Oud Palao by Diptyque

oud-palaoNotes: Bulgarian rose, Laotian oud, Madagascar vanilla, tobacco, rum, sandalwood, labdanum, patchouli, and camphor.

Oud Palao is actually Diptyque’s Fall release from 2015, although I’ve only just discovered it now as we head into Fall of 2016. The fragrance market is over-saturated with oud scents, particularly rose/oud, and it would be easy to miss this one. I personally wasn’t expecting to feel very strongly one way or the other about Oud Palao. I tried it simply because I like Diptyque. I’m certainly glad I did because Oud Palao blew me away with just how interesting and thought-provoking it is on the skin. Moreover, it’s beautiful and easily wearable.

The opening here is a bit overwhelming to the senses, as I get a little taste of every note here. It’s earthy, woody, leathery, and just a touch medicinal from the camphor. Diptyque bills Oud Palao as a rose/oud and lists rose as the first note in the composition. However, to me, the rose here is very subtle. It reads as more of a transitional note to me. It’s like a touch of floral bridging the opening and the deeper heart notes. Being that I’m not a rose fan, I’m completely fine with that. But if you prefer rose, you may feel differently.

I don’t get a whole lot of tobacco from Oud Palao. I have a feeling the tobacco is laced with incense, as that always reads in a very subdued way on my skin. However, I do get quite a lot of leather in the heart notes. I’m guessing it’s the labdanum, and it pulls dark and dry. It makes me think of a pair of black leather riding boots, just worn in enough, but still stylish.

There’s also a good dose of dry, earthy patchouli. These notes sound quite hefty, but it all comes across as very balanced on the skin. I can’t emphasize enough how dry this composition is. It’s like a dry red wine in that everything comes across as potent, yet subtle. It’s actually quite delicate for an oud composition.

Don’t worry, if words like “delicate” make you nervous about longevity, the projection and wear time here are excellent. Oud Palao is a scent that’s still going strong by the time I’m ready for bed. It clings to my clothes, to my PJs, and to my sheets. I love when that happens, but it has to be a fragrance you like otherwise it’s unbearable.

As for the actual oud note, as you might guess, it’s extremely dry. It’s also medicinal. That camphor note makes a reappearance in the dry down for me. It’s a bit weird, but I have to admit I actually like it. It adds another facet to this otherwise dry woody composition.

It’s safe to say that oud is still not my favorite note, but I’m really glad to have discovered Oud Palao. The true artistry here is in the careful balance of the composition. The dry delicate nature of this scent gives Oud Palao an elegance and makes it an everyday wearable kind of oud. This is a real gem from Diptyque.

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Oud Palao is an Eau de Parfum and it is available directly from Diptyque. It’s also available from Luckyscent, as well as the usual department stores: Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. I got my sample from the Diptyque counter at Nordstrom.

Both the image and the info on notes are from Luckyscent.

Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari & Antonio Gardoni

perfume cadavre exquisNotes: blood orange, camphor, ylang-ylang, tagetes, dried fruit, star anise, chocolate, cypress, benzoin, vanilla, and civet.

When I first heard about Cadavre Exquis, I thought the name sounded rather morbid and I didn’t think I’d be interested in it. Then I heard it was a gourmand and, being the gourmand-a-holic that I am, I suddenly had to try it. As it turns out, the name isn’t actually morbid. It comes from a parlor game played by surrealist artists in the 1920s where each player would add to a story without knowing what the other players had added. The story would then be assembled at the end. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari adapted this concept to assemble a fragrance composition without knowing what the other had contributed. As you might imagine, the result is very interesting.

I wasn’t surprised to see camphor listed in the notes because the opening here is extremely camphorous, to the point of harshness. The blood orange also comes in like a sharp shock of citrus, so the opening here is not a gentle one! It’s sharp and medicinal. It had me wondering how this would develop into a gourmand scent. Fortunately, the camphor effect is short-lived, so you won’t walk around smelling like cough medicine while wearing this perfume.

The blood orange citrus gradually develops into the dried fruit note for me. There is also a yellow honeyed note, which I attribute to the ylang-ylang and the tagetes (otherwise known as marigold). This honey-fruit effect is very appealing. It’s soft and sweet without being too much. Then things amp up. The dried fruit takes on a boozy feel, like rum cake. And then my favorite, the chocolate, makes an appearance. This is a rich, earthy, and quite dark chocolate. This is a gourmand to sink your teeth into.

The civet in the base comes in to amplify the darkness, the earthiness and, it has to be said, the naughtiness here. The base of Cadavre Exquis is sensual, dirty in a sexy way, and verging on the rotten. Is this the morbid part? It will definitely be too much for some people, but I like a bit of civet. The vanilla helps to balance and keep things on the sweet gourmand side of things.

Taken as a whole, Cadavre Exquis is a weird one. It’s certainly compelling and never boring. The main question is: is it wearable? The answer is yes, it’s surprisingly very wearable. It’s wholly inappropriate for the 90 degree weather we’re having right now but, like the gourmand addict I am, I find myself craving it. Needless to say, a little bit of this goes a very long way. I would use some discretion about where you wear this one since it is so odd. But it’s strangely addictive and ultimately beautiful.

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Cadavre Exquis is a collaboration between Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni. The fragrance is limited edition and there were only 99 bottles produced. It appears there are still full bottles available on Luckyscent‘s site, which is where I got my sample.

The picture and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

Jasmin de Nuit by The Different Company

jasmin de nuitNotes: Egyptian jasmin, amber, blackcurrant, star anise, spices, cinnamon, cardamom, and sandalwood.

Jasmin de Nuit was originally released in 2005 so it’s not new, but it is new to me. I love a white floral for spring/summer. Anything featuring jasmine or lily of the valley is just fine by me. However, Jasmin de Nuit is different for a jasmine scent, and different even for a floral scent because, well, it doesn’t come across as very floral. It sounds a bit odd, but I’ve grown to like this scent, and I even like it for the warmer spring weather.

Luckyscent lists the spices in Jasmin de Nuit fairly far down the note pyramid, but I find the opening to be mildly spicy and fizzy (from the cardamom). I will note that Fragrantica lists bergamot and mandarin orange in the top notes, which I can definitely sense. The opening here is not distinctly floral. Instead, it’s airy, spicy, and almost tangy. The jasmine appears after a couple of minutes as a soft and almost sweet presence. After the initial opening, the fizzy, tangy aspect calms down and Jasmin de Nuit transforms into a beautifully subdued and smooth blend of jasmine and amber. The amber gives off a soft powdery quality. It stays very close to the skin for me and almost takes on a comfort scent vibe.

At first, I thought the scent would fade away at this point but, luckily, there’s more! The cinnamon makes a return appearance and it’s more intense and long lasting this time around. Jasmin de Nuit kind of teeters on the edge of a gourmand scent at this point, but I find that the jasmine turns it up a notch just before heading into the dry down. Also, the jasmine becomes just a touch indolic at this point, and it’s that hint of dirty floral that keeps the composition from going into full edible gourmand territory. The dry down is even more warm with sandalwood and just a hint of patchouli building off of the amber. The spices and the jasmine settle into a sweet blend, that almost comes across as vanilla but, again, not edible.

Jasmin de Nuit can be deceptively simple at times but it’s actually a really interesting blend. It’s a fragrance that’s named after a white floral, but is determined to come across as everything but floral, and constantly flirts with the gourmand. Logic tells me that this is more of a cold weather fragrance, but there’s something so appealing about wearing the warm jasmine/amber blend in sunny weather. As it wears very close to the skin anyway, I think you can get away with it. It’s probably not an office scent, but I don’t know that it’s explicitly a date scent either. It’s sensual for sure, but also a little bit too weird to be a full-on sexy scent. I’ll just have to use up the rest of my sample to fully figure this one out!

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The Different Company is a niche perfume line from France. In the US, samples and full bottles are available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

The image and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

Sicilian Wood by Tom Daxon

sicilian wood tom daxonNotes: lemon, tangerine, bergamot, cardamom, gaiac wood, jasmine, lily of the valley, amber, cedarwood, and sandalwood.

Tom Daxon Bowers, who is the founder of Tom Daxon, apparently grew up having quite a fragrant childhood. His mother was the creative director for Molton Brown, so it’s no surprise that he now runs a fragrance house that also produces shower gels. I haven’t tried his shower gels yet but, just from sampling Sicilian Wood, I can already sense a zesty freshness that would translate well to a shower gel. But I’m here first and foremost for the fragrance. Sicilian Wood is my first scent from this line and it has given me pretty high expectations for the rest of the Tom Daxon offerings.

Sicilian Wood begins with a brilliant burst of citrus. Even though bergamot and tangerine are listed in the notes, the opening is overwhelmingly lemon-centric to me. It’s a very realistic citrus too. It’s juicy, but sharp and bitter as well. The woody notes start to come through after a minute of wear time. This could easily turn into lemon pledge territory but, luckily, Sicilian Wood never goes full cleaning product on me. The realism given off by the citrus notes helps, as does the cardamom note. The cardamom is a zesty kind of spicy, and adds a little bit of fizzy fun to the composition. If Sicilian Wood is meant to evoke a citrus grove, this grove is flourishing and twinkling in the Mediterranean sun.

I love a good lily of the valley fragrance but, I have to admit, the florals here are mostly lost on me. I believe the jasmine and lily of the valley are here mainly to round out the composition and to give some balance to the citrus opening. I sense the citrus tone all throughout wear time, but that sharp lemon definitely levels out and takes on a smoothness. After the first hour, it’s more like a fresh lemon dollop on top of a white floral cushion. The citrus is less realistic, but that’s okay, because we’re headed for the woody notes, which I think make up both the heart and the base here.

I’m all about a rich cedar note, but I know plenty of people have the opposite taste and avoid cedar. I think Sicilian Wood would be okay for those people. Don’t get me wrong, the cedarwood is here, but it’s not an overwhelming “just opened a cedar trunk” kind of note. The blend of the composition continues to be effortlessly smooth. The cedar and sandalwood notes just melt together (and I wouldn’t normally use the word “melt” to describe woody notes) but neither note overpowers the other. And the amber, sweet and warm, is the glue to hold it all together.

On the surface, Sicilian Wood seems like a simple enough fragrance: a citrus/woody scent. What’s not to get? But the fact that it manages to be simultaneously refreshing and invitingly warm is impressive. The little details are what stand out to me. The bitter facet to the lemon, the zingy cardamom, the amber that anchors the whole thing, these are the details that bring Sicilian Wood to life.

Does this fragrance lean more masculine? Absolutely yes. Do I care? No, it smells too good to care. I will wear Sicilian Wood all spring and summer. My one nitpick is that it only lasts around 4 hours on me. I wish the wear time was more around the 6 hour mark but, luckily, it’s no hardship to reapply. And I have my eye on the line’s latest release, Magnolia Heights, which sounds more feminine, and equally beautiful to wear.

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Tom Daxon is a British fragrance line that also produces candles and shower gels. In the US, the line is available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

Both the image and the info on notes are from Luckyscent.

Coriander by D.S. & Durga

coriander ds&durgaNotes: Russian coriander, pepper, juniper needle, geranium, clove stem, clary sage, musk, magnolia, and mace.

D.S. & Durga’s Coriander is not a new release (it’s from 2008) but it’s been one of my recent favorites. Italian Citrus and Coriander are my first forays into the world of D.S. & Durga. I expected to find Italian Citrus more wearable and, while I do like that one, Coriander became my surprise favorite. I’ve also burned through a couple of Diptyque’s Coriander candles so perhaps it’s becoming one of my favorite scents in general. D.S. & Durga’s take on Coriander is subtle, but also really appealing to wear.

The number one most striking thing about Coriander is that this is an aromatic spicy fragrance, but it’s remarkably fresh and green. The composition opens with coriander and pepper right off the bat, but the spice isn’t overpowering. This isn’t the kind of pepper to induce a sneezing attack. The aromatic spice effect here is gentle, as is the fresh green aspect. I feel like a citrus note like bergamot could have easily been added to the opening to make things a little more sharp or dramatic, but this fragrance isn’t about the drama.

I wasn’t quite sure about the juniper needle note. I suppose it adds more of that fresh green note since, rather than the juniper berry, the needle is the evergreen-like leaf of the juniper tree. Combined with the geranium and the pepper, Coriander remains a cool and green-tinged fragrance for the first couple of hours of wear time. We’ve been having beautiful sunny weather here over the past week, and these first stages of Coriander have been absolutely perfect to wear.

The composition develops to be just a touch more warm-toned as it heads to the dry down. Sometimes my skin has problems with musk (as with my previous write-up!) but not here. The musk here is like a soft cushion, and the rest of the notes settle down into it. Coriander is a gentle fragrance, but the dry down in particular feels relaxing. The aromatic aspect disappears, and the magnolia comes in to add a touch of creaminess to the base. Everything here is done with the lightest of touches, so this is not an overpowering musky creamy dry down. Coriander still retains a freshness even in the final stages.

I’ll be interested to see how this dry down wears in summer weather. I don’t envision it becoming too cloying, but it might be a little heavier. I’ve liked wearing Coriander so far but, because of its lightness, this is one scent that has the potential to be even better in the amplified heat. Oddly enough, it looks like samples of Coriander are currently out of stock on Luckyscent. I’ll definitely be using up the sample that I have, while keeping an eye out for more because Coriander is quickly becoming a must-have in my sunny weather perfume rotation.

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D.S. & Durga fragrances are available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

The image and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

Lady Pointe by Keiko Mecheri

lady pointe keiko mecheriNotes: citrus, blackcurrant, orchid, suede, rose, white musk, tonka, patchouli, moss, incense, and sandalwood.

Lady Pointe was released in 2015 and is the newest from niche line Keiko Mecheri. A couple of years ago I had vowed to explore more from her line but, due to life stuff and too many perfumes, I haven’t really been able to keep up with that. I thought this latest release would be the perfect way to return to Keiko Mecheri’s creative offerings. As you might be able to guess from the name, Lady Pointe is inspired by the ballet. The marketing encourages us to think of Lady Pointe as a mood and a fantasy. This perfume is being pitched as a true vision of artistry in line with a night at the ballet. That’s some pretty grand marketing, but it’s actually fairly accurate for this lovely scent.

Lady Pointe opens on a fruity note with some citrus and blackcurrant. The fruit here is bright and lush without being overdone. This opening isn’t overly sweet, nor is the citrus too sharp or bracing. I find the blackcurrant yummy and almost edible, but the overall effect is more refined than anything else. One striking thing to me is that I actually sense the rose note quite early on here, even though I know it’s meant to be more of a heart note. It melds with the blackcurrant for me, and that’s what makes it seem like it could be part of the opening.

The middle stage of the fragrance is a both a little more delicate and a little bit deeper. The fragrance is a full on floral at this stage for me, since the citrus disappears and the jammy blackcurrant gives way to a lush rose. I sense more iris than orchid, but I suppose that’s the delicate powdery note coming through. The “mood” is very evocative during this stage of the composition. That powdery note is delicate but sophisticated. I can sense the makeup being applied backstage and pointe shoes being laced up.

The suede note really comes through after a few hours of wear, and it’s what makes and kind of breaks this composition for me. The suede brings a plush and almost tactile effect to the fragrance. I can feel the red velvet theater seats and can see the red stage curtain rustling as everyone gets into place. Unfortunately suede and white musk aren’t always a great mix on my skin. The musk starts to come through with the dry down and it completely takes over for a little while. It takes me out of the ballet/theater fantasy and drops me back into reality where I don’t want to smell like I’ve just literally rolled around in musk. If musk and suede are your thing, then this will work a lot better for you.

The final stage of the dry down is much more calm on my skin and I attribute that to the incense, which always wears very quietly for me. It even calms down the patchouli, which comes off as a dry earthy note here, not overly intense or dirty. I’ve tried wearing Lady Pointe to bed and I wake up with a lovely soft trace of rose/patchouli on my sheets the next morning.

It’s so strange, I love the beginning and middle stages of this fragrance. And I like the very end as well. It’s just one little stage of wear time that doesn’t work for me. I’ve worn Lady Pointe multiple times and, unfortunately, that transition from suede to musk goes weird for me every time. I will use up my current sample because, otherwise, I really enjoy this fragrance. A rose chypre isn’t the most original idea for a fragrance, but this is a very sophisticated example of the genre. And, for once, the fragrance does a good job of conjuring up the fantasy story that the marketing wants to sell.

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Keiko Mecheri fragrances come in 75 ml bottles. Luckyscent carries the entire line, and that’s where I obtained my sample.

The list of notes is from Luckyscent while the image is from Fragrantica.

Sorriso by Profumum

sorriso profumumNotes: dark chocolate, bitter orange, vanilla, and exotic woods.

Sorriso means “smile” in Italian, which makes it a fitting name for this fragrance because dark chocolate is a reliable way to get me to smile. I definitely have a sweet tooth, both when it comes to food and when it comes to perfume. I love some of Profumum’s other gourmands like Confetto and Vanitas, so I was really looking forward to finally trying Sorriso. I noticed that Luckyscent doesn’t include vanilla in their official notes for Sorriso, but Fragrantica does. I’ve included vanilla in the notes here because I sense it all the way through, from the opening to the dry down. This one is chocolate/vanilla all the way for me.

The initial opening comes across extremely sweet on my skin with a serious dose of vanilla. If you’re wary of too-sweet perfumes, don’t worry, this is as sweet as Sorriso gets. I get a small dose of the orange note, but it’s not bitter or sharp. This is a very smooth orange, like syrup. The orange note may be fleeting, but it’s enough to take the ultra sweet edge off the vanilla note.

Now the chocolate comes in, and Sorriso gets interesting. This is one of the more subdued chocolate notes I’ve come across, but in a good way. This is a true dark chocolate, deep and bitter. Paired with the vanilla, it’s really interesting. I expected this fragrance to be completely dessert-like and edible. However, once you get past the initial blast of sweetness, there’s a deep and almost earthy tone to Sorriso.

The general woody tone of the dry down helps keep Sorriso grounded and really rounds out the dark chocolate note. I still sense the vanilla, which by this point, reminds me a little bit of the woody, boozy bourbon vanilla of Diptyque’s Eau Duelle. It’s a shame the orange note isn’t more of a major player here. I think Profumum intended to bill this as a chocolate/orange fragrance but it’s much more of a chocolate/vanilla. However, the chocolate/vanilla interplay here is so interesting, it’s hard to complain. And it’s less outright foodie than might be expected.

I wore Sorriso this past New Year’s Eve and really liked it for the occasion. I find that there’s something festive about this one. (Maybe I just find chocolate festive in general?) Of course, now that it’s February, fragrance brands are making a Valentine’s Day push. I wouldn’t call Sorriso sexy per se, but you can never go wrong with a chocolate fragrance in general. Profumum is a niche Italian line and, as such, it does run very pricey. I’ve never splurged for a full bottle despite loving some of their fragrances. Fortunately, Luckyscent offers samples, and Sorriso is definitely worth a try if you’re into gourmands in general or chocolate in particular.

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In the US, full bottles of Profumum are available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample of Sorriso.

The image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.

Rouge Avignon by Phaedon

phaedon rouge avignonNotes: raspberry, ylang-ylang, rose, cacao pod, hinoki wood, tuber, vetiver, sandalwood, musk, and amber.

The name Rouge Avignon no doubt refers to the Avignon Papacy, when the pope resided in Avignon rather than in Rome. Rouge Avignon is a gorgeous and opulent scent. I find it to be nuanced and detailed, and almost gothic, but never too dark. Fittingly, it conjures up the all the rituals and pageantry that come along with Catholicism.

If a fragrance contains the word “rouge” in its name, it would make sense for a red note to appear somewhere in the composition. With Rouge Avignon, the rouge aspect appears right away with a red raspberry note. This opening note is full and luscious, and it remains that way for the initial twenty minutes or so. The rose note blends smoothly with this raspberry note, and Rouge Avignon eventually transitions from the red berry note to a fully floral rose note. I love this seamless transition from the opening to the heart of the fragrance. My only complaint is that the floral component makes the raspberry less tart than I might want, but that’s just a personal preference.

Other notes weave in and out of the composition in support of the main “rouge” notes. There’s a cacao note. Being a chocolate lover and a gourmand lover, I would not complain at all if this note came across as a more obvious bitter dark chocolate. As it is, this cacao note is like a subtle dusting of a spiced chocolate note. There’s also an earthy tone from the tuber note, which is probably some sort of truffle. Like the cacao note, the tuber remains subtle and in the background. I wouldn’t call Rouge Avignon an overtly earthy scent, and I definitely don’t sense any dirty patchouli-type notes here. I’m guessing the tuber is here to add depth to the rose heart of the composition.

Then there are the woody notes. I sense a dry wood right away in the opening, and then it comes back again in the heart. At first I wondered if this composition contained a cedar note. It turns out the wood is hinoki wood, which I wasn’t familiar with before. It’s a type of cypress that can smell similar to evergreen and also give off some lemony facets. This is interesting because I definitely get the impression of a dry, yet fresh woody note. I wouldn’t say I get lemon exactly from this wood, but I can understand it given the unique fresh vibe of this woody note.

The base of Rouge Avignon is supposedly sandalwood, musk, and amber. Unfortunately not much of this comes across on my skin. I get a general feeling of warmth, like a light version of amber. I also get a little more earthiness, like the tuber coming back. However, I don’t sense any sandalwood or very much musk at all. Rouge Avignon dries down to a skin scent and then just disappears on me. I would love a more rich base for this scent, and I think the beautiful rose and hinoki wood notes would benefit from it. I’m assuming it’s just my skin chemistry, but I’ll keep trying and wearing this one in the hopes of getting more out of the base. In the meantime, the delicious opening and interesting heart notes are enough to keep me happy with Rouge Avignon.

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Rouge Avignon is available from Luckyscent which is where I got my sample.

The image and the info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

Vanille d’Iris by Ormonde Jayne

vanille d'irisNotes: coriander seed, Sicilian bergamot, carrot seed, schinus molle, orris absolute, jasmine absolute, magnolia bud oil, osmanthus, vanilla extract, Tahitian vanilla bud, cedar wood, vetiver, amber, and musk.

Vanille d’Iris is the newest addition to the Ormonde Jayne line, and it’s actually my first Ormonde Jayne fragrance. I’ve been exploring and enjoying iris as a note, both as a powdery iris and as the more rich orris butter note. And I’m always a fan of vanilla, whether it’s a warm and rich vanilla, or a sweet and gourmand version of vanilla. So, Vanille d’Iris seemed like the right place for me personally to start with Ormonde Jayne.

Vanille d’Iris opens with an aromatic and effervescent feel, thanks to the bergamot and the schinus molle (i.e. pink pepper) notes. I was expecting something earthy from this fragrance but the opening here is more on the green and vegetal side. There’s a carroty touch, bringing root vegetables to mind. On my skin, iris fragrances with a carrot touch manifest with a papery feel on my skin. It sounds strange, but it’s actually not off-putting. It blends really nicely with the sparkling, spiky pink pepper and the shimmering aromatic bergamot.

The orris gradually comes in, adding a smooth base to support the more sparkling opening notes (which never truly fade throughout wear time, making this a compelling composition). In addition to the orris, there are some other floral touches in the heart of the composition here. The osmanthus amplifies the orris with a fleshy/pulpy feel. The jasmine and magnolia are lighter to me, more reflecting light or, in this case, reflecting other notes, rather than providing a solid base of their own.

It turns out that Vanille d’Iris is an earthy fragrance, you just have to wait for the base notes to appear to get there. I absolutely love cedar, and I find it as gorgeous as ever here. It adds a rich but dry woody note, deepening those green vegetal notes from the opening. And of course, we must discuss the vanilla. This is no sugary creme brulee vanilla note. I don’t find it particularly warm either. The vanilla here is dry, like a vanilla pod.

In fact, the vanilla becomes the star of the show for me even though it doesn’t fully appear until several hours into wear time. The vanilla here is dry, yet still radiates a richness. It successfully anchors the composition, adding depth but not over-powering any other notes. This careful balance makes Vanille d’Iris one of the most elegant vanilla scents I’ve tried, and I love that it manages to be both earthy and sophisticated. If you’re not a fan of overly sweet gourmand vanillas, I definitely recommend this one. I’m really glad I decided to try Vanille d’Iris, and now I’m excited to explore more from Ormonde Jayne.

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Ormonde Jayne fragrances are available directly from the official site. Samples and decants are available from The Perfumed Court, which is where I ordered my sample.

The image and the info on notes are both from the Ormonde Jayne site.

Russian Tea by Masque Milano

russian teaNotes: mint, black pepper, raspberry, black tea, magnolia, everlasting flower, leather accord, incense, birchwood, and cistus labdanum.

Russian Tea has been on my radar for awhile and, since it’s finally Fall, I figured it’s the perfect time of year for a black tea fragrance. L’Artisan’s Tea for Two is one of my favorite fragrances ever and I enjoy tea scents in general, so I had high expectations for this one. High expectations can be both a good thing and a bad thing, and I almost didn’t know what to make of Russian Tea the first time I tried it. Tea for Two is cozier and comes across as a bit more festive because of its spice notes. Russian Tea is dry, smokey, and animalic. However, there’s also a sweet raspberry note running through the composition, meaning there’s always something going on in this composition and it’s definitely never boring.

The initial opening of Russian Tea is harsh on me, as a bracing mint note is what comes through most strongly to my nose. I enjoy a cooling dose of mint, but it’s pure medicinal menthol here and actually reminds me of Vicks VapoRub and cough drops. Maybe I would enjoy this opening more if I had a sore throat, otherwise I find it too reminiscent of cold medicine.

Luckily, the mint settles down quickly and that medicinal sharpness fades after the first thirty minutes. During this time, the raspberry note becomes stronger and more appealing. I love raspberries and the note is great here, jammy and tart. It puts me in mind of scones with clotted cream and jam. In that sense, Russian Tea really communicates a sitting-down-to-tea feel, although perhaps I’m thinking more of English High Tea than Russian tea traditions.

I haven’t even mentioned the tea note yet! It’s obvious given the fragrance name, and this is definitely an enveloping black tea note. It’s rich and also quite elegant. The tea note and the fragrance in general manage to remain smooth and seamless overall, despite the dry smokey leather and incense that takes over in the base notes. The composition could become acrid (and especially given the harsh opening, I wouldn’t have been surprised by a somewhat harsh dry down as well) but I feel Russian Tea only becomes more smooth and velvety as wear time goes on. The jammy raspberry note melts into a general sweet creamy effect, which nicely balances out the dry leather base.

As I mentioned, Russian Tea naturally reminds me of Tea for Two. It also reminds me of one of my other favorite fragrances: Memoir Woman by Amouage, which is also a smokey leather with a raspberry note. Memoir Woman is missing the central tea note, but otherwise the middle stages are similar. My only complaint with Russian Tea has to do with the initial opening. The mint may be more appealing on other people but it simply doesn’t work with my skin chemistry. Without that troublesome mint note, I suspect this would be one of my very favorites, since it reminds me so closely of two other well-loved fragrances. As it stands, I’m still working on how to wear and deal with the opening stage here. It’s frustrating when just one aspect of a fragrance doesn’t suit you. On the other hand, it’s also a bit of a challenge, and I find myself repeatedly drawn to Russian Tea, trying to figure out how best to wear it.

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Masque Milano fragrances are available in 100 ml bottles. In the US, Russian Tea is available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

The image and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.