Gatsby’s Garden ~ Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

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“When I was a girl of 17 I went to all of Gatsby’s parties. That’s were I met Bill .”

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It was just before dawn. Mark Post closed his great grandmother Marie’s ancient diary and put it in his backpack. He looked at the rusted gates of 111 Kings Point Road and took a deep breath. The no trespassing sign hung sideways from one screw and was almost completely covered with ivy. He looked up and down the road. There was no sign of anyone watching. In a scrabble of arms and legs he was over the gate in fifteen seconds. When his feet hit the driveway he could have sworn he heard music coming from the beach beyond the trees.

It was a quarter of a mile though the trees overgrown with ivy along the cracked and buckled drive to where the house once stood.

“I never met Jay Gatsby. No one ever saw him. We just came there every weekend from the city because the word was out that he gave spectacular parties. The place overflowed with free liquor and the best jazz bands from Harlem.”gatsby pool party

A robin’s egg blue predawn sky dimly lit the pit overgrown with weeds where the chateau of dreams Gatsby had built for his Daisy once stood. Three Corinthian columns were all that remained of the portico that opened to the terrace and the formal gardens that stretched from the house to the beach of Manhasset Bay.

Mark hopped up on the low foundation wall and made his way gingerly to the columns. He stood in silence and looked out over the expanse before him. In the distance across the bay twinkled the lights of Sands Point where Daisy’s house stood until just a few years ago. The cloudless sky behind those winking fading lights was turning pale pink. When he walked down the broken steps to the dirty marble terrace once again he heard distant strains of an old tune.

“Bill was an odd duck. He was not a rich boy and had no prospects. But he was handsome and could dance like nobody’s business. He wore Shalimar. All the girls called him sissy to his face because he wore that perfume.  They thought he was “funny that way”.  But I knew he wasn’t and I didn’t care because it smelled wonderful on him. Bill just laughed at those silly women and then swept me onto the dance floor and held me tight as we pivoted into a fox trot.

Mark moved slowly across the terrace and down the last sweeping set of stairs to the haunted remains of the formal garden. There were wildly overgrown roses on ether side of the wide path that lead to the beach. They seemed all to be leaning toward the east in anticipation of the sunrise. Ancient flowers filled with perfumed memories of  past loves long dead. Only the sunlight could make them bloom and bring love to life again.

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“On the day I married Bill he gave me his bottle of Shalimar and said he would never wear it again. He told me that he only wore it because he knew that it was the perfume that would lead him to the woman he would marry. ‘It is your perfume now’ he told me. And ever since my wedding day, it has been and always will be my perfume.”

Mark reached the place where the garden ended and the beach began. Rotting wooden posts reached out from the shore into the bay where the old dock once stood. They seemed to be forever reaching toward the lights of Sands Point and a long forgotten green light.

Mark opened his backpack and took out a small silver box and a tiny bottle of Shalimar.

“Bill has been gone now for many years.  And now in my 104th year I know I will be joining him soon. I hope that heaven is like those glorious parties at Gatsby’s and that I will meet Bill there and dance forever in his arms enfolded in an eternal cloud of Jazz music and Shalimar.”

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(Photo stolen from Mr. and Mrs. David Aylor)

At the edge of the garden where Mark imagined Marie had first met Bill he buried the silver box containing a few mingled ashes of his great grandparents. Then he opened the bottle of Shalimar and dabbed a bit on his wrists and behind each ear. He swore at that moment that he would wear Shalimar until he found the woman it belonged to.

He could hear the music from the past clearly now. The fist ray of sun hit his eyes and blinded him. He turned around and for a shimming moment Gatsby’s house was ablaze with lights, the music roared to life and the party was just beginning.

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******* 

Shalimar the classic (and very first) oriental perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain is one of the best selling perfumes in the world. It remains today a perfume of magical and romantic qualities. But in the 1920’s it was a bit of a scandalous fragrance. It was said that there were three things a good girl didn’t do, “Bob her hair, smoke cigarettes and wear Shalimar.” That certainly didn’t stop the new modern women of the age who agreed with Mae West when she said. “Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere!”

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Shalimar is a grownup perfume. Heavy on incense and leather, blooming with rose and jasmine and insolently overflowing with opopanax, civet and sandalwood it is a glamorous sumptuous and sensual perfume. Very French but at the same time very universal.

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It opens with blue rhapsody of a jazzy clarinet solo in citrus. This consists of the notes of mandarin orange, bergamot, lemon and a note that usually can be found in the base, Cedar. That Cedar note tells you right off that this is going to be interesting.

The heart of this jazz age symphony is replete with more mixing of high and low notes. There is a rooty iris mixed in with a grassy vetiver. This comes in to lush harmonics with a rose dressed to thrill and all a sparkle is a sexy seductive jasmine.  The low dark and slightly naughty patchouli rushes in to stir the entire center of the fragrance into a pure lush modern jazz ballet.

Finally there comes the boozy slow blues after midnight dry down. From opening to the end of this perfume there is a huge billowing fabulous incense note that pushes out into the room. The body and soul of the perfume is here in its smoky presence as the incense pares up with opopanax and the two get kinky with the dominatrix leather note. This trio is not shy about slapping things into submission as they pull in a scampy civet that plays around adding a dash of danger and bite to the party.  Lush sandalwood is made more creamy and sexy by the arrival of Tonka and vanilla. The jazz age urgent sexy pulse of this perfume is made to last for hours by the ever present support of a beautiful musk.

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This perfume may be a challenge to some for its complexity and adult signature. A signature I might add that is no where to be found in the realm of immature perfumes of this day and age. It is something many have to grow into. Another aspect of the perfume is its sexual ambiguity. The meeting of florals with Cedar, citrus and a snappy leather make it most wearable for men. Not an office scent by any means for a man but something that works well after dark and on formal occasions. But weather for a man or a woman Shalimar is the height of elegant chic confident sexy jazz drenched glamour.

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Shalimar by Guerlain Five Platinum Stars *****

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