Bulgari has its own unique place in the firmament. Not department store mainstream, not precisely niche (where I might place Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, for instance; not sure where to put Boucheron and Chopard, possibly slightly lower on the rung).
Though not even remotely a haute joaillerie man myself – I am almost completely immune to the allure of precious stones and precious metals – there is definitely something distinct about the entire Bulgari aesthetic: a capricious solidity, and a perfectionist, playful, meticulously lathed-down, colourful exuberance about their designs that trickles down also into their perfume bottles – which are always entirely unlike anything else you will ever find.
La Collezione Allegria
The rapidly expanding Bulgari scented universe now includes a collection of seven perfumes and seven ‘magnifying essences’ named Allegria, and the deluxe press ‘discovery kit’ comprising all the fragrances as well as the seven bolstering elixirs that I was lucky enough to receive in the post is certainly great fun to play with, happily like paints in a palette or an extensive set of makeup, for mixing and matching and designing your own specific mix of whichever scent you fancy combining- the possibilities in terms of proportion are endless – even if some duos feel intrinsically more naturally predestined.
Customizing and personalizing your own fragrance is a fun, novel, original and (if rather pricey) concept. I approve. The Magnifying Essences (#magnifyformore: ‘more emotion, more pleasure, more exhilaration, more comfort, more passion‘) vary in intensity – the Vanilla not dissimilar to classic Vanilla essence used to make cakes, for example, but it also matches very nicely with my favourite in the collection, Dolce Estasi.
Sweet Ecstacy is a bittersweet gourmand by Jacques Cavallier (a master perfumer with a stunning résumé who created this collection), containing crisp, sharp, Campari-like top notes contrasting with patisserie heart accords and conclusions – citruses vs almond, heliotrope and a preppy, musky vanilla. For a moment of delicious cute, this can’t really do any wrong, even if – like all the perfumes here, there is , faint in the final notes, always a hint of the ever popular Angel Thierry Mugler (RIP,) running like commercial DNA throughout the entire box.
The ebullient perfumes in Allegria are, I would say, for the young at heart and the unnervous; the real world-inclined; those that are striving for the material good life, so whether or not this collection of perfumes is poetically inspiring or delicate enough for you will depend on your own worldview and natural constitution. What the perfumer has undoubtedly got very right though, here in the world of Allegria is in capturing a genuine sense of upbeat happiness – and this was presumably the brief.
Fiori D’Amore, the most overtly romantic, is a Turkish and Bulgarian rose framboise: a fresh and uplifting modern fragrance that you would have to be quite hardhearted to turn against as this bright-atmosphered person walks into a room with her heart very much on her sleeve, although, if like me, you are not fond of the supernova eponymous fragrance by contemporary Chloé, then the end accord might possibly prove problematic. Strengthened by the dark, almost Montale-ish Magnifying Rose Essence, however, this becomes more of a powerhouse player, and I love the idea of being able to adjust the rose levels to your own exact personal specifications.
I don’t know which essence should be used to amplify Baciami ( – KISS ME – ) because I don’t think it needs amplifying. This new addition to the collection is a sugared, strawberry gardenia over vanilla that on me is a cloying atrocity but which I can quite truthfully imagine being easily seduced by on a girl. I don’t know if I would go much further than a kiss, but with the sheer alacrity and sensuous confidence of this scent – outrageously sweet and over the top, all poised to lead into a giddily specific moment (I imagine an immaculately, hours-long maquillage beforehand; lips glimmering in lumescent deep red: hot-fitting designer club dress) ……. Baciami will, on some lucky individuals, prove irresistibly captivating.
Rock N Rome, an apricot osmanthus woodsy, forms the more daytime reality of the Allegria collection and is less enthralling for me with its workaday orange sunset opening. For a citrus, combined with the Magnifying Bergamot, I prefer Riva Solare – a very pleasant mandarin, orange blossom, bergamot beach musk that is better for daytime – uninvolving but carefree.
For night, there is Fantasia Veneta, even more effective when coached in extra Patchouli (a chypre of the contemporary variety a la Guerlain Chypre Fatale, which I actually rather like), and the only allowed break from Rome in the collection, when you find yourself hurled into carnivalizing with all the other harlequined throngs down by the Duke’s Palace and the souvenir shops selling coloured glass in Venice: I don’t mind it; there is a certain duskiness, the ‘red peach’ note rather bold (a touch of cheapre?) and particularly when Magnified, this is certainly a perfume I can imagine turning my head round to. I suppose I am just too stuck on the classic chypres of yore, containing real oakmoss, castoreum and much earthier patchouli (Paloma Picasso, Magie Noire) to be 100% convinced.
The newest addition to the collection, Spettacolore, is billed as an ode to iris, evoking ‘the night’s vibe through a chiaroscuro composition, a rare scent that contrasts light against darkness, captured by iris, a rich floral note shining splendidly at the heart of Spettacolore’. While the beginning of the scent is more iris-translucent, this perfume soon segues to a familiar, sugar-spun patchouli vanilla, but with an extra facet of myrrh in the base that makes it suitable for event dressing and evening wear. The blend is warm, and good-intentioned, and might be conveniently intensified with any of the augmenting ingredients presented here, but I feel that the most obvious choice, Magnifying Myrrh, works quite well as a perfume in its own right. Myrrh is a difficult raw material; glinting, multifaceted, jewel-like; I know both the essential oil and the raw crystals very intimately and have used it medicinally : yet it is so potent olfactively that it is quite unpleasant raw or in concentration. Jacques Cavallier here cleverly tames and presents the mystical material in an ambery, sandalwood vanilla setting that I can easily imagine on a more quietly confident, perhaps maturer, sexier Romana for a fuller, more sensual result than some of the glitzier scents in Allegria ; sat, patiently absorbed, in the low hum of the Cafe Greco on the Via Condotti just down from the the Spanish Steps and the Bulgari flagship store, dressed perfectly, to the nines but not overdone; leafing through a magazine; nursing her cappuccino; stylishly going about her daily routine.