One Thousand Scents

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Blues, Part 2: Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme

The colour of a perfume has an inescapable connection to its intentions. Essential oils are variously coloured, but they're so diluted in perfumery that the finished product, which is mostly a carrier of alcohol and water, would in most cases be at best a pale straw-yellow colour, and usually almost colourless. (There are exceptions: some ingredients have a strong colour that even dilution does little to remove.) So manufacturers add colourants to suggest what you're going to be smelling before you even smell it. Yellow-gold is the standard: it makes you think "Expensive and classy!", and used to be so ubiquitous that people thought that was the natural colour of a scent. Colourlessness, a more modern tack, implies a light, transparent scent, such as L'Eau D'Issey. Dark brown-gold nearly always connotes an oriental scent, usually a strong spicy one: just look at Tabu, or Obsession, or Youth Dew. Green means, of course, greenery, as in Balmain's Vent Vert or Yves Rocher's Homme Nature. And, as I said last week, blue, with a few perverse exceptions, means fresh-aquatic.

But what do the manufacturers do when they want a dark or opaque bottle? Two options: colour the juice anyway to intensify the experience, which is the tack taken by Dior's Poison, an intensely purple liquid in an amethyst-coloured bottle, or say the heck with it and don't bother, letting the packaging do all the work.

That's what Bulgari does with nearly all their scents; their fragrances are very lightly coloured, if at all. Even Blu, or Blv in keeping with the house style of spelling their name a Romanesque Bvlgari, isn't blue: the bottle is, but the liquid inside is pale gold. You have to give them credit for maintaining a consistent aesthetic, if nothing else.

I admit that I didn't think I was going to like Bulgari's Aqua (or "Aqva") Pour Homme, and I don't, but not for the reasons I thought I wasn't going to like it. You can tell that it's intended to conjure up the idea of the seaside, but that isn't the sort of water that it makes me think of.

What it comes right down to is that straight out of the bottle, Aqua Pour Homme smells like a swimming pool; strong, chloriney, synthetically disinfected. It changes somewhat over time, and it isn't uniformly terrible, but for most of its life on the skin it smells inescapably of swimming lessons at age ten. If you like the smell of a swimming pool, then this might be the sort of thing you want to wear, or you could just save a bunch of money and buy Demeter's new Swimming Pool (which I haven't tried). If you want an honest-to-goodness beachside scent, then I can enthusiastically recommend CSP's Aqua Motu; I grew up on an island, with harsh, wind-sculpted beaches, and Aqua Motu conjures up this environment extraordinarily well.

The bottle, which has apparently engendered some hostility because it doesn't stand up (therefore taking up a lot of valuable real estate in your fragrance cabinet), is of dark aquamarine glass clearly meant to evoke a beach pebble. It's too bad the scent inside doesn't do the same thing.

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