New Perfume Review Milano Fragranze Basilica, Brera, La Prima, and Diurno- The Highlights

Whenever I’ve traveled, I have a travel guide in hand. Before I get to my destination, I have the plan of what attractions to see. They’re mostly the famous ones, the usual suspects, the highlights. Creative director Alessandro Brun also must give perfume lovers the highlights of Milan in his new fragrance line Milano Fragranze. I look at the remaining four perfumes I didn’t cover yesterday: Basilica, Brera, La Prima, and Diurno. The first three are composed by Violaine Collas and the last by Julie Masse.

Alessandro Brun

The churches of Milan are both historical and sacred. In Basilica Mme Collas leans more heavily on the latter. This is a classic church incense type of fragrance. It opens with herbal notes of thyme and rosemary wrapping themselves around the frankincense. Both sources of green roughen the smoothness of the resin. There are times incense feels like a silvery monolith. The herbs break that up a bit. It leads to a woody base of sandalwood and cedar. These represent the polished wood of the benches and the sturdiness of the rafters.

Violaine Collas

La Prima represents the singular highlight of Milan, the opera theater of La Scala. Even an opera dilettante like me had to visit. Sig. Brun envisioned a beautiful woman in the audience on an opening night. Mme Collas interpreted that as a woman who would wear a fragrance as smart as her clothing. This has an intricate interaction of ingredients especially in the early development. Cardamom, orange blossom, osmanthus, jasmine, and davana are the notes of the scale leading to an engaging aria. Each of those ingredients wax and wane in a delightful way for a long time. It comes to an end when a gentle animalic accord sweetened with vanilla signals the end.

The art galleries of Milan is another highlight. Brera imagines the dreamy concept of the paintings coming to life after closing. When you’re the first visitor of the morning the scent of their cavorting hangs in the air. This results in a powerful shaded rose from Mme Collas. She uses two sources to form an uber-rose effect. The glow of saffron and the heat of chili pepper adds some texture. Patchouli and labdanum provide some shadows among the rose petals.

Julie Masse

Mrs. C is a mosaic artist and her desire to visit them has taken me to some fantastic, unexpected places. On our first trip to Milan one of her highlights was to visit Albergo Diurno Venezia. This was the Art Deco designed place to be treated to a bath in a private bathing room. There was also a barber shop to get a shave. As we walked through, I felt as if the Lost Generation echoed through the now dilapidated structure. Diurno is inspired by this place which is now being renovated.

Diurno is my favorite of this debut collection. The reason comes from the first second. Mme Masse has fashioned a brilliant amaretto accord. So many perfume versions are syrupy sweet almond. She remembers that amaretto translates to “a little bitter”. This almond doesn’t ooze it bites. Some sage sharpens that. Lavender and geranium offer a floral contrast without blunting the bitterness. A suite of green notes from balsam, vetiver, and moss adds a terpenic bitter harmonic to the amaretto.

Sig. Brun has put together a beautiful tour of Milan. All he asks is for you to follow your nose.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample set provided by Milano Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Milano Fragranze Cortile, Naviglio, Galleria, and Derby- Moellhausen Milan

The new collection of fragrance from creative director Alessandro Brun is called Milano Fragranze. Sig. Brun’s simple concept is to translate different places in Milan into fragrance. Just as the name says. Another thing which has always set him apart is his eye for young perfumers. When I received my sample set of eight releases, I saw the name of two perfumers who were unfamiliar to me, Michelle Moellhausen and Dominique Moellhausen. Sig. Brun asked them each to take on two of his Milan neighborhoods. For me it was a journey of discovery of a city through one of its natives but also two new perfumers. The two by Michelle Moellhausen are Cortile and Naviglio. Dominique Moellhausen is responsible for Galleria and Derby.

Alessandro Brun

Cortile translates to courtyard. The brief from Sig. Brun is to imagine the end of a summer day. Sipping espresso as the white flowers scent the air. Mme Moellhausen opens with a bitter coffee accord. It captures the oily bitterness of the un-roasted bean. Some violet leaf and cinnamon give it a bit of cappuccino froth. This courtyard is covered in jasmine vines. They settle heavily on the humid air. Mme Moellhausen stiffens the jasmine with tuberose and ylang-ylang. This forms an equally rich floral accord to match the espresso one. For much of the early going the coffee and the florals switch back and forth. Eventually the espresso is drunk, and the jasmine remains. The base accord is of warm amber and sandalwood.

When I read the description of Naviglio I expected it would not be for me. Sig. Brun wanted to turn the work of the washermen of the Vicolo del Lavandar into perfume. Which means soapy, something I don’t usually appreciate fully. Mme Moellhausen made me reconsider that. It begins as soapy as can be. It is the smell of a freshly unwrapped bar of soap. In this case carrying a bit of neroli along with it. The heart is what transforms it. As the soap is used to wash the fine linen shirts. A trio of lavandin, petitgrain, and vetiver provide a fantastic fresh place for that soapiness to float. The powdery lavender the green vetiver and the stern petitgrain combine into a morning of happy scented labor. In the base the scent of the water and the expansiveness of white musks provide the final touches. This is a smartly constructed perfume featuring soap.

Dominique (l.) and Michelle Moellhausen

Galleria is meant to evoke the Salotto di Milano where travelers used to come to purchase leather goods. This is a fabulous depiction of being in a fine leather store. It begins as the store owner invites you into a showroom and serves you a cup of espresso. Polished fruits mingle with the coffee. Unlike her sister the coffee is complementary to the davana and berries which take the lead. It is the heart where the luxury appears as iris pallida and a refined leather accord build a presence. Some carrot seed allows for the rhizome to peek out around the powder of the iris. A gentle caress to the leather. As this moves to the base patchouli deepens the leather accord. Sandalwood provides a lovely woody foundation.

One thing Derby proved to me is the scent of horse racing might be a constant. I grew up near a racetrack. Sig. Brun wants this to replicate the racetrack in Milan. I can tell you if this is accurate, Florida and Milan are not so different. As you watch the trainers taking their steeds out for an exercise run on the turf is what this perfume smells like. A slug of galbanum and the herbalness of lavender form that dewy smell of the grass before the horses are set loose. Mimosa adds in a hazy sunny floral, but things remain firmly on the green. The base accord is the scent of the earth as the horses run by. Vetiver, oakmoss, and patchouli form a “churned-up grass” accord that had me looking for a horse in my vicinity.

As much as this collection is Sig. Brun showing off the scent of his hometown it is also an opportunity for others to interpret his passion. Mmes Moellhausen have made these four pieces of Milan their own.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Milano Fragranze.

Mark Behnke

A Tale of Two Creative Directors

Ever since I began writing about perfume, I always wanted to give credit to the perfumer and the creative director. It is as important to me as knowing who writes and directs a movie. In the best cases the partnership is creativity amplified.

Over a typical year I receive hundreds of samples. One consistent event always seems to happen. I receive a couple of sets of new releases, and they rise above everything else. This happened about six weeks ago. I’ve been spending my own sweet time enjoying myself. This week I’m finally going to share my thoughts about them. There is one consistent piece of what I will cover they are overseen by two of the best creative directors in all of perfumery, Alessandro Brun of Masque Milano and now Milano Fragranze and Victor Wong of Zoologist. Both are shining examples of how to succeed creatively and commercially in the independent perfume sector. They also share the same love of perfume that I, and probably most readers, have. That passion forms the core of their success.

Mr. Wong was literally “one of us”. He was part of many Facebook fragrance groups. You would find him in the middle of discussions with other fragrance aficionados almost daily. One day in 2014 he announced he was going to start his own brand of perfume for which he would act as creative director. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped he didn’t lose too much money. Success was not the likely outcome.

Yet Mr. Wong entered the process of overseeing the vision of his new brand Zoologist like “one of us”. He chose from among the fragosphere’s favorite independent perfumers. For four years he nudged some of those individualists into a team setting. For many of them he would extract their best work. All in service to creating a cuddly animal inspired perfume.

2019 would mark a turning point as he took the step of working with perfumers from IFF. He also maintained releases from the roster of independents he had yet to work with. What was admirable was he asked for the same adventurous creativity that had become the signature of Zoologist. Over nearly thirty perfumes there are “challenging” ones and “crowd-pleasers”. What unites them is Mr. Wong’s vision.

Sig. Brun has been one half of the creative direction, with Riccardo Tedeschi, of the premier independent brand Masque Milano. When I first met him at Esxence in 2013 I thought he was part of an irritating trend. Carpetbaggers in the perfume aisle. Over the early years of attending Esxence I saw people who were less interested in perfume. They wanted to get to the marketing part, the perfume was secondary. When it came to Sig. Brun, I had it completely wrong. It became extremely clear to me when I sat down with the sample set of the first four Opera perfumes, he helped creatively direct.

While he didn’t hang out on the Facebook pages I would come to realize he is also “one of us”. He adores the art of perfumery. He reveres the opportunity he has to add to it. Together with Sig. Tedeschi they have worked with a European-based roster of young perfumers. This again leads to what is the best work for many of these precocious talents.

Now Sig. Brun is breaking out on his own to oversee his own line, Milano Fragranze. He is interpreting the city that he loves, Milano by interpreting eight different areas of the city. It is another triumph.

I am spending today waxing operatic about these two visionaries because the rest of the week is going to be focused on the extraordinary perfumes they’ve just overseen. The four new Zoologist releases along with the debut collection of Milano Fragranze is as good as independent perfumery gets. Which is a tale of two creative directors at the top of their game.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Lost Alice- Party with the Creatives

Back at the end of last year I found out there was a perfume coming from three of my favorite creative people in perfumery. Two of them are the owners-creative directors of Masque Milano, Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi. As the brand enters its second decade they stand at the top of independent perfume. The other one is a young perfumer who had a spectacular year in 2020, Mackenzie Reilly. She is a perfumer who finds new ways to tell fragrant stories. Together they have collaborated on Masque Milano Lost Alice.

The setting for this perfume is The Mad Hatter’s tea party from the Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. This has been an inspiration for many perfumes. One reason is the idea of creating a new perfume is a real-life version of creating a new reality. Whenever the people behind my latest perfumes show me their process it is quite often a party of ingredients and inspirations told in larger-than-life ways. The perfume might be meant to take you to Wonderland, yet the creativity right here is as energetic as anything The Mad Hatter can imagine.

Riccardo Tedeschi, Mackenzie Reilly, and Alessandro Brun (l. to r.)

One of the reasons that Masque Milano has been so creative is because they look for the new perfumers to work with. On a videoconference to announce Lost Alice all three spoke to the collaboration. How each of them had specific things they brought to the final result.

One of the things Ms. Reilly was able to bring to this party was a set of ingredients from Laboratoire Monique Remy (LMR). Each perfume oil provider has a set of crown jewel ingredients. At IFF, where Ms. Reilly works it is the LMR palette. Most of the time you get a couple of these in any given fragrance. Because Sigs. Brun and Tedechi are committed to the highest ideals Ms. Reilly were able to use six LMR ingredients. This bit of quality needs to be mentioned because it is through the nuance of these exquisite ingredients that Lost Alice is found.

This is a perfume made up of three distinctive accords. The opening is Earl Grey tea replete with bergamot over which a cloud of black pepper and sage hover. This was directly inspired by a line from the book describing a part of the tea party where there is “too much” pepper in the air. Here it is just right. By using the sage it harmonizes to give an expansive air to the pepper which keeps it from becoming overwhelming. The heart is built around orris concrete. Ms. Reilly reinforces it through ambrette seed and carrot. This makes sure the powdery part of the rhizome is held in check. This orris is earthy root. This one reminds me of dough. Which is when a fabulous accord of sweet cakes arrives. The orris and the sweet rise together into the spicy top accord. It comes to a close around a steamed milk accord given depth and creaminess through sandalwood. The final addition is what makes Lost Alice rise to new heights.

As homage to the Italian creative directors Ms. Reilly uses the LMR version of Broom Absolute. This ingredient flows through the perfume. It gathers in the sweet cakes and adds a little honey. There is a grainy texture which adds froth to the steamed milk. Finally it is a catalyst through which the whole perfume ignites. It creates a vividness which envelops it all.

Lost Alice has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lost Alice is meant to be the opening scene in the final “Act of Dreams” to complete the perfumed opera begun with their first releases. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi along with Ms. Reilly have formed a creative dream team. By inviting me to their party I’ve found one of my favorite perfumes of the year.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Masque Milano.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Best of 2020 Part 2: Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

After yesterday’s broad overview, in Part 2 I get very specific naming the best of the year in four categories.

Perfume of the Year: Shalini Iris Lumiere One of the joys of writing about perfume for over a decade is I’ve been able to watch brands develop. My favorite is when a creative director and long-time collaborator find that magic moment when all their hard work produces a transcendent perfume. Shalini has been making fragrance since 2004. In 2020 it made my Perfume of the Year, Shalini Iris Lumiere.

Iris Lumiere is the fifth perfume from fashion designer Shalini and master perfumer Maurice Roucel. I have enjoyed the other four releases a lot. Iris Lumiere took a quantum leap over those. It achieved that by showing me a different version of iris. As mentioned yesterday I write a lot about the powdery or rooty nature of the ingredient. Iris Lumiere showed me something I had never experienced before, an intensely greener version.

It has always been one of M. Roucel’s strengths to find new ways to showcase well-known ingredients. His choice to use galbanum and muguet as green interrogators of orris formed something captivating. It was if a fresh green rhizome had been harvested with moisture dripping off it. Months away from being the dried version we are familiar with. By using the overdose of galbanum it creates a sparkling set of jeweled facets among the irises. The final piece is to shine silvery moonlight on it using frankincense.
M. Roucel has been making perfume for decades this is among his best perfumes ever and not just the Perfume of the Year for 2020.

Perfumer of the Year: Maurice Roucel– It was clear to me heading into the fall that my Perfumer of the Year was going to have the initials MR. Throughout the year it seemed like Maurice Roucel and Mackenzie Reilly kept having a competition in my head. They both worked creatively across every sector. What tipped the balance is M. Roucel did make my Perfume of the Year.

Besides that he also did an artistic composition in NEZ Hong Kong Oolong. Monique Lhuiller was an entirely different version of the mainstream fresh floral.  A Lab on Fire A Blvd. Called Sunset is a fabulous dry leather via California car culture.

I could’ve written a similar resume for Ms. Reilly as her year was also impressive. They say you are judged by who it is you competed against. M. Roucel was pushed all year by one of the most impressive new perfumers we have. In 2020 it was the old master who is the Perfumer of the Year.

Runner-Ups: Fanny Bal, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Josh Meyer, Mackenzie Reilly, and Cecile Zarokian.

Creative Director of the Year: Victor Wong, Zoologist Perfumes– There is no better story in independent perfumery than that of Victor Wong and his Zoologist Perfumes brand. 2019 was an extraordinary year for Mr. Wong including Squid being named the Fragrance Foundation Perfume Extraordinaire at this year’s awards. He entered 2020 with a dilemma. He chose to re-invent one of the flagship perfumes of the brand with a new perfumer. The 2020 version of Bat shows why I hold Mr. Wong in such high esteem. Working with perfumer Prin Lomros they created a different species of bat as the environment was shifted from cave to jungle. It was every bit as enjoyable. He would follow-up with three new releases Sloth, Koala, and Musk Deer. The latter is an expectation shattering take on musk. It is that ability to take chances that makes Mr. Wong my Creative Director of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano, Carlos Kusubayashi of A Lab on Fire, Natalia Outeda of Frassai, Renaud Salmon of Amouage, and Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio.

Brand of the Year: Masque MilanoAlessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are always looking for ways to evolve their successful enterprise. In 2020 this involved creating a new collection called Le Donne di Masque. They re-invented the first two releases of Petra and Dolceaqua before adding Madeleine at the end of the year. This provides a new way of looking at Masque Milano. Just to make sure we didn’t forget the old way Ray-Flection joined the Opera collection. This was another fantastic year for one of the premier brands in artistic perfumery which is why they are Brand of the Year for 2020.

Runner-Ups: Amouage, DSH Perfumes, Frassai, Imaginary Authors, and Zoologist.

My broad overview of 2020 can be found in Part 1 here.

The Top 25 perfumes of 2020 will come tomorrow.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine- Tuberose-filled Confection

When I was invited to the online premiere of Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine I was excited for a few reasons. One is just because Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi have rarely disappointed me. Two is because one of my favorite young perfumers was collaborating with them, Fanny Bal. Finally after nibbling around the edges of making a gourmand perfume for Masque Milano, Madeleine goes all in.

Just this year the two previous releases in the Le Donne di Masque collection used doughy gourmand accords as featured parts. Dolceaqua had a flaky croissant while Petra featured a deep-fried dough. Because of that I wanted Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi to go for something exclusively gourmand. In Mme Bal they found a partner who imagined that a gourmand fragrance isn’t for the taste buds but the nose.

Mont Blanc Pastries

The inspiration was a tearoom Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi visited when they were in Paris. Named Angelina they are known for their hot chocolate and their signature Mont Blanc pastry. The latter is filled with chestnut cream to rival the hot chocolate. What Mme Bal has done with Madeleine is to make her own filled olfactory pastry. She uses rich gourmand accords to encase an equally opulent tuberose.

Fanny Bal, Alessandro Brun, and Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)

Those of us at the premiere event were given the two accords to smell. The tuberose is that creamy sultry version which has appealed to so many over the years. The confectionary accord is chestnut and chocolate. It is like imagining your nose bites down on the sweet outside to find a floral center. It is as delightful as it sounds.

Mme Bal constructs her confectionary accord around chestnut, cream, vanilla, tonka and a very special ingredient to give it life, cumin. When I smelled this as an accord the cumin is what gave the gourmand ingredients vitality. It is likely if Mme Bal has not used it this would have laid flat. Instead it brightens the entire accord. Giving it an enticing scent that draws you in. As you do and crack through the shell you find a treat for the nose. Mme Bal uses the finest version of tuberose she can get at IFF, tuberose absolute LMR. The entire catalog of LMR ingredients is amazing. Interacting with this as the accord itself the nuances of the LMR version is obvious. She uses small amounts of geranium to set the glowing green thread in tuberose alight. She also uses cypress to find a foundation for the creamy floral to push back upon. As this oozes out of the center of the confectionary accord it doesn’t take over like most tuberose does. It finds itself in a supporting role which makes this all that much better.

Madeleine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve mentioned in the past that this gourmand genre is the place where any perfumer could innovate. This has become especially true of this new generation of perfumers of which Mme Bal is part of. It is also why it will be the innovative brands like Masque Milano who give them the opportunity to try. Madeleine is a gorgeous tuberose-filled confection for the nose which shows why it works.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Masque Milano.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Ray-Flection- A Jolly Good Perfume

There are times when I write about a perfume and I have to guess about the emotion behind it. It is nice when I know the people behind a new perfume who can provide those answers to me. Back in the middle of November I was invited to an online premiere of Masque Milano Ray-Flection. Creative directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi along with perfumer Alex Lee shared the story behind it.

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

Ray-Flection is the first release in the Fourth Act of the perfumed opera. According to them we are now in the Act of Dreams. The next set of perfumes begun by Ray-Flection are dreams, fictional constructs. The creative team was thinking about the idea of an “alien flower”. There is even a little big-eyed alien on the bottle. I’m not sure they got into orbit. I found Ray-Flection to be a perfume grounded in the joy of making perfume.

Alessandro, Alex, and Riccardo in Tanneron

Ray-Flection is a honeyed mimosa perfume which takes the gold of the puffy flower and floats it on a golden flow of honey. The perfume started with all three men making a trip to Tanneron, France where mimosa is harvested. If I must stick to the extraterrestrial flower theme the golden puffballs look like spores from an alien plant. Except mimosa is a gorgeous powdery gold. Mr. Lee uses an overdose of mimosa to accentuate all that can be found here. He is equally inventive with his source of a honey accord. He uses yellow mandarin and beeswax to form it. This is used in overdose because Sig. Brun couldn’t get enough. It pushed Mr. Lee into some interesting choices to retain a freshness to it all.

Alex Lee

It begins with that aspect on display. A top accord of aldehydes and cardamom fizz off my skin closely trailed by a cloud of mimosa. This is a lively opening where sunlight seems to infuse it all. There is a slight vegetal tint to mimosa that is rarely encountered except at overdose. Mr. Lee uses some violet leaf to tighten it up and enhance the freshness. The honey accord comes next as the mandarin imparts a sweetness to the subtly animalic beeswax. This is my favorite part of the perfume. This is not that treacly version of honey although it carries weight. It is an active flow of honey as the mimosa floats on top of it with some effervescence bubbling up from below. When Ray-Flection hits this point there is an unbounded happiness in the air. A bit of cedar and musks provide the base.

Ray-Flection had 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I said I don’t usually know the emotion behind a perfume. When this creative team presented the perfume there was a palpable joy which came through the screen. They might have wanted me to think aliens but all I get is a jolly good perfume done with pleasure for perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Masque Milano.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Petra- Freeing Imaginations

Over the years since 2013 besides consistently excellent perfume there is another thing Masque Milano has become known for. Creative Directors Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi have worked with many of the most talented young perfumers in the business. In many cases their work for Masque Milano is part of their earliest work. Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi have an undeniable eye for talent. The list of perfumers who have collaborated with them is a roster of young talents at the beginning of their careers. I think the results have been so good because these young artists are given an unusual opportunity to free their imaginations early in their career. They are just beginning to delve into their potential. One of the first of these returns for Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Petra.

Riccardo Tedeschi (l.) and Alessandro Brun

That perfumer is Cecile Zarokian. In 2013 when she did Tango for the first of the Opera collection, I had only known her for one previous release, the spectacular metallic rose of Majda Bekkali Mon Nom est Rouge. I had already thought of her as something special. Tango would reinforce that with a sultry summer night in Buenos Aires doing the dance of love. This was one of the perfumes, when I tried it, help erase the memory of the earlier versions of Dolceaqua and Petra. I had a hard time reconciling the boldness from these perfumes in contrast to the blandness of the first two. For this reinterpretation of Petra Mme Zarokian pushes the envelope in a genre I think she is beginning to make her own.

Cecile Zarokian

Based on the press release I think the brief for Le Donne di Masque Petra is the 1976 song by Al Stewart “Year of the Cat”. The accompanying description is just the first verse of the song. Mme Zarokian has been making some of the most interesting gourmands in the last few years. She seemingly has an affinity for the style while looking to evolve it. In Le Donne di Masque Petra she does it again with an unusual pastry accord at the heart.

Before we get there, she uses baie rose at a concentration where both its fruity and herbal facets are prominent. Some sparkle comes through citrus. The gourmand accord Mme Zarokian is attempting is of an Arabic dessert called luqaimat. I’ve never tasted it, but it looks like a more refined version of the carnival staple fried dough. This is what Mme Zarokian creates; a sweet doughy accord infused with fruits and florals. It is another in her recent string of successful experiments as it carries a lighter quality then my description of fried dough might imply. It turns towards a resinous base of incense and patchouli wrapped in a subtle leather.

Le Donne di Masque Petra has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

As it was with Tango Mme Zarokian is given the chance to free her imagination on Le Donne di Masque Petra. It results in another expansion of what a gourmand perfume can aspire to. That is thanks to Sigs. Brun and Tedeschi who know to trust in the precociousness of the young artist. It is a major reason why their brand is one of the best in the world.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Dolceaqua- The Smell of Success

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.

Delphine Thierry

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.

Mark Behnke

Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus


I am a generally happy person. The current coronavirus pandemic has worn away at that. I like to be informed but this time the more I learned the bluer I felt. Over the last few days I’ve unplugged from the news streams except for watching the local and national news for an hour. It has helped. The other thing that has helped is my love for perfume.

To fill up the time I’ve been working in the perfume vault. I am surprised at how much beauty there is to be found. I shouldn’t be, I write about it every day. On those shelves are history lessons, trips to faraway places, exceptional artistic visions; all of which are fascinating. I’ve been allowing myself the luxury of letting scent take me away.

I have spent some of my time getting lost in my favorite perfume house, Patou. The Art Deco bottles seem appropriate as we enter this century’s own 20’s. The great Joy was created in 1925. I was struck by the way that perfume seems timeless. It is what a floral perfume should be at any time.

I turned to the Japanese inspired perfumes by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for serenity. My favorite perfume by one of my favorite perfumers is her Bancha. I usually demur when asked to name a single perfume when asked what is the one I like best. Bancha is one which is unequivocal in my affection. I always wear Bancha on the first day of spring. The same sense of tranquility and hope descended upon me with each breath I took as it does every year. It is especially appropriate now.

Alessandro Brun, Me, Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)

I hadn’t thought about what a great collection the Masque Milano perfumes have become until I spent an afternoon with them covering different patches of skin. It is such a varied collection that I smelled like a pile-up on the perfume interstate. Yet there is a real sense of vision now that there are several perfumes to examine. Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are in the midst of creating perfume which will stand the test of time. To spend this time with them has been illuminating.

I decided to go around the world while sitting at my desk. Perfumes took me to every continent all while never leaving the house.

I’ve never had the best answer when asked why I have so much perfume. Maybe I was just waiting for a time when all that I enjoy can be there as emotional support. I think those days have arrived. Perfume in the time of coronavirus will be what gets me through.

Mark Behnke