Those whom have been bitten by the Guerlain 'bug' will know of this fragrance house's tendency to recycle perfume names. The 1933 release Vol de Nuit loaned its name to the 2007 perfume Vol de Nuit Evasion, just as the name of the 1933 scent Sous le Vent was later borrowed in 2009 for Teracotta Sous le Vent, despite each of these fragrances being poles apart in style and character. What one seldom sees, however, is the borrowing of a bottle: a Guerlain perfume which has been presented in a flacon reserved for another. Such things are rare and unique anomalies.
When this vintage 80ml extrait turned up recently, I had to do a double-take. Presented in the "bouchon cœur" flacon usually reserved for L'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko and Fol Arôme, this scarce Shalimar edition at first made me a little dubious. Nowhere before had I seen nor read of Shalimar ever being presented in this iconic flacon. So I turned to the professionals. In my initial contact with Mrs Christie Mayer Lefkowith - renowned perfume historian and author of a number of perfume books - Mrs Lefkowith validated this bottle as authentic. Further to this, perfume historian and author Ms Geneviève Fontan also confirmed its scarcity and authenticity. But neither made mention as to its vintage. I began to wonder at which point along the sweeping Guerlain timeline, this rare aberration might have appeared.
The"bouchon cœur" flacon was first designed in 1911 by Raymond Guerlain for the perfumes L'Heure Bleue (1912) and Fol Arôme (1912), and then used later when Mitsouko was created in 1919. At this point in history, glass bottles were in short supply at the end of WWI. Many basic resources were scant, which might help explain why all three perfumes were presented in this particular flacon. Whilst the "bouchon cœur" flacon was the first produced by Guerlain that reflected Art Nouveau style, it was not necessary back then to design a new bottle for every new perfume. Philippe Guerlain once said "Guerlain has created more than three hundred perfumes, but we have not found three hundred different bottles"!
Shalimar was in fact created in 1921, but was held in reserve until the Decorative Arts Exhibition in 1925, where it was presented for the first time ever in the iconic blue-stoppered fan-shaped flacon. So I wonder what might have become of it over those four long years between its origination and its commercial debut. Perhaps Shalimar was housed for a time in the only flacons immediately accessible to Guerlain: the bouchon cœur?
Or, it is quite possible that perhaps this unique presentation preceded or followed the second world war. Economic changes and the bombing of factories at that time resulted in the restricted production of the Flacon de Guerre in 1938 - a much less decorative bottle used primarily for export to house a number of Guerlain scents, including Shalimar. Meanwhile, back on their home soil could Maison Guerlain have perhaps turned to their existing repository of 'bouchon coeur' flacons as a means to move forward with production post-WWII?
I have resigned myself to the idea that I may never know the true origin of this charming perfume peculiarity. This blog piece is full of supposition, and so it remains a mystery. But really, isn't that part of the allure of the magnificent Guerlain? That there always seems to be a little folklore woven into the tapestry of its history?