Thierry Wasser has introduced a new flanker to Shalimar, called Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, by all accounts a replacement of the unsuccessful Shalimar Parfum Initial.

Like Parfum Initial, Souffle de Parfum has no connection to classic Shalimar except for the name, merely retaining a few of the oriental ingredients like jasmine and vanilla. Classic Shalimar is above all about smoky leather, powder and animal notes, while the flankers are designed specifically for those who don’t like these "old-fashioned" scents. (This rule didn't apply to the Ode à la Vanille variants which were classic Shalimar with different sorts of natural vanilla tinctures added to the ethylvanillin.)

"Souffle" is French for "breeze", and the aim of this new fragrance is to offer a very airy and pure interpretation of the oriental accord. Guerlain defines the scent as a "tender floriental", fresh, luminous and cocooning, with notes of jasmine, orange blossom water absolute, white musk, and a drop of vanilla. This description captures quite well the scent of Souffle de Parfum, an example of what Guerlain paradoxically terms a "fresh vanilla". The citrus and orange blossom are angelically light and tender, with a transparent, ozonic and even slightly green feel. This is far removed from Shalimar’s overdose of zesty bergamot. When the top notes meet with white musk, we get the so-called marshmallow effect that several recent Guerlain scents feature too, like L’Heure de Nuit and Mademoiselle Guerlain. Here, however, it’s even airier, and less sweet, than in any of those, with a lightness that achieves an almost aldehydic and salty character. The jasmine provides a certain body and creaminess but, like the vanilla note, dosed lightly. Yet, the overall impression is not light as in "diluted", but more as in "airy" or "ozonic" — an example of "the weird long-term freshness that Thierry Wasser somehow builds into the fabric of his fragrances," as Luca Turin puts it. The drydown is only marginally gourmand, and we sense the warm dryness of cedarwood towards the end.

The fragrance could easily have been an Aqua Allegoria. It smells lovely, really like nothing else Guerlain has made before, and it certainly doesn’t smell like Shalimar. Maybe it smells like what we'd imagine to be the scent of a fresh vanilla orchid in bloom. There will probably be complaints about projection and longevity, although the latter isn’t bad if you can enjoy it as a skin scent. We ask ourselves why Guerlain keeps issuing Shalimar flankers that don’t smell one bit like Shalimar. It’s not unlikely, though, that flankers serve to direct new attention to the original perfume, thereby strengthening its commercial position.

Compared to Parfum Initial, Souffle de Parfum comes across as stripped of the richness of bergamot, rose, caramel and orris. While Parfum Initial could be worn as an evening perfume, Souffle de Parfum seems more like a light and casual, but still refined fragrance. And, compared to Eau de Shalimar which is markedly citrusy and vanillic, and also a bit leathery and “dirty” despite its softness, Souffle de Parfum is far more pure, crisp and airy. With its green and salty aspects, it would work as a masculine fragrance.

The box design for Souffle de Parfum features a print of one of Maison Guerlain’s silk scarves.
(July 2014)

Read more about Shalimar and its flankers