I am going to reveal a secret which I normally wouldn’t do. Except over the last eight years it has turned into such a happy ending. The first time I met Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi at Esxence I thought they were all show, no nose. I had previously smelled their two debut releases Petra and Dolceaqua. I thought they were poorly made. Plus this perfumer, Luca Maffei, who was he? When I saw them at their booth in 2013 and they were talking about operatic perfumes my eyes rolled back into my head. I asked for a sample set and left as quick as I could. It wasn’t until I returned home that I sat down with what I consider the real debut collection that my deep affection for this brand was kindled. Anyone who has read my reviews knows I believe they are one of the best independent perfume brands in the world. My initial assessment was all arrogance, no brains.
Alessandro Brun, me and Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)
What has set them apart has been a willingness to push boundaries. To take younger less established perfumers and give them a freedom to explore their art. The initially maligned Sig. Maffei? Along with Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi they would produce my Perfume of the Year for 2016, L’Attesa. When I received a press release about a year ago from Masque Milano it said they were redoing those first two perfumes. Giving them new names and new perfumers. It has taken a long time for me to finally get an opportunity to try them. What I found is both are prime examples of everything Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have done well. I am going to review both today and tomorrow. First up Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua.
I went back to find my sample of Dolceaqua to remind myself what it was. A generic jasmine and rose is the best I can do. Perfumer Delphine Thierry did Montecristo and Terralba from that set of releases after the first two. Asking her to reinterpret Dolceaqua seems natural. The inspiration is a roadside breakfast somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua opens with a fabulously green floral and vegetal accord centered around muguet, ivy and marjoram. The muguet is the core of the opening but the green leafiness of the ivy and the slightly floral woodiness of the marjoram add beautiful facets like sunlight off the water down below. A breeze carries a hint of the ocean up to where we have stopped. This is a love story and it begins in earnest with ylang-ylang holding predominance in the heart. This is a sensual floral carrying a bit of the carnality inherent in the ingredient. Mme Thierry gives it a bit more innocence though the puffy powdery quality of mimosa and rose. We have stopped for breakfast and there is a croissant accord around almond blossom and saffron. This is a delicate gourmand accord cleverly achieved. Our lovers now look deep into each other’s eyes. The passion rises through an accord of benzoin, oakmoss, and cedar. A rich Oriental base to complete the tableau.
Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua represents the best of what this brand has come to stand for. I have been looking for a smart version of the transparent floral gourmand. The early moments of this deliver it. It is part and parcel of the intelligence Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have supplied to their brand. Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua smells like success as a perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
One of the most exciting trends at Esxence 2016 was the work from the younger generation of perfumers. For any art form to remain vital there needs to be a steady flow of new visions from younger frames of reference. This has led to each of these perfumers finding their own stylistic method. With perfumer Luca Maffei I am beginning to believe he has a desire to source new raw materials and use them. He is like a painter given a new color to work with as he realizes where it might fit. In his first perfume for Masque Milano called L’Attesa this shows.
For this latest act of the ongoing perfumed opera creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi take us to Act III Scene I. L’Attesa is the beginning of the grand romance which will evolve into Act III Scene IV otherwise known as the previous release Tango. Tango is that moment when the passion spills over. L’Attesa is the time where that passion is born in the intense wash of first love. The concept was to make an iris perfume where the axis of iris would remain throughout the entire development. This is not an easy effect to achieve. It is costly as it takes a lot of expensive iris raw materials. Too much of any one ingredient has the possibility of overwhelming anything else. The solution they hit upon was to use three different sources of iris and to stack them upon each other. This allowed for an evolving iris effect throughout the time I wore L’Attesa emphasizing different parts of iris as a raw material. That is the clever technical effect. Sig. Maffei’s new toy is a CO2 extract of beer. He uses it as the linchpin of a fermenting champagne accord that is an ideal match for the iris in the early stages.
Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei, Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)
L’Attesa opens with the very familiar powdery iris effect bolstered with some neroli. The champagne accord follows right away. When I say champagne accord you’re probably thinking fizzy aldehydes, a bit of alcoholic bite, maybe a little tonka. The finished product. Sig. Maffei instead wanted to capture the champagne at an earlier stage; when it was fermenting. While it was flat, a little sour, and yeasty. If you think that sounds unpleasant you won’t once you try L’Attesa. The beer extract provides the sourness of hops and the bread-like yeastiness. The rest of it is coming up with a flat white grape effect. The fermenting champagne accord turns out to be a compelling partner for the powdery orris. Pulling it in a less pretty direction; no less interesting for that. It then sets up the use of the more precious solid iris extracts in the heart and base. Once you move to something like orris butter the powdery is dialed way down in favor of the root and rhizome orris is actually compounded from. As L’Attesa moves into the heart this earthier iris sets up shop alongside tuberose and ylang ylang. It provides a traditional floral heart, extremely decadent, as these three blustery florals achieve a balance. The base continues the deepening of the earthiness vibe of the iris to which a refined leather accord is added. This is the beginning of the tango as the iris and leather begin to approach each other knowing they are in the early stages of love.
L'Attesa has 12-14 hour longevity with moderate sillage.
I have spent a couple of days just luxuriating in the long-tail iris that is L’Attesa. It is a perfume tailor made for those days when you want to loll around the house. Sig. Brun and Sig. Tedechi are trusting their brand to many of the best young perfumers working. L’Attesa shows that faith has been rewarded again. Sig. Maffei has created a signature perfume which exemplifies all of his best qualities as a perfumer.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Masque Milano at Esxence 2016.
I would suggest that every perfume lover has a note which they like that others are not as fond of. One of those notes for me is narcissus. It clearly is not in fashion in the current perfumery trends. In the last two years there have only been 28 perfumes released which contain narcissus. Think about that. There have been over 3,000 new perfumes and less than 1% contain narcissus. It is why the few perfumes I own which feature it I covet. I don’t have a hypothesis for why this is so. Narcissus is far from the only heady floral note in use.
Alessandro Brun, Mark Behnke, Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)
While my narcissus collection is definitely my smallest section it is also the most personally compelling. When I walked up to the creative directors of Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, at Pitti Fragranze they passed me a strip with the newest release Romanza. Even before the strip got underneath my nose the unmistakable presence of narcissus rose to greet me.
Romanza is Act 2-Scene 3 in the ongoing olfactory opera Masque Milano is weaving. It is the aria where a lover sings about that feeling just before they fall head over heels in love. That moment when another person has found someone who they can’t stop thinking about. The person who just might be that missing piece to completeness. The beginning of a lifelong affection. Working with nose Cristiano Canali they decided narcissus was the perfect embodiment of this moment.
Sig. Canali uses absinthe as an alcoholic green attention getter. It is like the besotted lover is using the green fairy to try and break the approaching fever. Orange blossom reminds them that there is beauty in the possibility of love. A little angelica adds some botanical musk as the humanity of it all is winked at. Try though they might the lover is consumed in a narcotic floral maelstrom of narcissus supported by hyacinth and violet. This heart accord is named “Hedonist’s Bouquet” and it is an accurate description. It is a powerfully narcotic mixture. It is where you will also either fall in love with Romanza or decide to break it off early. I fell completely in love with the Hedonist’s Bouquet and dove headlong into its pleasures. What I enjoy about narcissus, as opposed to tuberose, is that for all of its power there is an acerbic green edge to it. Sig. Canali uses violet to hone that edge in Romanza. Just as Bryan Adams sings, “Now it cuts like a knife/But it feels so right”. I like this phase so much I just want to luxuriate in it for days. The final part of Romanza is a “human skin touching” accord. Sig. Canali uses amber, civet, and woods to fashion that moment of human skin-to-skin contact infused with emotion. It is a lovely passionate way to finish Romanza as only head over heels in love could be next.
Romanza has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I received my first sample of Romanza in Florence it cracked and when I went to sleep that night the room smelled of Romanza. It was a beautiful lullaby to accompany my dreams. As beautiful as that was; having worn it on my skin it comes more alive especially the final skin accord. There have been few perfumes in 2015 which have burrowed as deeply into my emotions as Romanza.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Pitti Fragranze 2015.
One of the more well-received lines of 2013 was Masque Milano. The three releases generated a lot of buzz and Montecristo ended up on many year-end “Best of 2013” lists. I was not one of those who was similarly impressed. I liked what I smelled but I wasn’t moved to write about them. I was optimistic that Alessandro and Riccardo, the owners and creative directors behind the brand, would produce something I would really like. It only took them one more try to meet that expectation.
Alessandro and Riccardo
Masque Milano presents their fragrances as Acts from an opera and for their fourth fragrance, Tango, we are at Act III Scene IV. In the story they describe a party where our male protagonist is enjoying the smell of the night blooming jasmine while drinking Ron y Miel honey rum from the Canary Islands. He meets the gaze of a woman, the music swells with a distinctive rhythm. The drink has loosened his inhibition, the music propels him through the wooden tables surrounding the dance floor. He holds his hand out and they connect. The dance of attraction begins, again.
When I read this description I was very intrigued because I had a good friend, as a young man in South Florida, who was from Tenerife. He always scoffed at the rum from the Caribbean Islands as lacking in imagination. I didn’t understand what he meant until he came back from a trip home with a bottle of Ron y Miel. Aged rum is blended with indigenous honey to create a singular liquor. I had forgotten about it for many years until seeing the description for Tango. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian was asked to create a fragrance which captured “A mid-summer night. The bower in full bloom, large wooden tables, a liquor; and music.” Mme Zarokian captures all of that along with a smoldering depth that is entrancing.
Tango Argnetino II by Pedro Alvarez
Mme Zarokian chooses to start with the citrus-like breeziness of cardamom set off against black pepper and cumin. It is like a sea breeze on a summer’s evening over the sweat coming off those sitting outside. Cumin and pepper produce the sweaty accord. Jasmine sambac with all of its indolic character on display catches the flowers growing on the perimeter. Mme Zarokian adds a bit of Rose Damascene to keep the indoles from getting too rambunctious too quickly. Patchouli allows for the indoles to gain some traction as Tango begins the final bit of development. The Ron y Miel accord is created from vanilla, sweet clover, benzoin, and tonka. It is rich and compelling like the real thing. Finally we end up with leather, amber, and musk as the passionate dance commences.
Tango has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
Where Tango resonates for me is that this seems the most complete Masque Milano fragrance to date. Every phase of the story presented is represented throughout the development. The first time I sniffed it and wore a bit of it I didn’t have the story and was still impressed with the seamless development. Each note and accord builds upon the others and my dance of attraction with another perfume begins, again.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Masque Milano at Esxence 2014.