Vintage L’Heure Bleue was my first Guerlain love. In fact, until I tried a really old bottle of vintage Shalimar extrait, no other Guerlain came close. There was just something about L’Heure Bleue for me, something that touched me deeply in ways I can’t always explain. Part of it is that I first encountered the fragrance during a happy time in my life, but mental associations are not the only reason. To me, L’Heure Bleue simply feels special. The way the notes are juxtaposed sometimes feels intellectually introspective in a way that almost rises to the cerebral, and that fascinates me, but at the same time, the fragrance always triggered an even stronger emotional response as well, filling me with joy, comfort, and a sense of serenity in a way that other legendary Guerlains did not at the time.
Trying to date vintage Shalimar and navigating eBay to find a bottle of the version that you prefer might seem, at first glance, to be an exhausting, frustrating, and complicated ordeal. However, there are some basic guidelines to make things much simpler. It’s one of those things where the learning curve is initially steep but then, suddenly, it becomes much easier and one can (almost) whip through the many eBay listings to single out the bottles which fit your precise parameters.
So, today, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on the bottle designs for vintage Shalimar, their history, their appearance, their packaging, their differences, and the methods used to try to date the bottles. The analysis will focus almost entirely on the parfum, but I’ll briefly mention the bottle designs for the other concentrations that were discussed in Part II. They’re not hard to date or figure out for the most part but it’s a different story for the parfum, particularly since most eBay sellers don’t know much about the bottles that they’re selling. I recently had to use a sort of reverse engineering or backwards analysis based on nothing more than the height dimensions (inches) of a listed bottle in order to figure out its size and possible date of release. And I’m still not sure of the latter! The process is much like playing Sherlock Holmes except, in this case, the tiny clues often don’t yield definitive answers.
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.
There are some fragrances so iconic, so beloved, and so immense in their impact that they require little explanation, and Shalimar may be at the very top of that list. Vintage Shalimar, however, requires a lot of explanation when it comes to choosing the right one for you, especially if you’re trying to stay within a budget.
My hope is to make some of it less confusing for you and to give you a few pointers, but I also want to pay tribute to vintage Shalimar in its pure parfum form. Almost all of us are familiar with the basic gist of Shalimar’s olfactory composition, but the parfum or extrait is exceptional, and The Marly Horse bottles in particular. The latter triggered a sort of madness and obsession in me over the last few months, and ignited a degree of passion that few fragrances — vintage or otherwise — have matched in last 20 years, not even other forms of vintage Shalimar. I’d like to take you down the rabbit-hole with me in this post and its subsequent Parts II and III.