5 Perfumes from Masque Milano : Reviews

Elisa reviews 5 fragrances from Masque Milano.

The word masque, with its auto-glamorous French ending, has two associations for me. On the one hand I think of masquerade balls, those opulent Carnival season events dating back to the 15th century, and that beautiful scene in the 1997 film Wings of the Dove, where Helena Bonham Carter runs through the dark streets of Venice dressed as a toreador. On the other, I think of plague masks—not as celebratory, to be sure, but they do have some connection to perfume. At the time, people believed that disease was spread through miasma, or the literal stink of death in the air. It made sense to them that if they blocked the smell, they would be protected from the disease. So they stuffed the long beak of the plague mask with aromatic materials—herbs, spices, incense and resins, ambergris, rose petals.

Masque, a small niche line based in Milan, currently has nine fragrances created by eight different noses (given, supposedly, no budget limits) and organized around the idea of an opera (Act I, Act II, and Act III). That may sound a bit pretentious, and I don’t understand it myself—what does Times Square have to do with Montecristo or a mandala? This would be a bizarre opera. But I think you’ll see that this house is not without a sense of humor, and most importantly, the perfumes smell fantastic.

Montecristo

Montecristo was the first scent from the Masque line that I tried, and still my favorite. It’s a dark, decadent mix of every manly material known to (sorry) man—tobacco, booze, leather, patchouli, cedar, labdanum, and one of the best sweaty musk notes I’ve ever experienced. It’s not cumin, just a very warm, peppery animalic note that feels like being wrapped in furs. As I said in my article on “perfumista bait,” it’s like pheromones turned up to 11. This is what men on historical romance novel covers should smell like. (Scratch and sniff?)

Romanza

I love the copy on the back of the little sleeve that holds my sample—instead of top, middle, and bottom, the notes are presented as “The Appearance (DANDY’S TOUCH),” “The Soul (HEDONIST BOUQUET)” and “The Ineluctable (TIME REVENGE).” What?! Okay, forget all that. Romanza is an intensely green floral in a ‘70s style, heavy on the narcissus, with bitterly dry top notes and a woody drydown reminiscent of some of Laurie Erickson’s creations. When I sprayed it on a strip, I kept smelling it over and over for days in disbelief, because you just don’t run across this kind of thing in newer lines very much. If you like green, put this on your “try” list.

Mandala

Though the name is taken from a Sanskrit symbol, Mandala strikes me as the perfect Christmas incense—when you spray it on, it smells just like a pomander (an orange pierced with cloves). Then you begin to smell this gorgeous incense, a blend of frankincense and myrrh fit for the three wise men, plus a note that reminds me of sandalwood soap. To my mind the best incenses smell purifyingly clean, like a cleanse for the soul, and yet mysterious. In Hinduism and Buddhism, mandalas are used as a spiritual aid in focus and meditation, and this perfume really evokes that mood, both centering and numinous.

Times Square

At first sniff the full cacophony of Times Square is, like the place itself, both overwhelming and a little ridiculous—it smells like taxi cab air fresheners and candied nuts from a street vendor and fake cherry flavor (must be that “glossy lipstick accord”). This mess seems to be intentional—the press release that accompanied it said “New York stinks.” But after a bit it calms down and you start to smell this expensive smelling, suede-like osmanthus and tuberose accord—this must represent the walking-into-a-fancy-hotel-lobby part of the trip—with a lingering nuttiness (hazelnut—probably a tourist carrying a giant Toblerone bar). In its naming, of course, but also its style, Times Square reminds me of some of the tackier Bond No. 9’s (but it’s not as classic as, say, Broadway Nite or Chinatown). On the whole, not all that wearable—I just can’t imagine choosing to smell like this very often. But it’s fun for a night.

Tango

To oversimplify things slightly, the two materials dancing this tango are jasmine and vanilla. It’s a very rich, capital-e Evening-appropriate floriental, related to Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu but to my mind more dramatic. What’s special about it, I think, is the subtlety of the supporting details (just a wisp of spice) and an especially good vanilla section, boozy and complex. (I think of Ina Garten instructing us to use “good vanilla.”) The far drydown has a tinge of that delicious sweaty amber note from Montecristo. Beautiful! (Or should I say Bravo!)

Have you tried this line? What are your favorites from it?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Duomo di Milano

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19 Comments

  • Johnson: Wow your description makes me really want to smell Montecristo. It is hard to pin down animalistic notes for me and this fragrance sounds like something I really need to experience. December 18, 2017 at 9:55am Reply

    • Elisa: Definitely try it if you can! You won’t be disappointed December 18, 2017 at 10:14am Reply

  • Severine: Nyc sure stinks! I could make a long list of the olfactory notes, from urine in the metro stations to Chanel no 5 on some anonymous woman on a sidewalk corner, to fresh roses in a flower shop and don’t forget the wafts of a Chinese take out!
    Opera- what a lovely idea! I have always imagined Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to smell of cherry blossoms, and Maria Callas in YSL Opium! December 18, 2017 at 10:01am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, Opium has always felt very night-at-the-opera to me! December 18, 2017 at 10:15am Reply

  • spe: Romanza sounds exquisite. Thank you for bringing my attention to this line. December 18, 2017 at 11:31am Reply

    • Elisa: You’re welcome! December 18, 2017 at 11:35am Reply

  • maja: Well, Milan can be quite stinky, too, trust me. 🙂
    I’ve smelled Romanza and L’Attesa and quite liked both. I think they’re well made and, just like you, couldn’t stop sniffing Romanza on my paper strip. Very glamorous green. December 18, 2017 at 2:34pm Reply

    • Elisa: Ha!

      Especially on paper, Romanza really shines. December 18, 2017 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Bobbie Ann: I can’t wait to try the narcissus one! Speaking of greens, my Myths decant should be arriving today. Thanks for mentioning one of my all time favorite movies, by the way 😊😊😊My husband makes fun of me for watching it so much 😊 December 18, 2017 at 2:42pm Reply

    • Elisa: Wings of the Dove?? I never get sick of it! December 18, 2017 at 2:43pm Reply

      • Bobbie Ann: Same here! Luckily, I bought it on Amazon. Might have to douse myself in something rich and Baroque and watch it over the holidays😍😍😍 December 18, 2017 at 2:48pm Reply

  • Tiffanie: Spot on, reviews, Elisa. Thank you!

    I loved trying the Masque fragrances. Each one feels finely crafted. Not a boring one in the bunch.

    My favorite is Luci ed Ombre. Romanza is very beautiful. These two were the most wearable for me.

    I also liked Mandala, Tango, and Montecristo very much though I would rather smell them on someone else than on myself. Mandala would be a beautiful candle scent. Montecristo is perfect for the well-dressed, sexy pirate. Shiver me timbers, matey.

    Times Square, well, that one left me speechless, and I’m not in a hurry to repeat the experience! 😉 December 19, 2017 at 12:15am Reply

    • Elisa: You’re so right about Montecristo being perfect for a sexy pirate. I’d love for my husband to wear it but I think he is tired of me buying him perfume.

      Ha, yes, Times Square! It’s sort of fascinating but sort of disgusting too. I’m sure it smells great on someone…. December 19, 2017 at 9:45am Reply

  • Neva: Once I’ve tried L’Attesa while in a hurry and I wasn’t impressed. Now your review makes me eager to try the rest, especially Romanza. December 19, 2017 at 4:31am Reply

    • Elisa: L’Atessa didn’t blow me away either but then, I’m not an iris person. Do try some of the others! I feel like there’s something for almost everyone. December 19, 2017 at 9:45am Reply

      • Neva: I’ve tried Romanza and it is really a power perfume. Very unique and strong. I get the narcissus and a slightly green vibe. And it is very heavy on incense, probably the myrrh. I can smell it through all stages, especially in the drydown. I’m rather intrigued by it. December 24, 2017 at 6:37pm Reply

        • Elisa: I’m glad you had a good experience with it! December 26, 2017 at 12:02pm Reply

  • MrsDalloway: I’ve only tried L’Attesa but I love it and have snagged a couple of bottles (from ebay and Facebook). Must look out for Montecristo. December 19, 2017 at 1:41pm Reply

    • Elisa: I’d accept a bottle of Montecristo if it fell into my lap!

      I didn’t mention Russian Tea here, but that one is interesting too. December 19, 2017 at 3:22pm Reply

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