Bvlgari Black is a fragrance that, by the time I knew of it, was already “one that got away” from me. When people mentioned it and how interesting it was, they also caveated that it was discontinued. Reading prominent opinions only fueled the intrigue. Luca Turin wrote in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide that
Binary accords having been exhausted, what [perfumer Annick Menardo] did was increase the number of dimensions by one. Black sets out boldly into space on three axes: a big, solid, sweet amber note; a muted fifties Je Reviens floral note (benzylsalicylate) as green as a banker’s desk lamp; and finally a bitter-powdery, fresh rubber accord such as one encounters in specialist shops or while repairing a bicycle tire puncture.
I didn’t seek it out, but I was pleasantly surprised to come across it in a store recently. In the mall that I go to most frequently, the Lord & Taylor that closed at the end of last year was replaced by a Shopper’s Find. At a glance, it looked like they had bought the former’s remaining inventory and was now reselling it, but Lord & Taylor certainly didn’t have Black on display when it was clearing out its shelves. A sales associate informed me that the store was “like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Macy’s combined” and sold things at a discount. (Sad to see Macy’s demise into this category.)
In any case, when I first spotted it a few weeks ago, Black was at the men’s fragrance counter. I didn’t buy it right away, as I didn’t have everything I’d learned about it top of mind and wanted to look into it some more. Having done so, I resolved that I would purchase it if the price was similar to or lower than online offerings.
A few days ago, I went back, and it had moved to the women’s side of fragrances—frankly, looking a bit out of place among the other, pink and frou-frou designs. At $40 for a 40-mL bottle, I pounced on it, scent unsmelled. (They did not have testers.) Here is my take.
First of all, I love the packaging. I have a thing for squares in circles and circles in squares, and the “window” of the box is brilliant. The heavy, shiny, engraved metal cap accompanied by thick, black rubber have a satisfying tactile feel as a whole and the low-set bottle doubles as a sophisticated paperweight. I can smell some of the rubber. This one was a joy to open.
Impressions on first spritz? Wait, too soon. Must allow the alcohol several seconds to evaporate before I can smell the perfume at all.
I didn’t get anything except powdery vanilla the first time, but on the second try, I totally got the distinct rubber note. The overall scent also reminded me of something I have known for a long time and found very comforting, although I couldn’t remember what exactly… it might be Nivea lip balm or some aspect of the limited-edition Rosewood fragrance from Banana Republic that was launched in 2006 (which lists simple notes of bergamot, tea, and amber).
The spiciness of the opening was more apparent to my other half than to me—he perceived “cinnamon,” while I was busy searching for the “smoky lapsang souchong” described on Fragrantica to no avail. There was something very innocent about it, though, perhaps reminiscent of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea? The powdery woody-leather aspect also seems to share some traits with Ted Baker Ag.
Black quickly settles into vanilla and white musks, with a background of the slightly smoky rubber keeping it a safe distance from sweeter, more floral The Body Shop White Musk territory. If this is leather, it’s probably more of a patent leather. The dry, non-foody character of this vanilla is quite addictive, and I am saying this as someone who doesn’t generally like vanilla in perfumes. It doesn’t last very long, though, so respraying is warranted.