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.

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