Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In “Scent Memories,” the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives.
Next up is Luis Miguel Gonzalez Sebastiani, general manger of Bulgari Parfums. Gonzalez Sebastiani helped dream up the brand’s latest fragrance launch, Bulgari Allegra, a collection of five vibrant fragrances inspired by the Italian lifestyle. Created by master perfumer Jacques Cavallier, each scent takes you on a passport-free trip packed with positive vibes, be it a citrus-filled day on the Italian Riviera with Riva Solare, a romantic date night with rosy Fiori D’Amore, popping into a local pastry shop with powdery Dolce Estasi, clinking glasses at aperitivo with fruity and floral Rock’n’Rome, or attending a lavish carnival party in Venice with decadent Fantasia Veneta. The collection also features five Magnifying essences (in bergamot, rose, patchouli, vanilla, and musk) that help you customize your itinerary by enhancing your favorite notes. The Cut caught up with Gonzalez Sebastiani to talk rainforests, saffron, and the best thing to spritz on hotel sheets.
My first scent memory: If I have to think of the very first smell and properly constructed fragrance in my life, I have to go back to my grandma. She used to wear this very old, extremely vintage eau de cologne from Jean Marie Farina. Now that I’m working on an Italian house, I’m realizing it was a bit reminiscent of Italy, and technically, Jean Marie Farina was actually Giovanni Maria Farina, so an Italian guy did create it. But it was a very beautiful cologne.
Happiness smells like: You know when you’ve spent a very cold winter in the dark? And that first moment where you put your foot on a sandy, beautiful beach? And you get this warm, solar, salty breeze that just hits you in the face? That smell is the smell of freedom, and for me, happiness is freedom; the capacity to let your emotions go, with no barriers, no boundaries, no restrictions. In my life, I think that always happens to me when I’m at the beach. But it has to be a wild beach, not some big resort. This is a very sauvage beach in the middle of nowhere, where you actually get to smell everything down to the surrounding plants. That’s happiness for me.
Love smells like: A combination of the heart and the body, which as a smell could be a very animalic white flower, like jasmine. It’s something that just fills you up. I had the opportunity in the past to go to India to visit big jasmine plantations and when you’re there, and you inhale, your heart fills in, but your body connects and reacts too, and that’s reminiscent of love for me.
Heartbreak or loss smells like: I’ve been married for so many years, I don’t remember that feeling … I would say a combination of leather, wood, and tobacco, probably. I don’t know why, but I picture myself sitting on a leather couch, hitting my head against a wooden table, probably drinking a bit of brandy or whiskey, and smoking tobacco.
Friendship smells like: I am a very social, extroverted person, and for me friendship is movement and energy, and that concept is associated with citrusy smells. Mandarin, orange, bergamot, you know, things that bring this ray of life, light, and dynamism, like friends.
Regret smells like: The moment you have the capacity to regret something, it’s because you have elevated yourself to a certain level of sophistication in your thinking. So it has to be something bitter, yet precious in terms of ingredients. I’d probably choose the smell of a highly qualitative saffron. If you smell saffron, it’s a very beautiful material, but it’s partially bitter, and at the same time, a very elegant, sophisticated smell.
Success smells like: The concept of success is so relative, but I think success gives you a certain level of confidence, and confidence can be associated with something very enveloping, like a highly concentrated white musk; something that creates a caressing feeling all over the body.
My ideal vacation smells like: A mix of the beach and the smell of the tropical forest. I’m from Venezuela and it’s a very tropical country, and what I love about it is that you can find beautiful virgin beaches and tropical rain forests in the same place. You get the smell of these wet forests where the rain mixes with the minerals on the earth and with the trees. Everything is green and wet around you and you get these this warm, humid feeling and it is just divine. There’s something about it that is extremely liberating.
My home smells like: Woods. I love the smell of wood. I love cedarwood, and I love sandalwood, especially that intense, creamier side of the sandalwood. If we’re lighting candles, that’s the direction I’m usually going.
The first thing I smell in the morning: As a Venezuelan working for an Italian company, you have no choice: the coffee grinder. There’s nothing more divine than putting coffee grains in the grinder; that smell is just amazing. Sometimes, I actually enjoy smelling the coffee grinding more than drinking the actual coffee.
The last thing I smell before I go to bed: I cannot go to bed without showering, and this is gonna sound a bit like marketing but it’s not, I promise — I love putting on our Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert, our green tea from our eau de cologne collection. That smell is just divine. It’s really soothing and comforting; it just surrounds you and puts you in your little bubble, so I find it extremely relaxing. Sometimes I even spread it on the sheets, and when I travel, I take an Au Thé Vert with me to spray it on the hotel bed.
A scent or smell that I love that others usually don’t: I think the perfect fragrances are those that have very animalic musks, where the musk smells very much like a sheep almost; not stinky, but a strong smell that’s very animalic at the bottom. When you mix that with fresher or floral notes at the top, the contrast is beautiful.
I smell like: Me? Oh, listen, I have an exclusive particular fragrance crafted by Jacques Cavallier just for me, and it’s funny because everyone stops me on the street all the time, like, “What fragrance are you wearing? I want to get it for my husband or so-and-so,” and … it doesn’t exist. The base is red musk, you know I have this passion for musk, so it’s very, very warm; imagine something fiery at the bottom. It has sandalwood, of course, to bring this calm, creamy contrast into it. And then at the top, we put a lot of ginger for a very fresh, spicy top note. I wear it all the time. Jacques does it for me with a lot of pride because it’s something that we worked on together in his lab in Grasse. He sends me these half-liter bottles and it’s just my exclusive fragrance that no one has and it feels fantastic.