I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Simmered Astonishment - 'Ragù' by Gabriella Chieffo

I got home recently after a long and stressful day at work to a quiet chilled apartment and two chatty cats. There was also an envelope from Italy, with the telltale bulk of fragrance samples from a brand I had never heard of called Maison Gabriella Chieffo. (I realised after this had been arranged by my friend Michelyn..). I have been really impressed with fragrances I have tried coming out of Italy recently – the exquisite chemical stylings of Nu_be, Antonio Gardoni’s tenebrous Bogue scents, Blood Concept’s sexy medical minimalism, Masque Milano’s operatic storytelling, Hilde Solini’s witty obsession with Italian sweetness and now these four haunting perfumes from Gabriella.

Collection 14 is a quartet of incredibly detailed and personal fragrances, intimately linked to Gabriella herself, her memories, emotions, impressions and spirituality. Ragù, Lye, Camaheu and Hystera are all quite different from one each but also linked by a compulsive signature that verges on addiction. It smells vanillic, rice-like and resin-sweet. Utterly beguiling. It flows through all four offerings in varying strengths and binds with its subtle epidermal familiarity.

(A few weeks later….)

I am returning to this piece after being unable to resist the epicurean allure of Ragù and added a bottle of it to my collection. It is one of the most intriguing aromas I own. I guess if I had to call it something, it is a savoury gourmand, a scent with salted, herbaceous edges, a perfume that conjures up gustatory delights, a table laden with familiar victuals amid the gathering of laughter and family.

Gabriella’s Collection ‘14 is oddly familiar and yet incredibly strange, the scentscapes scoured and alien with flickering glimmers of memory and recall. Everything about the Chieffo brand is whiteness incarnate; it is Gabriella’s fetish tone, one of delicacy, angelic wing, snow and virtue. White is also the colour of shrouds, bone and ash. These two opposing impressions collide and shatter in a collection of resounding emotional force. There is tenderness and violence is the rendition of memory in this fascinating quartet.

Each of the fragrances: Camaheu, Lye, Ragù and the unsettling Hystera are connected to Gabriella and her emotional memories. One of the things I like about this these passionate scents is their implied femininity. Gender is not something I really pay heed to, but occasionally certain collections are imbued with powerful sexuality and persuasions as to be strikingly different. It is quite hard to avoid Gabriella Chieffo’s powerful blend of matriarchal lineage, motherhood, childbirth, kitchen, gender and nurturing creativity.

 Gabriella Chieffo

Gabriella has placed the focus of her collection firmly on herself in many ways; it is obvious from the passionately extolled text that accompanies the brand that she has spent some careful time nurturing dreams, concepts, loves, failures, pain and olfactory minutiae leading her to a point where she felt ready to mould ideas into a collection of perfumed shards and personal sculpture. It feels as if we are sharing Gabriella’s private thoughts, leafing through bleached out pages of notes left scattered across the floor in an abandoned therapist’s office.

This kind of intimacy and divulging of biography could have gone awry. I have sampled other brands over the years where a deeply personal vision was expounded and mistakenly explored through mediocre perfumery. The difference with Gabriella is the devout attendance on detail and awareness of her materials; how they can be used to reflect, augment and obfuscate her emotional experiences.

Each time I wear one of these very particular aromas; I am struck by how connected Gabriella is to her work, the artistry and flair on show for such a small debut is impressive. The fragrances are personified by elaborately staged portraits of Gabriella herself, posing in a series of Cindy Sherman-esque tableaux, surrounded by the iconography of each perfume.

In Ragù, she channels a braided Monica Bellucci, a provocative kitchen wench dreaming of elsewhere, preparing food, eyes gazing off into past or future. Behind her, tethered owls and winged monkeys cavort and tell of dreams and madness. 

Camaheu is an essay in overflowing whiteness, flowers, lace, weddings, communion, and shroud. A bare shoulder hints at a more wanton nature amid the cornucopia of blondness and offered blooms. In her hand she tenderly holds one giant rose like a beautiful weapon. 

Hystera is protection, Gabriella wrapped in a womb of glassy shelter, blurred nudity against blown-up veins of eyes, trees or rivers. She could be airborne or floating, either way, the image references her own teenage pregnancy and the trauma she endured giving birth at such a young age. 

Lye is the oddest image, Gabriella as strega biancha, the white witch, winnowing ashes on a deserted beach. She is clothed in tones of bone and bride, hair torn by the wind, billowing around white wings. This image is ritual and spell, goodbye and remembrance.

A number of these images: roses, wings, monkey, owl, amniotic sac and proffered dust are repeated like motifs across the PR material and website, almost like symbols of some personal mythology. In the booklet that accompanies the scents, Gabriella describes (in odd and convoluted wording to be honest..) how by wearing her scents you enter her ‘inner worlds’….and ‘not only breathe through the fragrances, but also through dreams, shapes, memories, words…’. A little outré perhaps but it is heartfelt and reflected in the rapturous way she has assembled her fragrances.

I cannot get over how weird Ragù is, a scent inspired by the eight hour simmering of the classic Neapolitan ragu pasta sauce. Gabriella has captured what she refers to as ..‘A gentle sweetness that tastes of home. A family perfume’.

Odours of home, hearth and return are very powerful. We all harbour smells we recognise as markers of childhood and growth. The kitchen is a crucible of olfaction, odours mingling, crashing and pressing in on our evolving senses. We never lose these formative foodie impressions; in so many cultures (sadly, not so much our own these days..), the preparation of food en famille, sharing knowledge, techniques and love is almost ritualised. I make certain dishes without even thinking about them, so engrained is my mother’s teaching in me. When I make a slow-cooked goulash with smoked paprika and green peppers, the scent of peppery beef and simmering tomatoes always throws me back to my childhood in Africa and this dish served with nutty basmati rice and soured cream.

We need these epicurean references to anchor us; even simple things like beans on toast with melted butter, marmite, freshly made crèpes, bubbling cumin-drenched daal; the pervasive bouquets of memory food can raise shockingly real rooms, people and memories. Even humble Heinz tomato soup can be a visceral olfactive trigger; it is a smell I have never forgotten from cash-strapped student days. When I smell it, I can taste the Jacobs cream crackers I would crumble in as I ploughed through reams of French translation work.

Ragù is the scent of a carefree weekend, a Sunday of women: sisters, mothers, daughters preparing a sauce of elegance and power. Tomatoes, basil, garlic, oregano, thyme. Floured hands rolling perfect small balls of meat to be dropped into pots of bubbling crimson sauce. The secret of the sauce is in the longevity of the cooking, drawn out over soft simmering hours. Tomatoes caramelising, their sugars oozing out into the thickening pulpy mix of aromatic herbs and piquant pepper. The house slowly fills with the aromas of their endeavours, chased through the air by voices and bursts of bawdy mirth. These are the smells that call the soul home.

The fragrance is beautifully rendered, a portrait of that hypnotic Sunday ambience, the diffusive slow-cooked fumes that radiate in mind and home. It opens on a dry, dazzling burst of spicy pink pepper and orange that segues into the complex and important heart of the recipe; a crumbled mix of sweet black pepper, nutmeg, elemi, cloves, saffron and cardamom. Despite the obvious spicy overtone to this section, the blending creates a very odd sensation on the nose of dried rubbed oregano, simmering amid the garlic and sweet tomatoes of the ragu sauce. I personally love the heady aromas of dried herbs – mint, dill, oregano, basil, thyme etc – they take on quite a different character to their more blatant fresh incarnations. There is a touch of woody darkness to desiccated herbs that appeals to me and it's this I can smell in the herbaceous aura of Ragù. The base is loaded with cypriol, woods, patchouli and the wonder of Cashmeran, a disturbing softener of edges, bringer of shimmering translucency.

Ragù smells of cuisine and it doesn’t. It has enough olfactive triggers to provoke our memories to search for reference points. An extraordinary collision of mama, food and odour, exploring the pervasive linger of generational food preparation. The olfactive sleight of hand is admirable; the skin smells just edible enough without the scent becoming a crude parody of itself. There is great delicacy at work here, the notes combined with the finesse and finish of a recipe that has been handed down and made by a hundred hands on a hundred stoves.

It is without a doubt one of the most eccentric and arresting fragrances I have tried in years and I had to have a bottle for my collection. The square cut bottle is just lovely, topped off with a textured stone cap. The other three fragrances are just as fascinating; it was just that Ragù grabbed me and didn’t let go.

Hystera is a massive experience. The vanilla/labdanum pairing in the base is overwhelming, staining skin for hours. This enormous opaque womb of powdered, sweet protection veils the senses in heady drama. Hysteria is a complex and fraught word, weighted with etymological reference from hysterikos, Greek for of the womb. It is always been a slightly pejorative word, applied to women who can’t control their emotions. Symptoms of hysteria at one time were linked to the fluctuations of the menstrual cycle and irrational fear of feminine sexuality.

Gabriella has re-claimed this challenging word to represent her own perfumed experience of motherhood at an early age, when she struggled to reconcile the dichotomy of love and pain that childbirth brought about. Hystera is a whisper to a rising scream of aromatic oddness; sleepy sage and bergamot notes are bedded down in a distinctly off-tone iris, the colour of bandage. Then that crescendo of vanilla, powered by ghostly patchouli and the plasticised force of labdanum. It is a claustrophobic scent but also irrevocably beautiful, the vanilla ebbing and flowing like moody tides. In the image for Hystera, Gabriella is curled, foetus-like and naked in a fluttering amniotic bag, seemingly protected from the outside world, perhaps using scent as talisman. But the veil seems fragile and if it tears, the world will blind and burn. I loved the power of Hystera on my skin; it smelled magnificent as time amplified its expansive vanillic canvas.        

Camaheu was my least favourite, only because it was the scent my skin puzzled over and rejected. On paper, the concept of scent as cameo carving, layers revealing themselves as notes evolved was rather lovely, if a tad laboured, linked as it was to the concept of puberty, adolescence and the emergence and formation of our personas. Again, Gabriella trails powder though Camaheu’s floral, jasmine, rosy backdrop, mixing this with a harder, more bracing top of grapefruit and damp ivy. I can’t really smell the amber in the base; this seems lost amid the musky swirl of dust and petals as the scent fades. I may have to re-visit this odd scent, it’s not that’s its bad at all and Gabriella’s trademark whiteness is rather lovely in the mid-floral section as the rose, for a moment reveals achromatic petals to the sun.

Lye is the fourth part of the quartet and in many ways the oddest scent in the collection. I returned to this one over and over, puzzled by the ashen drift of Gabriella’s formula. Actual lye is Sodium Hydroxide, a compound obtained by leaching wood ash. Now produced on an industrial scale for use in curing, soap and cleaning products, lye was originally obtained in a much more labour intensive aromatic way. Ashes from household fires were chilled and packed down into barrels with holes drilled into the bottom. The ashes sat on a bed of stones and hay to allow slow drainage. Water was poured over the top of the ashes and allowed to soak for at least three to four days. The resulting fluid would be caustic and concentrated, a brutal alkali used for centuries to bind, clean, bleach, strip and dissolve.

In the Bible, book of Genesis (3:19b) it says, "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." The graveside committal of ashes to ashes, dust to dust is freely adapted from this and echoes throughout this delicate, albino scent. It is a scent of whiteness, purity and luminous haze. Just as lye was used to bleach, there is a sense in this arrangement of cold linen and starched cotton, fresh from sky-billowing. Bergamot and a peculiar milky lemon note light up the top of the scent, slipping into a delicious touch of iris which in many ways resembles the image of Gabriella in the Lye image, letting ashes slip through her lovely hands. The iris is that ephemeral, dusted across the composition like memory. The trademark vanillic opacity lies in the base with a nicely rounded and amandine smelling oppoponax note; mixed with a supple rub of what smells like chalked gloves makes Lye a very strange olfactory experience. It doesn’t quite hang together as an actual scent to be honest; I didn’t like the airiness of the ingredients over the aridity of a rather indistinct incense facet. But these are minor cavils, Lye still smells unique and each time I sample it, I interpret different things, so perhaps it’s just a question of time. I wore it a couple of days ago and really noticed the sense of washed out skies and hazy calm as the cold smoke flattered and seduced the drifting iris. So we will see.

So, Gabriella Cheiffo from Lecce in southern Italy, with Collection ’14, you have managed to completely surprise me with four very singular and beautiful perfumes. It is rare for me to be interested by the entirety of a collection, but with a few reservations, this quartet seduced me. Ragù has spirit and emotion, style and above all: heart. I cannot wear it without imagining a thousand homes, walls damp with steam, knives flecked green with basil and garlic, scattered tomato pulp on work surfaces as sauces simmer, bubble and reduce across the world. Everyone has their own ragu sauce recipe I guess, little tweaks here and there, secret additions passed on down from mom, but the secret is in the preparation, the sharing, the savouring of accumulated knowledge and tradition. Ragù is just extraordinary scent making, from a woman who has given herself over, body, soul and biography to the creation of emotional olfaction.

For more information on Gabriella Chieffo, please click on the link below:

Saturday 13 December 2014

Samovar Dreams – ‘Russian Tea’ by Masque Milano

I first came across Masque Milano last year, when my senses fell victim to the smouldering floral-free vapours of Montecristo. Just when I thought I had put all contemplations of leathered air and cigar-stained ruination behind me, along came Delphine Thierry’s masterly composition for Masque Milano and I fell again.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – so much fine niche is coming out of Italy just now. Blood Concept, Hilde Solani, Nu_be, Tizania Terezni, Gabriella Chieffo, Meo Fuscini, Zeromolecole, Peccato Originale and Antonio Gardoni’s extraordinary Bogue: all of these differing, exciting houses, playing with science, food, sugar, smoke, memory, sex, family, love, death and desire. So much passion and intensity, emotion and spectacle.

Riccardo Tedeschi (left) & Alessandro Brun (right)

To this rather fabulous collezione of names I must add Masque Fragranze or Masque Milano as they are better known, co-founded in 2012 by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi, two handsome and dynamic young chaps with diverse and fascinating backgrounds, Alessandro a Milanese by birth and Riccardo hailing from Assisi in Perugia. As Creative Directors of an exquisite artisan fragrance brand, the boys came to scent via a eclectic route of electrical and management engineering, jewellery-making, leather-working and classical guitar. This giddy mix of arts, artisan application and research led to Alessandro the teacher meeting Riccardo the student at the Politecnico di Milano where they were mutually impressed by one other’s obsessions, knowledge and desire to do things a little differently – with edge, style, functionality and of course great beauty. An orchestration of ideas and desires set them on a path to a luxurious and precisely conceived future. They immersed themselves in the knowledge, technique and dedicated pursuit of the scented wing beat.

First came a gilded and precise collection of skincare in 2010 that also includes two fragrances: Petra and Dolceacqua. The other pieces include cleansing oil, body lotion, soap, facemask and aromatic candles. The line is strikingly presented in architectural gold and white minimal designs with the brand’s unique trademark Deruta ceramic caps.

Then Alessandro and Riccardo wanted to create scent on an operatic scale with soaring sensation to move us and tell stories, guide us through moods and moments. This would be achieved through the inherently Italianate artform of opera, constructing a perceived four act piece of olfactory imagination composed by a personally chosen ensemble of perfume talents. This collaborative assembly of talented noses would compose scents for each scene. Eventually when the project is complete, the harmonious whole will cover a diverse and complex range of aromatic and psychological styles.

It is a very elegant and simple idea but one fraught with potential pomposity and camp melodrama. I am not an opera fan. Never have been, never will be. I can appreciate the piercing harrowing range of a flawed soprano, arias delivered with fire and controlled rage. But generally it is a medium that has always eluded me. Age has not softened me either, I have become even less tolerant of it as I’ve got older, most classical music generally actually. Weird really, but I digress. Masque Fragranze – An Opera of Life in Four Acts is an ambitious undertaking, an attempt to roll out a manifold and multi-layered assemblage of incredibly high quality and challenging scent. The guys want us to experience the various scenes of their scented life, see how the noses have chosen to interpret the operatic briefs.

The opera is masque, performance, charade; acts and scenes of love, loss, life and continuance interpreted by perfumers as masks that we might wear in our own daily performances, moving through words, emotions, moods and time.

Act I is inspired by life experiences, the processes of existence, journeys.

- Act I, Scene I is Terralba by Delphine Thierry.

- Act I, Scene II is Montecristo, also signed off by Delphine Thierry.

- Act I, Scene III is Russian Tea by Julian Rasquinet.

Act II concerns the tightening of emotions, the chiaroscuro of desire.

-   Act II, Scene I is Luci ed Ombre by Meo Fuscini

Act III is about romance and the fragility of relationships.

-   Act III, Scene IV by Cécile Zarokian is Tango

Act IV is Dreams and Reveries.

The operatic gaps are slowly being filled in, with moody set pieces as and when the boys find inspiration and the right nose to collaborate with. I love this idea of Masque Fragranze being a work in progress, watching and then inhaling the complex pieces as they appear. There might always be gaps, an unfinished symphony of sorts; this is fine too, enigma and truncation create beautiful mystery.

You can see where they are going, using vocal and theatrical metaphor, counterpointing it with carefully chosen and beautifully pitched musical imagery to create a scentscape of textures, weathers and backdrops. This is akin to the rolling scene changes and illusory techniques used in theatre to support voice and performer, in this case, nose and perfume.

The stand-outs from the line so far for me are Montecristo, Tango and now the deliriously sexy Russian Tea. Who would have thought ANYONE could have induced me to wear mint? I normally abhor it in scent. I took a huge risk blind buying this, but I had a gut feeling after reading the notes and provenance that Julien Rasquinet’s creation would be extraordinary. I wasn’t wrong.

The inspiration behind this beautiful scent is tea drinking in a café in a bookstore on the famous Nevsky Prospekt thoroughfare in Leningrad. I assume the bookstore in question is the famous Dom Knigi or House of the Book in the stunning Singer Building, an arresting Art Nouveau hybrid designed by Pavel Syuzor. Now we like to think here in Britain we know a thing or two abut tea and while this is no doubt true to a certain degree, no-one has socialised and abstracted tea quite like the Russians. It is the national Russian beverage, introduced to the country in 1638. It is not necessarily just about drinking tea, but the sharing of it, the gathering around it. The scalding liquid lubricates social interaction and passes time; pastries, cakes and biscuits are consumed, gossip and news is exchanged.

The heart of this is the samovar of course, literally a ‘self-boiler’ an item we traditionally now associate with Russia. They are used to concoct a immensely strong form of tea called zavarka, which is then in turn diluted into cups by very hot water from the ever boiling samovar. Sugar, honey and jams are often spooned into the tea as sweeteners and the liquid is sometimes slurped into saucers and slurped to cool it down. There is an old Russian saying: Where there is tea, there is paradise.

So back to our boys in the bookstore tearoom overlooking a snowy Nevsky Prospekt, opposite the Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral. They order the Russian Tea Ritual which is a teapot of boiling water, black tea leaves, mint and raspberry preserve. Now, I visited Moscow for work in early 2012 and the tea on my hotel breakfast trays always smelled smoky and burned, it was amazing. As a diehard drinker of builder’s tea, it took a good few days to adjust to this dense chewy tea. I could just have asked for something more generic, but I grew to rather enjoy this strange shock of churchy tea, watching early morning Russian TV as the light broke over the gathering angry cars in the gridlocked streets outside.

Pouring the boiling water over the fumy leaves and finger-crushed mint will smash together a duo of opposites: darkness and playful verdancy. This heady infusion would be further enhanced by a spoonful of sweet raspberry jam. This visceral shock of smoked caliginous leaf, berry and rubbed herb started the Masque Fragranze duo on an olfactory journey toward Julien Rasquinet and Russian Tea. Interestingly Julien’s wife Irina is Russian, so the marriage of olfactory ideas seemed a touch more perfect. In fact Russian Tea would turn out to be the last fragrance Julien would create as an independent in his lab in Normandy. He was offered a highflying position within IFF, based in Dubai and sadly had to close down his Norman base.

I was expecting an intense aromatic experience; both Montecristo and Tango have huge opening salvos, full of smoky, resonant promise. Tango develops into a lacquered bouquet of cinnabar spices and sticky resins and balms that just smells heavenly as skin heat activates the beautiful sweet clover and tonka in the base. The dance is one of spice and flowers, the exertion of sweat and physical heat and the veil of jasmine and hot rose. You have to be very careful with cumin in scent, it can be horribly overpowering and smell like old gym wear or curry leaf. In pitch perfect doses however it sets fire to petals and dusts an earthy peppered nuance through formulae.

The thing that really dazzles me with Tango though is how close the formula smells to being decayed and turned. In my scented travels I sometimes come across near empty flacons with the syrupy residue of perfumes lying stickily in the base. These evaporated, reduced, concentrées have strong vintage odours of creosote, face powder and sweet stale gateau. Oddly this is what I detect in the powerful drama of Tango and I love it. It’s a tricky balance, the suggestion of corrosion, whilst surrounding it in swathes of smouldering ambered ardour. But Zarokian knows her stuff and had produced in Tango (Act IV, Sc III) a scent of fire and passionate generosity.

Delphine Thierry’s Montecristo is simply one of the best parfums fumés I’ve come across in a while. It was my entry odour into the world of Masque Milano, so it set a very high standard. I love the olfactory work of Delphine Thierry, she has a singular atmospheric style that seems to imbue her fragrances with the romance and intense emotional blue of Turner’s more abstract oils. I have her smeared, unorthodox Castaña she created for Maggie Magnan’s gorgeous Cloon Keen Atelier. A scent of chestnuts, iris and woods that reeks of me in Paris when I was a student on time out, a little lost, grateful for hot chestnuts on a rainy Saturday with friends. She also made Akkad and Galaad for the resurrected Lubin line, two sensual and balmy essays in woods, vanillas, honeyed ouds, resins and the mysteries of ambrosial smoke.   

The beautiful turbulence of Montecristo is its ferocious animalism as it explodes out of the bottle. Yes, it’s a little faecal and dirtysexy but jeez so much fragrance these days is dull and sanitised to the point of tepid transparency. The sheer FUCK YOU of this is fantastic. It’s the Golden Stone/African Stone aka Hyraceum that really sets fire to this boozy bonfire of tobacco, woods and balms. Hyraceum is a rare sustainable source of potent animalic musk/hide like effect that comes from the weird little rock-hopping hyrax rodent things. Strangely, they are related (very distantly) to elephants and have unique sucker style paws that allow them to clamber and zip about on rocks successfully.

Over generations, hyraxes always locate their middens in the same place and over time, this collection of faeces and urine buries itself and essentially fossilises. Dug up, soaked in alcohol and distilled into tinctures, Golden Stone, in small doses can dramatically enhance the base notes and overall depth of oriental or woody formulae. The smell is incredible. The lovely Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery very kindly sent me some recently, in 10% solution. Sweet Lord…it was fricking marvellous. She said it smelled of ‘horse urine soaked shavings and fox fur’..(she knows how to get my attention!) and indeed it did and then some. Horse mane, damp dog, but oh my.. into the skin, rubbed in, a little warmth, the animalic permutations are divine. 

I’m digressing a tad here, but it’s important to understand how singular the rawness of Montecristo’s impact is. Blending this visceral feral note with rum, ambrette and styrax is asking for trouble but in the hands of a talented perfumer like Thierry, the result is one of refined assault and abiding sensual surround. 

So Russian Tea had tough competition, but my god it delivered. The enormous mint note looms at you like a sudden vast liner in a mist-covered ocean. I have only liked one other mentholic scent and that was Phaedon’s über aromatic Oriental Mint, which smells of freshly, brewed mint tea and Egyptian cigarettes. This is a very different experience, sudden and very emotive. The mint is bitter, shredded and violently released, the peppered facet to the exhale is brutal. This is the moment in the ritual the boiling water hits the smoky tea and mint leaves, exploding the conflicting odours outward. Then the raspberry, a moment of sugared soothing, a spoon of red-berried glory sliding off a tarnished spoon. The raspberry is wild though, with a hint of feral leaf, the smokiness of the tea smelling of garden bonfires drifting over tangled fruit bushes.

There is a lot of wood in Russian Tea, stoking samovar fires or just plain birch forest, silent and silvered in the background. It is a very Russian theme, an echo of the Siberian woods and trade routes taken by merchants and their caravans of goods including the powerful black tea that is the sexy centrepiece of Rasquinet’s Russian Tea composition. Apparently the smokiness associated with classic Russian tea blends has its roots in the long, slow journeys across the Siberian steppes. The tea was obviously transported on animals and over time, the combination of nightly watchfires and close proximity to animal hide imbued the tea leaves with powerful, redolent aromas. The notes list magnolia, an odd and unpredictable note in perfumery, either utterly fake and cloying or so fleeting as be pointless. Here however it has a ghostly presence, like a flower blooming out of season. It lends a creamy, honeyed sweetness to the heart of a robust and unusual formula. I love the dryness of the scent. This sounds odd, considering how rich and baroque the fragrance seems as it develops, but it is fact remarkably austere. Each time I spritz it on my skin, I am struck by the wit and reverence of the blending. Rasquinet’s close collaboration with the Masque Milano boys and the brief given to him regarding his work has produced another bravura entry in the Masque Milano line. They haven’t really put a foot wrong yet really, each scent in their ambitious operatic arc has been unique and gorgeous. The assemblage of harmonious performance perfect.  

Like the hot, berry drenched, smoky beverage, Russian Tea is ideally savoured intensely, slowly, languorously, inhaled with pleasure and disturbance at the sheer wonder and eccentricity at such scented construction.

Returning to the thematics of opera, this scent is a journey of small experiences written large in olfactory fireworks. I was genuinely enthralled by the mint, tea and raspberry triptych; it smells divinely strange and unfolds on the skin with tremendous unorthodox beauty. Building a palpable sense of mystery into perfumery these days is well nigh on impossible, but Riccardo and Alessandro have achieved something rather deviant: a collection of embellished and aesthetic perfumes that engage, astonish, arouse and seduce. Bravo boys, my skin adores you.    

© The Silver Fox 2014

Disclosure – from my own collection

For more information on Masque Milano, please click below: