last one is a ridiculous price, in my opinion. A much better option is a similar 250 ml size for $149. There is no box to signify its age, but the liquid is nicely dark in colour, so you should for any numbers on the bottom of the bottle.
To give you an idea of the prices and what I went through, I saw a number of big EDT bottles for about $250-$350, but stumbled across one listing for a full, unopened bottle that was 8 oz or 250 ml, with a $125 price and an extra $10 for shipping. However, there was a “Make an Offer” option. So I did. I submitted a slightly lower price, first $30 off, which was below his reserve and rejected, then a second one for about $20 off which he accepted right away. I ended getting the bottle for about $115 in total. I was actually surprised he accepted my offer, truth be told, given the prices other sellers were asking.
Even with the discount, that bottle ended up actually being more expensive than three or four of the Guerlain extraits (Shalimar and others) that I’ve bought, but one cannot discount its huge size. At 8 oz, it’s roughly 6 oz larger than one of my parfums, and 7 oz to 7.5 oz larger than many of the smaller or half-full parfum bottles. Its enormous size combined with its more versatile, every day, and “cozy comfort” character means that I feel more comfortable using it frequently, while the extraits are more special occasion or indulgent luxury choices.
Speaking of the “Make an Offer” option, thus far, I’ve had positive, successful results each and every time that I’ve used it, but the trick is not to be too greedy or to go too low with your counter-offer. The vintage EDT was the rare time when I went above a $10-off discount. But no matter the price, if there is a fragrance that you’re tempted by and the seller has that option listed, use it! Don’t feel embarrassed or hesitant. Make a counter-offer, and see what happens. You have nothing to lose, right?
The same general eBay tips apply if you’re interested in the Parfum de Toilette. You can use this eBay search link for that concentration. The most common bottle size is a 7.5 ml (or 1/4 ounce) mini, comes with a black and gold (not a zebra/black and white) box, and is priced generally in the $25 region. On occasion, you may see a 30 ml or 50 ml vintage PdT bottle (like one of each right now on eBay), but these larger sizes are less typical. If you’re interested in an eau de parfum version of vintage Shalimar, I think you should absolutely go after one of these as an alternative. I think it’s much prettier than the officially described “eau de parfum” that followed it. (I’m a firm believer in the “older smells better” theory when it comes to olfactory bouquets.)
Next time, in Part III, we’ll dive into the complex world of bottle designs, boxes, labels, acid-etching, stem sizes, Marly horse logos, Baccarat crystal, the four companies that manufactured Shalimar bottles, and other criteria used to date vintage Shalimar extrait. Some of the parfums come in bottle designs or shapes different from the familiar “urn” or “bat” ones that I showed you in Part I, so it’s an expansion of your choices. There will be a brief look at the bottle design for other, lower concentrations, but I’ve already given you the simplest guidelines in this post for things like the EDTs, and the main focus of Part III will be on the pure parfum. What will apply to all versions of Shalimar, though, will be some additional eBay tips and pointers that I use when navigating the site in order to find the best bottle for the best possible price. Hopefully, they will help you, too.
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Your olfactory guides for Slalimar are unique and quite invaluable. After reading Part1, I was able to date the extrait samples had.
I am curious about the umbrella Marley Horse bottles which I don’t think you memtioned?
First, welcome to the blog, Karen, and thank you for the kind words on the Guides.
Both the parapluie and the rosebud bottles are covered in the upcoming Part III, as well as a brief mention of some of their packaging. There is a large and separate section devoted to Marly edition fragrances and boxes as a whole. None of my own Marly or Shalimar fragrances come in the parapluie design or bottle, so there wasn’t much point in talking about it in Part I’s reviews and scent descriptions. Part III seemed like the best place for it, particularly as its a design issue more than a completely different scent profile. 🙂
I concur with you on the modern EDP. The opening is just awful. I know it gets nice eventually because I use perfume paper test strips as bookmarks and that one smelled lovely about seven days in! I really loathed Shalimar until I encountered a bottle of the PdT. It is simply lovely and I began to understand and enjoy the beauty of this fragrance. Great post full of useful and thorough information. Thank you.
Heh, it really is an awful opening. I’ve sometimes wondered just how many people who say they hate Shalimar hate it because they’ve tried the modern, recent ones and none of the vintage versions? I’m sure quite a few hate Shalimar on her own merits and regardless of vintage or not, but I am also sure that at least a few are reacting to the modern bouquet’s difficult aspects. I’m really glad to hear that your feelings changed once you tried the PdT!
Kafka I love your Shalimar series. I feel I have learned so much, and acquired a new appreciation for this lovely perfume. I have a rosebud bottle of extrait that I got for a steal that is so potent and has such a great drydown it must be from the late fifties/ early sixties. I have an umbrella bottle that must be from the late seventies based on your description–the ‘raw’ bergamot with flowers is also present before the gorgeous resin and leather show appears. It’s amazing the vintage extraits age so well and maintain such a lovely character. The ingredients and formulae had to be so meticulously conceived to perform this way.
I also have and enjoy lighter concentrations include Parfum de Toilette which doesn’t really appeal to me, the bergamot clashes with my skin in a way the earlier versions do not. It’s also so much thinner than a more vintage zebra box eau de toilette spray, with no bar code, that is very smoky to start and strong on the bergamot, lemon cream, and incense in the dry down. It’s a purrfect veil like the extraits but reminds me more of eau legere in the drydown with its lemony cast.
There is something so classic and appealing about Shalimar, it never feels dated or boring to me. It’s kind of a marvel. Given the exposure to all the new releases, (which I find quite overwhelming and often indistinct), to wear and smell Shalimar, and be seduced by it, is astonishing especially when you consider the time involved. It’s smelled great to people for almost 100 years. It’s like the work of a great composer that has stood the test of time. Wow Jacques Guerlain, I wish I did one thing that great in my lifetime.
Dot box Jicky is extraordinary as well, one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled. It has the gorgeous deep bergamot in a now classic combination with a very pretty lavender and an incredible coctail of multifaceted musks that never ‘play’ the same tune twice. It does have that stinky civet phase (that I love), and it has great projection.
“Wow Jacques Guerlain, I wish I did one thing that great in my lifetime.” — Hear, HEAR, Danica!!! I feel quite the same way. Utterly awed at his genius and skill.
I’m so glad you found the guides to be useful, and that they added to your appreciation for the fragrance. BTW, I know precisely the sort of stinky civet that you’re referring to because it’s very prevalent (in a gorgeous, fantastic way) in the opening of the most recent Shalimar extrait that I bought. It adds such an enticing furriness but there is also a distinct growl — almost as though a very fluffy, fuzzy baby civet pup were exposing its sharp little teeth. lol 😀
Dear Kafka, your 2nd part of “voyage Shalimar” makes me very happy, visually by the pictures but as well by the description of your testing the various liquids. I wonder…. I have a small cardboard vial from the 50’s I assume – inside some glass or hardplastic vials, long, thin tubes. They contain a few drops of extrait and were thought to be carried in an evening pouch for refreshing scent – when a full bottle would be too much, or too dangerous to carry with you.
Have you had occasion to test this kind of “time capsuled” original perfumes (light proof, vaccuum) ? I am hesitant to break the vial – but as well curious as can be !
I can forward a photo if you are interested…
I’m so sorry for the delay in responding, Martina, but I’ve been positively drowning in writing Part III and all its technical analysis details. I was fascinated to hear about the cardboard-encased, glass travel vials! I’d never heard about them and I’ve certainly never tried one. I also haven’t tried that general sort of “time capsuled,” vacuum-sealed, highly protected, almost original-scented perfume from any other brand, so I’m afraid I can’t help you in terms of how the scent holds over decades.
Would you happen to have a photo that you could share with us, either here or in a comment to Part III that is all about the parfum’s different designs and bottle formats? You would have to upload it to one of the photo sharing sites (like https://postimage.org/ or http://tinypic.com/, for example) and then post a link to it here, so I’m afraid it’s a tiny bit of work, but I’m certain that other readers would love to see the tubes and to add to their Guerlain knowledge. I certainly would. I know this must be a rarity amongst rarities.
Depending on how many or how few of the tubes that you have, I’m not sure I would risk actually breaking one open if I were in your shoes. But the temptation and curiosity… oh, I can just imagine.
Thank you for a second highly informative piece on Shalimar; can’t wait to read part III!
I was wondering if you have any experience with the Eau de Cologne version of Shalimar in those lovely round flacons montre? I am asking because I myself do not know any EdC versions by Guerlain. I do have quite a few bottles of cologne from Caron, and especially the old ones are extremely potent—take Nuit de Noël for instance.
Another point of interest is—what is Mitsouko to you in relation to Shalimar? I am asking as Mitsouko was my starting point in perfume, and I have quite a lot of bottles—even a large sealed goutte flacon with the dolphin label which I haven’t opened it yet! I don’t quite want to go too off topic, but I don’t use Mitsouko much any more. But the reason isn’t that I don’t like it any more. It is more like why I do not listen much to Maria Callas even though she is next to perfect, but a happy Joyce DiDonato or Cecilia Bartoli is more feasible on an every day basis. I don’t know whether that makes sense —
My apologies for the delayed response, but it’s been a very busy time dealing with Part III. To answer your question, I’ve never tried any Guerlain vintage EDC. As I explained in Part I, I stayed away from that concentration of perfume as a general rule, no matter who makes the fragrance. I’m not keen on cologne lightness, sheerness, or how quickly my skin eats through such scents, but most of all, I really shy away from citrusy, fresh scents and everything that I’ve read about Shalimar cologne indicates it has a lot of citrus in the opening indeed.
In terms of Mitsouko, I think it’s beautiful, sexy, sultry and a brilliant feat of perfume mastery, but it never caught me the way that L’Heure Bleue or Shalimar did. It may be even more perfect than Shalimar, technically speaking, but it didn’t have the same impact right from the start as, say, L’Heure Bleue and then later, Shalimar. One reason why may be because I gravitate towards orientals more than chypres any day of the week. I love chypres, but not to the same degree, not instinctively and viscerally the way an oriental always gets me.
I understand exactly what you mean by the Maria Callas comparison because I’ve used that same one in the past in some reviews — sometimes positively but sometimes in the way that you did. It’s the divaesque issue. I happen to love fragrances that are the equivalent of The Ride of The Valkyries (and I’ve actually used that comparison even more frequently, LOL), but there are some Valkyries that are a little TOO divaesque and Maria Callas-like. For me, one example would be Unum’s Opus 1144 parfum which is actually a modern interpretation of Shalimar, except hardly as pitch-perfect, beautifully balanced, harmonious, and stunning. Opus 1144 is bombastic the way Maria Callas could be and also, I’m afraid to say it, occasionally a bit sharp and shrill like Maria as well. (I’m sorry, she wasn’t my favourite in terms of her voice. A friend gave me a giant compiled CD set of her performances, and a few made me actually wince at the pitch. As a side note, I love Anna Netrebko, to give one example, but I think Cecilia Bartoli is very enjoyable, too.)
I think I digressed. LOL. Bottom line, I can understand why — if Mitsouko is sheer perfection for you — you may not feel that she’s an every day scent. In all honesty, I don’t think ANY of Guerlain’s greats are everyday scent in their oldest and purely parfum form. One would need something lighter than an extrait for easy, versatile, everyday use in order to fit everything from a lunch with friends to a date night to a day running errands and cursing at traffic.
There is something else to consider, too: wearing a fragrance too often can dull its impact and you may enjoy variety in your fragrance wardrobe. Most of us do. One can get tired even of vintage Mitsouko — no matter what the concentration — if one wears it every day.
I’m not sure if any of that answered your question, but I hope so. 🙂 (BTW, I still have the image of a red Namibia sunset coming up through the airplane portal windows as you smelt Shalimar for the first time. I was so happy to hear that you went and found yourself an Umbrella-Parapluie bottle. I hope you’ll let me know what you think once you receive it and have had time to get to know it. I’ll be particularly interested to hear what you think of it as compared to Mitsouko!)
Thank you so much for even considering to answer my too many questions! Let me begin with the African sunrise: Studying in Germany and being a bit homesick, this nearly always was a very emotional moment. Due to the wholly comprehensible boycotts worldwide in those days, SAA was forbidden to fly over the African continent, and flew over the Atlantic Ocean with only one stop in the Cape Verde Islands. Only when Namibian territory was reached, did the plane tilt towards land; this nearly always coincided with sunrise. And then you had this pinpoint clear view over the never-ending, majestic African landscape—savannah and desert—until finally an hour later the plane landed in Windhoek.
My umbrella Shalimar is not quite the earth shattering revelation I had hoped for: yet in my experience, perfume acquisitions are judged more generously after waiting a a month or so.
Thanks again and best wishes from Brussels!
You had said that you thought your Umbrella bottle might be from the 1970s, judging by the codes on the bottom of the bottle? If so, then I think you may need to go older in order to have an earth-shattering revelation. That said, keep in mind, too, that quantity applications play a significant role in the nature of a scent and the nuances which unfold. If you’re applying a few light dabs, you may want to apply double the dose. If that doesn’t work, then you need to go older with a really brown, aged juice/bottle from before the 1970s. (In my opinion and in all honesty, I don’t think the 1970s bottles have a really knee-weakening, earth-shattering scent as compared to the older ones. The 1970s ones are lovely as compared to what followed, but not as compared to what preceded them.)
Your description of your plane ride and the sunrise descent over the African savannah create such a wealth of images in my mind, and they make me want to go to Africa more than ever. I read all the Wilbur Smith books on Africa when I was a child, and they left an impact that I’ve never forgotten. One day, one day….
Do go, Africa is so very special indeed!
Thanks for this interesting review! I am going to use my almost finished bottle of PDT bought in the 80’s but I bought another one last year and one more in its way, your review made me realise I needed another one! 😉
You’re very welcome, Merlina. I think you made a good decision in buying another bottle! 😀 😛
When I start my Shalimar search I’m going straight to the pure parfums, so I look forward to part 111. I can’t wait to find the darkest, thickest liquid available. Thank you for these terrific posts.
While I definitely think you should head straight to the parfum, Ed, I also think that you’d find the vintage EDT to be great for work and for non-special occasions. It’s more wearable on an every day basis. So, if you end up falling in love with the parfum, you may want to consider a really old bottle of the EDT.
Another Shalimar post, what a treat!
I’m more of an extrait person, but I so enjoyed reading about the nuances of the various concentations of Shalimar. All this talk of smoke, darkness, plushness, furs, and tea made my spine tingle in the best of ways. I’m craving a cup of Earl Grey now, if only to let the scent mingle with the hint of smoke lingering in the air from one of the neighbours burning leaves. And I might need one of Agatha Christie’s darker murder mysteries to (re)read.
Haha, many of Agatha Christie’s most sophisticated, glamorous women are precisely the sort to wear Shalimar parfum in its old, vintage form. The red lips, sleek hair, and slinky dresses under furs… I’m imagining the woman in Evil Under The Sun for some reason, or some of the aristos from Murder On the Orient Express. 🙂
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Aaand I just dropped another $80 on an EDT that dates to between 1967-1976. What madness you have awoken in me, Kafka.
Hahaha, welcome to my world, Allison. 😀 😛 It really *is* some sort of madness, and I hate to tell you that it only gets worse once one experiences the vintage versions. In fact, I sometimes feel like a crazy person when it comes to vintage Shalimar. There is this bizarre nagging thought, “Maybe just one more bottle….?” Part of that is due to my tendency to hoard vintage fragrances unless I have enough to feel safe in wearing them with reckless abandon, but there is also just… something… about vintage Shalimar. At least for me. I have several other Guerlain vintage fragrances that are lovely — Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Chamade, etc. — but nothing has quite the same effect on me.
I hope more than anything that you end up loving your bottles in the same way, that it awakens the same sort of feeling in you when you wear the fragrance. (And I don’t say that merely because of the time or expense that you’ve incurred in hunting them out). There is something about wearing a fragrance — ANY fragrance — which moves one deeply, passionately, and intently each time. It becomes both a portal to other lands or places, but also a soothing comfort AND a sort of warrior’s armour. It’s hard to explain, but I hope you experience that at some point in your life, whether it’s for this fragrance or another.
In terms of the vintage EDT version that you just bought, NICE JOB!! That’s a great price, and from really good years, too. Do you know, it’s the vintage EDT that I go to bed in every night because I spray a little every few days on my sheets and pillows? Other fragrances may be wafting their final hours on my arm for testing/review purposes, but it’s Shalimar EDT that I want to burrow in for comfort. That Earl Grey bergamot vanilla cream pie, licked with smoke, booze, and jasmine… I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of it.
I read this post a couple of days with great interest.
I really liked the EDT version in the 250 ml bottle by description. I thought that I really want to have this bottle. And today I won it at auction, without a box, slightly used. I hope that the contents are as beautiful as yours.
My sad tale: I found and bought a beautiful vintage Shalimar Parfum. I didn’t know how old it was, but it was definitely the fragrance I remembered from the ’50’s. My mom always wore it, and I started wearing it as a late teen. The liquid was a bit think, dark, and absolutely heavenly.
The Tale: A few weeks after purchasing it, my housekeeper dropped it as she was dusting, it hit the metal drawer pulls on my dresser, and BROKE! There was a tiny bit left in the bottom of the bottle, but I was just heartbroken!
Now that I have your wonderful information (thank you!!), I am going to be able to shop online with more confidence, and hopefully, find another ’50’s era bottle of perfume.
I appreciate all the work and diligence you poured into this marvelous treasure. It’s bookmarked, and I’ll be checking back to see what else you’ve posted.
I winced at reading your tale. Ouch and OUCH. I would have been just as heartbroken as you had it been me. I’m so truly sorry. Bottles that old are not easily let alone *affordably* replaced, so truly… OUCH. I hope so much that you find another one to replace it.
You know, even if it’s not the pure parfum, the really old EDTs are very lovely too. Not thick, heavy, or quite as heavenly, but I’ve got a 1940s EDT which is just as richly complex, strong, super saturated (and even more concentrated with age and reduction). Plus, its sillage is pretty big too! A 1950s EDT is similar. Again, both are lighter in comparison to the reduced, concentrated-down parfums, but the overall scent is what matters at the end of the day as well as the ease of finding replacements.
To that end, if you can’t immediately find a good-sized 1950s parfum (and trust me, the large bottles are either highly limited in number, astronomically priced, or quickly swooped up by wealthy collectors), then consider expanding your search to include the old EDTs as well.