Emotion is the Secret Ingredient, Says Master Perfumer Alberto Morillas

The legendary nose's latest creation for Bulgari recalls a childhood spent among trees.
IMAGE Bulgari

A thought exercise: Imagine a glass of water in front you. Maybe there are little ice cubes bobbing up and down on the surface. Maybe the glass is frosty, the water fizzy, the temperature perfect. Just imagine. What will you do?  

To create a perfume is like the need for water 

If you are a human person with a working heart, you will most likely want to down the drink, right?

Water is fundamental. It carries dreams, shapes lands, grows cities, satisfies desire, and provides life. “Is it more important to drink?” asks legendary perfumer Alberto Morillas. “If you don’t have water, you’re dead immediately.” 

At the head of a small table near the hammered metal bar of the Bulgari Hotel in London, Morillas is talking water, one of non-perfume smells that he is fixated with. Growing up in Seville, the capital of southern Spain, he recalls how he'd wake up early in the morning to smell the water found in his childhood home. 

There is hardly a scent, Morillas points out, when you hold the glass to your lips and drink the water within. “But you have this energy, and you need to have this energy,” he explains. “You have the emotion to drink, and for me, to create a perfume is this: the need to smell and want to wear immediately—to have this emotion.” 

Master perfumer Alberto Morillas says that, in the creation of perfumes, emotion is most important.

If you don't have emotion, you can't do the job

Morillas is 67 years old, and you can discern in the way he speaks how he is looking through the lens of memory. After discovering that scent-making is a real occupation, he became a perfumer “very young and immediately” at 20. And though he has been on the job for almost 50 years, he says the flame of passion from when he began holds steady.  

Time and talent have resulted in immortal scents, some of which you have probably worn. These include classics such as CK One, Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani, Kenzo Flower, Panthere de Cartier, Bulgari Omnia, and so many more. 

He continues, “A good perfumer [needs] to have the emotion, emotion, emotion to create the perfume. Because think: Every day, I [have] the same job... If you don’t have the emotion, you can’t [do] this job.”

Emotion is the touchstone that Morillas taps into when creating. He looks to the experiences people share, childhood memories, life's little bookmarks.

Take the scent of cedar wood, for example. The perfumer explains how we all have a strong memory of trees, which comes from climbing its branches, or playing in tree houses, or learning how to write with a pencil, which are usually made of cedar wood, when we were children. “This is the first emotion you have...” he says. “When you are young, you smell the trees.”   


Cedar and cypress create a familiar deep green feeling in Bulgari Man Wood Essence. IMAGE: Bulgari

What is most important is simplicity

Of course, there is much more to perfumery than feeling, memory, and emotion, but Morillas likes to zero in on the pure. He doesn't want to be bogged down by marketing. He doesn't believe in following a blueprint.

He also does not use a computer, preferring, in the age of gadget wizardry, to handwrite his formulas instead. “You see immediately the emotion when you are writing,” he explains.

For him, you need to create what you understand or, in this case, what you smell. This approach he applied in the creation of Bulgari Man Wood Essence, the latest perfume from the popular Bulgari Man series (this is 10th iteration if you include the limited editions), whose strength, according to Morillas, is just that.

It is very easy to understand the memory of wood and here, there are two, cedar and cypress, that project a deep green feeling akin to being in a forest or sleeping in that long-ago tree house.   

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The result is a feeling of freedom

Compared to his other hits, here is how he differentiates his latest: “When you smell the cedar, you smell the spirit. When you smell Aqua di Gio, you smell the emotion of the water. When you smell CK One, you smell the iced tea effect.” 

Morillas likes how Bulgari Man Wood Essence feels universal. It is simple and natural. It is not artificial and never a fantasy. It is the smell of wood and growing things punctuated with the freshness of citrus.

This also means the fragrance is not a meek scent. In fact, at first spray, it may feel a touch heavy, but after awhile, you appreciate its smoldering quality.

That's all well and good because, in the expert's decades-long career, he discovered the qualities men seek in scents: fresh, powerful, and long-lasting. (Morillas advises spraying over clothes, across the chest, for maximum effect.)

Morillas latest creation, Bulgari Man Wood Essence, projects power, freshness, and the spirit of trees. IMAGE: Bulgari

There is a story here, of course, because everything needs a story today: The perfume has been created as a resolution between the conflicting natures of man as creature of the city and a creature of nature.

We're all so caught up in our hamster wheels of steel (and money) that, more and more, we feel the need to log off and return to a simpler life—even if it is through signals from our noses. 

Morillas describes this best. He talks about climbing trees again. He imagines being on its topmost bough, looking far and away.  “Three meters, four meters. You are the king, you know? You have the emotion of being free,” the perfumer muses. “You are free.”

Bulgari Man Wood Essence is available at leading perfume counters.    

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Clifford Olanday
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