Shalimar Revisited

Disclaimer: Best viewed at the theatre. Use a high volume to get it...

Some revelations need time to pass before they can be shared. Sometime this depends on how long it takes for someone to upload something into Youtube...

About a year ago I experienced synesthesia quite dramatically when I was sitting at the theatre and watching the opening of Spike Lee's brilliant (yet popular) thriller Inside Man*. As the Bollywood music rolled on, having nearly no connection at all to the opening credits, I started smelling Shalimar... The male singers' voice pouring around like melted ghee, sweet like honey syrup with rosewater over halwa and orgasmic drum beats.

I finally got the Indian connection to Shalimar. Forget about the fountains in Mumtaz Mahal's garden, or any other story they are trying to sell you... The sensuality of Shalimar's vanilla, roses and bergamot can be summed up into an Indian sweet and a Bollywood voice and ripples of silk-scarf dancing.

If you want to just listen to mohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifre of the music, again, take this (this is the Rap Joint version at the end of the film ):

Here is the translation of the song from Urdo to English according to BollyWHAT? (it has more to do with Shalimar than the plot of the film):

He whose head is in the shadow of love
will have heaven beneath his feet.
Whose head is in the shadow of love...
Walk in the shadow.
Walk in heaven, walk in the shadow.

There's a friend who is like a sweet fragrance,
whose words are like poetry (lit. Urdu, the language of poetry),
who is my evening, my night, my existence.
That friend is my beloved!

Sometimes (my beloved) flirts like a flower,
so fragrantly that you may see her scent.
Having made it into an charm, I will wear it.
She shall be obtained as a miracle is obtained.
She is my song, my declaration of faith

(My friend is like a priest to me.)
My song... my declaration of faith...
She moves like the dew.
She walks with the garden of heaven beneath her feet,
sometimes through the branches, sometimes amidst the leaves.
I shall search the wind for her trail!

I trade in her beauty.
Fickle, she flits shamelessly from sun to shade.
She changes her bright colors;
I negotiate that as well.

*The popularity of the movie, as well as some of the soundtrack, helped Spike Lee to make his piercingly (and depressingly) provocative When The Levees Broke.

Hearty Valentine's Fragrances

Valentine’s Day is just a month away, so I decided to put together a little “anothology” of 10 of the most obviously V-Day perfumes of all: they are other full of aphrodisiac notes, declare romance and passion with their names, or wear their heart on their sleeves so to speak – with heart-shaped bottles and packaging.

Caron introduced N’Aimez Que Moi in 1916 ”To keep up morale among the troops and their lady friends”. The names means “Love Me Only”, and meant to nurture faithfulness. So pour some of this extrait from an ancient Urn and imagine yourself as a soldier in the trenches smelling a letter from your fiancé back home smelling of a delicate, heart-twiching perfume among the roaring of gun fire and battle-dust. N’Aimez Que Moi is not just roses and violets – the base is soaring with longing in the finest Caron tradition. The parfum is available from the Caron boutiques in Paris and New York. To contact the New York boutique email the friendly and knowledgeable Cathy and Diane or call 1-877-882-2766

The name means “Infatuation with Love”. This modern classic from the late 1980’s is romantic though quite linear – maintaining a floral, powdery musky-clan accord of bergamot, rose, magnolia, vanilla and musk. What else there is to ask?

L de Lolita Lempicka is another fabulous fragrance from Maurice Roucel, who also created Tocade and Musc Ravageur. The main notes here are orange, cinnamon, immortelle and vanilla. But mostly vanilla. The bottle is heart shaped and decorated with sea motives and charms, and as we all know – men react irrationally to vanilla!

100% LOVE
The name says it all, but Sophia Grojsman says it with perfume. The main element is the seductive, deep amber note of rockrose (labdanum), adorned with roses and cocoa. 100% Love is sensual and earthy and feels surprisingly natural. It is also available in a more concentrated format, named 100% Love MORE (pictured to the left).

This natural perfume is the newest from Mandy Aftel’s perfume house. Tango is as passionate as the Argentinian dance it’s inspired by, yet, like the dancer feet in the stilettos - it is classy and elegantly restrained.
Tango opens with the mysterious, rubbery, smoky notes of toasted seashells and myrrh, and gradually smoothes into a creamy floral bouquet of champaca and tuberose.
To make it even more Valentine-ish, wear it in the heart shaped pendants that are offered for a limited time via Aftelier.com.

A heart shaped bottle for a perfume with a heartbeat. Chamade is the drumroll of surrender – and in this perfume it is surrender to love. The bottle is shaped as a heart, and the stopper is a spear of an arrow. Chamade pulsates with cassis and greenery (galbanum, hyacinth) and heady florals (ylang ylang, jasmine) that are tamed and surrendered by earthy, ambery base notes (oakmoss and the most effortless aphrodisiac of all that Guerlain uses so well – vanilla).

This was the first perfume I ever picked “blind”. I ordered it from the Yves Rocher mail-order catalogue when I was quite a novice in interpreting ad copies and lists of unotes that I never heard of. I was intrigued by this offering of Mirabelle plum, cassis, grapefruit and amber and was determined to try it. When the smooth pink bottle that resembles an abstract conch arrived - I was thrilled to discover that I like it and found it similar to how I imagined it to be (quite a revelation for the time, actually). It was equally sweet and refreshing, youthful and sensual and I wore a lot of it back in the day.
You can now get it in crème parfum for only $2.95 or as a heart shaped candle for $3.00. Other body and bath products are available, including an iridescent body lotion.

An erogenous mix of rose, magnolia and jasmine, paired with citrus top notes and a woody base of cedar, benzoin and vetiver. Nick Jennings, the nose of Sharini Parfums, is a French natural perfumer, and uses only organic essences and alcohol in his perfumes.

It wasn’t until I watched Inside Man in the theatre that I finally understood the Indian connection of this perfume. The film opens with the most smooth-voiced Indian pop song, and I couldn’t help think of Shalimar and of Indian sweets – full of butter, vanilla and rosewater. Shalimar, however, is more than just a vanilla scent. It’s a complex love potion that was inspired by a tragic (aren’t they all?) love story of an Indian king and hi wife, to whom he planted the gardens of Shalimar – and after her death, raised the monument of Taj Mahal. Shalimar in pure parfum is something that is to be experiences at least once in a life time. While the base is the smoothest, richest and best quality vanilla (or at least it used to be) – there are other elements involved, such as birch tar and castoerum and bergamot, and of course – rose, jasmine and iris. The flacon itself is a beautiful gem all on its own.

Natural perfumer Lesle Faye’s The Kiss captures the agony and the ecstasy of passion’s fiery embrace. With notes of Mimosa, Oak Moss, and Frangipani. The Kiss is available in three sizes and forms:
Roll on $45
Atomizer $75Crystal Flacon $125

Tune in to SmellyBlog in the next couple of weeks to get more ideas for what to do and wear, smell and give to your sweetheart(s) on Valentine's Day.


Comparing to the multi-faceted masterpieces Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and l’Heure Bleue, Shalimar is in danger of being the most obvious – a purely seductive indulgence. Even the bottle shows off with it’s fountain-shaped stopper – or is it the feathered crown of a peacock’s head? It is a grandiose show-off of sensuality and passion – not unlike it’s inspirational tragic love story which resulted in the bombard grave known to us as Taj Mahal.

In fact, Shalimar is almost too good to be true. There is nothing in this perfume that is not pleasantly dripping of sweet softness and curvy sensuality. From the sweet and fresh bergamot and curiously smoky top notes through the rose petals and jasmine blossoms softened by powdered iris, carnal base notes of castoreum, musk and opoponax sweetened with amber, tonka and affectionate doses of vanilla. The real beauty, however, and where the genius of Shalimar lies, is in the final dry down – a soft and delicious just-kissed skin,fondled and worshiped by a lover.

From the most memorable creations of Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar is least complex, despite its incredible richness and expressiveness.: it sends a clear message of an indefeasible aphrodisiac. It’s beauty lies in the uncompromising hedonistic attitude and the absence of ambivalence in it’s total romanticism and sensuality.

Top notes:
Smoky leather notes, Bergamot, Orange

Heart notes:
Rose, Jasmine, Orris

Base notes:
Vanilla, Amber, Opoponax, Musk, Patchouli, Castoerum

p.s. The only concentration I recommend for Shalimar is the Parfum Extrait. It may be different with vintage Shalimar, but the newly produced ones in other concentrations are a far cry from the love song that is the pure parfum.

Illustration from Karin Kuhlman’s Peacock fractal
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