Jacques Cavallier - master perfumer and the man who will undoubtedly have had an affect on your bathroom cabinet, whether you know his name or not - is talking about the elusive appeal of the Italian man. “It’s a combination of masculinity and elegance, you can wake up on a Saturday morning in Rome”, he gestures to the cobbled, bustling Via Condotti where the Bulgari flagship sits, “and there’s a man getting a coffee who is the archetype of that kind of style, and that’s the kind of man I think about in creating the men’s fragrances”, he says of the new range of exquisite Le Gemme colognes that he’s crafted for the historic Roman house.
It’s not difficult to glean example of this very sprezzatura sense of style; the store lies a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps in the throbbing heart of La Dolce Vita Roma, as vespas whir and the hiss of Aperol Spritz bubbles sound from below. And the emporium has been part of that particular era of history since the days that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton conducted their tumultuous love affair while filming Cleopatra via the currency of jewellery.
Inside, Taylor’s jewels are displayed in their old Hollywood glamour glory; the emerald engagement ring that Burton gifted her during filming, the sapphire necklace the size of a chewed toffee and the colour of her eyes that he gave as a 40th birthday present and the brooch that Eddie Fisher furnished her with in an attempt to win back her heart. She declined his affections but bought the brooch from him.
It’s this rich legacy - as well as the lustre and magic of the stones themselves - that informed the decision to launch a men’s line of Le Gemme in 2016. If standard fragrances are the stuff of Duty Free, Le Gemme is the private jet amongst the fleet; the stately flagons - each of them embedded with the gemstone that inspires the blend - are crafted by Jacques Cavallier to elevate the men’s grooming experience to the nth degree. This is spritzing for the High Net Worth man.
“I think men today are so much more aware and curious about fragrance and grooming. Some of the most iconic scents of all time have been men’s scents - Old Spice is a genius blend that first ignited men’s interest in cologne - and it’s encouraging to see men being more eager to experiment, says the perfumier, who is his thirty year career has also created iconic scents such as Issey Miyake’s L’Eau d’Issey and Armani’s Acqua di Gio.
For the new Le Gemme, the perfumier chose to hone in different variants of one specific aroma; musk. They are studded with, and named after, semi-precious stones such as white opal, falcon’s eye crystal and red jasper. Opalon is as light and citrusy as a limoncello on the Spanish Steps, a mix of neroli, ginger and tonka alongside the musk, while Yasep is a dark, peppery affair with sandalwood and vetiver. The results in all three are as seductive as a smouldering glance between Cinecitta starlets on the Via Veneto.
Bulgari Le Gemme colognes, £223, harrods