My list of Top Ten Tea Perfumes is in a dire need of an update. Actually it's been the case for about a year now. I smelled Russian Tea, the 2014 perfume release from Masque Milano, loved it dearly, coveted it, and then summer arrived and other shiny things landed here. But November is back, as well as the desire to all that is leathery and smoky. And my tea consumption, high even in August, has been steadily climbing.
If you're familiar with Russian teas you know that they tend to be dark and smoky. Not quite as bitter/thick or even murky as Lapsang Souchong and other Chinese smoky black teas, but the fireside experience is definitely there. What makes Masque's interpretation of the tea and smoke so unique and pleasurable is the fine tuning and extra elegance of this perfume.
I'm thinking of other dark tea perfumes I enjoy, such as CB I Hate Perfume Russian Caravan Tea and L'Artisan Tea For Two. I like the non-perfumy aspect of both, the virtual reality they conjure is fun and a little wild, using the birch tar and undertone of burnt rubber to highlight the actual delicacy of the tea. I tend to think of them as civilized and refined offspring of Le Labo Patchouli 24 and even the tea over campfire in the West of Lonestar Memories. Birch tar and leather aside, Masque Milano brings our tea service back to elegant rooms where hand embroidered napkins are at the table adorned with the finest Old World china and silver. This is haute couture tea, perfectly balanced between fresh aromatics (non-toothpasty mint) and assorted peppercorns, and the dark liquid brewing in the corner. This is not a "simple" tea scent. Yes, this is an elegant tea party, but you are also wrapped in leather and incense of the most polished and stylish available.
Masque Milano is an Italian brand, but in this case I find Russian Tea oddly French. This was why I knew exactly what image I'd like to use for this post: a photo of from Life Magazine's photoshoot of that accompanied the famous Christian Dior Moscow show in 1959. The marriage of elements that are supposedly in extreme contrast, the warmth (the models were embraced on the streets by older ladies who were fascinated by these otherworldly creatures), the luxurious fabrics and cuts against the gray walls of Khrushchev's Moscow. It's all there: sweetness (there's a hint of rarefied immortelle), warm bodies, incense wafting toward the steely sky, and that leather-birch tar, and black tea that let you in and make you feel welcome and somehow appropriately-dressed in this world.
Masque Milano- Russian Tea ($215, 100ml ) is available from Luckyscent and Twisted Lily (samples for this review were supplied by both stores). Twisted Lily seems to be have several of Masque's perfumes on backorder, so it's best to call them directly to make sure your order can arrive on time (or just buy samples, if you're unfamiliar with this fabulous line).