The Scented Hound

Abbreviated perfume & fragrance reviews from one man's perspective


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Vintage Shopping: Hermès Calèche and the Guerlain Mystery Perfume

I love shopping for vintage perfumes.  I mean, physically going to antique stores and estate sales to find those hidden gems.  One of the down sides of living in Mexico is that there are neither.  Yes, once in a while I can find a vintage perfume online, but it’s not quite the same of the rush of finding a treasure hidden in some dark cabinet in the back of a store.

We recently went back to the US to the outskirts of Seattle, Washington.  We love Mexico, but getting away from the heat every once in a while is essential and that part of the country is incredibly beautiful and the weather this time of the year is perfect.  But one of the best things about going back to the US, even in this time of COVID, is the ability to go shopping for vintage perfume.  What a treat!

Of course, these days, not all of the antique stores were open.  And in the ones that were, the the pickings were rather slim , unless you were looking for the random celebrity perfume.  But I did manage to find a bottle of 1980’s Hermès Calèche Eau de Toilette.  The perfume was used, came in a weathered box and was not the greatest bargain.  Even with given all of that, of course I had to purchase the perfume!

WHAT I SMELL:  Calèche opens with bright aldehydes, mixed with the lightest of soap tinged soft and tender florals.  Quickly, a light oakmoss begins to appear from below and the perfume becomes a bit more muted with a cottony finish.  In short time, the florals, now warmer, come forward with a richness and radiance that is pure luxury.  And as the perfume continues to settle, a light leather pins itself under the dusty florals.  Calèche is never heavy, nor sweet, but is an understated confident beauty that radiates a elegant aura.

From the Hermes website:

Written in 1961 by Guy Robert, Calèche was Hermès’ first fragrance for women. A highly feminine, woody, chypre floral, its name refers to the horse-drawn carriages that are emblematic of the house. Calèche is a novel that dazzles with the beauty of its raw materials, from the joyfulness of citrus fruit to the modernity of aldehyde notes; from the floral heart embellished with ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine to the woody, chypre sillage underscored by the nobility of the iris.

Jane Fonda

WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME:  1970’s sophistication.

THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE CALÈCHE:  dusty, easy, tailored

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT CALÈCHEThe Black Narcissus, Yesterday’s Perfume, The Vintage Perfume Vault

BOTTOM LINE:  I have no regrets with my purchase and surprisingly it seems that the top notes have held up better than I had anticipated.  Calèche is a beauty that is easy to wear and thankfully perfect for the hot Mexican weather as the sun and heat make it bloom without being too heavy.

  • Bone Rating: 4.5 out of possible 5 bones
  • Scent: Floral Aldehyde
  • Nose: Guy Robert
  • Classification: Leans feminine
  • Expense: Prices for vintage vary.  Review based on the eau de toilette version.

EPILOGUE:  When I transport vintage and used perfumes in my luggage, I typically use Parafilm to ensure that the perfumes don’t leak.  If you haven’t heard of Parafilm, I suggest you read the wise words of Undina who has helped me save many a perfume throughout the years.  However, this time, even though I carried Parafilm with me, I failed to use it and the bottle leaked.  I didn’t lose a great amount of perfume, but just enough to ruin the already tattered box as well as to rub the finish off the perfume’s cap.  Of course, this does nothing to take away the beauty of the perfume…but I, like most other perfumistas, would rather have a pristine bottle sitting on my shelf.  Lesson learned!

The damaged Calèche and the Guerlain Mystery Perfume.

VINTAGE GUERLAIN MYSTERY PERFUME

When I travel to the US to visit friends, I typically will purchase a few items on eBay before I go, just because I can’t do it here in Mexico.  Prior to going to the US this time, I noted that there was a 100 ml vintage Guerlain cologne bottle for sale at a very low cost.  The bottle had no label on the front and no label on the bottom.  On the plus side the perfume was sealed.  And I should say that I love Guerlain colognes as they’re perfect for the Mexican heat.  So, for a mere $35, I purchased the perfume.  So what was in the mystery bottle?  Or was it just a factice?

The mystery perfume turned out to be Shalimar.  The really wasn’t a surprise as it seems to be the most widely available vintage Guerlain cologne on eBay.  I have no complaints as the bottle is in great shape and the perfume smells fabulous.   For $35 would you have purchased the perfume even without a label?  As for me, I would do it again in a heartbeat.


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Guerlain Shalimar Souffle de Parfum

Shalimar Souffle de Parfum2I love Shalimar and the intoxicating effect is has on me; it stands out in my collection as a classic and revered masterpiece.  So when I reached down in my big bag of untested samples and saw the sample of Shalimar Souffle de Parfum I immediately thought to myself that I was going to hate it.  I admit, that I was being prejudicial prior to testing this, but the words “souffle” and “Shalimar” together had me very concerned.  Shalimar is delightfully refined and adult…I am wondering if this new flanker was mean to bring the kiddies into the big time…maybe like the perfumed Joe Camel?!

Peeps2

Peeps

WHAT I SMELL:  Tangy lemon and then a buttered orange creme that’s surprisingly rich, lush, gourmand and inviting.  I like the fact that there’s a sweetness about the opening that is rooted in the lemon, but without a high dosage of sugar.  There’s also a wonderful shimmering hue that makes the fragrance sparkle.  After around 10 minutes the jasmine takes center stage, it’s clean and fresh and topped by the citrus.  I have to say that the fragrance thus far feels like a big chemical concoction.  However, in this case, that’s not a bad thing.  After another 5 minutes, Souffle (as I’ll call it from here out) starts to grown in projection.  There’s a creaminess that comes forward combined with vanilla that makes the perfume feel like a cross between an egg custard and a Peep.  The white musk adds a dryer sheet effect to the perfume which again, I feel like the combination of the Peeps, dryer sheets, etc. should make this a wreck.  Well, it’s not.  It’s just a flanker that is targeted to a younger audience and in that case, I would say that it works.  In the end, Souffle is a lemony tart souffle that’s bright and sunny.

From Guerlain:

inspired by a fabulous Indian love story, Jacques Guerlain created the legendary Shalimar perfume in 1925. Now, Thierry Wasser has breathed new life into this legendary perfume, taking it to the heights of sensuality.  A luminous, modern creation with notes of jasmine, vanilla and white musk.

easter-basketWHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME:  An Easter basket.

THREE ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE SHALIMAR SOUFFLE DE PARFUM:  happy, fresh, fluffy

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT SHALIMAR SOUFFLE DE PARFUM:  Now Smell This, Colognoisseur, The Candy Perfume Boy

BOTTOM LINE:  If you remove yourself from trying to compare this to the original Shalimar you’ll find that this is a nice light treat that’s perfect for a younger audience.  And I have to say that the name fits perfectly…this is a souffle of a perfume!

  • Bone Rating: 3.5 out of possible 5 bones
  • Scent: Oriental Floral
  • Nose:  Thierry Wasser
  • Classification: Feminine
  • Expense:  $100 for 1.7 oz. Eau de Parfum


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Oh Vintage Shalimar, How I Love Thee

SHALIMAR08010 BASEA

I have no idea how it happened, but somehow in the past I dismissed Guerlain’s Shalimar.  Maybe because I smelled it on a blotter and it just didn’t do anything for me, or maybe it’s because I smelled it at the same time I had just taken a whiff of Mitsouko (too medicinal for my tastes), but for some reason no love was registered on my part.  So a few weeks back I was in a small antique store in Fredericksburg, Virginia and lo and behold they had a selection of perfumes, mostly minis and mostly made up of Liz Taylor White Diamonds and the like.  But there in the case were 2 bottles of unopened vintage Shalimar Eau de Toilettes in the gold box (just as in the pic below).  They were marked at $12.00 a piece with a 20% discount (the original CVS sticker on the box stated $35.00… I hadn’t realized they even sold Guerlain at CVS!).  At that price what did I have to lose.  So I purchased one of the bottles and as soon as we got in the car I opened the box, sprayed liberally (and practically choked my husband out of the car) and that’s when it happened; magic.  Shalimar cast her spell over me and I haven’t looked back since.  So spurred by this magic spell I had to go even further.  A few days later I got on eBay to find myself a bottle of parfum extrait and once again….though completely different from the EdT, Shalimar Parfum Extrait cast her spell.  Love is such a beautiful thing.

1920's Glamour

1920’s Glamour

WHAT I SMELL – Parfum Extrait:   The perfume opens with a big and bright citrus and bergamot.  The citrus is directly from the peel, big, bold and full.  There’s nothing sharp, but the opening is bright, uplifting and dynamic. The infused florals are slightly heady and beautifully warm.  It’s big and full and proper, but slightly naughty.  It’s like the most luxurious silken pillow that you’ve ever rested your head on.  After around 45 minutes an incense in combination with the bite of the civet make their way in.  What was bright and bursting with energy now turns more vampish…constrained vampishness, but you know it’s there.  As it continues to develop there’s a darkened sensuality that pulses from the heart of the perfume, the incense is so subdued and there’s a hint of leather that smells like a well oiled and rubbed baseball mitt.  It’s stays in this phase for some time until hours later when the fragrance begins to dry and it becomes a warm vanilla dream.  Oh Shalimar, you’re glamorous, earthy, rounded and just plain gorgeous!

Top notes: bergamot, lemon, mandarin, rosewood

Heart notes: rose, jasmine, orris, vetiver, patchouli

Basenotes: opoponax, vanilla, civet, Peru balsam, benzoin, coumarin (tonka bean), leather

WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME:  1920’s glamour.  Created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, the fragrance perfectly fits the era, the glamour and the intersection of the Victorian moral scrossing with the newly modern and daring women of the day.

THREE ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE SHALIMAR PARFUM EXTRAIT:  knowing, vibrant, seductive

  • Bone Rating – Vintage Shalimar Parfum Extrait – 5 bones

vintge-guerlain-shalimar-eau-de-toiletteWHAT I SMELL – Eau de Toilette:  Shalimar EdT opens with a cool citrus that quickly becomes spicy and slightly peppery.  From the way the perfume smells I expect it to be heavy, but it’s not as it’s much more radiant and ethereal.  The citrus carries on nicely without any bite and the floral tinged amber is embedded with an incense that is as light as can be.  It really is bewitching.  The fragrance maintains this light and airy incense, but after around the 45 minute mark in comes a light and sweetened creaminess (but yet is still rather dry…its almost a contradiction) that’s like a kitten’s purr.  It stays in this creamy dream for a good long time.  Finally, after hours, in the end you’re left with a dried light vanilla that’s soft, pretty with just a hint of mystery.

Desert HazeWHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME:  desert haze

THREE ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE SHALIMAR EAU DE TOILETTE: soft, subtle, mysterious

  • Bone Rating – Vintage Shalimar Eau de Toilette – 4 bones

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT VINTAGE SHALIMAR:  Yesterday’s Perfume, Perfume Shine, Muse in Wooden Shoes

BOTTOM LINE:  Of the two versions, the parfum extrait is my favorite, it’s just so lush and seductive.  The EdT is perfect for wearing everyday, in fact, my bottle after a few weeks is already 1/4 drained. I guess the lesson here is never to poo-poo a perfume just because it didn’t do anything for you on a blotter.  There is obviously a reason that Shalimar has lasted for so many years…it’s because it’s incredible and somehow I feel it was created just for me.