One of the problems with perfume is that there are far too many to choose from. Every year brings more new launches than the year before, and every year the choice becomes more bewildering.
Yet look (or rather smell) more carefully and it soon becomes clear that the vast majority of scents smell boringly similar to each other. Perfume companies on the whole like to play it safe, since it costs a lot of money to launch a new one and failure can be very costly.
So you can bet your bottom dollar that the minute a new fragrance starts to sell really well, a hundred imitations will start appearing on the shelves. Of course it could all be coincidence, or something in the air, but it’s amazing how many perfumes smell virtually identical, even when their branding and their marketing is poles apart. (Want to do a little experiment? OK, follow my friend Roja Dove’s suggestion and try comparing Angel Men with Bleu de Chanel…)
Yet once in a while a really new fragrance does come along, something that stands out from the crowd. Some of them go on to become best-sellers; others don’t. Some of them are crowd-pleasers. Others are wonderful but weird. And few are weirder or more wonderful than Bulgari Black.
Launched in 1998, this was Bulgari’s first perfume for men. It was created by a very talented perfumer called Annick Menardo, who works for the multinational fragrance company, IFF. Now, I’m not a great believer in that tired old cliché that scents can transport you instantly back to a specific moment in your childhood or the like, but the first time I smelled Bulgari Black that’s exactly what happened to me.
I wasn’t transported back to my mother’s knee, though, or to the smell of laundry on a winter’s day. Bulgari Black took me somewhere far more interesting: to the toxic but weirdly sexy 1970s smell that greeted you when you opened the door of a car that had been sitting for too long in the summer sun – of hot PVC, of black plastic car seats that stuck to your legs when you got in.
I think it’s an amazing perfume: the olfactory equivalent of a Helmut Newton photo-shoot, simultaneously erotic and slightly repellent, though I’m still not sure I could actually wear it. But for anyone who loves fast cars and the smell of burning tyres then maybe this is the perfume for you.