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Aqva Pour Homme Marine by Bulgari

Bulgari’s masculine Aqva Pour Homme Marine, which was introduced last spring, carries two fingerprints. The first is of its creator, Jacques Cavallier, a prolific perfumer so successful these days that he often seems to generate a quarter of each year’s worldwide fragrance product. The second is the unmistakable scent of a molecule, methylbenzodioxepinone, also known to the trade as Calone. Cavallier has plucked it from the crowd and cast it in starring roles in several of the biggest commercial successes the perfume industry has ever seen. It virtually defined perfume style in the 1990s. Whether Bulgari made a wise choice in launching an updated ’90s scent a decade later is another question.

Cavallier is, as many of the best perfumers are, an artist and a technician, with mastery of several olfactory archetypes. He created or co-created the vastly underrated edgy-feminine Chic (2002) for Carolina Herrera, the delicious raspberry gourmand Hot Couture (2000) for Givenchy and Gaultier’s beautifully updated French-traditionalist floral Classique (1993). He has a huge aesthetic range. He can do crass (the mesmerising neon mango Serpentine for Roberto Cavalli); he can do a super-commercial American mall style (Truth for Calvin Klein, the olfactory equivalent of The Da Vinci Code); and he can do excellent high-end luxury (Noir de Noir and Tuscan Leather, both for Tom Ford).

But it was with Calone that Cavallier made history. Calone is a synthetic that gives off the scent of fresh sea water with traces of ozone. In 1992, Cavallier put it in ’Eau d’Issey for Issey Miyake and then did it again, in 1996, with Acqua di Gio Pour Homme for Armani. The juices headed straight for the top of the charts, and the marketers were ecstatic: Cavallier is forever linked to an entirely new category of perfume, “water” or “marine” fragrances.

Bulgari asked for a Cavallier supermarine, and with Aqva Pour Homme Marine, Cavallier gave it to them. Bulgari’s press releases scatter language about ocean breezes and use words like “grapefruit” and “neroli” (bitter orange flower), but really what you have here is a fragrance that makes no reference whatsoever to the natural world. Aqva is the blandly handsome son of ’Eau d’Issey, a scent of Coast deodorant soap in an expensive executive gym with powerful central air conditioning. (My guess is that Cavallier has thrown in some salicylates for a flinty mineral feel — a nice touch.)

Men will like it; they’ve been conditioned to. It’s a nice masculine. It’s a good example of the category. You simply need to decide how you feel about the category.

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