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.
Imagine yourself camping in a forest, sipping tea by the fire. Bright, green mint and a dollop of raspberries float in your mug of black Lapsang Souchong whose leaves you’ve toasted in a cast-iron skillet to release their smoky darkness and delicate nuttiness. The campfire billows out smoke from cade and birch logs, each coated with blackened tar that smells like butch leather as much as burnt, singed wood. Labdanum amber glows like coals amidst the flames, and release a meaty, musky warmth.
The smell of your tea rises in the air, sending out streamers of cool mint and juicy raspberry to counter the billowing campfire smoke. Bright freshness and fruited sweetness vie with multi-faceted smoke, leather, tar, and woods, all enveloped by the fire’s soft warmth. You take out a pipe, stuff it with dark tobacco, and light it as you sip your tea in the flickering light of the warm fire which serves as a beacon in the dark forest, casting shadows upon the desiccated remains of nearby trees, and creating a woody-ambered dryness. It would be a lovely picture were it not for a few issues, one of which is that you’re also being doused with arid, harshly acrid, and often antiseptic-smelling chemicals that pour down on you like heavy rain.
Unfortunately, that was not my only difficulty with Russian Tea, a popular fragrance released last year that I’ve absolutely dreaded covering for the last two months. It actually took me a few attempts to get through wearing the fragrance all the way through, instead of quickly scrubbing it off, but at least it eventually gets better after its very abrasive opening hours. Well, somewhat better. In general, Russian Tea has not been a joyous experience.