Names have a funny way of shaping one’s expectations, so when Masque Milano told me that the name of its forthcoming scent would be “Hemingway” and a tribute to the author, I had a certain olfactory profile in mind. I associate the author with the scent of rum, whisky, bourbon, and cigars, but Hemingway the fragrance was something quite different. To my surprise, however, alcohol did end up being unexpectedly involved, even if it was not actually intended to be a part of the scent and even if it wasn’t the sort that I had expected.
Mandala, the second recent release from Masque Milano, has a very different geographic focus than its New York sister. This one is centered on a monastery in Tibet or Nepal where the sound of Buddhist monks’ overtone singing rings out in the rarefied air, “two notes chant[ed] in perfect, peaceful harmony.” The fragrance is meant to have the same duality, as well as the same meditative serenity, according to Masque’s official scent description: “A myrrh and incense fragrance – light and delicate. A contemplative atmosphere. Vibrating at two levels at the same time.”
Masque Milano‘s L’Attesa is the sort of fragrance that I could very much see Coco Chanel creating if she were alive today — and I mean that as a positive thing. Like Masque’s other release this year, Romanza, L’Attesa sometimes evokes flowering country meadows in Spring, but there is a sophisticated, urban elegance to L’Attesa that made me think of the couture and the streets of Paris even more frequently. In the most reductionist, simplistic description, one could sum it up as a “green floral,” but I think L’Attesa is a fragrance with deceptive simplicity; its surprisingly fluid profile slips from one genre to another in a very seamless fashion. While the end result is outside my personal tastes, I admire the sophistication, and I think it demonstrates Masque’s continued evolution as it moves from its earlier focus on heavy, dark orientals towards polished florals with romantic, almost nature driven, and streamlined elegance.
Spring is in the air in most parts of the Western hemisphere, and the latest release from Masque Milano embodies its essence quite well. Romanza is a new fragrance that departs from the style of many of the Masque fragrances that I’ve tried thus far, focusing almost entirely on florals this time around. Despite being inspired by Oscar Wilde, the Victorians, Dorian Grey, and romantic dandies, it evoked something else entirely for me for most of its lifetime on my skin: a spring day in the countryside. It’s a largely unisex composition that I suspect will become one of the more popular fragrances in Masque’s collection.
Romanza is an eau de parfum that was created by Cristiano Canali. It officially debuted at the Pitti show in October 2015, but its world-wide release seems to have been postponed until April of this year. One reason why might be Masque’s change in packaging; unlike the others in the line and unlike the way that I think Romanza was originally shown at Pitti last year, it will now be released in a clear, glass 35 ml bottle instead of the more usual patterned, gold and black 100 ml one.
The inspiration for Romanza seems to be the myth of Narcissus as seen through the lens of Victorian romanticism and 19th century artists. While number of sites discuss or quote copy that is almost entirely about Oscar Wilde and Dorian Grey, Masque’s own website has a slightly different account, but the general narrative is largely the same: a 19th century romantic and artistic twist on Narcissus. That is undoubtedly why a major part of the fragrance is the actual narcissus flower. In addition, Romanza includes also artemisia (aka wormwood), the basis for Absinthe, a potent, allegedly hallucinogenic liquor that was nicknamed “The Green Fairy” and that was beloved by 19th century bohemians and artists, particularly Oscar Wilde. As the wormwood link explains, the legends surrounding absinthe and its effects were such that the liquor was banned for more than 70 years in many parts of the world, but it was a quintessential part of the 19th century’s artistic culture in Europe.