This week marked my foray into a new and potentially expensive fragrant habit – vintage scent.
I’ve always been wary of buying a dud, a vessel once lovely, that’s been open for an age or has sat looking pretty (and turning rancid) in the sunlight of somebody’s equally vintage dressing table. That, alongside the possibility that you are wearing the scent of a deceased stranger, put me off.
But spurred on by multiple readings of Elena Vosnaki’s wonderful descriptions of vintage Shalimar at Perfume Shrine, I decided to look out for a safe bet. My safe bet came in the form of a completely sealed early 1980s Shalimar EDC in an elegant Art Deco style watch bottle. As the ebay seller had only photographed the box and not the bottle, it became mine for a fortunate price.
As the days passed since the auction, I waited with torturous impatience for it to land in my hands. I was curious to test it, fearful of it’s potentially stale juice, yet desperately hopeful to be overwhelmed by leather, civet and sandalwood from a time when they might be profuse. Daft really as I’m old enough for the bottle of Shalimar I bought in my late teens to be considered vintage!
Upon it’s arrival I sat staring at the package on the floor for some time. I wanted to delay it’s unveiling with a sense of ceremony, so I reached for my camera to document the grand opening..
I love the screw box, so incongruous!
The first glimpse of 80s Glamour
A peak of the metallic minaret, I emit a gasp as I clock the perfect untampered seal..
.. and at sigh at the beauty of this Art Deco wonder
I sit and stare for some time before daring to break the seal.
So what does it smell like? Well, unsurprisingly it smells like Shalimar. However, there is an extraordinary opening that projects mighty lemon and bergamot notes. Not sharp, but copiously bright and euphoric. I adore citrus, and this bottle gives it to me underpinned with the depth that you’d expect from Shalimar’s army of pungent smoky balsamic notes. I’ve never thought of Shalimar with the same adoration as I allot to Mitsouko. Mitsouko is supernaturally beautiful, while Shalimar is a bit gaudy and wanton.
This EDC bottle however, provides a Shalimar ‘for me’, in that a lot of the vanillin is missing and is replaced by a stronger slap of the leathery/musky/animalic dirtiness, less sweet – more erotic. I think I smell the sandalwood as much as the iris because the powdery quality of Shalimar, whilst still there, seems tempered and creamier. The smokiness is unexpected in a cologne (more wood smoke than incense) and it adds a magnificent androgynous depth to the otherwise uber femme concoction. I really need to smell a current EDC to see exactly how different (if at all) the 80s version is to it’s contemporary daughter.
Is this how it will be for me now? A fixation with comparing formulations over the years? A beef with IFRA for restricting beloved ingredients? A search for sealed bottles at lofty prices? I’m going to try not to get too involved, there are enough perfumery playthings in the world to satisfy me for now.
I’m giving away a small sample of my delightful Shalimar EDC to one lucky reader. To enter the draw, simply leave a comment below. Sorry, but due to postal regulations it’s only available to readers in the UK.
To end this article, I’ll refer you to a wonderful post from Club Fragrantica by perfume enthusiast – Jacster, writing of the lure of vintage:
“You'll be amazed to find that your spending priorities will undergo a gradual change. What was - perhaps just a few months ago - an indulgent and irrational purchase will begin to assume the status of an essential purchase.
You may find that you'll endure the shame of wearing old clothes and down-at-heel shoes as long as you can accompany them with a generous splash of vintage Mitsouko parfum, applied of course from a bottle you unsealed yourself.
Living in a candle-lit and wood-fired home so that you can save on power bills and thus wear Dior-Dior will become second nature. An added advantage of this is that you'll look totally gorgeous and line-free when you catch a glimpse of your faintly illuminated self in a mirror.
Watery home-made soup will taste so delicious when you're wearing your original No. 19.
And truly - who needs a car when you can walk in your Vent Vert?
Oscar Wilde was spot-on!”
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