You’ve got to hand it to the Italian jeweler and luxury goods maker Bulgari: their colognes smell like not much else on the market. Distinctive yet affordable (when it comes to fragrances, anyway), each of the four samples Bulgari sent me evoked unique and highly masculine scents that somehow felt like distant cousins from the same family. My favorite two Bulgari colognes are 1998’s Bulgari Black and 2010’s Bulgari Man. But, if you’re a fan of aquatics (and actually I’m not), then you must also try 2005’s Bulgari Aqua pour Homme and the brand new for 2011 take on its predecessor, Bulgari Aqua pour Homme Marine Toniq. For a style of fragrance that I usually shy away from, this stuff is super-nice.
Bulgari Black has to be the only cologne on the market that opens with a note of rubber, and in fact, the bottle is shaped like a tire. But don’t let that scare you. While it’s woody and smokey at first, it melds into leather and cedar, and finally gives way to base notes of amber, musk and vanilla. Maybe it’s the rubber/tar, but I feel like a Formula One race car driver when I wear it. Totally office appropriate, but suitably for evening wear, too.
Bulgari Man is no less masculine, with strong notes of bergamot and vetiver. Like most of Bulgari’s fragrances, it contains a tea note that makes this the kind of cologne you can wear with a suit, to the office or on special occasions. Something very distinct lingers around – I think it’s the vetiver mixed with one of the other base notes, maybe musk – and I could sniff out Bulgari Man in a crowd. Not too many moderately priced colognes can make that claim.
The aquatics are quite bit more dramatic. Bulgari Aqua pour Homme Marine Toniq is the fragrant equivalent of diving into a chilly ocean on a hot summer day. Crisp and fresh aren’t adjectives that do this juice justice – it opens with prickly pear (you don’t see that often) and grapefruit, and somehow it energizes with a metallic, frozen feel that ends many hours later in a light woody, sandalwood base. It’s definitely a warm-weather scent that looks and smells expensive. If I liked aquatic colognes, this would hands-down be my favorite. It’s heads and shoulders above any other cologne I’ve smelled in its very saturated category; maybe a little “young,” but only for the crowd that appreciates serious quality.