musings on music and life

May 21, 2015

Bvlgari Black

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 2:23 pm

I got this a few months ago upon reading Luca Turin’s review in Perfumes: The A-Z guide. Since then, I’ve worn this cologne on and off on a number of occasions and grown to like it.


Bvlgari is more known for their women’s merchandise, such as dresses and handbags. Thus, it is surprising that such a well-known fashion house does not have that many popular fragrances. Black is surprisingly not that popular, and is only regarded by perfume aficionados. It was released in 1998 and designed by Annick Ménardo of Firmenich. Turin has this to say about Black:

“Binary accords having been exhausted, what she [Ménardo] did was increase the number of dimensions by one. Black sets out boldly into space on three axes: a big, solid, sweet amber note; a muted fifties Je Reviens floral note (benzylsalicylate) as green as a banker’s desk lamp; and finally a bitter-powdery, fresh rubber accord such as one encounters in specialist shops or while repairing a bicycle tire puncture”

My own experiences with the fragrance profile of Black are similar to Luca’s. I do notice 3 different smells coming together, but to my nose, the prominent ones are the burning rubber smell and a “vanillic” odor. Ménardo must be given credit for developing this “burning rubber” smell. Those who are familiar with the smell of actual burning rubber (or burning car tires) will be immediately repulsed as it has a very acrid, stinky, pungent odor. Burning rubber owes its awful smell to the breakdown of the disulfide crosslinkers; upon burning, these are released as thiols, which are notorious for their foul odors. On the other hand, what is in Black is merely reminiscent of that smell; it is actually Lapsang Souchong. The vanilla angle in this perfume is also rather pronounced (at least to me), so much so that this could actually be worn as a purely vanillic perfume if you are OK with the “burning rubber” angle.

Unlike other colognes, Black was constructed without an olfactory pyramid. Instead, one of the components will smell stronger than the other at different points in time, and this effect is pretty much uniform throughout the time it is worn. In my experience, which one is perceived as stronger seems to be a random effect. It could be that it is not at all random, since I have not tried to track this effect properly.

The shape of the bottle (reminiscent of a car tire) and the smoky angle may lead one to think that is a purely masculine cologne, but it is actually unisex. The bold vanilla angle makes one think of female executives being able to sport this perfume.

There are two more things that deserve mentioning. This perfume seems to evoke strong reactions in most of the people I know who have smelled it. There is no middle ground; you either absolutely love it or find it revolting. My father says that the smell reminds him of squashed bedbugs (!), but I guess the fact that I like this cologne means that I have managed to suppress those memories. The other thing is that the smoky odor here is fundamentally different from that found in other popular men’s colognes. Ralph Lauren Polo and Antaeus Pour Homme (Chanel) also have smoky odors, but those are derived from the use of tobacco.

This is available on Amazon. 75 ml EDT for $31, so it’s not that expensive. I wouldn’t say that this is a super strong perfume; the sillage is average. But keep in mind that this is like a work of art, so the beauty of this perfume is in the subtlety of design.

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