Elisa: 55 posts

Elisa Gabbert's first brush with perfume greatness came in the form of a bottle of White Linen lotion from her grandmother. About 20 years later, she fell down the rabbit hole after reading Perfumes: The A to Z Guide cover to cover on a flight. Currently she lives in Denver and is the content marketing manager at a small software company based in Boston. She also writes poetry (with collections including The French Exit and The Self Unstable) and is a founding member of Denver Poets' Theater. You can also read her other writing at her blog, The French Exit.

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.

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Perfumista Bait

Elisa talks about types of perfumes that never fail to grab the perfume lovers’ attention.

My good friend L, who years ago worked at a perfume counter, is suddenly, newly obsessed with perfume. We frequently email about her exploits in the rabbit hole. One day, she half-bragged, half-complained to me about spending hundreds of dollars on a single sample order – all 1-ml vials! As she works through the samples, she’s tracking her impressions in a spreadsheet; there’s a Guerlain she describes as smelling “like a girl’s clean underwear drawer where she has been stashing her rancid Turkish delight and wet markers.”

Recently L asked me what perfumes I think of as “perfumista bait.” I had never heard the phrase, but I knew exactly what she meant – perfumes that us jaded connoisseurs are instantly drawn to and still get excited about.

The quintessential perfumista bait has something about it that’s rare and perhaps difficult – it’s both a delicacy and an acquired taste, like sea urchin. Below are a few of the categories that I think are especially appealing to us perfumistas.
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Falling In, Falling Out : Autumn is for Rekindling Old Flames

Reunited and it feels so good… Elisa writes about revisiting old crushes. Perfume-related ones, of course. 

There seems to be some kind of law that says if you give or swap away a bottle of perfume, within five years you’ll want it again. This law applies in my perfume life, in any case; I keep finding myself missing scents I believed I didn’t need anymore.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia. Lately I’ve been fantasizing about Gap Crushed Peony—not a cult classic on the level of Grass or Dream, but it was my favorite of the Gap scents, and it came in an oil format that not only smelled great but made your skin glisten sexily. There has even been a day or two when I wished I could wear Ralph Lauren HOT, a very “mall” oriental and a relic from my early twenties that I eventually donated to a charity fundraiser. I can’t quite remember what either of these perfumes smelled like, but I’m sure they would comfort me.

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Top 10 Summer Picnic Scents

Elisa takes us on a picnic with her selection of favorite summer perfumes.

When thinking about my seasonal favorites, I always create a kind of moodboard in my mind. This summer, the moodboard says PICNIC. I’m picturing a gingham tablecloth or a worn-in patchwork blanket thrown out on the grass, sunlight dappling through leaves, bare feet and painted toes. You can smell sunscreen and blooming linden trees, and, of course, the spread: rosé and sparkling wine, cheese and crackers, something fresh (might I suggest caprese skewers?), a giant bowl of fruit salad (my friend Sommer makes an amazing one with blueberries, watermelon, and halved cherries).

Here are some summer favorites to match my picnic mood.

Demeter Tomato

What is there to say about Demeter Tomato, except that it smells exactly like tomato vines? Just smelling it seems to conjure up actual heat, like you’re standing in a sunny garden. In truth I almost never wear it, but I often spray it into the air, especially in my kitchen, to build summery picnic ambiance.

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The Shifting Contexts of Perfume

Could other factors, apart from the aroma itself, influence our perception of perfume? Yes, of course, and this is not limited to fragrance. Elisa explores the topic.

A few years ago, I went to a nearby wine shop to stock up for a weekend in the mountains with some old college friends. A representative from a local winery intercepted me in the red blends aisle and implored me to try a bottle of his family’s wine. Colorado is not known for its vineyards, but I went along in the spirit of adventure, bonhomie, and perhaps a touch of pity.

When we got to the mountains, I warned my friends (occasional wine snobs) that I couldn’t vouch for the quality of the local wine. Since we were all sure it would be bad, we saved it until the end of dinner, a couple of bottles in. When we finally opened and tasted it, we were blown away—it was utterly unusual, with the complexity and creaminess of a good Bordeaux but some additional, unplaceable quirk that made it compulsively drinkable. I was sad when it was gone.

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