Interviews Talking to Alessandro and Riccardo of Masque Milano about L'Attesa

Talking to Alessandro and Riccardo of Masque Milano about L'Attesa

10/03/16 10:00:19 (5 comments)

by: Evgeniya Chudakova


This time at Pitti Fragranze there was no Masque Milano stand. Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi were having a kind of break after the long process of creating their beautiful L'Attesa fragrance that was launched in March, during Esxence fair, and still is the newest perfume by Masque Milano. Nevertheless, this amazing scent, so deeply and exquisitely elaborated, received the warmest feedback from bloggers and visitors of the fair. Today I want to let Riccardo and Alessandro tell Fragrantica readers about the process of creating L'Attesa.

 

RICCARDO: The creation of L'Attesa was actually the longest process in the history of our brand — Masque Milano. If we talk about the lab part of it — that started more than one and a half year ago. But considering everything, like finishing the brief, selecting the nose etc. — that took us about two years, or at least one and half years. From the very beginning, the idea was to create a very classy, very elegant yet powerful fragrance. And L'Attesa – which translates as The Wait — is consecrated to the moment when you are in your house, preparing for the first time you have your beloved one over: you put a fresh flower bouquet in the vase, open a bottle of champagne, turn the music on... It's a kind of magical moment. The resulting fragrance had to have the Masque signature, it had to be powerful — we wanted sillage, we wanted it to be long-lasting and original, without compromises.

As soon as we had written the brief down on paper — Alex [Alessandro Brun] and I — we immediately realized that it was “the” occasion, the right brief to come up with something exceptional. This was to be our iris. So we contacted Luca [Maffei], we discussed the brief with him and he also agreed that it was a great opportunity to create a beautiful iris.

That’s how we started focusing on the idea of iris, yet at the same time in each of our creations we have always added one uncommon or peculiar raw material. In this case we started thinking about the unprecedented iris + champagne combination. If you have a look at the fragrance industry, you will find some fragrances with champagne either in the pyramid or in the name. In most of the cases, the approach of the perfumer was clearly focused on the bubbles, resulting in the use of materials or accords with fizzy and sparkling nuances that could give the idea of the effervescence characterizing Champagne. This is simply not the way we conceive Champagne – that kind of fizziness is typical of all sparkling wines, let alone sodas… The real quintessential element of champagne, which distinguishes it from other sparkling wines, is the smell of yeast.

Before starting to work on L'Attesa, we had a dinner with Luca where we had a wine tasting of different kinds of sparkling wines. We started with Prosecco, then we had Franciacorta made according to the traditional Italian method and then we moved to the French bubbly, some classic champagne first, and ending with a real top-of-the-range bottle. It was a long and utterly enjoyable tasting. We told Luca (who is not a champagne connoisseur), to pay attention to the yeasty note. He totally agreed with us, and was glad to have approached champagne from a different perspective. By the end of that glorious evening, the development of our champagne-iris fragrance was officially started!

Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei and Alessandro Brun

-------------------------

As the development of the fragrance took so long, the best way to follow it is to ask Alessandro and Riccardo to guide us through the formula, giving some  technical perspective on all the most prominent raw materials employed.

 

ALESSANDRO: Let’s start, of course, with the Iris Concrete, a.k.a. Iris Root Butter!

On IRIS CONCRETE:  

Italian and French Iris Concrete – 15% irone: our iris concrete is obtained through hydro-distillation of two varieties of iris rhizomes: Iris Pallida and Iris Germanica. Iris concrete has some very bold olfactory nuances that bolster the idiosyncratic, pure and powdery iris note, making the whole composition more pronounced especially in the heart notes. 500kg of rhizomes are required to produce 1kg of concrete. Irone, the main constituent of the typical iris smell, is virtually not present in iris roots when they are plucked from the ground. Even when the flowers wither, the roots are kept in the ground for three years, which allows the developing of the highest concentration of irone’s precursors. Only then the roots are collected, peeled, and stored in a dry and warm warehouse for as long as 3 more years in order to facilitate an oxidation process from which irone is naturally developed (the longer the drying, the higher the concentration of irone).

I should say that from Luca's very first proposal the formula was elegant, because he started to work with an absolutely amiable raw material, which is iris concrete. He selected a Florentine Iris Root Butter with a 15% concentration of irone (one of the highest you can get) — fatty, dusty, powdery... oh, so elegant and pleasant!

So, the fragrance was very classy, very good, but there was no champagne. Also, at that point, what we had was a very close to the skin scent that was absolutely elegant in the opening but too soft and quiet, almost disappearing after two hours. So, we were not happy with the technical performance at that point. We needed to boost iris and find the right champagne. To boost the iris we tried to add other flowers, like mimosa for example, but with iris, when you add other flowers, it just closes. That was not the right approach. So, to boost the iris and make it last longer we just needed to find a different iris. We took iris absolute from Florence. It's completely different both in your nose and in the formula, because it gives power, sillage and durability.

RICCARDO:  Some houses try to avoid using iris concrete because of its cost; we understand that there are many brands out there with a major concern regarding the formula cost, so it is not surprising that they strive to use cheaper materials. There are molecules (either isolates or synthetic) that are very frequently used to boost (or to give altogether) the impression of iris. This is not how we wanted to proceed.

Having total freedom of budget, Luca explored the possibilities in the opposite way, and come up with a less known, and even more expensive raw material. It was the awesome Iris Absolute by Laboratoire Monique Remy. Being an absolute, this material ends up being even more concentrated and powerful than the concrete.

On IRIS ABSOLUTE:

Italian Iris Absolute is one of the most appreciated (and most precious) specialties of Laboratoire Monique Remy, the absolute is obtained through hydro-distillation of iris rhizomes, followed by a fractioned distillation. All rhizomes are obtained exclusively from iris flowers grown in Italy (and in particular in the Chianti region of the Florence province – hence the name Iris Florentina – or Iris Pallida, due to its whitish colour). The yield of the process is so low that, in order to produce 1kg of absolute, 2,000kg of rhizomes are employed. This raw material has an intense and rich floral smell, characterized by a powdery, long-lasting note.

We were convinced and we said to Luca: let's give it a try. We first tried to substitute the concrete with the absolute, yet with the latter raw material alone we were afraid that customers might not recognize the typical iris, they might even doubt that there is iris in it at all, but with the combination of the two you have both a strong opening and an earthy and powdery drydown. So, it was an absolute no brainer: the final formula employs three raw materials of iris. There are two iris root butters — one from Florence and one France — and then we have an absolute from Italy.

The three iris varieties are completed and further enhanced employing one very peculiar raw material: carrot seeds, because of their powdery, earthy nuance which perfectly matches – just like two domino pieces – the earthy iris facet.

 

ALESSANDRO: One of the reasons why we struggled with iris at the beginning was that in the brief there was this image of a bouquet of flowers in a room. It could have been an iris bouquet, but at the same time a nose always thinks about flowers. The question was: what flowers can we add to help the iris.

Although Iris is a primadonna who doesn't love to be surrounded by other prominent flowers, its floral elegance is certainly enhanced by the skillful addiction, in the background, of the tried-and-true triptych: tuberose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood. We must say that, after some fine tuning, Luca mastered this (necessary) passage, which perfectly completed the iris side of the fragrance.

Raw materials also used in L'Attesa

Tuberose Absolute, provenance India, obtained through solvent extraction, followed by a series of further purifications in alcohol. The process yields 1kg of absolute per 8000kg of flowers. The rich and almost narcotic notes give the fragrance loudness and a floral mood with fruity and coconut nuances.

Ylang Ylang extra, provenance Madagascar, obtained through vapour distillation of flowers; 1kg of oil is obtained from 500kg of flowers. It's powerful, intensely floral, and gives to the fragrance sillage and brilliance, as well as a somewhat crunchy and silky feel. It also adds a slight spiciness and a vanilla note in the drydown.

Sandalwood, provenance Mysore (India), obtained through vapour distillation of the wood, followed by further purification to remove any contaminants and impurities. 20kg of wood yields 1kg of oil. Its smooth and warm notes have milky, creamy, clean nuances.

Oakmoss, obtained through distillation of lichens from Macedonia (1kg of absolute is obtained from 100kg of lichens). Its green and dry notes have fruity nuances and a vaguely marine touch.

The tuberose is not very sensual here because the perfume's aim is to be elegant, the ylang may be sensual but without becoming vulgar, and the sandalwood from Mysore brings creaminess and won’t allow the powdery facets of the fragrance to bring a make up drawer to mind, by taking away the old style powdery aspect of the iris.

Luca also used a very good natural oak moss, up to the limits prescribed by IFRA. This is the first time we declare oak moss in the pyramid. It's giving a bit of dirtiness and it's helping to make the perfume more alive.

EVGENIYA: And what about your champagne note?

RICCARDO: In the opening accord there is champagne. To make the champagne note, we took an absolute of beer that is very yeasty, but even if it theoretically works in the top notes, I think it helps a lot in the drydown, and there is a nice powdery facet of this that goes perfectly with the powdery facet of iris. Once again, Luca here applied the rule of two domino pieces (as previously mentioned for the carrot seeds): matching two different raw materials with one similar, almost identical facet, which makes the whole mingle seamlessly.

Also, there is an important thing that needs mentioning; I read some blogs or posts saying that with L’Attesa we recreated a beer accord… it is not an accord. It's an absolute from actual beer (the one you drink at pub!) made with the help of distillation. This material was new to us (to Luca also), so we had to proceed with several attempts to find the right dosage. We learned that with beer absolute the turning point from not enough to overdose is really swift, and when you pass that limit, the composition immediately gets too bitter and boozy. Yet in the right proportion, beer absolute gives volume, making the perfume long-lasting and very interesting.

On the CHAMPAGNE ACCORD and BEER ABSOLUTE:

Beer CO2 extract: one of the specialties of maison Charabot, a very peculiar essential oil (botanical name Hululus Lupululus), obtained through super-critical CO2 extraction of a blend of different kind of (previously fermented) beers. It has extremely interesting scent facets: the bitter taste of hops, animalic nuances, but most noteworthy the beer yeast note, which gives to the composition a fresh and powdery feeling.

 

Then there was the fizziness of champagne also to convey, not just yeast, and the idea was to use angelica which has this kind of magical spiciness, that stinging aspect that makes you think about bubbles when you experience it. I am sure you will have this feeling of champagne, thanks to the contribution of angelica.

Angelica Roots: essential oil with spicy and aromatic nuances, with a slightly musky drydown. The essential oil is obtained through vapour distillation of the dried roots.

 

ALESSANDRO: Eventually, we were extremely happy with the technical performance of the final composition. I don't want to be arrogant but I think that Luca is really gifted, and he employed every bit of his talent here. We could have just used a massive dose of aroma chemicals that last forever. But this is not the way we work: we wanted our fragrance to be “alive” during the whole process of its development, in every moment on every skin. This could only be obtained through natural materials. But iris is naturally gone very quickly and in an hour usually there is just a shade left of what she used to be when first sprayed. Here we think we found the balance. Good endurance and realism of the flower, supported by the right additional raw materials here and there.

EVGENIYA: Yes, the more persistent iris is, the more buttery it is. And here you caught the feeling of the flower itself, making it more persistent.

But talking about your fragrant Opera parts... was it planned to first present Romanza and only then L'Attesa?

ALESSANDRO: Before summer [August 2015], we tried to speed up the evaluation of the last few modifications in order to be able to bring L'Attesa to Pitti [September 2015], because L'Attesa naturally came before Romanza (before falling in love – before having your Romance — there should be the first rendez-vous – L’Attesa…). But a few days before leaving for our summer vacations we realized that the results of such a “deconstruction-reconstruction” process weren’t actually matching our (extremely high, I must admit) expectations, so we decided that we would definitely not premiere L'Attesa at Pitti.  

At that point we spoke with Cristiano [Canali] and asked him for a couple of modifications of Romanza: the final version he concocted was sheer perfection to us, and so we brought it to Pitti.

Luca kept working on the formula until December 2015 and once again we left for vacation having to evaluate three modifications he prepared for us. The structure of the three fragrances was almost the same, but they conveyed very different moods: one was very classical, another one very modern, and a third one somewhere in between. Both extremes were satisfactory for us and we felt we were getting closer to the final result. There was an aesthetical decision to be made: whether we wanted a more classical and very elegant fragrance with a more prominent iris root butter, or a very modern one, with a more prominent iris absolute, but giving up the “allure” of classic perfumes. By January, when we met again with Luca, we were convinced that the latter was the right one for us.

The formula was not yet 100% complete, but we knew by the end of January we had to made our “go / no go” decision, as the production of the packaging takes two months and the Esxence exhibition was approaching.

Without giving it a second thought, we decided to launch the production of the boxes, with the name “Luca Maffei” printed on them. That was the point of no return — we told Luca: "We are 99% happy with what we have got so far, now put some extra effort to complete the missing 1%."

Riccardo Tedeschi, Luca Maffei and Alessandro Brun

Usually the notes are declared on the boxes. At that stage we decided to not declare Beer; we put 'Champagne accord' instead; that gave us a little bit of flexibility in the formula because the final one was not ready yet. Luckily we haven't had to change any ingredients, we only had to change the proportions and so in early March 2016 we finalised the formula and physically we bottled the fragrance three days before the exhibition. So we were just in time with the new fragrance and the new boxes, but it was a very long journey.

We must say that the final touches really turned our beautiful fragrance into a masterpiece.

In the few months before the launch of L'Attesa, you would probably have noticed some other launches featuring champagne or iris. Ironically, one may think that we were somehow “copying” other brands or following a trend. The point is, when it takes you up to 24 months from conception to the launch of a fragrance, you never know what will happen in the meantime. In this case, we started working with iris years ago, and with another nose.  Of course, to put it all in perspective, in twenty years no one will realise what scent was launched a year earlier or later.

EVGENIYA: I'm really mesmerized with your story because it reveals HOW much work there is behind this bottle. And I think we need to accentuate this, because sometimes we don't realize the exact quantity of work and efforts applied to the creation of a good fragrance.

ALESSANDRO: Yes. You know already that declaring the name of the nose is a  part of our policy of transparency and now we decided to increase it. We have brought here the raw materials and we freely share with everybody (distributors, journalists, bloggers, and also simple “aficionados”) facts and figures regarding our key ingredients: origins, distillation process, yield, etc.. We share as many details as possible about the raw materials since of course we are not afraid our formula will be copied. We want our audience to be aware not only of the creation process, but also of the quality of ingredients we employ.

We are lucky because different noses sometimes deal with different producers of raw materials. Some of them are completely independent, others work for big companies – like Cristiano for example who works for IFF and suggested to use as much as he can of their best specialities etc... The possibility of accessing  different sources of raw materials increases the range of possibilities in our perfume line. So explaining this to the market shows in my opinion the richness of the palette of our artists.

EVGENIYA: Can you also tell us about the new design for Romanza and L'Attesa?

ALESSANDRO: The design for the image used to decorate the L'Attesa bottles was inspired by a famous Dali painting... the pleasure of meeting someone is melting with the pleasure of waiting for somebody – it is reflected in the image of a liquifying watch. And what looks like a tiny watch chain is actually inspired by the trailing bubbles in the champagne.

RICCARDO: looking at these L'Attesa bottles, you will certainly notice some changes in our packaging – yet we kept all our iconic elements in our design. We changed the caps, we moved to wood. But we still kept the links with artisans: the former caps were hand-made in the ceramic district of Deruta in central Italy, while the new caps are made by a wood artisan in a tiny valley in the Alps, in northern Italy. We also simplified our logo a little bit, to make it more readable and with a more modern twist. Another important point: in our communication and online we noticed that there wasn’t 100% consistence about the use of the word Milano, as sometimes we were just referred to as “Masque Fraganze”. Moreover, in order to avoid misunderstanding regarding the origin of the word Masque (the name of our brand refers to a very Italian form of musical entertainment, not to the French for “facial mask” used in the cosmetics industry) we added in a very consistent way “Milano” to our logo, which is MASQUE MILANO (or the monogram MM on some details, such as the interior of the cap). We are also launching a new, bespoke glass bottle. We designed it with a very thick glass bottom... the bottle now nicely fits in a woman's hand. We also changed the vaporizer - now pressing the button you will notice a very long and steady spray: tinier molecules spread around in a much larger cloud, literally “overwhelming” your whole body (if you want!) in the fragrance with a single spray. We also went for the brightest and whitest glass with Bormioli.

EVGENIYA: As a person taking a lot of photos of bottles I can say — they are very good in transparency, in creating the right reflection...

ALESSANDRO: To please photographers, we also made an additional small investment by changing the way we put the required information at the bottom of the bottle.  We avoided the classic label (which is the cheapest way to proceed) since a label – even if transparent – can be evident through the glass. We discussed with our trusted decorator, and we opted for a serigraph in silky white ink (nothing new - actually the supplier doing our decorations is already realising the same type of “almost invisible” decorations for Chanel bottles).  Technically it is written – thus compliant with regulations – but it's not too evident. These are all minor things but they certainly contribute to the overall image conveying an idea of extreme, superior quality in whatever we do.

Alessandro Brun and Ricchardo Tedeschi

EVGENIYA: Dear Alessandro, dear Riccardo, thank you so much for this extremely detailed story of the beautiful L'Attesa creation. I hope it helps our readers to understand and appreciate it as good as possible!

Masque Milano brand will bring their newest fragrance L'Attesa to the TFWA exibition in Cannes! Stay tuned for the latest new from South France!

Evgeniya Chudakova

Columnist & Photographer

Evgeniya studied French and English phylology at the  Linguistic University of Pyatigorsk. 

In 2013 she joined the Fragrantica team as an author and editor. In 2015 she became  Executive Editor of fragrantica.ru

At this time, Evgeniya resides in Moscow.

 



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StellaDiverFlynn
StellaDiverFlynn

Thank you so much for this insightful and detailed interview. I was thoroughly impressed by L'Attesa and Romanza. They convey radiant spring morning sunlight to me, yet they're extremely rich in various nuances. Thanks to this interview, I now appreciate them and the hard labour and craftsmanship behind them even more.

Oct
04
2016
Calvini
Calvini

Wow I had no idea L'Attesa uses so many precious natural materials.. I thought the price was too steep at first, but this article made me appreciate the fragrance even more which made the price seem somewhat reasonable!

Oct
04
2016
Islandaromatika
Islandaromatika

Thank you so much for this interview! L'Attesa has become one of my all time favorite Iris scent, and the Iris notes last forever!! This is truly a gorgeous and unforgettable perfume. One for the books! -Robert H.

Oct
03
2016
johngreenink
johngreenink

This is a fascinating read - especially for someone who is not even a fan of the iris! The method they went through to capture iris, with the three components, is utterly intriguing and sounds like it took a great deal of work. I love to hear about the technical aspects behind a perfume like this, where so much scientific specialization has gone into the process. Great questions to your perfumers and creators, excellent job. I feel as though I've learned a lot!

Oct
03
2016
Alex1984
Alex1984

Thank you for a very detailed interview. I love L'Attesa and I really encourage everyone to try it. I find it a remarkable Iris, with the potential to become a legend, and truly a work of art .

Oct
03
2016

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