Perfume, Reviews

Fine Fragrances: Guerlain’s Shalimar Souffle de Parfum

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fine Fragrances, a record of the less-than-stellar entries in the annals of perfumery. They’re not bad, per se, just quantifiably okay, capably pleasant in a pinch but too familiar or faceless to really thrill. Today in our running tally of all the fragrances on the lowest rungs of wearability (because wearing them is better than wearing nothing at all): Guerlain’s Shalimar Souffle de Parfum. 

Real talk: I hadn’t intended to write two Fine Fragrances in a row, and it feels particularly odd to have to be lumping a Shalimar into this group because 1) I stan for Shalimar and 2) I’d probably think higher of Shalimar Souffle de Parfum had it come out under some other name or from some other company, but it is a Shalimar by Guerlain, and not all Shalimars are created equally (a tragedy, I know), so let’s do this thing.

Shalimar Souffle de Parfum is Thierry Wasser’s 2014 flanker to Guerlain’s oriental masterpiece, Shalimar. Each year since has seen a new release that updates the bottle (I’m particularly fond of the 2017 peacock motif) but keeps the scent the same. According to Fragrantica, it’s notes include three citrus fruits (lemon, bergamot, and mandarin), two kinds of vanilla (Tahitian and Indian), jasmine sambac, orange blossom, and white musk. It’s like a gourmand for those of us who loathe the syrupy, blobular way most of ’em take shape. Souffle de Parfum’s an airy bit of creamy, vanilla-y citrus musk meringue or (you guessed it) souffle that exists to barely be of substance. It’s Guerlain, for sure, so it’s clearly of quality and undeniably appealing, but Shalimar Souffle de Parfum can’t be a Fine Fragrance without a but…, so here’s the but…

Even Shalimar’s superior design is subject to a qualitative bell curve when it comes to reinterpretation, and Souffle de Parfum alas lands as a lesser effort. The best of the bunch I’ve encountered (the three variations of the Parfum Initial and the Eau de Shalimar, so far) are all striking because wearing them is like walking down an ever-widening path between a tight, clean citrus opening and an expansive, sumptuous vanillic base. The dry down is what it’s like to experience luxury blooming out from within, a kind of velvety decadence that goes on in all directions without horizon. By comparison, there’s no real contrast or tension or direction in Shalimar Souffle de Parfum. At any given moment, it smells approximately–though never quite–the same, an ameboid accord fenced in by a triangle of citrus, vanilla, and musk notes. Simply put, it never really goes anywhere.

Since it’s a Shalimar, sure, you could absolutely do much worse than Souffle de Parfum, but since it’s a Shalimar, you could also do so much better. Shalimar Souffle de Parfum is one for completionists, a decent enough idea to exist, I guess, but I struggle to believe this is anybody’s first choice from their flanker-filled vanity. I mean, really, what are you going to do, wear it when you run out of Shalimar? HA! Like you’d ever let that happen.

Previously on Fine Fragrances:

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