Bulgari Black

Posted: Dec 09 2015

This review is partly written in honor of a friend of mine who is tragically no longer with us. She would appreciate the subject matter, though I’m not sure she ever wore perfume.

Anyone who has read my rantings about perfume for long enough knows of my avowed love for nearly every perfume ever created by Annick Menardo, a magnificently gifted perfumer currently in the employ of Firmenich. Ms. Menardo is, to the best of my knowledge, a biochemist by training, and she has the nearly unique ability to create perfumes that are both hauntingly beautiful and strikingly original. Perhaps the most accessible of these is the famous Bulgari Black, a strange, punky leather fragrance originally marketed to woman but which has done an about-face and now appears mostly in the men’s section of perfume shops. In truth, like most personal fragrances, it can be worn by anyone with a mind to do so, but this peculiar dichotomy of marketing so perfectly fits its theme that I always enjoy including that little bit of information when discussing it.

Black is a leather fragrance through and through. That said, the initial impression you get from it is not “leather.” The perfume opens with a sharp, dramatic rubber note. Some liken it to tires and other industrial rubbers, but the fragrance has always seemed very mischievous to me, as though the rubber were more a reference to BDSM and rubber fetishes than to manufacturing settings and vulcanization plants. The rubber is accompanied by the tiniest touch of smoke and is wrapped in the smooth, slightly bitter suede accord for which the perfume has become known. The leather/rubber combination is kept from being too chemical or harsh by the inclusion of a pleasant vanilla undertone; not particularly sweet, but enough to counterbalance the more industrial scents at the top of the perfume.

As the fragrance dries down, the rubber fades into the background and the leather becomes more prominent. It’s here the the isobutyl quinoline, a material that was revolutionary 80 years ago when it was first created and still forms the basis of many great leather accords, becomes truly noticeable. The suede is now more the scent of well-polished, high-gloss boots, again with an almost fetishistic character (it reminds me very much of Piguet’s Bandit, though considerably smoother and less overtly butch). The iso gives it an almost inky character, as though it has been blended with a touch of Sharpie ink, but this eventually gives way to smooth notes of green tea and musk. Undertones of rose, amber, cedar, and sandalwood line the walls of the perfume, as if they were the echoes of the perfumed items in some kinky couple’s toy chest. They emphasize various facets of the tea and leather, but are only noticeable on the fringe, hiding from full view in order not to obscure the stars of the show.

Perhaps my only quarrel with Bulgari Black is the fact that, on my skin, it’s relatively short-lived. That said, my samples came from Sephora, a store NOTORIOUS for annihilating its perfumes with the high-intensity lights it uses in its displays, so take that longevity comment with a grain of salt. Either way, the juice can be found for between $25 and $35 on Amazon, depending on the size you wish to purchase, so even if it IS a short-lived perfume, the price makes up for it. I’ll be picking up a bottle soon.

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  • Posted by Jerry Carrick on December 09, 2015

    This was my go to scent in the 90’s. I still keep a bottle around for those occasions I’m in the mood. Your review is very good. To me a unique blend of odours. After the initial tire blast. The tea & smokey leather/suede/vanilla/amber is quite sensual and alluring. Inspires confidence. Makes my $300 suit feel like a couple of grand!

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