Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum ~ fragrance review

Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, cropped

At what point does a flanker stray so far from its parent that it ceases to earn the family name? Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum edges awfully close to that line. Yes, it still broadcasts its familiar vanilla, amber, and lemon, but Shalimar Souffle flouts its mother's mystery and marches straight into "Hi folks, see you down at the mall — the fancy one with the Neiman Marcus" territory.

Shalimar Souffle de Parfum was developed by Guerlain's house perfumer, Thierry Wasser. Its notes include bergamot, lemon, mandarin orange, jasmine sambac, "l'absolu de l'eau de fleurs d'oranger" (a material Guerlain notes it's using for the first time), white musk ("an avalanche" of it, the French press release reads), and a combination of Indian and Tahitian vanillas.

I don't want you to think I'm such a traditionalist that I oppose any Shalimar flanker. I loved both Eau de Shalimars,1 and I have a decant of Shalimar Ode à la Vanille I pull out from time to time when I'm feeling indulgent. On the other hand, Shalimar Parfum Initial didn't move me (nor did Guerlain mean it to since at my womanly age I'm out of its target market). And, I admit that I live in fear of a Shalimar Noir.

But, oh how I do love the original Shalimar. Like many other people, at some point I tired of it. It was so — well, so Shalimar. As I sniffed my way through more perfume, I rediscovered the fragrance and fell even more deeply in love. In Shalimar I could imagine entering a world of novels of intrigue featuring heroines like Mata Hari sitting in smoky, dimly lit rooms and wearing jewel-toned wraps shot through with gold threads.

But that's not Shalimar Souffle. Shalimar Souffle seems to want to sell itself as more fresh and young than its mother, but unlike Eau de Shalimar, it focuses on ozone and florals, not citrus. Shalimar Souffle's first burst is full of sea-fresh ozone, but don't fear an Issey Miyake Eau d'Issey clone. The ozone-cucumber fades fast as the fragrance's citrus-vanilla-amber heart kicks in to rumble through the rest of the fragrance.

A robust measure of jasmine and other green-tinged white flowers wet and cool Shalimar Souffle a little, but they are almost consumed by the perfume's warm, nearly caramelized base. Despite the press release's threat of an avalanche of white musk, Shalimar Souffle is not laundry fresh in any Tide-reminiscent way, although even the beefiest of white musks would quail in the ring with Shalimar Souffle's muscular citrus-vanilla.

Unlike with Shalimar, you won't find any civet here to dirty things up. Also, I didn't notice it particularly, but Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc who spent a Shalimar Souffle day with me repeatedly said she smelled patchouli.

When it comes down to it, instead of Shalimar "Souffle," Guerlain might have considered Shalimar "Tornade" as a name. Shalimar Souffle has commanding sillage and NASA-worthy longevity. If you love Shalimar Souffle and apply a few sprays at breakfast, you won't have to worry about bringing along a decant for a mid-day freshening. The fragrance fades after a full eight hours to a pure vanilla on skin.

In short: Shalimar Souffle de Parfum is a take on Shalimar that seems calculated to attract a broader audience than Shalimar proper by washing the top with ozone and injecting some of the freshness of traditional floral perfumes. To me, that's a mistake, like dressing a femme fatale in Laura Ashley. Shalimar isn't about "fresh," and that's why I like it.

Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum

Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum.

1. Ed. note: Angie is referring to Eau de Shalimar, and an earlier "light" version of Shalimar, Shalimar Eau Légère / Shalimar Light (one fragrance, which was reformulated during its brief lifespan).

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64 Comments

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  1. Ari says:

    God, sounds awful. Thanks for taking one for the team, Angela.

    • C.H. says:

      Cosign! Couldn’t make myself do this, but I appreciate that someone did, for science! :)

      • Angela says:

        Hey, I’ll try all sorts of things for NST’s very excellent readers.

    • Angela says:

      I was so hopeful, too! I just have to remind myself that today’s perfumers aren’t always aiming for me as a customer.

  2. rebeccat94 says:

    Bummer. I was hoping this one would be great.

    • Angela says:

      It’s worth a try if you pass a tester on a perfume counter. After all, maybe you’d love it! (Or not.)

  3. galbanumgal says:

    a femme fatale in Laura Ashley, haha! Not entirely flanker-averse either, esp since I prefer Eau Premiere to the original no 5. Though I usually shy away from big oriental frags, I’ve come to appreciate & even enjoy Shalimar and the Odes. But ozone! Doubt I could handle it.

    • C.H. says:

      I know, such great line :) Ah the Laura Ashley dresses that bedecked my childhood…

      • Angela says:

        It seemed like Laura Ashley had her hands in everything! Dresses, wallpaper, dishware, heaven knows what else.

    • Angela says:

      The ozone is brief, but I swear it’s there. It’s an odd guest to have at a Shalimar party, that’s for sure.

  4. mals86 says:

    I loved Shalimar Light, and I suppose I was wishing for a retread. Oh well.

    • Angela says:

      I loved those “light” versions, too. For me, they really worked.

  5. Robin says:

    Guys, meant to say in the article but forgot — Angie is on the road (or in the air) today, and may be slow to respond!

    • C.H. says:

      Woo! As it should be. Angela, I hope you are enjoying Paris to the hilt!

      • Angela says:

        Thank you! I had a marvelous time.

    • Angela says:

      I’m home now! Exhausted, but home.

  6. Aparatchick says:

    “ozone-cucumber”

    And right there, that just killed any interest I had (no matter how fast it fades).

  7. Omega says:

    Sounds disappointing.

    • Angela says:

      To me, it was. But maybe if you didn’t already love Shalimar, and maybe if you did love vanilla, and maybe if you didn’t know perfume super well….you can see where this is going.

  8. floragal says:

    This kind-of thing screams greed to me.
    The original Shalimar must make them a fortune, and then there are all the other greats by Guerlain.
    To continue to milk a beauty like Shalimar, especially with the results they’re getting, is just sad.
    As Angela’s opening question states so well:
    At what point does a flanker stray so far from its parent that it ceases to earn the family name?

    • Omega says:

      Perfume companies greedy? never:). Come up with something original, it’s like movies, sequel after sequel, quantity instead of quality. It’s getting lame.

    • AnnS says:

      Pretty soon there will be a Petite Robe Shalimar l’Eau, which will save Big G tons on any kind of marketing or mental energy. They can just plaster that silly dress image all over the front of the new classic Shalimar bottle and be done with it. I am glad I have my horde of older/vintage G’s.

      • Angela says:

        There was definitely something “petite robe noire” about it already…

    • Angela says:

      It’s got to be difficult for Thierry Wasser. I’d be surprised if he were given full artistic license and the corresponding budget to create what he wants. It does show you, though, how an individual’s vision can shine and create classics, while perfumery by stockholders is less successful (in my mind, at least).

      • AnnS says:

        Mabye I’m speaking out of turn, maybe it’s difficult for him artistically. But I was thinking about this last night – all of us have to make choices about our job and our intellectual integrity. Sometimes money wins, but unless he has some sort of contract he can’t get out of or some other pressing financial concern that is none of our business that compels him to stay at G, then he can’t really complain about the situation with G and their dreck and flankers. He has a big name, he could move on and create his own house if he wanted to and/or still do work for others, eg, Francis Kurkdijan.

        • Angela says:

          Oh yes, I’m sure he’s open to a lot of criticism for his position. On one hand, he’s the head perfumer for Guerlain–a dream job. On the other, he’s LVMH’s [substitute word here for “lady dog”]. I’m sure he’s asked to do some unsavory–or at least artistically questionable–things. As you point out, he could always say no, even if that means walking away from a premier position in the perfume world and probably a generous salary.

  9. FragrantWitch says:

    This sounds grim, Angela. Shalimar would never say ‘folks’, would strenuously avoid a mall and would never, EVER, wear Laura Ashley. This femme fatale should not be trifled with- I feel like you either ‘get’ Shalimar or you don’t and you either decide to persist with it or just leave it behind. Thierry Wasser should stop flankering it to death. Shalimar is a pillar fragrance that requires no support.

    Hmm, seems I feel a bit ranty about this. Sorry :-)

    • Omega says:

      Rant away..just say no to excess flankerizing:)

      • Angela says:

        We must get bumper stickers made!

    • melissa says:

      You know who agrees with you about Thierry Wasser making flankers? Thierry Wasser:

      The sickness of making flankers every five minutes is very upsetting, but if I don’t want to get kicked out for not doing my job, I have to do it.

      http://persolaise.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-clearer-vision-guerlains-thierry.html#more

      • Angela says:

        Very interesting! Yet somehow not surprising–surprising really only in that he dared to speak openly about it.

    • Angela says:

      I know just what you mean, and I agree! I put the blame at LVMH’s door, though, and not Wasser’s (although, of course, I have no insider info whatsoever on this).

  10. AnnS says:

    I love Shalimar. Sometimes when I keep looking for the “perfect” vanilla for me (modern, dry vanilla), I just feel like giving up, and then I put on some glorious vintage edc Shamilar and just want to get on my knees and thank the old fragrance gods that people used to care about doing something wonderful, and realize that Shalimar is truly the incomparible vanilla oriental with just enough of everything else to keep it interesting forever. Any fragrance company can fall into the boring new standards and mediocre efforts at marketing. But I do expect Guerlain to live up to their heritage and do much better! Carry the mantle already! Where is the pride!? Maybe the old formulas are ruined by the IFRA regulations, OK. But they could do more better with the raw materials that are still available for “new” releases than just parading tired dreck in front of us.

    • Angela says:

      I wonder if we (meaning, we perfumistas) who love Shalimar’s drama and quirkiness are nowadays in the minority. I hope not.

      • AnnS says:

        I think a lot of people don’t even realize that their senses are being under-realized. Food, fragrance, textiles, and digital images everwhere are just a 1-D version of the world, where only the tips of our fingers and our eyes are superficially engaged with the world. It can be very interesting and useful, but it is not being fully engaged with the world. The smell of fresh air is replicated with chemicals and meat is flavored with chemicals to taste like a good burger. I think a lot of people have forgotten how to really look and taste and smell and touch in the natural world, and use their senses to the fullest. There is a real lack of depth, quality and texture in much of the modern world, and I think fragrance is just part of the modern sensual conundrum. Fragrance is powerful b/c it hits on so many senusal experiences and memory. I have my own feelings and scent associations with Shalimar – my mom, a very old dear friend, and my own personal feelings about how it smells and when I wear it. I dare say most of us fragrance nuts are people compelled by sensual experiences which is why we crave depth and interest in our fragrances, and why we are so bored and disheartened when the new stuff is just flankers without any new or compelling sensual interest.

        • Angela says:

          That’s such a perceptive comment! I’d like to add another dimension to sensual perception, too, and that is “story.” Story and history give powerful dimension to sensual experience–which is why marketing that’s well done can be so powerful.

  11. nozknoz says:

    There actually was a “black” Shalimar, a limited edition flacon for Christmas 2007. According to Scented Salamander, “The faceted black glass that mimics jet-black crystal has enough transparency to offer bluish nuances.” An image search on google will turn up photos. That was a much better idea than a “fresh” version.

    • Angela says:

      Just as long as it’s simply the flacon that was given the “black” treatment! I bet it was a gorgeous bottle, though.

  12. Delacey says:

    I have been unacquainted with Guerlain and Shalimar, but last Friday’s community scent coincided with being in a bigger city and the opportunity to try more Guerlain perfumes than I would usually have access to. The assistant offered me this Souffle enthusiastically, so it’s interested to see the review come up so soon after. It was not to my taste, I discovered after wearing it around for a day. I’ve been trying to understand warmer, sweeter, more vanilla/caramel tones, but couldn’t stretch to appreciate this one. Made me sad that I didn’t just start with Shalimar, though it seemed a bit much for the bright sunny day. Next time….

    • Angela says:

      When fall sets in, be sure to return for a dab of Shalimar and report back what you think!

  13. CobraRose says:

    I’m giggling at “live in fear of a Shalimar Noir.” That would be a good thread–“What potential flanker do you live in fear of?”

    • Angela says:

      You know there’s a YSL Black Opium coming out? That cannot be good.

  14. lupo says:

    Thanks for the lovely review Angela, a great read as usual.
    I’m a man and proudly wear Shalimar, which – shall we be frank? – is not a far cry from Dior Homme Intense.There I said it :) I must admit I really liked Parfum Initial, which I find totally wearable for a man, and the L’Eau version was equally lovely.
    I tried Souffle and I find it extremely wearable. It is a little like the Di Caprio Great Gatsby: there’s a hint of 1920s with a modern twist, and that’s a true talent Wasser is showing. I love the way Wasser tweaks a little the originals and make them somehow more contemporary. Habit Rouge l’Eau is a favourite of mine.
    The most recent Shalimar versions seem to be very unisex: I wonder if part of the marketing strategy is dragging more men to the ladies’ perfumes counters. Shalimar in a blue bottle? You gotta wonder :)

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad to have a comment from someone who has tried Souffle and liked it! Your comparison of it to Di Caprio playing Gatsby is clever, too, and it gets me wondering if Souffle might actually be better suited to men, despite the girly advertising. As you say, that blue bottle…

  15. SophieC says:

    Thanks for such an interesting review. I haven’t tried it and this doesn’t make me feel the need to! The name though intrigued me – I love souffle and somehow imagined a lemony souffle with wonderful rich alcohol underneath but clearly not.

    I find Shalimar fascinating especially the perceived market – I wore it happily and without even thinking about it in my early twenties (along with Samsara although not together) and then came back to it a while alter and found it too sharp. I assume now that must have been the result of a reformulation. Then I again came back to it recently and when it warms on your skin in winter and slowly wafts up at you it really is incomparable. All of which to say I am not sure that women in their twenties really need a friendlt version of Shalimar – I absolutely loved it in its full glory at the time and am pretty sure I would now were I a few years younger again…

    • Angela says:

      I had a sort of similar experience discovering, ignoring, then rediscovering Shalimar. I remember buying a bottle of the EdT when I was 23 or 24, but I switched to Coco soon after (back in the olden days when I didn’t wear more than one or two perfumes!) and let Shalimar fall to the wayside. I wore it from time to time after that, but it never stood out as a “must-wear.” Then I recently rediscovered it and love it all over again!

      Yes, for the right woman, regardless of her age, the original Shalimar is hard to beat.

      • SophieC says:

        Thanks for the reply and interesting that we have had sort of similar experiences – I am actually really looking forward to spritzing it in a few months as the weather cools (although the UK is getting perilously close to Shalimar weather as we speak!) – not that I am complaining after a very hot July.

        Hope Paris was lovely.

        • Angela says:

          Paris really was wonderful! But, as you point out, kind of chilly. Now I’m home and up at an obscenely early hour, thanks to jet lag. It’s hot hot hot here, and I have all the windows open in an attempt to cool it down to bearable.

  16. Celestia says:

    How did you like the series “Sex & Sensibility: the Allure of Art Nouveau? Did you ever get to La Fermette Marbeuf 1900?

    • Angela says:

      I’ve just gotten home, and I’m still reeling from jet lag. But you can bet that as soon as I’m confident I can sit with my iPad without falling asleep, I’ll watch that BBC production! I did go on a self-guided walking tour, though, that included some gorgeous old art nouveau buildings. I was aching to take a look inside.

  17. The House of Laura Ashley produced in the Early 90’s One of the most Lovely and Beautiful Floral Fragrances EVER and one of my top 20 favorites… Dilys’ It’s a Rare RARE find now because it is coveted by those who loved it in the past and are in the search of rare masterpieces, if you can ever get a whiff of it, Let me know what you thing, Mon Angel! :-) *HUG!*

    • Angela says:

      Thank you for telling me about it! I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for it as I forage for old perfume.

  18. andromeda says:

    Wonderful review… As this morning was very fresh I grabbed for my Shalimar, which I had put away for the summer, and the first sniff came virtually as a shock: so strong, so wonderful!

    Still haven’t found an equivalent for summer – I tried Jour d’Hermès, which I really like, but it has no longevity whatsoever on my skin. Vanishes after two hours or so. If anybody has a recommendation for a fierce Shalimar-lover – you’re very welcome!

    • Angela says:

      Too bad Eau de Shalimar or Shalimar Eau Legere aren’t still in production. They’d be perfect. Something lemony would be nice, too, and could segue well into an evening with a dab of Shalimar over it.

      • andromeda says:

        Actually, I do own “Eau de Shalimar”, bought it probably last year, but for some reason I don’t like to wear it, there is something pungent – at least on my skin.

        Lemony would be nice, yes, and I’ll try layering – and will probably wait for next years flanker :) as this august in Bavaria is quite a rainy and chilly affair anyway… Shalimar weather….

        • Angela says:

          Maybe next year’s flanker will be “the one”…

  19. Julia says:

    Thank you for another great review, Angela. I’ve been away forever and I’m very late and honestly I’m a little sad I saw this. I had no idea this was coming and maybe ignorance is bliss. I thought the pink one was the worst and now I learn of this. Maybe Thierry Wasser is in a hard spot, caught between the prestige and money of Guerlain and LVMH requiring him to continually degrade some of the most beautiful perfumes in the world to attract a teenage audience, but surely he’s got some pull and the talent to do something new and fresh under a new name in a beautiful bottle all it’s own.
    I really like the Jade Jagger bottle. It respects and pays homage to the flacon that the parfum is still sold in much better than the last EdP/EdT bottle and I think this blue version is the prettiest yet. However, I really don’t think the Shalimar name is a draw for a young customer who likely associates it with her grandmother, the most dreaded “old lady” scent, if she knows anything about it at all. I remember something about the pink one being created as a sort of baby’s first Shalimar for his niece but I really think a younger demographic might more readily accept something made for them from the ground up with a new name and fun bottle without the baggage. I wonder how profitable these increasingly ridiculous attempts to come up with a fresh Shalimar the young’uns will like really are.
    I think everybody here knows how much I love and adore Shalimar (I even live on Shalimar Drive!) and I realize how much this sounds like “get off my lawn you rascals” but seriously, step off already. If it absolutely has to be a flanker why not choose something else like Samsara, particularly since Opium and Cinnabar seem to be making a comeback. I think the Samsara bottle would look pretty in pink and it could be easy adapted into a candy floriental. Samsara Sucree anyone? How about Champs-Élysées Patisserie? Ooh la la – it sounds so French! Maybe the l’Instant flankers are played out but there are other lines like the Aqua Allegorias that are simple, affordable, and readily available at Sephora which I thought were meant for a younger audience in the first place. I adore some of the Elixir Charnel line and it already looks and sounds like a high end Victoria’s Secret fragrance and I think adapted versions of that bottle and fragrances offered at a more accessible price could be a smashing success. But what do I know?

    I know that not everybody loves Shalimar like I do and the current EdP is hard to love. It’s pretty rough in the top notes and if it was the first/only version I’d ever sniffed I may not have given it another shot. Thank goodness they are still producing a good extrait de parfum though my newest bottle is at least four years old so things might have changed without me knowing. I like and own eau legere and a couple of the ode a la Vanille editions but I also curate a small lake of vintage Shalimar in all strengths and several bottle styles and I hope to never run out. Now, get off my lawn!

    • Angela says:

      Well, if your opinion is “get off my lawn,” you’re in good company! I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that Wasser is feeling a lot of pressure to make money off of Shalimar’s glow. If he were in charge, Shalimar might well be left in its original glory. I agree with you, though–leave the Aqua Allegorias for the inexperienced perfume lovers, and don’t mess with the classics. I wish LVMH’s board of directors had more love of real, true luxury and less of cash.

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