In Depth

Alberto Morillas bottles the scent of ice

The master perfumer explains his Bulgari Man Glacial Essence

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Bulgari has snow peaks and steep ascents in sight with its latest fragrance for men. The Roman luxury brand’s Bulgari Man Glacial Essence has been formulated to bottle the jolt-to-the-system sensation of taking a lungful of fresh sub-zero air. “I wanted to translate the feeling of icy freshness,” says the fragrance’s creator, Alberto Morillas.

But how to bottle icy fresh air? The master perfumer rose to the task by masterminding a “high-contrast fragrance” that counters a bouquet of sprightly top notes (juniper berry, geranium and a freshening ginger extract) with aromatic Australian sandalwood and herbaceous orris concrete, a costly ingredient extracted from iris flowers’ scented rootstock. Meanwhile, a woody base injects notes of musk and cedar wood. 

Bulgari Man Glacial Essence marks the latest in a series of team-up between the heritage label and Morillas: the Spanish “nose” has also signed Bulgari scents including the 2003 oriental Omnia and the ocean blue-bottled BLV. In 2010, the brand debuted Morillas’ Bulgari Man, and the best-seller has since inspired several iterations.

“What I always liked about Bulgari was the relationship between their jewellery and the skin,” Morillas tells me. “Bulgari perfumes are just as seductive and create this same connection with the skin. Our relationship is very creative. They always have a story to tell – a gem, a colour code, a country, a concrete – [all] used in perfect harmony.”

To set the scene for its frosted fragrance – and conscious of rapidly changing restrictions to international travel – Bulgari partnered with virtual reality specialists Oculus. At their California headquarters, the tech experts dreamed up an alpine spectacle for Bulgari: after donning a pair of Oculus headset, wearers are whisked away to snowy adventures and a futuristic basecamp with dramatic mountain views. It’s an ambitious initiative; a visually arresting nod to the embracing of nature that is one of Bulgari’s brand pillars. 

The label’s jewellers have previously crafted precious gems celebrating the beauty of flowers, and Bulgari Man Glacial Essence is the result of environmentally engaged processes. The pale blue glass flacon is manufactured by Stoelzle Masnières Parfumerie SAS using 100% renewably sourced electricity, while the fragrance’s packaging is made with paper from certified responsible sources. It’s a way of working that resonates with Morillas. “Perfumery cannot exist without innovation, especially innovation at the service of nature,” he says. 

Morillas, whose career has been waymarked by industry accolades and awards, is largely self-taught, as he explains. “I grew up in Seville in Andalusia. As a child, I did not know that the job of perfumer even existed. I used to dream a lot in our garden; undoubtedly its smells and colours influenced my sensitivity.”

At the age of ten, his family left Spain to relocate to Geneva. He would later enroll at Switzerland’s Haute École d'art et de design Genève. But it was while reading about legendary Parisian perfumer Jean Paul Guerlain that Morillas found his focus. “That day, I realised that there was an artist, a man behind the perfume, and that idea fascinated me.” After years of experimentation and studying perfumery books at a local library – Morillas describes Felix Cola’s 1931 tome Le Livre Du Parfumeur as “a sort of bible of perfumery” – he joined Geneva-headquartered fragrance and flavour heavyweight Firmenich in 1970 to receive in-house training. Seven years later, he was named a fully fledged perfumer. 

Morillas’s enthusiasm for his work remains undimmed. “This passion has never left me and I still live it with the same enthusiasm.” And his work has certainly been prolific: chances are that without even realising, you have smelled one of his creations recently. The fragrance guru has worked with beauty behemoths including Lancôme, Estée Lauder and Le Labo, and fashion brands including Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Issey Miyake and Givenchy.

In 1997, he launched Mizensir, growing a line of handmade candles into a successful fragrance business. “I’m a bit adventurous and enjoy using new ingredients and testing new olfactory territories,” says Morillas. “I like when a perfume touches the skin like a ray of sunshine, with a light strength. Perhaps it comes from my Mediterranean childhood, where the sun reflects off the deep blue water and heats the nature along the coast.”

Morilla’s latest Bulgari offering stands as proof that he can bottle colder climates too.

Bulgari Man Glacial Essence eau de parfum (100ml), £91; bulgari.com  

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