When it comes to the great houses of perfume Guerlain never fears alienating their core audience. I would say that the opposite is truer in that Guerlain has been the most active in trying to snare the younger perfume wearer. Because of this penchant for luring in younger perfumistas it can sometime clash with those of us who have loved Guerlain for years. I sit somewhere in the middle of this. As long as the great older Guerlains are still around in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser can put out as many figurative olfactory honey pots as he would like to capture his desired demographic.
The most difficult part of this equation is M. Wasser want to use Shalimar as the gateway to the Guerlain kingdom. M. Wasser has taken to heart the criticism by the young that Shalimar smells too “old lady”. This isn’t a new idea as perfumer Mathilde Laurent was responsible for three “light” versions of Shalimar a little over ten years ago. M. Wasser would also try to go the lighter route as well. The last two years saw two variations around adding vanilla to Shalimar and Ode a la Vanille in 2010 and Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique in 2013 went with making it sweeter. It looks like that experiment has also not produced the desired result. This year for the latest flanker to Shalimar M. Wasser has returned to making Shalimar lighter. The new releases is called Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.
As the name portends this is meant to be an airy version of Shalimar meant to be served up quickly without having it linger. The way M. Wasser chooses to achieve this is to largely neuter the base notes leaving behind only the vanilla.
The opening of Souffle de Parfum is the traditional bergamot and lemon with a bit of mandarin added for additional sweetness. Jasmine is present in the soufflé but instead of rose M. Wasser goes with the much lighter orange blossom. This is where the soufflé begins to fall down for me. The combination of rose de mai and jasmine is what creates the essential beauty of Shalimar. With the Souffle de Parfum M. Wasser doesn’t want even the hint of heft to appear thus the choice of orange blossom. The same applies to the base as out goes the orris and opopanax leaving only the vanilla matched with white musk and patchouli.
Shalimar Souffle de Parfum has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there is ever going to be a light version of Shalimar which does justice to the name, certainly Souffle de Parfum is not that fragrance. In his attempt to make Shalimar lighter and more accessible M. Wasser succeeds; as taken on its own merits Souffle de Parfum is a perfectly easy to wear floral. It is no way related to Shalimar and has none of the character and depth of that. I am not sure this would even bring new consumers over to the brand because it doesn’t feel like it is part of the rest of the flacons which share the name Guerlain. For me this Souffle de Parfum has fallen flat but perhaps there are others who will delight in a fluffy simulation of a perfume called Shalimar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Guerlain.