Popular for 90 years, Shalimar was created in 1921, and re-released in 1925, by Jacques Guerlain in a bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain and made by Cristalleries de Baccarat (bottle design # 597) and launched at the Decorative Arts Exhibition.
According to Elisabeth Barille, "while examining a sample of vanillin, Jacques Guerlain suddenly poured the entire contents into a nearby bottle of Jicky, just to see what would happen." The result: Shalimar.
Jacques Guerlain was inspired by Mumtaz Mahal, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's love for Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite wife, was so great that he built her the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, Pakistan (and indeed, the Taj Mahal).
In 1985, it was repackaged and presented encased in a Lucite box to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its original launch.
Shalimar itself is currently produced in Shalimar Extract, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Fleur de Shalimar Edition.
Guerlain also markets Shalimar Parfum Initial, which has a different formula, color and fragrance than Shalimar.
The fragrance can be described as vanilla, powdery and sweet. The fragrance contains bergamot, lemon, jasmine, rose, iris, incense, opopanax, tonka bean and vanilla. It is considered to be an Oriental perfume (see Fragrance Wheel); spicy perfumes were popular during Shalimar's conception. The top note of the fragrance is bergamot. The middle notes are iris and rose. The base note is vanilla.
Over the years, Shalimar has had numerous ad campaigns.
In the 1950s, the illustrations created for Shalimar and other Guerlain perfumes, for the classic French advertising posters of the era, were some of the greatest works by the major illustrators of the day, such as Lyse Darcy, Cassandre, and so on.
In popular culture
In the musical, La Cage Aux Folles, it is mentioned in the song "A Little More Mascara".
In "House Arrest" (Season 2 Episode 11) of "The Sopranos" HBO, Junior Soprano mentions to his doctor he sent a bottle to a medical assistant (Tracy) who had checked on him at his home after having a stent placed.
In the 1971 thriller The Mephisto Waltz Shalimar is the perfume favored by Jacqueline Bisset's character named Paula. At the film's conclusion when Paula's soul has been transferred in the body of Roxanne (Barbara Parkins) the character of Duncan Ely who is unaware of the change remarks to Roxanne, "isn't that the perfume worn by our late little housewife ?"
In the movie "The Four Seasons", directed and starring Alan Alda. Shalimar is given as a gift.
Shalimar is mentioned during the NCIS S11 E12. Ducky is performing an autopsy and asks Gibbs to take a whiff of the deceased. He tells him that the smell is expensive.
In the AMC series Mad Men, Joan Holloway's roommate with a lesbian love interest mentions that Joan is wearing Shalimar as Joan walks by her.
In the novel "War Cry", by Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill), the heroine of the book, Saffron, is caught out attempting to descend the Cresta Run in St Moritz due to her forgetting that she had used the perfume Shalimar following her morning shower.
In the 1988 movie "Working Girl", Katharine asks Tess to get her bottle of Shalimar.
In the novel of the French resistance during World War II, "Angel of Baker Street", the heroine Olivia always pictures her beautiful mother in her mind, whenever she caught a hint of the perfume with its mix of 'lemon, jasmine and incense'. Olivia is also given a bottle of Shalimar as a leaving gift by Dominique, who had protected her during Olivia's stay in Paris.
In Netflix original, "Orange Is The New Black" (S1:E6 "WAC pack") prison inmate Nicky describes protagonist Piper as smelling of shalimar after a goodbye hug from her opulent mother during visitation.