Now, I’m not a Shalimar guy. Believe me I’ve tried. I don’t even think I’m a Mitsouko guy, which, for any self-respecting smell-nerd is at least heresy adjacent. I avoided Guerlain’s other pillar L’Heure Bleue because when reviewing the first post-IFRA version Tania Sanchez only had this to say:
A pretty stranger has come in claiming to be your best beloved. It is hard to be angry with her. She is clearly out of her mind; they look nothing alike. You sit and wait patiently for your love to turn up. The windows go dark, night after night while the stranger smiles and dawdles, waiting for you to forget. Can you?
With no access to the vintage stuff, I wrote LHB off entirely. Who wouldn’t? After a competent opening, that version gets grim pretty quickly. I can’t imagine why they would they let it go to market. If there’s any justice, sales would’ve been miserable.
Not really meaning to, I ended up at the Guerlain counter at Saks in Beverly Hills. Their rep Alejandro is one of my all time favorite people working sales. He’s honest about reformulations. He doesn’t try to sell you anything. And he’s more than happy to wile away hours letting you dig through his magic drawer of back stock. Last visit, he let me smell the newest version of L’Heure Bleue, reformulated by Guerlain’s head nose Thierry Wasser. Y’all, please believe the hype: LHB is back.
Yes, it’s got a bit of a modern sheen, and it probably doesn’t quite have the staying power of the old stuff, but this stuff moves. You can practically hear the strings when you spray it on. It flirts with edibility but never quite resolves itself as either a gourmand or not a gourmand. It is the best kind of coquette.
But hold your horses, folks, because then something miraculous happened. A friend of mine got a bottle of the parfum–wait for it–FROM THE 1930s!!! And that stuff, to quote Bob Odenkirk, makes other perfume smell like fucking horseshit. It makes No. 5 seem like a snooze. It makes Knize Ten seem staid. It packs a blast of romance and drama unlike anything I’ve ever smelled. I’m tempted to say that it will be hard to go back to normal life after this, but the truth is that it could only make normal life better. Until I meet its like again, that one brief shimmer of beauty will keep me warm. It makes this weary world seem a little brighter.