Glass meets with Bulgari perfumer Jacques Cavallier to discover the latest editions in the Le Gemme Men collection


IT seems only natural that a perfumer like Jacques Cavallier would be born in Grasse, the capital city of perfume. With both his grandfather and father perfumers, and his first job at age 10 being in a perfume factory, Cavallier’s life has been shaped, or rather scented, by fragrance. He has now become a master of luxury perfumery, and has worked on the creation of over 80 fragrances for fashion houses including Christian Dior, Parfums Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Lancôme. Most recently, Cavallier has created the new Le Gemme Men Collection for Bulgari.

Bulgari perfumer Jacques CavallierBulgari perfumer Jacques Cavallier

For this, Bulgari now trace the Gems Road route across the oceans to discover and explore three precious stones which are the inspiration for the new suite of fragrances – the citrus white musk Opalon which celebrates Australian white opal; red jasper from Madagascar is captured in the oriental musk Yasep; and Brazilian Falcon’s Eye inspires the woody black musk Falkar.

As perhaps you can discern, musk underpins all three of the latest Le Gemme collection. As Cavallier explained to Glass when we met him in Rome, “Musks have the characteristics of a doudou, a comforter … I like perfume with a concept, a story and a name … those stories could be feminine, but I have chosen them to be masculine.”

According to Cavallier, Opalon is “tender, the most Latin of the collection … it has freshness although it is 60 to 70 per cent musk”; whereas Yasep is “very innovative and a tribute to the 1,500 year-old tradition of Indian sandalwood perfume creation. Red perfumes won’t please everyone, but I think that’s a good thing,” says Cavallier. The final scent in the collection, Falkar, is “inspired by Middle Eastern perfumery, not to seduce the Middle Eastern customer but to seduce the rest of the world. The ambition was to make something darker, and emotionally connected,” adds Cavallier.


Bulgari Le Gemme Men Collection, Falkar

Do you find the raw gems inspiring? I have the impression that you’d be happier with an uncut diamond to consider than something beautifully shaped and polished.
I’ve seen a raw diamond and it’s not very nice. What I like is what you do with it. Revealing the purity, like the people cutting those stones, making those facets, is exactly what I try to do with my perfumes.

I too make a lot of facets. The advantage I have over the stone cutter is when you break the stone you actually break it. With an essential oil, I can break it and then associate all the broken parts together, or not together, just revealing the part that I want.

You can have a nice sapphire or diamond, but if it’s just a stone, it’s just a stone. And perfumes are like that, to have just the smell of purest patchouli oil, okay, why not? But it’s tiring and boring.

We are all selling emotions through what we are making; that’s the purpose of luxury. You have to be honest and use the best materials you can find in order to create perpetual emotions. So that each time you wear the jewels, or the perfume, and see or smell them, you should have these emotions. For me that’s the most important thing and also the most difficult to achieve.


Bulgari Le Gemme Men Collection, Opalon

Had you not been a perfumer, I feel you would have made a wonderful psychologist or novelist. What alternative métier could have appealed to you?
A Formula One driver or psychologist. But a psychologist in New York or in LA, just because there is more business over there [laughs]. To me perfume is kind of a psychotherapy. When I’m speaking about perfume to somebody, it reveals a very secret part of the personality. I’m always amazed by the experience.

We all have different lives, different experiences, but we are sharing the same values. It depends on the where someone may come from, but we all have something in common. Femininity is understandable, masculinity not as understandable, just because masculinity leans more to the expression of power. Femininity is much bigger and complex.

I understand you are a big fan of Eau Sauvage? I love to wear it myself, but when I smell it on a man … I want to reach out.
You’re just attracted, and want to discover the man who is wearing it?

Yes. Does any perfume affect you in that way?
Oh yes, for me: Opium, Aromatics Elixir, and Jean Paul Gaultier Classique which I created – because my wife was wearing it all the time. My dream is really to create perfumes where the message is “follow me or look at me”, for the good reasons. I like this mystery.


Bulgari Le Gemme Men Collection, Yasep

Do you think it’s possible to create a perfume for someone in grief, who wishes to be at a remove from the world, rather than inviting attention?
I’m sure that is possible. I mean you can wear many types of perfume, you can wear perfume as a protection. It’s just a matter of harmony or balance.

by Rachel McCormack

Bulgari Le Gemme Men Collection Falkar, Opalon and Yasep retail at £223 each for 100ml and are available at Harrods, London and at Lane Crawford, Hong Kong