26.9.14

Comme Des Garcons: (Not So) Wonderoud.

I'm pretty ambivalent about Wonderoud as my assessment goes in two different directions depending on how how approach it.

As a Comme Des Garcons lover, I think this brings almost nothing new to the table of woody fragrances they delivered thus far but, at the same time, if I approach it as a whatever mainstream wood-centered composition, this is vastly head-and-shoulders above the average quality available from similarly targeted / priced offerings. This is basically an average quality niche type of fragrance, sold at department-store prices.

In my perception, Wonderoud basically starts from the same bone-structure used in CDG's previous Wonderwood (and to a lesser extend Blue Santal). A combo of cedarwood, pepper, vetiver and sandalwood to which they now added a smooth but remarkable oud note. The final effect is of an intensely woody fragrance with greenish nuances. Dry but not harsh, mannered but not too affected, safe but not dull and pretty well rounded.

At the same time though, I find it a bit nondescript and not particularly distinctive. The cedarwood is not as prominent as in others deliveries by the same house and, as usual with CDG, they're still able to skip that woody harshness (typical of certain woodyambers) that seems to overpopulate department-store type of masculines. It's a well done fragrance, pleasant to wear and pretty long lasting…yet, I can't say I'm completely sold.

Downline: I think Wonderoud would make a nice option for anyone looking for a safer scent but wants to avoid smelling like a whatever department store shelf. It'd also make a nice introduction to the most daring deliveries by this house and, more in general, to western oud-themed stuff. CDG's aficionados might find it a bit redundant…

On a side note, it's pretty clear that the branch of Comme Des Garcons owned by Puig (basically all the fragrances that come in the oval-shaped flacon) are targeted to a more *generic* audience and , in this context, they still fear no rivals IMO. A bit of a disappointment though, came with the fact that Wonderoud is more expensive than your usual Puig-CDG. Is that because it includes the word *oud* in its name?

Very mild thumbs up. 

Rating: 6.5-7/10

17.9.14

Parfumerie Générale - Huitième Art - Phaedon: An Interview with Pierre Guillaume by Alfarom.



- You're one of the most prolific perfumers out there and your main line Parfumerie Générale celebrated its 10th birthday a couple of years ago. Congratulations and here's to many, many more years. How do you keep your creativity alive and vibrant?

I have the privilege of being able to dedicate myself almost exclusively to creating within the Studio PG… So it’s my daily life, my full-time job… I can go on for several months without coming up with a validated formula, and then “give birth” to one or many satisfactory ones within a few days… Creativity is a matter of inspiration, which is pretty unpredictable. Anyway, the pace at which fragrances are created has to be dissociated from the launch calendar, and at PG, since I’m my own boss, I put out what I feel like putting out when it feels timely… I propose and the public disposes!

- In my opinion, you're responsible for some of the most novel accords in modern perfumery and on top of that, you've been able to bring some popular themes such as, say,  gourmands, to a completely higher level. Do you have any personal approach or technique when composing a fragrance?

Thank you for the compliment! I’m always a bit surprised that my fragrances are stuck with that “gourmand” label… there’s ethyl maltol (a molecule that smells like sugar) in Sucre d’ébène, L’oiseau de nuit and Cèdre Sandaraque… and not a trace of it in the rest of my output. I don’t have a sweet tooth but I do love balsamic notes (benzoin, tolu, vanilla, cereals, cocoa, coffee, milk, honey…). These notes are not synonymous with sugar in perfumery but personally, they inspire me a lot and I like to use them in various registers and themes, from the Orientalized bitterness of Aomassaï (where all the balsamic notes are treated with roasted, toasted, burned, pyrogenized aspects) to Cozé (which plays on the aromatic complexity of a blond tobacco leaf and its cocoa, fig and coffee aromas).

- We often read about the photo-refining technique you use in some of your fragrances (Cozé is the first that comes to mind). Can you tell us about it?

I’ve only applied it to two of our compositions: Cozé and L’eau de Circé. This technique can be understood as a controlled, accelerated aging process: it’s used to add a patina, expression lines to the composition. The UV radiations don’t destroy the olfactory impact of certain ingredients in the formula: they soften and modify it. There’s no point in using the technique for citrus-based compositions or white floral bouquets. For Cozé, by acting on the impact of the spicy notes, it adds vibrancy, whereas in L’eau de Circé, by making the osmanthus/rose/sandalwood accord wilt a bit, it adds a certain old-fashioned, melancholy touch.

- A lot of new launches in the last couple of years, including some “exclusive” stuff such as Arabian Horse. Why the need to differentiate some of them from your “regular” range?

 These fragrances were intended as objects of contemplation, exchange and reflection with the visitors of Pitti Fragranze in Florence, a bit like certain models are only made to be displayed in car shows. I rewrote formulas I’d composed a decade ago: Cozé (which became Cozé Verde) and Cuir Venenum (which became Arabian Horse). The point was for the brand to be present, but not just from a commercial standpoint, and to take stock of my past ten years as a perfumer by retracing my steps.
Elena & Zoran from Fragrantica urged me to produce small batches of Arabian Horse and Cozé Verdé because they thought it was a pity to restrict them to being “show fragrances” and not make them available to fans of the brand… We received other requests and we decided to produce a micro-series that will be exclusively available at our online shop.

- Some prices are getting crazy when it comes to niche and too often they don’t reflect the quality of the ingredients or the artistry. It seems as though a lot of lines that pretend to be high-quality are just inflating their prices to give a false idea of luxury. What's luxury in your opinion?

While I attempt to find the right balance as far as distribution and commerce are concerned, I try to maintain what I consider to be reasonable prices for my perfumes, and though they’re not cheap, I think my brand is one of the most accessible within the genre. When I started out in 2002, I remember that some of my competitors sold their 100 ml bottles for 80 euros… today, the same products are sold by those same brands for 180 euros. Their talk about the scarcity and cost of raw materials makes me laugh. Since we are independent, we can buy our own raw materials and assemble our juices ourselves, so we can offer much higher-quality products than our competitors at a lower price. If I bought an oil that costs 200 euros per kilo for me to produce from a big company like Givaudan, IFF or Firmenich, I’d probably be paying it three or four times more… The oil would cost me 800 euros per kilo… but in no way would that reflect its true value… Just for fun, my assistant Catherine calculated the ratio between the cost per kilo of the oil and the price of the bottle… If I applied the same margins as some of our competitors, I’d have to sell a 50ml bottle of Indochine for 300 euros…
I discussed this with Françoise Caron a few months ago: in the end, the juices that cost the most to produce aren’t automatically the ones that sell the most… everyone in the industry knows it.

As far as I’m concerned, luxury is rarity… I don’t see how you can pretend to be rare and different if you’re in all the department stores… Besides, I’m afraid a lot of brands base their attractiveness solely on their price point: “If I’m more expensive than my competitors that means I’m better.” I’m not reaching out for that type of clientele. 



- Beside Cozè, what are your most widely acclaimed fragrances?

Louanges Profanes for women and L’eau guerrière for men are our best-sellers world-wide. 

- Which fragrance did you compose so far that you're particularly proud of but you think it didn't get the attention it would have actually deserved?

Papyrus de Ciane was a lot of work because I had one technical issue after another… after two years of effort I achieved my goal and presented the fragrance, which was acclaimed by professionals and critics… but it’s right at the bottom of our sales figures!

- It would be interesting to smell some of your compositions in extrait strength. Should we expect this to happen at some point?

IFRA constrains us: depending on the formula, you can only use the oil at a certain concentration, which varies according to the juice’s chemical composition. So it’s a matter of aesthetic relevance but also of technical feasibility from the regulatory standpoint. Some notes like Isparta, Ilang Ivohibé or Myrrhiad would lend themselves to this, so… to be followed.

- When it comes to your perfume-related background, what are your points of reference?

As far as perfumes go? I was struck by the best-sellers that came out when I was a child or a teenager… Acqua di Gio, Fahrenheit, Angel, A-men, Armani eau pour homme, M7 by Yves Saint Laurent…

- What's your role in Phaedon?

Buying up Phaedon gave us the opportunity of extending our offer to home fragrances. The candles are manufactured by Guilhem Rousseau, who produces part of the catalogue of Diptyque and LVMH… This has allowed us to offer a catalogue of original scents (no fig, tuberose or wood fire) while immediately achieving a high quality standard… As far as the EDT and EDP are concerned, I had already contributed juices to the first series. After buying up the company, I was able to reformulate the entire range based on my tastes and quality standards, also to invite lesser-known perfumer friends to showcase their talent through new compositions – Jean Claude Gigodot,  Danièle Maniquant and Anne Cécile Douveghan come to mind.

- What's next at Parfumerie Générale / Huitième Art / Phaedon?

There’s a big surprise in store at Parfumerie Générale in 2015 but it’s still a secret. Phaedon will add more home fragrances to its catalogue, and at HAP, in answer to our customers’ requests, we are introducing a black, matte 100ml Cyclops bottle alongside the 50ml format. A 12th fragrance will be presented at Pitti and will be available in September.

This interview was originally published on Basenotes.



15.9.14

GUERLAIN L'Homme Ideal: Exploring new meanings for the word "ideal".

I see L'Homme Ideal as a sad little creature.

Many things have been said to explain the reasons why Guerlain released such a fragrance and they all sounded more like justifications for the fact L'Homme Ideal is, in the end, boredom personified. Anyway, of all the things I read and heard, the most logic to me was that Guerlain was targeting the Blue De Chanel audience and, more generally, a wider crowd. After smelling the juice, this makes sense but my next questions are: Do I really care about what were the intentions Guerlain had? Do they make me change what I think about this fragrance? …but, most of all, as a consumer, do they really matter? No, not at all.

L'Homme Ideal is a sad little creature that smells like a plethora of other department store fragrances that hit the shelves in the last ten years or so. A bunch of catchy top-notes (in this case not even *that* catchy to my tastes) slammed on top of a sticky, outrageously generic and uber-synth woody base. Oh Dear Lord that base! Tonka, sharp cedar wood (maybe some woodyamber) and some vetiver. Surprise! 

Yes, there's the infamous *amaretto* note but well, when it comes to almond-y notes, Guerlain feared no rivals in the past and L'Homme Ideal's opening is far from being enough to save the rest of the composition from precipice. Mind me though, the problem here is not that they played it safe but more that it completely lacks any kind of personality.

Now, I'm a huge Guerlain fan but this time, seriously: EW! …and as my grandma said, L'Homme Ideal doesn't exist!

Rating: 4.5/10

6.9.14

ELDO Rien Intense Incense: Can you take a little more?



Two tiny spritz on my wrist and BAM! It immediately turned from *my sotd* to *the scent of the whole city*. The sky turned dark, thunders and lightning followed right away, people struggled at opening their umbrellas blown away by a scary wind. I've heard a couple of car crashes, ambulances, dogs hawling, people screaming. The Duomo's structural integrity weakened and then, the whole building collapsed. It was mayhem.

WOW!

I mean, seriously, wow! This stuff's opening is really quite something. It's basically Rien amped up at the Nth-power (cough cough) and with an extra dose of...*something else*. Yes, it is obviously incensey but it's also very clean. There's a juxtaposition between the dirty vibe of the former Rien and something I would classify as *pure*. It might actually be the synergy between the extra dose of incense and the aldehydes. I'm still trying to figure it out but it's definitely something to experience. It made me smile but then I realized I was actually grinning.

Well, for the first 30 minutes it literally blew me away. Yes, I had to shout to communicate with anyone who was trying to interact with me because Rien Incense Intense was screaming all over the place but it was totally worth it.

Then, suddenly, the inner monster living inside this incarnation of Rien took a Xanax and fell asleep and all I was left with was my dear ol' Rien.

Now, I LOVE Rien to pieces but I'm still not sure RII is full bottle worthy for those who already own the original. With that said, if you don't own any version of Rien, go for this! Absolutely!!! It's everything you get from Rien plus an extra 30 minutes of unseen footage. 

Sillage: Choking
Longevity: Exhausting

Rating: 7/10

1.6.14

Comme Des Garcons Serpentine & Wisteria Hysteria: Two Big Winners!

Comme Des Garcons For Stephen Jones - Wisteria Hysteria

Chromatic scale: White, more white and even more white. Lilac, silver, neon white, microscopic black dots, imperceptible light-blue nuances, steel-cold grey.

Rosey / floral notes with a bright metallic presence and a overall synth-pop vein. The florals are the most distant possible from the real thing. Instead, they're a super abstract rendition of the smell you could expect from a olfactive holodeck on DS9. Incense is here in full force and together with spices provides quite a thick and potent bone-structure. 

As I said, the fragrance starts bright, clean and cheerful but the feeling it evokes is anything but natural. It's sort of like a sense of inner euphoria filtered through chem drugs. Hallucinations and horizontal dancing, mind trips at the borders of cosmos.

Incense takes over considerably and, together with sweetish notes give birth to a dry'n'sweet
accord that, at traces, brought to mind of Eldo's Archive 69 (overlooked gem IMO) minus the camphor.But beside the incense, they also share a certain lived-in vibe. It's not lived-in as in remarkably dirty but more like *humanized*. It's the warmness of clean skin with subtle animalic (humanoid) facets. 

Smartly placed juxtapositions provided by clove and smoky mate notes, preserve the fragrance from becoming too bright and cold yet, at the same time, they paradoxically enhance the overall metallic vibe.

I can't say Wisteria feels warm but it doesn't feel cold or detached either. It surely has both the elements of warmness and coldness but they're so smartly paired to give birth to a completely new feeling. Again, it's like showing to a alien reptile race what *body warmness is about*.

Potent, very long lasting and with a great projection. In this context, Wisteria feels like a collaboration between Comme Des Garcons and Thierry Mugler...if Mugler actually still had taste.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

Comme Des Garcons - Serpentine

Chromatic scale Serpentine evoked: White / Fluo Green / Silver / Black / Pale Pink / Dark Grey

Some random impressions. Boatloads of aldehydes, *gunpowdery* spices, musks, incense, woods, iris-y notes. 

It evokes brand new spaces as opposed to brand new objects. Big warehouses. Concrete, wet white paint, linoleum, immaculate walls, industrial lighting, cars, subways, ads... 

To all of the above, add a smooth powderyness probably linked to some orris-related accord which provides a subtle perfumey vibe necesseary to preserve the fragrance from becoming a mere exercise in style. 

Absolutely wearable, novel and modern...which I guess are all adjectives to describe CDG. 

Once more, Austuguevielle's artistic direction doesn't let me down and, when it comes to modernism, CDG is confirmed to not fear any rival. A big winner.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

28.5.14

Masque Milano - An Interview With Alessandro Brun & Riccardo Tedeschi by Alfarom.



Introduce Masque's concept. Who is your ideal customer?

The main concept behind Masque Fragranze is one form of art rooted in Italian culture and tradition: "Opera". 

In an Opera there is a plot. Acts and Scenes, composing the story, interpreted by talented actors.

With Masque Fragranze we aimed at creating one “scented Opera”, where every perfume represents one Scene, and every Scene is numbered. The whole collection is the Opera of Masque.

It is quite hard to define a model customer: when we launched our line of artistic fragrances, we had the compelling desire to make our perfumes - and, hence, our art - known to the widest possible audience.

Our ideal customers are interested in artistic perfumery -but not necessarily knowledgeable-, curios and keen to discover unexplored olfactory territories, and able to appreciate high quality raw materials and hand made details.
These are customers that can appreciate the value of our products before even considering its price.

How would you describe your brand's overall style? …do you have a signature?

To us, Masque is a melting-pot of different forms of expression - art and craftsmanship: the perfumed content, the form and the story…
Talented noses and top quality raw materials first of all, but we also place great emphasis on the bottle design and the craftsmanship of the hand-made components, as well as the inspiration that guides us in the development of new olfactory scenes.

The single element that is quintessentially Masque is the hand-made ceramic stopper.

We wanted something unique and evocative, highlighting the importance of heritage of craftsmanship and human labour in our products.
So we designed our signature "striped stopper", and we found out skilled artisans able to realize it, in the historic ceramic district of Deruta.
A design laden with history yet perfectly modern. Materials and production process are still those of our tradition, the production rate is low, reminding to the slow living that characterized Italian lifestyle before the hectic days of global economy…

Montecristo have made it to several *best of 2013* lists both from professionals and from the audience. Its evocative and striking power haven't surely passed unnoticed. Beside personal tastes, I think it's unquestionable it have been quite a brave and daring fragrance to include in your original range. What motivated you?

In hindsight, Montecristo was a more than satisfactory launch and we are extremely happy of the buzz it created in the communities of perfume-lovers. Yet we had to pluck up our courage to launch such a bold fragrance when the brand was still young.

When designing the line and launching the first fragrances, we wanted to make it clear that we were guided not by the desire to please the customer, but rather by the earnestness of defining what we are. Thus, each fragrance was to be unique and with a sharp and distinctive character.

One of our favorite olfactory family is leather, hence we couldn't help but opening with a leathery fragrance. "Our" leather.

We kept repeating to Delphine Thierry (the perfumer) that she was free to experiment in a way she was not allowed to when working for more "commercial" maisons. We really encouraged her to dare.

Every new sample was more animalic, darker, more complex and plenty of different interesting facets.

The final version was for us fully satisfactory. It was love at first …smell!
After the surprising opening, when Montecristo shows its muscles, its power and character, the animalic and dark shades get softer, creating a comfortable - yet extremely original - atmosphere.

How did it all start?


The more we know each other, the more we are surprised of how many things we have in
common.

We both studied Engineering, and have a passion for creating things - yet creating in an artistic way, breaking rules and avoiding clichés.

We both love many forms of art, music above all - and we play guitar since boyhood.
We love traveling, fine food, good wines, minimalistic design, elegant dresses and Italian joie de vivre.

We are always eager to know and to experiment, restless and relentlessly looking for perfection.

Riccardo's interest for fragrances turned into a real passion after a period spent in Australia, while studying small italian luxury companies Alessandro developed the ambition of creating his own luxury brand.

Joining forces and revealing each other our plans, we soon started working towards a common goal… this is how we started.

…and now Tango, which is rapidly becoming your potential blockbuster thus far. Talk us about it and about your collaboration with Cecile Zarokian.

Every creation of Masque Fragranze follows its own path. We are not afraid of this. Because we really believe that each piece of art is unique – also in terms of creation process. The story of Tango is all of this: serendipity, our passions, a daring composition, different forms of art, … - mingling and sublimating in the precious jus.

Tango belongs to the third Act of our scented opera, and Act III is the act of sentimental relationships. 

The first date. A romance. Falling in love. Being in love. Pledging everlasting engagement. The evolution of any sentimental relationship seems to follow this same path. As we do not follow clichés, we avoided to work on this story starting from scene I. 

We spent many nights trying to imagine how a few fragrances could epitomize the mostimportant of mankind ties.

Drinking Ron Y Miel brought by Alessandro from Canary Island and listening to music, we found ourselves talking about sentimental relationships.

Something starting getting clearer in our minds: we will open the act III in the most unconventional way: with a perfume dedicated to Scene 4, with a perfume about passion, yet a passion somehow linked to unfaithful liaison and betrayal.

Tall. Dark hair. With Armenian origin, yet French as can be. Cherry-red lipstick on her lips. White working apron. Cécile welcomed us in her laboratory in Paris. 
6 weird paintings on the walls: naked women in strange postures. Here, the two hands of a man behind the woman are stitching her lips; there, the woman’s torn body merges with the trunk of a large plant and her eyes are bleeding. 

Cécile perfumed each painting. She explains better – even though it was completely clear to us: she did an olfactory representation of the 6 paintings.

Who knows, maybe in the future we could work together in another one of our weird ideas: perfuming a song…

We loved her works. We were amazed by the warm sensuality of her creations.


You're working with very selected perfumers such as Delphine Thierry (Lubin, Cloon Keen Atelier, Majda Bekkali Sculptures Olfactives), Giuseppe Imprezzabile AKA Meo Fusciuni and Cecile Zarokian (Amouage, MDCI Parfums, Jovoy, Laboratorio Olfattivo, Suleko). How did you choose them and how the creative process works?

We believe there is no an actor able to relate to every possible role with conviction; no musician able to play every single musical style with authenticity. Then, there could be no nose able to represent every single scene of the scented opera of Masque Fragranze. The fragrances of Masque are to be created with a soul, and the nose’s appointment is to give life to our scene. Hence, every scene will have “its” nose.

The construction of every single scene entails the quest for the actor having, thanks to his or her repertoire of jokes and playing style, the ability to perform at his/her best in this very scene. There is no need to adapt a style … to learn new expressive languages … only to interpret in a personal way the essence of the play. Playwright and actor operate in perfect harmony. In every scene.

Here at Masque, the journey for the creation of a new fragrance always starts from a personal meeting with a nose. Simple yet important deeds: visiting the artist’s lab, listening to the tale of his or her personal life and professional experiences, analysing the approach to perfumes concoction and smelling the best creations. And then describing our visionary project, offering a collaboration, appointing him or her to the creation of a newfragrance – that of the most appropriate scene.

In our casting for the noses to interpret our scenes, we do not search for the ultimate technically talented skilled professional. It is empathy and passion that we seek. The ability to be deeply involved in the project, understand the brief, feel completely immersed in it, to the point that the creation of the perfume should came naturally at a certain point – without following any predetermined technical rule. 

Because we want to create perfumes with a soul.

What's your background when it comes to fragrance? Do you have any reference house, any favourite perfumers of the past, favourite fragrances…

In a world dominated by commercial brands, driven by the dogmas of marketing, there are just a few fragrance houses in constant pursuit of excellence, and which proved always true to themselves in such an endeavour.

One of them is Editions de Parfum, by Frederic Malle. The reasons why we admire Malle’s house are pretty manifest:

• great perfumes made up with great raw materials;
• prestigious collaborations with the best maître parfumeurs;
• utter consistency between the idea and the realization, with a painstaking attention to every detail;
• the apparently unsophisticated packaging clearly witnesses the maison’s emphasis on design and minimalistic luxury, while at the same time revealing the literary inspiration of the concept.

Unlike Malle, which works with established master perfumers, already known and celebrated in the industry, we decided to scout for young and relatively unknown noses - rising stars of international artistic perfumery.

Another peculiarity of our approach is that we do not leave the nose free to create according to the inspiration of the moment; rather, we ask the nose to “interpret” a specific “olfactory scene” within our Opera. Sometimes the indications are quite strict, as in the briefs we describe very complex “SmellScapes”, therefore giving quite binding directions and indicating explicitly a list of raw materials or specific smells to use.

What about your packagings / presentations? Both the boxes and the bottles look simple and absolutely luxurious at the same time and they all have the perfumer's name embossed on a metal plate on the base of the sprayer. Who designed your packagings and why did you choose to give that much exposure to the perfumer?

Certainly in perfumery the “protagonist” has to be the fragrance.

At the same time, though, packaging plays a paramount role in communicating the brand’s identity and philosophy.

We consider ourselves “luxury artisans”, and we want the packaging to be the best representation of the archetypal Italian luxury: unsophisticated, timeless, minimalistic, never screaming, betraying no excess nor overindulgence, yet gorgeously elegant. 

We – Alessandro and Riccardo – personally designed the whole packaging.
We found out the “perfect” bottle (a simple cylinder), and carefully selected all the elements enriching and characterizing it: the pattern on the back, illustrating the spirit of the fragrance; the numbering of Acts and Scenes – roman numbers and a separating dot; the hand-aged pewter label showing the name of the nose creating the fragrance. And, of course, we designed our signature striped ceramic stopper.
We then found out the artisan able to model the stopper.
The patterns used to illustrate every fragrance are designed by young graduates of Politecnico di Milano.

We chose to place great emphasis on the nose’s name. We noticed that this, apparently insignificant, element fosters the creator to really perform at his/her best. And because, after all, the paramount ingredient behind a success of an Opera is the cast…

And by the way there are many company founders that are improvising as fragrance creators. This is simply not plausible, if the aim is that of creating excellent artistic fragrances. Alessandro and Riccardo are taking the role of playwrights and orchestra directors, but they do not jump on stage, a place reserved to the real artists – the noses!

Will you ever offer your fragrances in different formats or different strength?


Our fragrances are distributed in 100ml bottles. For the time being, we have no plans to introduce new formats. All the fragrances in our line are EdPs, but the concentrations in alcohol are carefully adjusted, fragrance per fragrance, in order to reach a perfect balance between the technical parameters -sillage and longevity- and the atmosphere described in the represented Scene. In Terralba, for instance, we wanted to convey a comfortable and relaxing feeling, thus, we could not increase too much the concentration, otherwise the woody/aromatic side would overcome the salty/fresh notes, and the fragrance would have become darker and would have lost its lightweightedness. On the other hand, with Tango, we had to highly concentrate the perfume in order to boost the sensual and warm atmosphere of the Scene.

What's next at Masque? Do you already have an idea on who is going to be your next collaboration?

Our next fragrance will be called “Russian Tea”. It has been inspired by an episode happened during one of our trips to Russia. We were in Saint Petersburg, in an elegant café inside a large bookstore at the first floor of a sumptuous Art Noveau building. Out there, the snow-covered Nevsky Prospekt. 

By looking at the menu, we were enticed by a treat named “Russian Tea Ritual”. The maidens in white apron and bonnet brought us the teapot, black tea in leaves, fresh mint, raspberry preserve.

Immediately, as water was poured in the cup, the infusion unleashed its most characteristic notes. Black tea, heavy and intense. A floral note, sharp and biting. And that unmistakably dry and smoky aftertaste given by the caravanserai campfires, meant to keep the precious tea cargo dry in the never-ending journey through Siberia. 

Some fresh mint leaves were used to give a pleasant fresh touch to the hot water. A teaspoon of raspberry preserve sweetened, without altering it, the bitter aftertaste of leather and birch. We were sipping it slowly, gazing out of the wide window, towards the beautiful cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan and beyond.

The Russian Tea Ritual surprised us, and carried us to an unexpected journey in remote lands, full of mystery and fascination.

We’ve been thinking awhile which nose would translate into a fragrance such experience, until we meet with Julien Rasquinet. We are glad to say that Julien was really “the actor” we were looking for. Belgian, born in London and grew up in Paris, Julien honed his talent in perfumery collaborating with Pierre Bourdon and Christine Nagel. We first met him in Milan, and when the creation process reached its culprit, to work “hands-on” on the fragrance, we spent two days in his ancient country mansion in Normandy, where Julien had the lab and used to live with his lovely wife Irina. Oh, and Irina is Russian – what a perfect adviser for a great “Russian Tea”.

In early 2014, Julien was appointed to a leadership role in Middle East market for IFF... by accepting the new challenge, he moved to Dubai and even had to destroy his lab in the romantic Normandy setting.

We feel so fortunate, as we have the honour to insert his very last creation as independent nose in our scented Opera.

We are going to unveil Russian Tea at Pitti Fragranze, next September 2014.

Masque's website is at http://masquemilano.com

This interview originally appeared on Basenotes.

15.4.14

Vero Profumo Rozy EDP and Voile D'Extrait: Perfumery Can't Get Any Better.

Please, don't retouch my wrinkles. It took me an entire life to earn them…

Anna Magnani.






Rozy EDP

Upon application, the first thing that immediately catched my attention was how easy to like and very approachable Rozy EDP is. It opens with a sparkling combo of old-school fruity notes (mainly peach) paired to a minty and cold-ish geranium which served as an introduction to the main player of the whole composition: rose. Passionfruit is there as well and while confirming Vero's signature when it comes to her EDPs, it also provide a super green / unripe quality that will make of Rozy a fantastic candidate for summer wearings.

Rose takes over in the middle phase and is joined by a subtle honey note to warm-up up and slightly sweeten the overall fresh vibe. Just like with basically every other fragrance by Vero Profumo, there's a solid classicism inherent to Rozy but, Vero's mastery and incredible perfume-culture, preserve the whole composition from resulting a stereotypical old-fashioned rose. Yes, it's classic yet somewhat modern at the same time and definitely suitable for both younger crowds and grown-up audiences. The rose note is in complete harmony with the rest of the composition and while definitely being the main player, it never dominates or overwhelms the rest. Instead, it completely merges with other accords giving birth to amazing synergies one can only experience in the most accomplished works by unforgettable perfumers such as, say Kerleo. In this context, Rozy feels like a rose based fragrance, not a soliflore.

There's not much more to say about the evolution of this gem if not that a cedarwood note makes its appearance during the drydown to reinforce the bone-structure and provide an overall dryness. With that said,  what really matters to make of yet another rose fragrance a standout, it's there. Solidity, honesty, culture end personality.

Downline: Definitely the most easily approachable fragrance by Vero Kern and a terrific candidate to become her best-seller.

Rating: 8/10

Rozy Voile D'Extrait





Now, we're talking! This completely moves in masterpieces territories in my book. The funny aspect is that I'm generally neither a fan of rose nor of honey (which both play quite a relevant role here) but, again, Vero's take on the main theme is indeed one of a kind. She takes a very classic theme and completely turns it into her very own take giving birth to one of those fragrances that will surely live a trace in modern perfumery. Seriously.



Inspiration here is Anna Magnani, her imperfections, her disarming charme, her fragility, her strength, her peculiar features that made of her one of the most loved and talented actresses ever. In order to fully appreciate Rozy Voile D'Extrait, you have to be fine with beauty achieved through imperfections as opposed to pretty (and boring) features. With daring choices, with unconventional solutions. Don't get me wrong, Rozy VdE is NOT a difficult fragrance but, given its depth and complexity, it surely can be appreciated on several levels.

The opening is one of the best things happened to perfumery in a while. Cassis and an almost camphorous tuberose. Seriously, WOW! The fragrance starts evolving by introducing a mix of spices and rose while a dry sandalwood note starts lurking in the back together with honey. In this phase, I get distant echoes of other perfumery pillars (at one point I thought I was catching a kinship with Knize Ten but I'm pretty sure it will probably be just me). With that said,  the fragrance still feels incredibly unique and cultured as opposed to safe and stereotypical. In this context, it doesn't smell french, it doesn't smell middle-eastern…it simply smell like something only Vero Kern could deliver.

Honey takes over together with other moderately sweet elements (vanilla? sandalwood?) while a subtle dose of styrax provides smoky facets. The drydown is basically endless with continuous kaleidoscopic effects involving all the ingredients into play. It goes from dry and smoky, to sweetish and velvety via woody and obviously…Rozy.

Rozy is an act of love, a tribute and a gift from one of the most passionate and talented perfumers around. In 2014, I hardly can see fragrance going any better than Rozy and, believe me, either you will agree or not, I'm being 100% sincere here. Now, I'm seriously wondering how long it will still take to officially declare Vero Kern as probably the most valid *tout-court* artist in modern perfumery.

All of my love and support.

Rating: 9/10