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Bulgari Omnia: a modern classic

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Let’s kick off the new year with a review of a modern classic.

Bulgari Omnia gets mentioned a lot on perfume boards. I bought some years ago, a cheap blind buy, didn’t get excited about it, and tossed it in my drawer of Bottles without Boxes I Don’t Much Give A Damn About.

There’s stuff I wear in that drawer, but it’s all stuff that’s commonly available, and I’m not babying those bottles. The cheap plastic weird multi-dimensional figure 8 bottle seemed at home in there with other bought-it-at-the-store, easy-to-find stuff.

After a recent round of seeing roughly eight million people mention that they were curling up for some holiday evening wearing their beloved Omnia, I decided to haul this bottle out again and give it another go.

Many Omnia lovers on the perfume boards mention often that it’s one of the few perfumes of theirs that gets compliments; it especially seems to be a man magnet. If that matters to you. As you know, my beloved doesn’t care for perfume; but I thought, hey, so many sniffers can’t be all wrong; I should give this a second chance.

I liked it; I especially liked it on my shirt, where I loved it. A perfume can grab me just in the act of putting on a shirt. I put on the Omnia and put on a T-shirt, then went to the gym (where I wear gym clothes, and change out of my street clothes in the locker room). Showered and naked (of perfume), I put the T-shirt back on – and thought “Dear lord, what is it that smelling so fantastic?” Ah. Omnia.

If you haven’t smelled Omnia because it gets described in terms that would more often apply to a gourmand, don’t skip Omnia. Its masala tea note is often ballyhooed, and there’s some spice behind it. Sniffing it directly, I get some cumin and some cardamom – two of my favorite spices – but it wouldn’t be crazy to sniff some tea in there as well. The first spray, that had been sitting in the sprayer mechanism for a while, had more tonka to it than you might imagine, that hollow milky bean note that tends to overshadow perfumes and that I don’t much care for – but of course which can work quite nicely with spiced tea. Later sprays play down the tonka, though, and I think it’s a sign of more oxidized juice – generally if there’s tonka it’s very far in the background. It’s really not a gourmand at all.

I think the common description as spiced masala tea doesn’t do Omnia any favors. Fresh out of the bottle, to my nose it’s more of a floral musk. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, imagine a floral musk fleshed out with spiced tonka masala tea – and then you’ll start to get the idea.

Omnia is one of those beautiful blends where ingredients don’t really stand out in any specific way. Such perfumes have to stand on their own. They won’t coast into your heart on the strength of your love for violet or amber or myrrh. Omnia is one of those perfumes that smells like itself. You could easily imagine that you perceive the peppery floralcy of geranium blending seamlessly into the spice, tea, and musk. The musk behaves as it should in this perfume, providing a steady and beautiful floor. If you hate musk, consider whether or not perhaps you hate the perfumes that are nothing BUT musk. I hate what I call “laundry musk”, but I’d worn Omnia perhaps three times before I thought “You know what this is? It’s a floral musk!” And that was only just after first spray, before all of its facets come into play.

It’s not loud, but it is more distinctive than you might think. That’s a winning combination for one of these well-blended scents. It is very beautiful, but it is hard to categorize, which probably worked against it. It’s not particularly in the style of modern perfumes, a fruitchouli or gourmand, and I’m sure that hurt it in the market.

Because it does not appear to have done super-well in the market. It’s far better known now as the progenitor of an array of flankers – Crystalline, Jade, Garnet, Amethyste, Coral, you name them – none of which is particularly outstanding but which seem to fulfill a certain market segment for Bulgari. Bulgari has an odd stable of perfumes, including two of my favorites, both of which have tea notes (Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc and Black), and a bunch of other stuff which seems instantly forgettable to me. Omnia seems to have been an effort to take that tea legacy in a new direction – the chai direction – and it doesn’t appear to have gone too well for Bulgari except as a springboard to a line of more forgettable perfumes.

But it was a good idea, not just a noble effort but realized as a very beautiful perfume. It’s a shame that this one is discontinued. None of the other Bulgari efforts are particularly distinctive; Black, their stunning, groundbreaking vanilla-rubber-tea perfume, seems constantly under threat of possible discontinuation. So much so that it’s possible I have not one but *cough* two *cough* backup bottles of this. They seem to be risk-averse in their perfume catalog, perhaps unable to figure out how to expand on innovation the way Thierry Mugler has been able to expand on their innovation with Angel.

Fortunately, Omnia is still easy to find, though it’s disappearing. I wonder if you, like me, would take a while to warm up to this perfume. Or is it already in your tub of loves?

Image is “classic” by nao.k, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

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4 comments to Bulgari Omnia: a modern classic

  • Das

    Tub of loves! Tub of loves! It’s comfortably in my top 10, sometimes top 5. I think you described it very well, and totally agree on “Omnia is one of those perfumes that smells like itself.” It doesn’t neatly fall into one category or another and definitely does not fall into gourmand for me.
    I don’t remember how I first came across it but it’s one of my first rabbit hole perfumes and the first (and only) one I ever got a backup bottle of. I wore it yesterday. It just brings a smile to my face 🙂 Thanks for your thoughtful and on the nose post about it.

  • I just wanted to let you know I blind bought a small bottle of Omnia based on your lovely and very precise analysis above – together with a backup bottle of Black, in case of emergency – and I absolutely love it! Thanks so much for encouraging me to take the plunge.

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