Bvlgari Black

A few months ago, I dismissed Bvlgari Black with the words,

Black is supposedly a smoky vanilla scent, with the smokiness coming from a lapsang souchong tea note. The reality is that Black smells like straight-up burnt rubber. Now, rubber may have sexy connotations galore to the BDSM crowd, but I personally find it disorienting and unenjoyable.

Well, I feel like an asshole.

Inside that strange little hockey puck of a bottle is probably the most interesting mainstream fragrance on the market today. Pure intellectualism, however, does not a great perfume make: above all, perfume has to smell good. Black succeeds on both counts. If I had given that rubber note a few minutes, I would have found that it softens into sexy, smoky leather underscored by soft vanilla. In a time when the legendary leather scents (Bandit, Tabac Blond, etc) are being reformulated, Black is an extremely welcome addition to the category.

Black reminds me of the “cool girls” in high school. Not the popular girls, the ones on the cheerleading squad, but those worldly ladies with older boyfriends who picked them up in flashy cars. Black is a cologne, and therefore unisex, although I can’t imagine any of the men in my life wearing such a daring scent. It would, however, be perfect for the man who inspired this review: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With that scar over his eyebrow and his charismatic swagger (not to mention his motorcycle and leather duster), Spike was the ultimate bad boy. Black wouldn’t be half bad on Buffy, either.

Early Billy Idol, anyone?

Isn’t he the most perfect thing you’ve ever seen? Whenever I watch Buffy, I find myself screaming, “Buffy, you fool, the hottest vampire in Sunnydale is in love with you, so move the hell on from Angel, because he has his own spinoff now and is NEVER COMING BACK, except for like 5 minutes at the end of Season 7.” Then I remember that the little people in the TV cannot actually hear me. Incidentally, this little habit is the reason that everyone but my most loyal friends refuses to watch Gossip Girl with me.

Disclaimer: I own a bottle of Black, which I purchased from Sephora.

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Gucci Envy

Has anyone tried the Fragrance Finder tool on the Sephora website? It is way too much fun. You tell them a perfume that you love, and based on your tastes they recommend new perfumes for you. At first it seemed gimmicky, but to my surprise, many of their recommendations were spot-on (for example, they recommended Guerlain Shalimar for fans of Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, which is often considered a modern-day Shalimar). Of course, some are a just a little bit off base (lovers of the leathery Robert Piguet Bandit should consider… Bvlgari Rose Essentielle??)

Anyway, when Gucci Envy was suggested as a substitute for both Christian Dior Diorissimo and Chanel 28 La Pausa, I had to try it. Gucci Envy was created by one of my favorite perfumers, Maurice Roucel (the man behind Musc Ravageur and Lolita Lempicka L de Lolita Lempicka), so I was imagining something rich and hyper-sensual. Instead, Envy opens on a sharp, green lily note. Although it’s not what I was expecting, I still liked the opening quite a bit. It struck me as Diorissimo Light, a very pretty lily without the richness of Diorissimo. HOWEVER. After ten minutes, Envy began to smell distinctly soapy. Turns out I hate soapy, especially in the context of a rather powerful scent like Envy (like all Maurice Roucel creations, Envy has a STRONG presence). I can’t say I much enjoyed wearing this.

There is one thing that I love about Envy, and that is the ad campaign. The vast majority of perfume ads have at least some sexuality, but the Envy ads are hilariously over the top. Get a room, y’all!

Gucci Envy is available at Sephora for $50 for 1 ounce, $70 for 1.7 ounces, and $90 for 3.4 ounces.

Disclaimer: I purchased a bottle of Envy from Sephora (which is likely going back).

Cheap Thrills: Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose

If the scent of tuberose (which is commonly mistaken for that of the gardenia flower) were a person, I imagine that she would be a blonde beauty queen from Texas. She would be gorgeous, with the warmest smile you’ve ever seen, and, more likely than not, a completely over-the-top personality. Think Robert Piguet Fracas, which Madonna wore in her cone-bra heyday. Tuberose generally dominates any perfume in which it appears, so while in capable hands tuberose can be done beautifully, it is more often unbalanced and a little scary (think the Texas beauty queen after she places 3rd).

Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose is tuberose done right, especially for the price point. It is sweet enough for mainstream noses but elegant enough for the perfumistas. Velvet Tuberose is slightly heady and has a glamorous, old-Hollywood vibe. It is one of the few perfumes that I can think of that would be suitable for a blonde bombshell (most “bombshell” scents work better on brunettes). VT is lush in a way that recalls both the sensational curves and the dreamy smile that made Marilyn Monroe a star.

My middle school hallways were perpetually filled with a wretched mixture of Axe and the shockingly unpleasant Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea. If more of the girls had worn Velvet Tuberose instead, I really think that it would have somehow improved my middle school experience.

Disclaimer: I have a bottle of Velvet Tuberose that I purchased at Bath and Body Works.

Fragrant Fiction: Perfume as Literature

Happy New Year, queridos! I hope that your New Years involved champagne and was more exciting than mine. I’m not really sure how that’s possible, considering that I went to a “pirate show” with my parents, little brother, grandparents, and cousins. Actually, the six packs on those pirates were so impressive that it might as well have been a Chippendale’s show. And from this point onward, that is how we are going to say that I spent New Year’s Eve.

Oh, Orlando. You can shiver my timbers anytime.

Anyway, y’all, although I know (desperately hope) that in the future there will be more of you, at the present time I have exactly one reader who is not my mother. I love this girl deeply, but it has also come to my attention that she does not wear perfume, and therefore she has trouble relating to many of the perfume related posts. I love perfume. I love the clever tricks that perfumers employ to create new and pleasing combinations of notes; I love the nuances. However, I fully understand that for many people, perfume has no nuances. A perfume either smells good or it doesn’t. It is for my beloved solitary reader that I will try to explain the world of perfume in terms of a field with which most people are much more familiar: literature.

For example, a perfume like Aquolina Pink Sugar is the olfactory equivalent of the Twilight series- insanely popular for absolutely no good reason.

Actually, I just thought of one VERY good reason.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue (both of which have been bestsellers for over five years) have more in common with the Harry Potter series- just as popular, but more deserving of their success.


Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor quidditch coach. The actor who plays him is named Sean Biggerstaff. The joke here should write itself.

Along this vein, there are perfumes such as Robert Piguet Fracas, which has been worn by everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Martha Stewart. I can appreciate that Fracas is a great classic, but whenever I try to wear it I get the distinct feeling that I am being mugged by a gardenia. I got a very similar feeling when I had to read Jane Eyre in 10th grade, except instead of a gardenia my mugger was the stupidest book of all time.

Jane, that Mr. Rochester is nothing but trouble! Why don’t you marry that nice cousin of yours? You know, the priest. No? Okay then. Also, what is UP with those BROWS, lady???

Perfumes such as Chanel No. 5 and Guerlain Shalimar can be likened to “The Great Gatsby,” a book that is both widely beloved and a masterpiece (and one of my personal favorites, if you hadn’t figured it out yet). Those “Warm Vanilla Sugar” body splashes you can get at Bath and Body Works correspond to guilty pleasure reading, like trashy romance novels or (in my case) JHU Confessions, the Gossip Girl of Johns Hopkins. It is incredibly sad how addicted I am to this website, but how else would I know whether Hopkins students prefer “an Ugly who’s awesome in bed or a Cutie who’s totally lacking”? (General consensus is the Cutie, if there was ever any doubt in your mind.)

There are books, such as pretty much anything that Allen Ginsberg (author of the incredible but frankly depressing poems “Howl”, “Kaddish”, and many others) ever wrote, which I find fascinating but too disturbing to read all that often. Creed Love in Black is a good perfume match for these kinds of books. It evokes a patch of violets growing in a forest where dark things lurk.

Finally, we have the books that we read over and over again, our favorites, the ones that changed the way we see the world. A few of mine are: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisnernos, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and my absolute favorite of all time, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. These books correspond to the perfumes that we wear every day, with which we and others identify ourselves. Mine are Bond No. 9 New Haarlem and Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. My hope is that even if perfume plays no role in your life now, reading this blog will help you to see it as a form of art just like a painting or a symphony.

By the way, y’all, I forgot to mention that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has guidelines concerning blogger endorsements. Basically, if a company sends me free samples or pays me money to write a good review, I have to let you know. All of the perfumes that I have reviewed thus far I have either bought from Sephora or tested in stores. But in the immortal words of Biggie, “I gotta let it show, I love the dough”. I am a college student who does not currently have any time to work and therefore has no source of income. If a company did send me free samples or something to review, I would not turn them down. However, I can promise you this: I will never write a review that a product does not deserve. Pink Sugar has no glowing reviews in its future no matter how much money Aquolina tries to throw at me. (Although they’re certainly welcome to try.)