The latest Man by Bulgari might potentially suffer from a rather non-descript appellation - fortunately for perfumistos compensated by the appearance of actor Clive Owen on the advert - as the name alas echoes too many "Man" namesake clones, but it won't be, or it ought not to be, due to its innovative composition by perfumer Alberto Morillas who is here at his best inventive and intuitive self...
If oftentimes a statement like "We wanted to create a new generation of masculine sexy and fresh perfumes," here uttered by Morillas reads like a simple effort at good PR, in this case it turns out to be a faithful description of the perfumer's work. Inspired by the atmosphere of glamour of novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the scent seems to have retained the white crisp halo of untainted privilege as often portrayed in the movie adaptations of the novelist's writing. The flacon by Atelier Oi is covered by a pearlescent film, an effect which does not appear very well on the ad visuals.
Notes: bergamot, pear, violet leaves, lotus, white wood, vegetal amber (Ambrox) synthesized from Clary Sage, benzoin, natural essential oil of vetiver, Honey SoftAct.
While the fusing base notes of Bulgari Man make certain that a masculine fragrance code is recognizable as early as when the top notes hit the nose, the whole personality of the perfume is at the same time striking for its dedication to the exploration of new olfactory frontiers in men's fragrance.
Bulgari Man turns out to be a stellar exercise in the art of composing an understated, novel, abstract floral bouquet for men, infusing it with the virginal freshness of the morning of a wedding day full of anticipation while making it smell entirely plausible as a men's perfume. Bulgari Man offers despite its good lineage, more of which later, the unfamiliar impression of an ethereal, pressed and fresly ironed crisp white shirt brushed lightly by a bouquet of dew-kissed flowers.
Despite the subtlety and delicacy of the composition, there is a sense of masculine dynamism which conjures up images such as crushed green stems and brushed by petals. In achieving this almost impalpable feeling of action within such a feminine sphere of sensations, Morillas manages to convey the energy expected from a men's cologne while transforming the conventional palette of mainstream masculine aromas. Fresh aldehydes fizz atop minimal mineral woods. A very discreet and hidden sweet leathery suede quote borrowed from Fahrenheit by Dior, a masterpiece of perfumery which pushed the envelope for florals for men, helps in bridging a familiar territory with a more unfamiliar one.The scent is pure, white and made me think at one point of a 21st century men's spiritual heir to Amarige by several degrees of separation, a fragrance notorious for conveying the idea of anticipated marital bliss and wedding ceremony thanks to its lush white bouquet. Here one thinks more of young rose buds, so young are they that they feel logically green, but there is also this abstract wedding-veil effect.
The fragrance opens on a cold Vodka-like sensation soon followed by a woody base line and sappy green roses atop. If the scent feels slightly dirty, it is due to a hint of the natural animalic facet of cedarwood after the rain. This is counterbalanced by a very balmy, green and resinous yet understated foresty accord which morphs into the adajcent territory: a green, sappy floral bouquet composed of unopened rose buds. It is as if the perfumer used a familiar masculine sensation but imperceptibly brought it to the land right across the river, the floral-y one by playing on the next set of keys on a larger keyboard.
The restraint of the idea is remarkable since Morillas makes sure the flowers never do open to draw a creative symbolic and clear dividing line with a floral for women. Instead of reconnecting with the pre-modern tradition of undifferentiated florals for both men and women, the Firmenich nose radically rethinks masculinity in fragrance by proposing to set a limit on the degree of eclosion of flowers. In a way, it is the intuition that if the scent of violets cannot be naturally captured but that of their fresh, green leaves can, then there could be flowers that smell in a similar register of floralcy, one which is a notch above leaves but a notch below that of blooming flowers. A bud for him, a flower for her. Of course, one can see a popular pun here on a famously straight brand of beer much advertised at football games. One also is reminded of the famous line in Citizen Kane, "Rose bud" as an anchoring point of masculine memory at its most vulnerable. There might also be subliminal erotic allusions to men's sexual anatomy.
As the perfume stands, it is both entirely floral and entirely masculine.
Clive Owen is a terrific fit for the fragrance as his rugged mien seems to add legitimacy to the idea that a new type of floral for men has received his seal of approval, lest some men might feel incomfortable with the idea of a virginal crisp bouquet which never gives way to the woods. He appears to personally enjoy wearing Bulgari Man as he describes it accurately. In answer to a question put to him by Esquire he said "It is quite floral, and it's very fresh. It's not musky, it's not overbearing. I mean, I've got quite a lot on right now and still the smell is very subtle." He adds "I have a problem with a lot of men's fragrances, because someone somewhere once decided they had to have these big, powerful scents that I find really overbearing. This one is unbelievably light, and that's one of the reasons I like it."
The question I will have to ask is whether women will like it even more than men? Word to the girls: this is not only entirely floral and entirely masculine, it is also entirely borrowable.