Following the Silk Road, Guerlain Shanghai

Looking into past and present times of perfumery it seems like various cities around the world have always carried the inspirations for the perfumers to create their masterpieces. How many there are fragrances carrying a leitmotif of streets, squares and sights of Paris for example. Among the metropolises on Earth, one from the far East is especially rich in memories, tales and places that are suitable for the inspirational material. That city is Shanghai.

Just give it a quick thought… In the last years we’ve had perfumes such as Tom Ford Shanghai Lily or Amouage Journey which was also inspired by Shanghai. When in 2009 the house of Guerlain launched a collection of fragrances inspired by cities, it was just a matter of time before we’ll get the scent inspired by the largest Chinese city. And we got Shanghai in 2012.

Guerlain Shanghai opens with a very gentle citrus vibe which is kind of abstract because the bergamot accord doesn’t smell like it usually smells. I can’t smell the rind or juice at the regular level, everything seems to be toned town to the very minimum. After 10-15 minutes the composition slowly becomes warmer when sandalwood joins the composition. Sandalwood is the note that often appears in Guerlain perfumes. In this scent it’s very light and I dare to say airy. It doesn’t feel substantial but lightweight and almost nonexistent. Despite that the woody facet is present.

After a while the sandalwood chord, smooth and polished gains the lovely and gourmandy milky facet provided by the elegant touches of vanilla. The moderate sweetness it introduces is nice and pleasant and it makes the entire composition of Shanghai even softer and more fluffy. When almond note emerges and becomes possible to smell, the scent gains a little bit of volume. At first it also gives something nice and crispy, crunchy, slightly nutty to it but then after 30 minutes it evolves into a sheer powdery concoction which is sweet and lactonic like a milky candy.

After 2 hours Shanghai is still a pretty creamy composition but now is obtains some additional floral elements. First of all there is an ylang-ylang accord that gives this slightly greasy, coconut-like smell that eventually transforms into a creamy floral. On the other hand there is a handful of orange blossom added to the composition – those orange flowers provide a nice white floral tones which are a little bit soapy. The perfume doesn’t provide any dynamic changes, everything that happens in this perfume happens in a slow motion and rather seamlessly. That actually is a good thing.

As the time flies I can smell some star anise in Guerlain Shanghai. It is slightly spicy and it has a little bit of sweetness as well. Because of it I start to think of some sort of sweet and shiny icing on top of the gingerbread. When drydown slowly comes up from the deeper parts of this fume I detect some powdery and yellow elements of mimosa. They are then followed by cedarwood and vetiver.

Both these notes are presented in a nice way – inoffensive, quite dry and also aromatic. For the rest of the time this perfume spends on my skin I just can’t detect any significant changes that would be worth further analyzing. Shanghai is a rather minimalistic composition but it has some good features as well. It’s definitely not boring. Not to mention that it smells very pleasing.

According to Guerlain website, Shanghai is a perfume that found its inspiration in the stroll around Chen Xiang Ge Temple and Yu garden. In a visit to Old Street Market, Tong Han Chun Tang pharmacy and in having a cup of tea at Huxinting teahouse. This perfume is a composition that stays really close to the skin and its projection is very minimal. You will have to pull the nose to the wrist to smell this fragrance. The longevity, as for eau de parfum, could’ve been better than 5-6 hours.

The 100ml bottle of Guerlain Shanghai has a clean and simple design. At the front there is a sketch of Pearl Tower (also seen on the picture above) – one of the famous sights of the city of Shanghai. The sketch is a piece by Serge Mansau. The perfume was created by Thierry Wasser and it is a part of Une Ville, Un Parfum (One City, One Perfume) collection. If you tried Shanghai but were not sure if you want to buy it or not, this could be your last chance because this year Guerlain will discontinue the entire Une Ville, Un Parfum line. The scents will be available only until stock lasts. I like this perfume a lot but at the same time I don’t feel the need to have it.

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12 thoughts on “Following the Silk Road, Guerlain Shanghai

  1. hajusuuri says:

    Beautiful description of a beautiful perfume. It s the only one of the series I felt was worthy of a full-bottle and I satisfied that “need”. There’s a map inside the box that describes a stroll in Shanghai, with stops along the way to smell certain things which may or may not be present in the perfume because it is just so well-blended. In order of when it appears on the map are: plane tree, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, almond, apricot, Ylang Ylang, black tea with orange blossom or magnolia, fried tofu (hmmm), black pepper, ginger, star anise, lychee, arbutus berry, kumquat, amber wood, nun monastery.

    • lucasai says:

      Hi sweetie!
      Are you back? You will have to tell me about your cruise soon 🙂
      I remember you told you you bought Shanghai. I like it a lot but a decant would be enough for me I suppose. That map inside the box intrigued me and friend tofu intrigued me even more!

      • hajusuuri says:

        I am back. I am “on the go” again, meeting up with my sister for lunch at this super wonderful tiny hole in the wall Chinese food restaurant (Real Kung Fu Little Steam Buns Ramen on 8th Avenue) and then on to a Broadway play “Once” with my brother and sister-in-law and then dinner.

        • lucasai says:

          Welcome back! And what a wonderful to finish your vacation after returning back home and before going back to work. Have a good time with your family.

          Mine went on a trip to Zamość and will be back on Wednesday but I’m going to work (gotta do some fragrance evaluation) so the time will pass quickly

  2. jillie says:

    I am always concerned with perfumes that are named after cities – after all, some will be very polluted and not smell too good, and people will not want to buy a fragrance because of that association. Guerlain have a perfume called Champs Elysees, and my friend who lives in Paris was very scathing when I asked if she had tried it: “Who on earth wants to smell like les Champs Elysees? It’s all traffic jams and smog!”. Actually the perfume is a very pleasant mimosa, but I get her point!

    But it looks like you and Hajusuuri didn’t have any such problems.

    • lucasai says:

      I suppose that all those perfume names which are cities, their districts, parts of sights were originally used in more “romantic” context rather than a reality of a crowded place… But oh well.

      I don’t have a problem with that as long as the perfume doesn’t smell like a car smoke 😛

  3. rickyrebarco says:

    I tried this one a couple of years ago and liked it, but like you, not enough to pay for a full bottle. I recall that I also liked Moscow and New York but none of them blew me away. I found all the “city” fragrances to be low projection skin scents, which is a bit unusual for Guerlain, at least IMHO.

    • lucasai says:

      Most of the modern Guerlains seem to have a low projection to me, Tonka Imperiale or Cuir Beluga doesn’t project big on me either…

      I didn’t have a chance to try other “cities” from the line. I’ve heard that London is a nice tea scent.

  4. Undina says:

    I liked all the “cities” that I tried but I thought that those colognes weren’t interesting enough to justify the price. Twice cheaper – and I’d gladly go for any of them.

  5. These city-inspired fragrances were all a miss for me too. More money saved! 😉

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