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Fragrance talk

Shalimar Millésime Tonka Review: A Vintage Grand Cru Perfume

Guerlain has recently launched a new interpretation of the beloved 101 years old iconic creation, originally composed by Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar by showcasing one of the main key ingredients, Tonka Bean. The new limited edition series borrowed a fine wine term of Millésime, or Vintage, and twisted it into a perfumery round. Basically, each year the result of the product is different depending on the condition and harvest’s quality. The series started with last year’s launch of Millésime Vanilla Planifolia which drew focus on the distinctively well-known Vanilla note in the classic Shalimar.

Why Tonka?

Tonka Bean is one of the most remarkable raw materials in perfumery because of its multifaceted nature. It bears enticing notes of milky, deeply sweet vanilla, cherry, tobacco, smoke, and hints of cinnamon as well as soft, bittersweet almond and warm, spicy clove. The main component of the material is Coumarin which is used as a fixative note in almost every perfume composition, aiming to elevate the projection and longevity while giving the refined texture to it at the same time.

It’s also used to create imaginary accords on those materials that don’t exist or can’t be extracted from its natural form, most famous of which are the aromatic Fougère, modern Musk, Amber, and Pipe Tobacco accords.

Shalimar Millésime Tonka
Shalimar Millésime Tonka

Back to the beginning of the 20th century, the perfume industry wanted to give the traditionally animalic and dense natural Musk a face lift to modernize it. One has been discovered from a seed of Hibiscus called Ambrette. Guerlain discovered that in their Fougère creation, Jicky, the amount of Coumarin is very high and it gives that pleasant, natural, reserved and alluring Musky edge to the feel. Therefore, they went ahead and chose Tonka to be one of the keynotes to compose Shalimar’s core.

Together with Vanilla tincture from Madagascar, they create the distinctive and unique deep vanillic Amber accord which reflects the inspiration for the essence of Temple of Love, Shalimar. It’s rich, dense and indulgent yet soft, delicate and seductive like a passion of Love.

Shalimar Millésime Tonka
Shalimar Millésime Tonka

Shalimar Millésime Tonka Note Musing:

The opening is very energetic and lively with a huge burst of Bergamot and bitter Almond which gives off a raw plum, apricot and almost Cherry like sensation. I was certain that Cherry was one of the notes included, but it’s the Bitter Almond that tricked my nose.

As the joyful concoction settles, a rich and mood-enhancing Tonka Bean Absolute blooms up and steals the whole show with its multifaceted nature. The Bitter Almond from the opening forms a bridge to a freshly-toasted almond-y facet of Tonka which mingles with the density of warm spicy and sweet Pipe Tobacco-ish feel. The delicate powdery floral heart of bright Rose, Jasmine and buttery Iris dazzles around the Tonka core. It’s a very powdery, creamy, warm and indulgent blend which is very distinctive to the original Shalimar.

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Shalimar Millésime Tonka

The Madagascarian Vanilla tincture, also used in Millésime Vanilla Planifolia, becomes more prominent in later stages bringing the deep, rich and golden-brown Ambery feel to the base. There’s a noticeable amount of leathery facet steming from the vanilla which is also to be found in the original Shalimar. To me, it’s more of a leathery-suede feel with a brown accent. The unlisted Musk is quite modest compared to the original, which adds a sensual edge to the composition.

All in all, it’s an update on a very classical Shalimar that stays faithful to its origin. Therefore, don’t expect this to be overly innovative or new. After all, it’s an interpretation of a 101 years old creation. What it does is elevating the feel of Tonka Bean in its original form, rounding out the edges and modernizing it to fit the current demographic. I think it’s a great gesture to compose a scent that looks retrospectively and prospectively at the same time.

The performance is truly extraordinary. It has a dense intensity that doesn’t overwhelm by any means. It forms a cloud that is soft but thick in texture, like cotton candy. It easily lasts 7-9 hours, which is no surprise based on the notes and expertise of Guerlain.

My Verdict:

This is a very well done, thoughtful and brave creation from Guerlain. It really showcases the expertise of Guerlain’s perfumers and I feel that they went to more of an experimental rather than a commercially crowd-pleasing round. I did not expect it to be this refined and unique but very classic and vintage-Esque at the same time. It’s a perfect example of “Past meets Present”.

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Shalimar Millésime Tonka

The performance is a no-brainer, very solid. “I love it,” says a guy who still finds the original Shalimar to be hard to wear. This is the Shalimar I’d wear and I want to wear! It’s a triple D from me, DING DONG DARLING! Shalimar Millésime Tonka Limited Edition is available in selected Guerlain’s retailers as 50ml Eau de Parfum. The suggested retail price is EUR114.

What are your thoughts on this annual limited edition series? Which note might be highlighted next year? Personally, I’m looking forward to see “Millésime Iris” or “Millésime Rose Absolue”. Share with me your thoughts in the comments section.