Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
To smell alluring one would never expect to don the scent of rubber and smoke. Yet, Bvlgari Black with its smoke and resin accords that oscillate between dark roasted lapsang souchong tea and rubber is one of the most sensual fragrances I have tried. Its sensuality is not the skintight silk dress seduction of Robert Piguet Fracas or the strawberries and champagne charm of Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse. Black is Marlene Dietrich in the 1930’s film “The Blue Angel.” It is thrilling, smoldering and daring. Nothing about it is conventionally beautiful. The best way to describe it is arresting. …
The genius of the perfumer Annick Ménardo is especially apparent in Black, a composition that is marked by beautiful harmony, incredible depth and complexity. She takes the familiar and industrial scents of smoke and rubber and presents the fragrance as anything but predictable. Black was one of the first fragrances that revealed to me the difference between pleasant and striking. While I have tried many avant-garde and often quite surprising scents since Black came out in 1998, I often keep returning to it, being fascinated by its unique and memorable composition. I credit Black for turning me from an almost exclusive white floral lover into an olfactory omnivore.
Black balances between tarry notes and resinous leather. The heart of rubber and woods is dark and smoky. From the first inhale, Black maintains a distinctive character, and even if one is wont to recoil from it, within seconds one wishes to smell it again. As it develops, Black gains a subtle oriental character. The vanilla and amber lend a gentle sweetness, which rounds out the composition. The assertive smoke and resin notes assume a smooth and warm quality in the drydown. If Black started out like a cloud of smoky vapors, it attains a dark vintage cashmere allure.
Although technically Black is based on the tarry lapsang souchong, given its strength and complexity, it is difficult to place it alongside the wispy and minimalist Bulgari tea lineup which is comprised of Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc, and Eau Parfumée au Thé Rouge. While it would be an edgy fragrance on a woman, Black would likewise be spectacular on a man. After all, there are no gender boundaries when beauty is concerned.
Bulgari Black features notes of bergamot, smoky tea, jasmine, cedarwood, sandalwood, leather, amber, musk, vanilla, resins. It is available from Saks5thAvenue, Neiman Marcus and various other retailers carrying Bvlgari. European shoppers can also find it at Escentual.
Photo of Marlene Dietrich from “The Blue Angel,” the-sisterhood.net.