Positive Reviews of Russian Tea 
Masque (2014)

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Russian Tea by Masque

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Reviews of Russian Tea by Masque

Act I, Perfume III from Masque Milano is the enigmatic Russian Tea, mostly a mix of black tea, mint, raspberry, black pepper, florals, leather, incense, and birch. It opens with an abundance of mint, black pepper, and tea, the mint and pepper giving way to the tea, birch, florals, and incense, mostly, in the dry down. And while raspberry is listed as a top note, I feel like I get more of it in the dry down, myself.

The blast of mint and pepper in the opening is powerful, a spicy sting of a wake-up that requires a couple of hours to fade to the point of the tea being more singularly front-and-center with the raspberry, mixed florals, incense, leather, and birch. It's not wholly smooth, a sort of wood-varnish-mixed-with-leather-and-incense base under the tea.

It's an elegantly- and carefully-crafted fragrance and I've already discovered more nuances in this first full wearing on skin than in my initial smelling of it during the Masque Milano introductory event at Perfumology, where Alessandro Brun wisely pointed out (of this fragrance, in particular) that it needs to be tested on skin, not paper. It's much more interesting on skin.

Its performance is very good, too, much like Montecristo, having a boastful and provocative opening and finding balance in a tamer but long-lasting dry down. Its pricing is in the middle of the line at $145 for a now-standard 35 bottle size, and while the presentation is lovely, the fragrances don't come cheap, though I think the job done here in Russian Tea (and Terralba and Montecristo) is great, and I'd recommend that others try it if they haven't.

Overall, it wins high points for uniqueness and provocativeness, as, while I'm not a huge fan of tea fragrances, let alone spicier tea fragrances, specifically, this is so well done that it warrants attention.

8 out of 10

first thing that hits my nose is a minty raspberry...this is quickly followed with an undercurrent of strong black tea and an overall veil of smokiness...within a couple of minutes I get a really pleasant layer of serious leather...no gasoline or anything else - just pure leather...i find leather and tea to be a really nice combo that brings much pleasure to my nose...nice accent of birchwood...get a nice mix of those flavors but not really sensing anything flowery as listed in the notes...just a slight "green" plant, outdoorsy vibe...overall, a very nice wearable fragrance...

Love this stuff.. Smells like L'air du Desert Marocain, with an added minty/tea vibe.

I wore this a second time and appreciate it quite a bit more. True, there is a large blast of mint in the opening. However, it's a nice enough mint and doesn't last forever. The tea scent is true enough, a little on the perfumed side. I like this well enough for a decant, but not a bottle. In comparison, CBIHP Russian tea opens with a lemon note and does not have the perfumed quality of the Masque. It is more true to real black tea.

Interesting and unusual in a good way.
The start is incredible. The first few seconds are pure, fresh black tea. It's like taking the lid off a tea caddy and breathing in the scent of the contents at close range.
Then suddenly there is a huge, bright, loud, what smells like menthol/eucalyptus/tea-tree oil note. You just opened your tea caddy and unbeknownst to you a female soprano opera singer has crept up behind you and suddenly lets out a bright, loud high "c". The minty note makes me think of olbas oil or some similar cold vapour-remedy in its potency and effectiveness at clearing the sinuses (thanks for that). For me it's still good though: I'm a mint fan.
Anyway, you jump 3 feet in the air when the lady sings and spill the contents of your tea caddy all over the kitchen, and the room is filled with the fresh, lovely scent of tea, mint, tobacco, sweet hay over the next hour or so. Frankly I don't get the strong leather or smoke vibes that others have. After about 4 hours all that's left is a faint, fruity skin scent - I guess that's the raspberry, although I couldn't have pinpointed the fruit to anything specific . I also wish the sillage were a bit bigger and the longevity, well, longer.
Overall though it's a rather lovely, strange thing. It's lovely enough and strange enough for me to put it on my "want" list, but I won't buy it unless the current price, which is just silly, Is more than halved.
August 2015

Do you know the scent of black leaf tea?

Russian Tea is a bold rendition of black leaf tea. Not green tea, not herb tea, not chai, and certainly not tea bags. In fact I just smelled tea bags for the sake of it and I realised that they smell of paper, not tea.

Smell some good black leaf tea, of whatever type, and you will see that it has a complex fragrance of it's own. You might smell citrus notes, hay, tobacco, barnyard or cowshed notes, tarry notes, herbal notes, liquorice, smoky notes, and yes, I suppose, leather. It is no wonder that it translates so well to perfumery.

If you live in a nation of black tea drinkers you will know, or you will remember this smell, or if you use proper leaf tea you will know it. In the days before tea bags, leaf tea was kept in a caddy (a little tin or chest). The smell when the caddy was opened to make tea was really intense, darkly fragrant. Where I come from some of the older people used to like "stewed" tea, so the pot of tea was left to simmer gently on the stove top for a long time, with the tea getting richer and more concentrated as the day went on. The fragrance could permeate the house. It eventually acquired a bitter smell and taste. Russian Tea stops well short of that. There is nothing bitter about it, but it captures the intensely aromatic, intoxicating notes of black leaf tea.

The tea is present right from the beginning of Russian Tea but the first note you will smell is a lovely dry herbal mint. It is quite fleeting but it sets the scene wonderfully. For me, from there on in it is tea all the way. I don't smell the raspberry note as such, or the magnolia. It just all adds up to the most wonderful black tea accord, but because of the complexity, the mystery, the possibilities, of that accord, it continues to hold interest all the way through, and it has very good longevity. In the longer development there are woody and birchtar notes and in the deepest drydown, (being the next morning!) a little immortelle lingers on the skin.

The fragrance has a dry character and it is very refreshing. It is crisp but it has deep, deep notes too. It is modern but the central accord has a timeless, elegant quality. It will be lovely, quite special, anywhere, anytime and on anyone.

I wasn't a fan of this the first time I tried it out, but I've come to like it a lot after several wearings. I get 3 very distinct stages with Russian Tea. The first, an ice cold blast of spearmint with a strong menthol kick. As it dissipates it becomes apparent that it's over black tea, which can smell a bit like tobacco as well. Fresh and natural, it would be easy to confuse the two if you didn't know the name of the fragrance or were just sniffing it casually. The next stage introduces a dark leather note. I think the beginning of this stage is what initially gave me some trouble, as it can smell almost like burnt rubber at times, but it doesn't last very long, and soon the tea and leather begin to work in harmony creating a sort of dark and smoky, masculine scent with low key though solid projection. Raspberry notes provide a sour fruity accent to the leather and tea though it's important to note that they are subtle, maybe even hard to detect at first. Finally, the third stage is all about incense, as the tea and leather transition to a smoky base. I can't help but think there's a little oud in the base as well as the incense has a bit of a warm, animalic quality to it, but it could just be the remnants of the leather. Either way, this is a very nice fragrance, with graceful notes and some interesting nuances that occur in each stage. I think it takes a few wears to get to know this one and fully appreciate what's going on. Dark, at times fresh, and smoky without feeling heavy, Russian Tea is easy to wear and perfect for a cold winter. Thumbs up.

Projection is close to the body, yet its substantial in that it doesn't feel thin or flat. Longevity is great, I get about 10 to 12 hours.

Outstanding spiced tea fragrance with a rare "lift" or fresh angle. All that I could ever say is better phrased below by the pros. The only thing I would add is that this makes for an excellent tobacco scent. Though not listed in the notes, the smokey, fruity, leafy vegetable qualities and the notes of woody vanilla scream wet-leaf tobacco and, though modern in its execution, lend an element of olfactory memory to this wonderful scent (Hello, Grandpa!). Excellent!

Russian Tea is a highly aromatic, evolving perfume with the best tea note I have experienced.

Immediately, RT presents as a tea scent, very leafy and natural. A tea soliflore perhaps, without all of the the sweetness usually attached to gourmand treatments of the note (5 O'Clock; Crime Exotique). The central tea note here is framed by citrus and by a very grassy herbal accord. And there is a floral note in the background, the exact identity of which is not clear. Is it a mild heliotrope? (NOPE! Its magnolia!) Whatever, the start is terrific, and I am immediately thinking, I don't have anything else quite like this.

After a bit, I was struck by how incredibly minty it is! And then a dry, leathery base comes up underneath. And as it opens further, an incense note wafts in, triggering associations with Memoir Man. Tea, mint, incense + leather is the heart of Russian Tea.

For its first several hours, RT is very dry and very, very aromatic. But experiencing RT the next morning in its dry down, you can't help but notice that immortelle has arrived in the base, adding a sweet tobacco note to the mix and something else-- I perceive it more as cherries, the notes listed include raspberry. In any event, the formerly dry aromatic now has a fruity aspect which works surprisingly well.

Russian Tea gives moderate projection in all phases, with 12+ hours length. I would wear this fragrance to the office without hesitation--indeed, with pride. FBW. Winner! Among the best of 2014.

PS--The Directory listing for the perfume titles it "Russian Tea Ritual;" but I have not seen the word "Ritual" on the bottle or indeed on the Masque website. Can we edit the Directory listing?

Genre: Leather

I will confess up front: I was desperately hoping that this fragrance would fill the void left by L'Artisan Parfumeur's late, lamented Tea for Two.* It doesn't, but I'm willing to forgive it and appreciate it for its own, rather different virtues.

Russian Tea Ritual is less of a smoky Lapsang Souchong than a big steaming cup of spiced chai. The tea note is black and smoky, though not nearly as much so as Olivia Giacobetti's Tea for Two. It arrives on a quickly-dissipating puff of mint and settles down onto a mélange of woods and spices – particularly black pepper – over a foundation of smoky leather and labdanum. It is a rick, dark, warming scent, yet paradoxically, and in a very modern manner, quite transparent. Lasting power is excellent, and Russian Tea Ritual grows more assertively smoky and leathery over time. The drydown, when it arrives, is an evocative blend of labdanum and mildly animalic (and still smoky) leather. All-in-all, a very nice piece of work.This and the equally gratifying Montecristo suggest that Masque Milano is a house to keep an eye on.

* Glad tidings: Tea for Two has been reissued, supposedly in its original form. I will have to obtain a bottle before L'Artisan Parfumeur chickens out and withdraws it again.

My first instinct would be to start with "what a surprise!" but then, if I think about it, this is more like a confirmation than actually a surprise. The work Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are doing with their Masque line is definitely something not to overlook and Russian Tea represents just the newest chapter in their already important and noteworthy path started with humongous releases such as Montecristo, Tango and Terralba.

For Russian Tea they worked with cult-perfumer Jacques Rasquinet who previously collaborated with the likes of Naomi Goodsir (for whom he delivered what have become one of my all-time favorites, Bois D'Ascese) and Andrea Maack amongst others. An extremely talented perfumer who's rapidly becoming the undisputed master of smoky notes. The result of this collaboration strikes as a sort of hypothetical lovechild of Guerlain Herba Fresca and the much overlooked Eau Du Fier by Annick Goutal…well, this is honestly kind of a stretch but it might give you an idea on the axis this fragrance moves on, anyway. Smoky, aromatic, dark, fresh, leathery and…bittersweet.

There's clearly a mint note up top which while completely skipping the typical (and annoying) toothpaste effect, it's immediately joined by the most realistic smoky black-tea rendition I've experienced in quite a while. The pairing of the two gives birth to a fantastic juxtaposition all played around moderately sweet fresh notes and darker smoky ones. It's funny how in this phase, while smelling somewhat refreshing, the fragrance doesn't fail to show its darker side with an overall wintery vibe. It's a modern accord made out of bittersweet juxtapositions and just a hint of red-fruitiness. A modern accord where smoke it's relevant but not overwhelming and where tea is left to express and unveil all of its aromatic and evocative qualities.

Slowly, the base starts lurking in the back…

The evolution from the opening to the middle phase and the drydown is slow, smooth and completely flawless. A much darker central accord of smoky woods remarks it presence and takes form while joined by a leather-incense combo with some immortelle providing extra body. It gets darker and darker with time. Deeper and deeper, warmer and warmer, drier and drier… At traces, it made me think of a more aromatic version of Comme Des Garcons Black (the immortelle-leather-incense combo is really not that distant) but whereas the CDG feels urban and sort of punk-ish, Russian Tea pushes on melancholy and coziness by evoking immense rural landscapes during winter. Traditional rituals, historic buildings, fireplaces and time spent meditating and traveling.

Now, I'm impressed for way too many reasons. First of all, this a fragrance which is a total pleasure to wear on many different levels. It'd make one hell of a signature as well as something distinctive for special occasions. It's easy to like but has so much substance. Daring but not weird, solidly built and conceived and, most of all, perfectly sized. Longevity is beyond good while silage is discreet but remarkable. An entirely elegant composition that's able to standout and feel distinctive without being necessarily odd or pretentiously *arty*. Masque's Montecristo was one of my favorite fragrances of 2013 and Russian Tea will most definitely be amongst my favorites of 2014. With that said, there's really no doubts on my side that Masque is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting and solid outfits of this second decade of 2000.


The opening of Russian Tea is, roughly said and with all respects of differences, Bois d'ascèse with green tea and menthol, which kind of gives you the feeling of a someone chewing a chewing gum while smoking. Or a chewing gum left in an ashtray. Or, in terms of perfumes, Geranium pour Monsieur meets Bois d'ascèse. Nonetheless, all works perfectly, managing to sound quite new despite the similarities: there is this great clash between the black angular linearity of the ash-woody notes (a thick, smoky, dense Iso E Super galore) with the sour, crunchy, and still somehow angular feel of the green-mint notes. On top of that, just a faint echo of flowers providing a subtle silky feel to an otherwise quite dry blend - and a smart hint of immortelle providing its peculiar and fascinating sort of boozy-earthy note. On the base I also detect some suede, and at the very center, something slightly fruity (I read "berries" on the sample). Pretty much it. And total class, if you ask me. As hours pass the similarity with Bois d'ascèse (or similar scents) progressively decreases, Russian Tea becomes quite more woody and leathery still keeping a nice, more and more subtle green-fruity-floral feel. The name fits the scent perfectly, as this is indeed a cold, somehow grey, decadent, but at the same time archaic, dusty, evocative scent. I think of Russia, but quite a post-modern idea of Russia, with archaic traditions still being protected and maintained in a cold war atmosphere. It speaks of tea leaves and samovars, but also concrete and ash dirt. Which gives you a melancholic feel of suburban domestic warmth and sense of safety and community provided by this "ritual" still being retrieved among a sea of concrete and pollution fog (I admit my knowledge of post-cold war Russia is limited to Kieslowski's movies). Besides impressions and associations, however, Russian Tea is indeed a sophisticated, unisex, versatile dark scent, perhaps too woody or dry for someone, for me it's purely refined and utterly pleasant. One of the nicest new scents of 2014 composed by one of the very (very!) few noses to keep an eye on these days – and provided to us by one of the very (again: very!) few Italian niche houses I personally respect. Bravi!


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