The guys at Masque don't miss the chance to deliver yet another piece of great perfumery. Romanza is an incredibly complex fragrance that avoids trends and unnecessary gimmick to focus on what, to me, is a cultured style of perfumery that is sadly getting rarer and rarer.
So, don't expect something easy to like or easy to wear because Romanza is quite an imponent and ambitious composition that takes the best of two worlds and pair them together. On on side there's a somewhat canonic style of perfumery. A certain classicism that's generally inherent to officially trained perfumers while, on the other side, there's an overall artisianal vibe and (more or less) calibrated roughness that's definitely more typical of indie lines and self-taught noses. These two aspects paired together give birth to a decadent and humongous green floral which, either you'll like it or not, won't leave you indifferent.
The fragrance opens extremely green and bitter with a mix of angelica, absinth and florals such as jasmine, narcissus and hyacinth. The florals are so vivid and in your face as in the most classic compositions of the past while a rough edge and a healthy dose of "ugliness" provided by a massive amount of civet preserve the fragrance from feeling pathetically nostalgic and driving it instead towards more artisanal / indie territories. What stylistically comes to mind are some florals by Abdes Salaam as well as Papillon and Bogue but also certain post-Dior-esque florals made in Roudnitska. In this phase Romanza feels incredibly striking, adventurous and creative by continually crossing the boundaries between official perfumery and a more typically-indie style.
A classical, somewhat kind of mainstream base starts lurking in the back introducing a woody vetiver / amber combo to round everything up while paradoxically providing even more decadence. As the base takes over with time, the florals merge perfectly with the rest to turn the composition into an endless and humongous floral of immense beauty.
Now, if you're not after something that's easy to like, if you prefer to seek for beauty instead of having it slammed in your face, if you like complexity as opposed to pop, check this out. Top quality stuff all around.
Romanza is neither easy to describe nor easy to wear, which is not to say it's not brilliant (it is). It features narcissus, but instead of wrapping it in sunshiney beeswax (Ostara) or sweetening it with rose (Lumiere Noire Pour Femme), Romanza plays up all its ugly, bitter facets, resulting in a fragrance that is a real punch in the gut. Do you want to be challenged, confronted, and swept off your feet? Well, Romanza may be just the ticket.
I don't really see the connection to Oscar Wilde or Dorian Grey here. To me, this is more Wuthering Heights, a book that always wounds me with its sheer savagery. In particular, I think of when Cathy outlines the difference in her love for Linton and her love for Healthcliff thus: "My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary."
The chartreuse green opening reminds me not of absinthe but of vermouth in all its adult bitterness. It makes me shiver. I feel flooded with foreboding, like breaking a thermometer on the floor and watching the little balls of mercury scatter into every nook and cranny.
The narcissus rides up from under this slick of silvery moonshine, grabs me by the scruff of my neck, and mashes my nose down into a handful of crushed jonquils, paper whites, daffodils - whatever you call them. It's a live, crawling mass of green stems and pollen-dusted stamens. The balance of beauty and decay is just perfect here; the crushed narcissus smells like life itself, but death and corruption are already eating away at the edges.
The first part of Romanza, in particular, is intoxicating, like being bent back and properly tongue-kissed by Snow White's evil stepmother. It's arousing, but the inside of her mouth tastes bitter and too late I realize that it's poison. I end up writhing on the ground as she looks on, smiling that creepy smile of hers. Narcissus has never smelled so sinister to me before. If Ostara is a sunlit meadow, all yellows and golds, then Romanza is the midnight witching hour, a dark green velvet cloak drawn tightly around it.
The wild, ugly side of narcissus, that dark green poison facet, is supported and surrounded by three very important accords. First, a drop of either civet or a very good ambergris-like material (not Ambroxan) adds a warm, salty funk that shifts between halitosis and the natural stink of a clean beach at low tide. Orange blossom adds a honeyed indolic breeze. And when vetiver root introduces a marshy skin note, this foetid mash changes the crystalline nature of the vermouth-and-stems opening to something altogether murkier.
The second important supporting player is a pairing of violet leaf and hyacinth. Violet leaf has an astringent green, metallic character that serves the function of a knife, sharpening the outlines of the narcissus. Hyacinth adds a watery note. The overall effect of the violet leaf and hyacinth tandem is that of crushed flowers, stems, and pollen dust floating in slightly stale vase water. Oddly, the violet leaf develops a mint-like note towards the end, reminding me somewhat of the wild, green-minty forest floor feel I get from Chypre Mousse. Now I imagine Narcissus himself, lured to the lake by the cruel Nemesis, leaning down to kiss his own reflection in the water.
Finally, the most important supporting player – to my nose at least – is a damp hay and jasmine mix. The hay is probably not a distinct note but rather another facet of narcissus that I am picking up on, as narcissus can sometimes give off aromas of dry hay, jasmine, and hyacinth. The hay note in Romanza smells like hay that has recently been urinated on by horses – and having smelled this on a daily basis for years, I can tell you that this aroma is in no way unpleasant. In fact, it smells like honey, chamomile tea, warm horse, and that friendly, sun-baked smell of clean hay, all mixed together.
This part of Romanza reminds me very much of two other fragrances that are nonetheless completely unrelated to either each other or indeed to Romanza. The first is Sarrasins, where in the dry down I also pick up on a dry, sun-baked hay or chamomile tea aroma. It might be a facet of Sambac jasmine, which is the type of jasmine used in both Sarrasins and Romanza. The second fragrance that this dry hay/jasmine aspect reminds me of is Cuir Pleine Fleur. When I spray Cuir Pleine Fleur heavily on myself - so heavily that it drips down my arms and off my fingertips - this normally polite, pastel-colored leather fragrance takes on a ferociously animalic character, and smells exactly like warm, fresh pissy hay (the rotting flesh facets of hawthorn also adding to the warm, animalic impression).
Romanza is, all in all, a strange, intoxicating, and ultimately somewhat oppressive fragrance. I like that it showcases the duality inherent in cheerful flowers such as the humble daffodil or paper white – they smell bright and beautiful at first, but as soon as you pick them, they’ve started to die and wilt, their poisonous green plant juice staining your hands and flooding your mouth with metallic bitterness.
Anybody who likes narcissus or "corrupted" florals like Une Fleur de Cassie, Amoureuse, or Amaranthine should give Romanza a try. Narcissus oil has a calming effect on the central nervous system, but is so rich that over-exposure to it can cause fainting and dizziness, or even toxicity. That effect seems very much in keeping with the Victorian theme to the fragrance, with that idea of something that is both alluring and dangerous at the same time, like Narcissus’ reflection in the pool, self-obsession, vanity, the desire to stay young forever, and so on….
Oh see now, I’ve managed to work my way round to Dorian Grey after all.
I have recently tried this fragrance with a sample and totally fell in love with it ! I am amazed by the way Cristiano treated the narcissus, with that mystic, animalic aura that keep evolving with time.
Definitely one of the most original scent of the year with a great quality of raw materials !
Victorian Narcissus Romanza is the new "fragrant" creation recently appointed for Masque Milano by the telented perfumer Cristiano Canali. Before debating about everything concerning the perfume's characteristics themselves I'd start focusing the attention on the extreme naturalness of the utilised raw ingredients, being indeed the Masque Romanza's fragrance seriously carnal, vivid and indolic, a realistical take on the grassy-animalic floral theme. The latter is mainly centered over one of the classiest and most regal floral note around, the royal narcissus, so foppish, fragile and inebriating with its redolent and almost mineral-vegetal aroma. Narcissus, namely a fragile but at same time tenaciously odorous flower (with its almost obsessive valzer of intense nuances). This perfume is in here "nectarine" and visceral, something quite intense, velvety and fleshy. The aroma of narcissus conjures me vaguely the one typically exhaling from lily of the valley (anyway in here as ideally combined with rose, violet leaves and jasmine) but while the latter seems kind of more angular, linear and sharply pungent the finally more complex narcissus is quite multifaceted, slightly honeyed-lacteous, variegate, smoother, musky, "bodied", all at once grassy-mineral and frankly more regally classy-lofty. The Romanza's Narcissus is superbly articulated, immediately realistical and finally visceral (as wondefully merged with soft balsams, musks, resins and animalic elements, probably civet and honey). Possibly amber, civet and honey turn this redolent floral concert out kind of immensely velvety and sensual. The floral aroma is in here quite kaleidoscopic, initially hesperidic-anisic, grassy, dirty, bitter-herbal, than smoother, milky-honeyed, salty-woody (vetiver) and slightly incensey (yes a tad of something misty-smoky, darkly woody, peppery and dusty-salty). Orange blossoms (included in huge amount in a way conjuring me more than vaguely the same note as operating in Askett&English Absolute) and hyacinth enhance the concert of diverse nuances. I have to specify that the final issue is a quite sophisticated animalic floral twist that is utterly bold, mysterious, vegetal-resinous and naughty. Something sinister encompasses the floral earthiness wrapping it by a misty haze of mysticism. Few brands (Acampora, Bruno Fazzolari, La Via del Profumo, Askett&English, not so many I can resume at moment) have issued around such wondefully visceral floral compositions imo. Dry down is enygmatic, almost misty and sarurnine, never banally floral but far, far more. I'm smitten, the Romanza's type of fatal woman seems to be classy and erotically devastative (but at same time vaguely romantic and Victorian in several little twist of individual style), be ready to apocalyptically undergo her hypnosis guys, be ready to die.
P.S: Along the way (5-6 hours later) the bitter/herbal, merely woody and salty-floral (dry, almost rubbery, dark, grassy-earthy and smoky-piquant vibe) takes the stage (really elusive, dusty and bold) and the scent enhances its pungency and the bitter-dry spicy-floral, slightly camphoraceous, status (mainly peppery narcissus, earthy violet and obsessive hyacinth).
30th September, 2015 (last edited: 01st October, 2015)