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by Olivia










Back then, even with warning the first experience of Black was disarming. Hot asphalt, engine oil on roughened hands, leached pools of purplish petrol on pavement, acrid smoke hanging around a turning engine on a winter morning. I remember finding it interesting, arresting even, but not remotely wearable – it was too confrontational, too aggressive – too masculine, mostly.


As is the way with anything, or anyone possessing a striking quality you can neither quite place nor put down, it replayed itself to me over and over. The first perfume I wanted to extend beyond a simple yes/no – I wanted to understand it; it teased me into time with it. For quite a long time, I didn’t see more than an academic appeal to it (expressive olfactory idea, technically brilliant.) And then late one summer’s night, I was sitting out the last gasps of a party. I’d gone inside at some point, snuck upstairs to find someone or something, and along the way I’d found a bottle of Black. I popped a bit on my hand for old times, and headed back outside to sit under the stars and let the warm night and the wine pack me off to oblivion.


Not long after that, I must have brushed my hand up against my face and then – it just hit me, all of a sudden. This thing.. God, this thing is amazing – exactly what I’d been looking for. In that moment it all clicked into place as if some missing component suddenly sparked up. Maybe I needed time to come around to the scent itself, or perhaps it was a little step in self-awareness and I’d abruptly recognised some part of myself within it (I think a big part of developing your sense of smell, and exploring your taste in fragrance goes hand in hand with self discovery, actually. It’s an elongated, luxuriant process in feeling out facets of your character, getting to know yourself and crucially, being honest too. It is after all, about learning how to be comfortable within your own skin.)


Beneath that veneer of puncture repair kit, Black is a neo-classical fragrance. Dynamic but understated, edgy but poised. It’s undeniably urban but in that tarry translucency it harbours a wink to the heritage leathers like Bandit and Tabac Blond. Full of space and crepuscular spectra, it softens from its initial nip through layers of instrumental texture – bitter-powdery, sooty and soft with a tannic edge that hangs transparent in the air around the wearer in a gently flexing, hooping arch. A fluid evolution from overlaid crackling, reedy (record-like) qualities to a velveteen expanse of shade rising up like the slowly surfacing ripples of a depth charge. It evokes rain and the London sky at night, the blinking ostinato of city lights from a train. It’s the muffled pulse of baselines throbbing out from nightclub walls into chilly halogen backstreets and ‘driving fast on empty roads with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.’ (Hunter S. Thompson)


While it has a distinctive edginess, even an avant-garde quality, it’s not an angular scent (in a way, it should feel lonelier than it does.) Instead it ultimately yields into something intimate and clandestine, a slightly salty, warm trail on the skin reminiscent of cigarettes, city air and night walks. Of unfamiliar and dimly lit hotel rooms, that charged frisson of part-time lovers and the lovely urgency of stolen hours together. A reminder that ambiguity is wedded to allure: Black is something that doesn’t purport to romance, but succeeds in it nonetheless. I love it.







Filed under Flowers

19 responses to “BULGARI BLACK

  1. A fantastically atmospheric post.

  2. When I was sorting through some oldies the other day I saw Black, barely used, in its funky bottle. Thanks you, Olivia, for convincing me to give it another try.

  3. Great post about an awesome scent.

  4. Katy McReynolds

    Black is a lovely, fleeting thing for me. It just will not persist no matter how lavish I am with it……

  5. Brilliant post Olivia! You make a scent I am not too fond of actually seem “interesting” to me. After reading your pits I want to revisit Black and see if I can get to the soul of the beast, so to speak.

    • Me too.

      I liked this enough to send some to my brother one Christmas, actually (he drained it in no time), but I wouldn’t, I don’t think, wear it myself.

      However, the whole snaking into a perfume here, how you can be gradually seduced by one, I find fascinating. Every perfume lover has had this I think, but it is wonderful seeing it elucidated for you in this way.

      • I have yet to have a scent seduce me the way it had done to Olivia, but I have had a scent seduce me on others. Sometimes I will smell something glorious on someone and come to find it is something I personally disliked. That always intrigues me, how chemistry can truly change a scent and make it appealing. Rarely do I revisit a scent and have it surprise me, although I am trying to branch out scent wise; so my own blog will become more appealing and less about long forgotten/ impossible to find scents.

      • Can’t wait to read it! ( though never underestimate the appeal of the unattainable – I would love to read about Molyneux and all the rest of them)

      • If you ever want to read any of the [few] reviews I have written, it is Brielle’s musings on WordPress. I know the name stinks, pun totally intended, so I am thinking of new names.
        It is funny you mentioned Molyneux, I wore Fete last night and it is so beautiful, a leathery chypre marvel, that it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Thank you for the encouragement, I need to share my 30+ years of fragrance love 🙂

    • Thank you so much! I guess it’s not always strictly necessary to like something per se in order for it to captive and draw you in (the same could be said of art, music…) Personally there are some perfumes that are completely magnetic to me, very evocative as abstract constructs – but I’d never want to wear them on my skin (that weird push/pull of intrigue and aversion.) But I can enjoy them from a distance, as a removed idea almost. Having said that, sometimes you come full circle and end up liking something despite it being/just because it’s knotty and difficult..

      • Exactly, this us why I keep revisiting Serge Lutens and Frederic Malle. Always hoping that something I passed on previously will capture me the next time around.
        Looking forward to your next guest post 🙂

  6. LOVE!! Especially where you drop in Hunter S Thompson. It was such a good fit that I thought the whole paragraph was his. Cool, inspiring review.
    Portia xx

  7. MrsDalloway

    I love this review, especially the line about ambiguity and allure. Must go back to my neglected bottle.

  8. Beautifully written, Olivia. Thanks to you, and to Neil for re-posting. I don’t think I was reading The Black Narcissus back then so good to have another chance to read you.

    I’ve known Black since it was released and it always seemed — surprising to me — quite mellow and musky, given its reputation for being edgy and difficult. I wish I got that buzz from it that you did, that amazing volte-face which you describe so well.

    These days it’s been thinned out to near-nothingness.

    I do know that sensation of suddenly “getting” a scent. Seems to somehow be a late-night phenomenon for me, especially after a couple of glasses of wine or other mood-altering substance (back in the day). I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a scent and then fallen in love with it, though. There’s always something there, some appealing potential, right from first exposure. But never say never, eh?

    Again, Olivia and Neil, thanks.

  9. Yui

    Bulgari Black is fun because it has multiple meanings for me. I was a teenager in tokyo in the mid-2000s so I can’t quite shake the association of Black with sleazy gyaruo who hung around Shibuya and Roppongi with their creepily thin eyebrows and pointy shoes. When perfume and mean-funny Turin reviews became a mild obsession in my mid twenties, I bought a decant of Black and my first reaction to it was “ew, I remember this”.
    It only took about three wears before repulsion turned to love – it was like that way with Palazzo. With Lolita lempicka it was two wears; with Patchouli24, maybe three. Annick Mernado has a way messing with the edible and inedible – at first it can be confusing but if you know perfume then you’ll know it’s special.

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