One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Soft Focus: Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert

I wonder how perfumers feel about launching an entirely new and thereafter heavily imitated kind of scent. Wouldn't you think they'd be kind of pissed off that they're being so frequently and unabashedly ripped off? Or would they be delighted that something they created has created such a storm of approval?

Jean Claude Ellena's Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert was the first of its kind: light, transparent, genderless, and based on green tea. There have been a number of similar scents since then--most based on tea, such as Yves Rocher's Thé Vert and Paco Rabanne's Paco, others unisex and fruit-and-musk based, such as CK One by Calvin Klein--but they all clearly owe a debt to the original Bulgari. (There have, of course, been colognes for hundreds of years, all light and citrusy, but the new wave of unisex scents in the last decade has generally been more complex than a classic EDC: brainier, I think.)

Eau Parfumée starts out cold and refreshing, a compilation of citrus oils (mostly bergamot and orange) with a slightly bitter green accent. As the middle of the scent opens up, the green-tea note becomes more evident, but it's never strong: nothing at all about this scent is strong. It's like a freshly painted watercolour, no hard edges or bold strokes anywhere. A pale floralcy (blurry rose, jasmine, and lily of the valley) occupies most of the middle, alongside the tea, although nothing ever really takes centre stage. (Some men, perhaps a touch fearfully, think of this scent as "androgynous" or "too feminine"; after the fresh citrus notes of the opening, there's nothing to mark the scent as definitively masculine.) It doesn't smell like flowers, particularly, or tea, or anything, as much as it smells clean and lightly soapy. The base is, as expected, very muted and close to the skin; hints of sandalwood and beeswax are mostly what remains with me, although according to the manufacturer there's also tonka bean, oakmoss, and musk.

The whole thing is sublimely light; it's easy to see why some people think of it as weak, but just as easy to see why others are so devoted to it. It's just about the perfect scent for a summer's day.


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