Just look at it.



In the mail the other day came a most extravagant package. Embarrassed to open it, yet seething with pleasure at the contents – which I shall not reveal in all their entirety right now –  the most thrilling creature inside this wrapped up, beautifully thought out,  and entirely uncalled for box, was surely Shalimar Hair Gel.




Yes, Shalimar Hair Gel. You did in fact read that correctly. And look at the bottle! Like some nubile Egyptian amphor by way of Alphonse Mucha, the blue, exquisite container surely makes the Shalimar lover quake in his slippers:  begin to doubt the beauty of the perfume and eau de toilette bottles themselves…………………………surely this blue, hypnotic, elegantly tall creation should have, instead, been the bottle? (this is never leaving my permanent collection).







The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘luxury’ as being



“The state of great comfort, and extravagant living”










“An inessential, desirable item that is expensive, or difficult, to obtain.”



Both these descriptions aptly seem, surely, to apply to this elegant ‘bath product’ that seems entirely extravagant, luxuriant, and, to the everyday, workaday, mortal, completely inessential.



Where perfume itself often seems so very profligate; so pure indulgence: auxiliaries: those body creams, and talcs, and bath oils, and powders and shower gels and deodorants and body mists seem surely more so:  so excessive; so damn delectably superfluous, guilt-ridden, even.



You will not be even remotely surprised to know though that I spent half my student loans at university on such sweet nourishing trifles. The amount of money that I gave out in order to maintain my Calvin Klein Obsession For Men body product obsession was quite honestly mindblowing: I was a living, barely breathing bonbon: my first true perfumed love as I rocked my oriental in deliberately provocative excess – pouring them down over my young body like an emperor, reeking out the stairwells; creating quite a reputation, smelling, and I know I did:  gorgeous.



This is the first time I have ever owned, or even owned a perfumed hair gel, mind you. I have seen Chanel N°5 hair perfuming sprays before, those brumes that must adorn the horse-kept, ribboned locks of kept, unquestioning, fine Parisians, but this is the first time for sure that I have seen a perfumed gel.







Gels, I have been using since I was a teenager. And they always come in tubes; cheap tubes of pliable soft plastic, with names on them written squarely across them like L’Oréal; or Schwarzkopf; or Boots. Squeezy tubes you add to your strands at the end as a touch-up, to lock things in place ( not that I have all so much thickened foliage up there these days to worry about maning and taming…….)



Still, that a hair gel should smell so delicious; and be housed in such a glass bottle; and that it should wing its way to my house here in Japan all the way from America, strikes me as very glorious.




How has this product been kept under wraps all this time? It smells like pure Shalimar blue-tinged perfection: all that you love about that scent without the weird leather-bergamot harsh contradictions of some recent batches. Just the soft vanillic-ness: the heart you knew all along from vintage, the classic Shalimar smell essentially, yet there dripping; fresh; unguently, waiting to just be manipulated there, right onto your head.




It is to be applied with an applicator, a top; a graze against your freshly washed locks to soften, and then beautifiully perfume them. I wore it on Sunday, in Shinjuku, and just taking up that bottle, and applying it to my finished person, with its lovely, lovely scent, I have to say, was absolute, and pure, wastrel luxury.





Thank you Rafael.






I miss it already.  



















shalimar 1



Filed under Flowers


  1. Ecstasy.

    I have never seen such a gorgeous bottle for something seemingly so unimportant! Treasure it well Neil, this, deservedly so, should never leave your collection 🙂

  2. Marina

    What a glorious luxurious present. Who is this Raphael ?

    I love it!!

    • A very generous man who loves perfume as much as I do. A scoundrel of the perfumest order.

    • I will be reciprocating, obviously, in kind, though will not be able to match it at all. A few grubby dribs of vintage will be sent his way. Nothing of this order. is this bottle (G….E……L for christsakes) not magnificent?

      • Marina

        Oh I know! This is a rare format indeed!

      • It most certainly is.

        I hope Rafael chips in and tells us the story.


        Did Cleopatra send it from the beyond?

        I think so.

      • Rafael

        Heavens! I’m so happy you’re enjoying. No reciproacation necessary, I assure you. To the contrary, it’s a pleasure to be under obligation to you for all the happy moments (particularly this one such as it happens because I’m reading it before going into a meeting with a remarkably dull agenda for the rest of the afternoon.)

  3. Marina

    I love it!
    Who’s is this Raphael? What a gift!

  4. I was actually working for Guerlain when this product was released. I thought it was such a lovely idea and such glorious indulgence. Sadly, whilst working for Guerlain, and receiving copious amounts of gratis and free goodies, I took it all for granted. Now I wish I had hoarded and cherished more of the wonderful products we had available at that time; never realized how ephemeral so many Guerlain ancillary products would be. Treasure this lovely luxury and indulge frequently, just a touch will create a parfum end aura all day long.

    • Brielle I think it is always the way that when anything becomes too plentiful we take it for granted. I think that if I ever leave Japan one day the lack of readily available cheap and unwanted vintage perfume, for example, will leave me bereft!

      How gorgeous nevertheless to have had access to free Guerlain goodies. This is a really amazing product, I think, and just shows how important presentation is in such things. I recently had a Shalimar gift set whose shower gel and body lotion were strangely under par. Ok, of course, and I used them, obviously, but the lotion was most definitely not ‘divine’, as claimed, and didn’t have that eye-rolling quality that the best luxuriant products should have.

      On the other hand, there was a year or two ago an older edition body lotion in a vintage shop in Yokohama that I didn’t have enough cash on me to purchase at the time, but just sniffing at the lid I could tell that it had the thickness, the luxuriance, and rich fragrance that you really want.

      Can you torture me a bit more please and tell me what other discontinued products you have experienced?

      • Oh, goodness. The goodies I had available to me? well…here it goes… I had all of the Aqua Allegoria fragrances (the original ones). I had all the classic scents; Chant d’Aromes, Nahema, Apres l’Ondee, Parure (oh, how I adore Parure), L’Heure Bleue, Liu, Vol de Nuit, etc… I had Metallica (tester bottle) I had all of the deodorant sprays (Nahema, Chamade, Jardins de Bagatelle, Shalimar, Samsara, Jicky. etc…) I had a 1oz tester bottle of Shalimar (the gold-plated version of the older edt spray bottle) I had Winter Delice before it was released. I also had a proto-type bottle of Mahora, before it was even officially named and before they made the final tweaks and ruined it; too cloying and gooey. I had the Shalimar Hair Gel (same one you have) I had the Samsara Hair Gel also. I had Guet-Apens (in the blue lantern bottle) and Guerlinade also. That is just a fraction of the things I had received while working for Guerlain; the make-up and skin care was wonderful also, had tons of it. But, that is over ten years ago since I worked for them and I have used up much and could never replace due to discontinuation. I also sold off quite a bit on ebay, seeing that I was not “in love” with quite a few of the scents I owned. But there are so many things I wish i had not stupidly given away to friends who did not truly appreciate what they were receiving; a Meteorites Cloisonnée bottle of Shalimar parfum is one particular item that still tortures me…but, c’est la vie.


  5. *parfumed. (Damned auto correct)

    • Sally M

      THUD! (at the list of Guerlain treasures above, not the auto error ;-))

      • Yes, those heady days of working for Guerlain. I just listed one of my last items I am selling from those days, an edt tester of Chamade. Foolishly, I gave away the things I liked early on. to friends, and held on to the rarer items and eventually sold them off on ebay; just not enough love for most scents I held onto. Oh, it felt great having such a collection at one point.

      • Did you really have to sell them off? I suppose if they are unwanted and can bring in some cash it is understandable. It’s just that so many of the Guerlain perfumes are exquisite, Chamade being one of them. I would even go so far as to say that it is the best perfume ever made, in vintage.

        The idea of Nahema deodorant as well is fairly mind-blowing. That rosy peachiness drifting up from one’s body….

        And I totally understand your love for Parure. I once had a miniature vintage parfum and it was AMAZING. So rich, purple, deep, alluring…..the rarity of a Guerlain patchouli perfume……I have the current bottle and it is ok but there is something in there that puts me off.

      • Yes, I had quite the collection going on. But I ended up letting others enjoy them. Better than keeping them in my wardrobe.

      • Oh but then they might seep into your clothes as well, lightly and surreptitiously. Which Guerlain store? What part of the world at least if you don’t want to be too specific.

      • Oh, and when I sold them all off it was truly just to clear things out, also to let others enjoy scents that they may have loved, ones that I just had in my “collection”.
        The Nahema deodorant was just heavenly, not too overpowering, but just enough that you would catch a whiff of it from time to time.
        Discontinuing Parure was pretty much a criminal act, but I do not think they could have kept producing it with the IFRA restrictions. It probably would have smelt closer to mothballs than scent.

      • It WAS gorgeous though. Strangely un-Guerlainish in a way I think, somehow. Which strengths did it exist in? How did you smell in it? I know that Kim Cattrall is famed for having bought up a huge stockpile of the vintage upon hearing that it was going to be discontinued. I wonder what trail she gives off….

  6. Katy

    Rafael strews perfume pearls profligately! What a treasure! I covet that hair gel. His Angel plus Yatagan combo, well, I think my nose had an orgasm. My strange reaction to this, since I felt like the Queen of Babylon, was to pile on all my lapi lazuli jewelry, my huge Afghan earrings, multiple bracelets, amber rings, African copper beads, so nice with all that blue. I was a reeking, clanking stupendous mess! And yes, I sailed majestically off to my job at the bookstore! I think I scared people. It was fantastic. Perhaps you will have a similar reaction to your hair gel!

    • Rafael

      Hi Katy- I wonder at your comment “strange reaction”. As I followed the lines of your wardrobe selections for the day I thought “Why, that’s any Tuesday at my house.” 🙂

      • Katy

        I shall amend that to “my very appropriate reaction.” Any Tuesday at your house? You are not anywhere near the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, are you. If you are, I shall pack all my perfumes, beads, orchids, flying carpets(I have a textile obsession), strange beers, beetle wings, peculiar succulents and be right over!

      • What’s on the soundtrack? And what’s for dinner?

        Can I come?

        What are we drinking?

    • I love this story and can imagine it magnificently. Sometimes we just have to do these things, somehow. At the moment I am working all the time because it is pre-exam season, and thus cannot wear strong scent. Just something inoffensive like Body Shop Satsuma, a nothing.

      So on Sunday, going out to meet Duncan in Tokyo, I had a bath in the Bal A Versailles bath gel he sent, then layered myself in the divine coconut Skin Trip body lotion he also sent, topped it up with some home-made talc (vanilla beans left in an unscented talc); splashed on a load of Guerlain Tonka Imperiale, and then to finish, after using an unscented shampoo, caressed my locks with Shalimar Hair gel.

      Oh yes, siree. I needed to leave the house like that on Sunday. It felt like a liberating gusto of mad myself.

      • Katherine

        Homemade talc! All of these descriptions and this article sound joyous and make me want to up my scent game and indulge! I love bath time and the luxurious idea of extending that , layering up, I feel I have sadly neglected myself! Nothing to even come close to the beauty of this item, but there is a lovely leonor greyl hair oil that smells of jasmine…

      • I mean doing all this on a daily basis would sicken entire neighborhoods, but there are times when it is just perfect; it feels like armour and a shield and you can just niggle up to yourself inside it as you walk and waft. Love it.

      • Sally M

        BaV bath gel!! What??!!! Where. Can. I, Get. Some???
        I’ve never made home made talc before although I do make body lotion in a similar way – unscented lotion (Eucerin is great for this) and a few drops of perfume, which also feels very decadent. I started doing this because several of the ready made lotions didn’t smell enough like the perfume they took after – Shalimar was one that comes to mind. Too wimpy. So now – much to some of my perfumista friend’s horror – glug glug goes the bottle into the cream. I have a tiny tea bamboo tea whisk to do the mixing and it works a treat. I did one with vanilla beans in the cream – glorious. I’m going to try that with talc.

      • I love that you do these mad things as well. There is something extra decadent about being irreverent with perfumes: I have remixed several in my time, but strangely have never come up with the body lotion idea. Must try.

        As for the talc, it works. I love to ‘top’ orientals especially with talc as I can stem some of the pungency (Bal A Versailles especially) while locking in more of the creaminess. The vanilla beans I got in Java are very multi-faceted; vanillic, of course, but also quite animalic and naughty smelling. When smothered inside their bottle of unscented talc, they begin to suffuse it, and I have been enjoying it immensely.

        Agree about the Shalimar body lotion as well. I was definitely not satisfied with the one I had recently. Too lemonene and sickly smelling.

        These things must simply be done.

    • Sally M

      Excellent. I wish I lived near your bookstore- I’d be in there all the time. Of course I wouldn’t have to ask for your whereabouts – just close my eyes, inhale and listen…

  7. Katy

    Lapis lazuli. I’m sorry. I get excited and my fingers cannot keep up with my brain…..

  8. ninakane1

    Gorgeous bottle and lovely review as ever. I’ve discovered the beauty of perfumed lotion recently after finding a bottle of Carolina Herrera’s Parfum body lotion, complete with spotty white and gold box, in TK Max on New Year’s Day! It was a drizzly, quiet, 3pm Leeds, and I was working off the after-effects of the previous night and browsing through the detritus of the Xmas sale racks, when there it was! I felt utterly transported and uplifted on smelling it and just had to buy it. It’s mainly jasmine, possibly with some tuberose or gardenia, and, I realised after wearing it a few days, a hint of white tea in it. I love it so much. It reminds me of a bubble-bath oil M&S produced for one season only in the mid-90s – a most gorgeous concoction of Jasmine, Earl Grey tea and Royal Jelly! I was gutted when they discontinued it and have never found it since. Anyway, with the exception of a friend’s birthday meal last week (where I wore my usual party cocktail), I’ve been driven to perfume ascetism, and have worn nothing but a dab of this on the wrists each morning for the whole of 2014 so far!

    • Nina, thank god for TK Maxx!

      I love it when these unloved products from years back wash up on strange shores for the picking. The Herrera used to be quite a well esteemed full-figured, blousy jasmine way back in the day. I think our Carolina is Venezuelan by birth, and some of that colour gets infused into the very sweet, and gorgeously American, products.

      Before she went downhill perfume-wise there was Carolina, and also Herrera for men, which I got through at least three bottles of and almost choked Emma to death on when she accompanied me to Trinity College Ball. I kept reapplying it as I was addicted to the tobacco flower top note, but its sweetness was really quite dizzying and must have been a bit too much.

      Sometimes when it is cold and grey, though, a brand new smell you have never known before can be incredibly soothing, a harbinger of new days, as if you are becoming re-acquainted with yourself in a previously unknown, reborn way. And something optimistic and revivifying like Carolina I can really imagine being lovely. A bolstering floral.

      Incidentally I was of course also thinking of you when I was writing about Isezakicho and the bargains I always find there. As you have been there and felt the instantly soothing spiritual effect, which we both felt simultaneously, I know that I am not just imagining it. Funny how the supposedly ‘down at heel’ areas are in fact by far the easiest to be in.


      • ninakane1

        I was thinking about that day when I read that one too! There was something beautifully still about the energy in those streets. It was amazing how the mood changed when we stepped into the area. I was transfixed by the pan-pipe 60s hits played on the street tannoys, and for some reason the taste of the chicken I ate in that little street-bar is one of my strongest memories of visiting.

        Love the story about Trinity Ball with Emma btw. Totally brought back a Cambridge memory – but that’s one for another time x

  9. The bottle is beyond magnificent!

  10. Martha

    That bottle is a treasure. Filling it with hair gel is really a stroke of genius. I would completely clear my bathroom vanity of everything and display only that bottle and be well satisfied. On second thought, perhaps it doesn’t belong in the bathroom, maybe in a showcase in the most public room in the house. It is a funny coincidence that today I should receive from ebay my first ever bottle of Shalimar. The seller claimed it was “from the 1960’s”, but I doubt that claim. However, it really doesn’t matter since I find the aroma to be addictive. You’re right about the “weird leather-bergamot contradiction”. It is a strange juxtaposition. But oh, the vanilla goodness. I am imagining that your hair is probably a magnet of sorts when groomed with the Shalimar gel. Lucky you!

    • Older Shalimar is always better, but good lord yes, when it dries down…..almost nothing can beat it. What strength is it in?

      And looking on Amazon, I see they have twenty bottles left of the very same hair gel selling at a very reasonable price. Snap one up now and get your bathroom ready!

  11. Martha

    The strength is extrait, I THINK. At least that’s my assumption. It is that fan/bat shaped bottle. The foot is the one that is not tightly tapered. The label indicates Shalimar and nothing else, gold with dark blue edges. There was a blue plastic covering around the stopper and neck. Also, a dark blue and yellow twisted cord around the bottle neck with a small gold metal clasp displaying a “g”. It came in a medium dark purple velveteen case. The bottom of the foot had raised glass lettering stating that the bottle was made in France, and the amount of juice.

    I checked Amazon and now there are 19 hair gels remaining. Thank you for the tip.

      • Rafael

        Sensing there’s to be a run on my secret hair product. I best stock up. Sniffing at my head like hounds, no one can ever guess what this is when I have it on. All they know is they love it and end up mumbling into my head. Oddest thing. I see I must be careful sharing all my candy making secrets with you in future or else buy Baker’s Dozens of things before I post about them. 🙂

      • Sorry! I got carried away with it! The whole package is so gorgeous I couldn’t help but share it. In future, not that there is to be future now that I have gone all Edward Snowden on you, please label these things TOP SECRET.

      • Incidentally I was wondering, what is your method? Do you wash your hair, dry it, then add it? Or apply on wet hair and leave it to dry naturally? I know these details count. And must it be unscented shampoo?

  12. Sally M

    18 left .
    My hair thanks you. What a ridiculously decadent addition to my collection…

    • Rafael is going to kill me. The next thing coming in the post is anthrax.

      • Rafael

        Hah! Not at all. I did order three additional today just in case. Noticed that several people ordered today from Ebay and Amazon. Someone bought seven bottles (which is so great. “Yes, I’ll have all of them please.”) Much glee that comes from turning people on to something this fun. I wash my hair with whatever I’m using for the rest of it. Today it was Antaeus. As for application, I apply one small (small, Neal.) dollop to wet hair and style as usual (which in my case means running out the door gasping as i’m always running late). It’s a mild hold with a lot of shine and that decadent swirl of suggestion emanating from every follicle. I’m also known to use it as a pick- me- up to banish the night before if I’ve thought myself clever and said that previous evening “Let’s have breakfast.” If you can find the body cream the suspension of the fragrance is very intense. Are you into oils at all? i love bath oil , especially vintage, of some favorites. It’s a very dense form of the fragrance and in summer works beautifully when diluted a bit with another oil. For me it’s Sweet Almond. I have a wonderful vintage No19 as well as Cabochard, L’Heure Bleue and Jolie Madame at present.

      • Your taste is magnificent. I love it.

      • Rafael, did you say a No. 19 BATH OIL? I think I would be at risk of drowning myself in the bathtub if I had that, lol.

      • What would it be like, though? Somehow I can’t quite imagine it. I think I would like it best if it were like the original EDP in the silver box bottle ; really irisy and green. Heavenly.

        I have lost touch with Rafael but he also incredibly generously put some Bandit shower gel in the package! I still use it sometimes when I want a patchouli chypre leather added facet. It was an amazing gift. There were other things too but they have slipped my addled mind.

  13. I also a=ordered one of these gels, for old time sake. Thank you so much for the info about Amazon. Just adore Shalimar, could bathe in it…oh, that’s right, I used to all the time 😉

    • Lord that must be delicious. Shalimar bathing products. What were the soaps like? Can’t beat a good soap.

      It’s amazing how much they change the formulae though. The original Chanel 19 bath soap, for example, was an absolute marvel. It clearly did actually contain tons of natural iris. It was triple milled and hard, lasted forever, and left the most beautiful scent on the skin ready to be layered with the perfume.

      The more recent soap is just this horrible green, artificial thing with none of the above, just a brittle vetiver. I can imagine that some of the original Shalimar products contained the full unctuousness.

      • Sorry I did not reply sooner. The Shalimar bath products were absolutely heavenly. The soaps, of the soaps…all pretty pinkish coloured in their beautiful greenish (older packaging) travel cases. The scent was just as lovely as the extrait. I think now the scent may have been tweaked down just a little bit, but still nice enough.
        I can completely empathize about the Chanel No 19 soap. I had quite a stash of them; I purchased around 5 from a beauty retailer who was selling off older stock. I had the older No 19 bars, the ones without a barcode even. They were just heavenly. I will look in my wardrobe and see if I have any left, I might have one, if I do have one still there, I will send it off to you. i do hope I still have some. Will inform you soon.

      • Blimey, you have secret stashes of these things? How gorgeous. I love that you know the bliss and the disappointment that these luxuriant naughtinesses can induce.

  14. Martha

    17 left on Amazon. My hair will be glorious. Thank you, Neal. Thank you, Rafael.

  15. Katherine

    I’m now hankering after a Shalimar bath… They also do a foaming bath I see but no longer the bath oil. Thing is I use so much body lotion and don’t know a great ‘neutral’ cream, they all smell of something, Creme de Corps by Kiehls is quite nice and you get a lot of it but still works out expensive. Also want to try the Bal a Versailles shower gel! I feel like trying the Shalimar range but was it really disappointing the recent stuff?

  16. Sorry I am always so slow in responding. Goodness, it is so hard to follow the comments when they come into my inbox. I used to work for Guerlain at Bloomingdale’s in Chestnut Hill MA, in the states here. An exceptionally upscale community West of Boston.
    I also adore Parure, probably more than Kim Catrell, if I had known they would discontinue it, I would have stocked up on it also. That one caught me by surprise; I had thought it was going to be Chant d’Aromes they discontinued. Whixh would have been just as much of a shame.

    • I love how you KNOW that you love it more than Kim: did you manage to get even one bottle?

      I love Chant D’Aromes as well. A lot.

      • I do have a backup bottle, which should do me well. It is truly such an opulent, yet wearable, Guerlain. I do adore Chant d’Aromes quite a bit. I look at both of these scents as being on the same level, yet entirely unique. It is strange how I rarely think of one and not the other. I think I will wear Parure, then Chant and see why I tend to sister them together.
        **left you a message on your fabulous No 22 review about a Chamade soap, let me know if you would like it. Could not find the No19 though, sad to say.

  17. I never, ever knew or dreamed there existed such a thing as a Shalimar hair gel in a GLASS bottle! How utterly unnecessary and divine! You lucky, lucky duck!

    I know the smell is gorgeous, but I am dying to know about the hold and the longevity of the scent.

    Ps. I want to paint my aparment that blue color!

  18. Tara C

    What a gorgeous thing of beauty! I used to have the Shalimar roll-on deodorant, in a lovely frosted clear glass bottle and blue bakelite cap. If I had known they were going to discontinue it I would have bought a case. The canned spray deodorant I last bought was vile.

    • You know I just looked this up to see if it is still available anywhere on eBay or whatever (of course not), and some other Shalimar hair spray came up instead. I haven’t smelled it, but can’t imagine it was as gorgeous as this. The bottle itself is honestly museum worthy – made of glass. I thoroughly enjoyed using it, and took it back to England, where my mum was so enraptured by the bottle I was compelled to hand it over to her!

      I love the idea of a Shalimar roll on….how gorgeous with a winter sweater.

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