Masque Milano‘s L’Attesa is the sort of fragrance that I could very much see Coco Chanel creating if she were alive today — and I mean that as a positive thing. Like Masque’s other release this year, Romanza, L’Attesa sometimes evokes flowering country meadows in Spring, but there is a sophisticated, urban elegance to L’Attesa that made me think of the couture and the streets of Paris even more frequently. In the most reductionist, simplistic description, one could sum it up as a “green floral,” but I think L’Attesa is a fragrance with deceptive simplicity; its surprisingly fluid profile slips from one genre to another in a very seamless fashion. While the end result is outside my personal tastes, I admire the sophistication, and I think it demonstrates Masque’s continued evolution as it moves from its earlier focus on heavy, dark orientals towards polished florals with romantic, almost nature driven, and streamlined elegance.
L’Attesa is an eau de parfum that was created by Luca Maffei, and which was just released this week. (The perfume’s name is sometimes mistakenly spelt as L’Atessa with two “s”s.) It is an iris-centric fragrance that Masque describes in terms of a romantic rendezvous, someone waiting for their lover on a warm summer’s night with two glasses of champagne. The notes include three different types of very expensive iris, as well as real Mysore sandalwood. The full list is:
Italian Bergamot, Moroccan Neroli, Champagne accord, Italian Iris absolute, Italian Iris Root Butter, French Iris Root Butter, Tuberose absolute, Ylang Ylang, Mysore Sandalwood, Oakmoss, and Leather accord.
L’Attesa opens on my skin with plush, floral, and suede-like iris, drizzled with a few drops of bergamot and ISO E Super, then plunked into a fizzy, yeasty, wheaty accord. Masque actually references the aroma of yeast in its description of the “champagne,” but it was still quite a surprise to encounter it, perhaps because I was anticipating something more like the actual champagne vibe and fizziness of YSL’s Champagne/Yvresse. Here, in L’Attesa, there is a quiet effervescence that does nebulously, vaguely nod to the drink, but it lies under a thick, almost tingly yeast/wheat note that I find to be, simultaneously, odd, intriguing, curious, and original.
It’s particularly interesting alongside the real focus of the opening minutes: the iris. It smells immensely buttery and plush, but it is also cool, rooty, floral, clean, and like the suede lining of an expensive, new handbag. This is not a stony, watery, icy, or crypt-like iris, and it’s also world’s apart from the iced vodka alienness of Serge Lutens‘ Iris Silver Mist. It’s a hugely authentic, impressively solid, real iris note that is best described as “buttery” above else, then as suede. After that, the rooty facets are most noticeable, with the iris’ floralcy being the most muted aspect, although all these things will eventually change.
The creamy iris suede and fizzy yeast may be the driving forces of L’Attesa’s opening minutes, but it doesn’t stay that way because this is a fragrance that consistently develops a number of micro-stages on my skin during the first three hours. The neroli and bergamot initially lie at the edges but, within minutes, they begin to seep over the flower’s petals, staining them with greenness. Around the same time, tiny wisps of oakmoss and a MAAI-style tuberose, chyprish greenness pop up on the sidelines. The tuberose may not be a solid, concrete, and clearly delineated presence, but it works indirectly from the background, while the neroli and bergamot sound their cries from the forefront. Together, they slowly, very slowly, overwhelm and smother the interesting yeast/wheat accord, turning L’Attesa’s effervescence into one driven largely by various green, citric, floral, and mossy elements rather than the ostensible “champagne.” The cumulative effect after about 20 minutes is an iris that no longer feels predominantly buttered, thick, and velvety but, instead, a mostly green, crisp iris buttressed by citrus, rootiness, floralcy, and quasi-chyprish mossiness.
I want to take a moment at this point to discuss the ISO E Super that I mentioned at the start of the review. For most of the first hour, it is subsumed within the main accords but, in the very earliest minutes, it emitted a telltale chemical cleanness on my skin that made me very aware of its presence. While that quickly vanishes (for a few hours at last), the ISO E reappears in a different form at the end of the first hour, manifesting itself as a hyper-clean floralcy with faint woody and green violet undertones. I wrote to Alessandro Brun to inquire if L’Attesa contained any ISO E Super, explaining the things I was detecting, including a chemical twang that was quite pronounced in the middle to late stages of the perfume. He checked with Luca Maffei, and confirmed the inclusion of not only ISO E Super but also Timbersilk, the upgraded, cleaner, super-concentrated, and stronger version of the molecule, although Signor Brun said that there wasn’t a significant amount of either as compared to other fragrances. (There is also Iralia total that Signor Brun described as: “a sort of methylionone, yet less woody, more flowery with hints of violet and bonds well with iris.”) The cumulative effect of their clean, violet, floral, and woody aspects with the bergamot and other accords shifts the iris’ focus about 45-50 minutes into L’Attesa’s development from a buttered suede doused in “champagne” towards a citrusy, floral, mossy, and green iris.
By the time the ISO E/Timbersilk fully emerges in hyper-clean, woody form about 75 minutes in, L’Attesa no longer feels like a green floral so much as a clean floral woody musk etched in quasi-chyprish greenness. There is the bite of the neroli (smelling very citrusy) and crisp bergamot; iris that is both floral and rooty; plush moss (and tuberose) greenness; and the connective tissue of ISO E that evokes violet leaf, soft woods, and cleanness. The “champagne” fizziness has basically faded away by the start of the 2nd hour, and only a tinge of yeastiness remains. More noticeable is a new element that appears every time I’ve tested L’Attesa, and it consistently reminds me of wet, chewed-up cardboard.
I have to confess that I’m not particularly keen on any of this. While iris is not one of my favourite notes, I was taken by the lovely, impressively plush creaminess of the iris’ opening. This fresh, citrusy, inordinately green or green-yellow version is far from my personal cup of tea, even without the ISO E and its cleanness.
Yet, putting my sensitivities and personal tastes aside, I can appreciate the fluid nature, elegance, and quality of this sort of scent. While the iris may feel very crisp, clean, and green at this point as compared to the start, the flower is still a solid presence rather than an abstract one. Real, solid, true iris fragrances are not that common, in my opinion, due to the exorbitant cost of the raw materials. They’re typically more impressionistic bouquets that are vaguely “iris-ish” (or else they smell like a cold stone or wet root) but this is unquestionably a true, pure, concrete, warm, and surprisingly real floral aroma. It makes it the expensive quality of the materials quite clear, as well as how abundantly they were used. That’s impressive.
Moreover, I appreciate how the fragrance feels classical and modern at the same time. The clean floralcy and naturalistic, fresh greenness are like twin helices that have a very Spring-like feel that evokes Nature’s meadows, but it’s all done in a very sophisticated, refined fashion that speaks to the chic streets of Paris and, as I mentioned at the start, feels like something that Coco Chanel might have created with Ernst Beaux were they both alive today and making more modern fragrances. I think it’s due to the mix of greenness, plushness, coolness, and crispness that dominates L’Attesa during its second hour. There is such a fluidity about it that it feels not minimalistic, per se, but streamlined. (And wholly unisex, by the way.)
For me, L’Attesa is prettiest when its third mini or micro stage begins at the end of the second hour and the start of the third. The bergamot, the ISO E’s violet leaf sort of aroma, and the neroli-tuberose-oakmoss greenness recede to the background, letting the plushness of the iris butter emerge from under their shadow to impart a creamy underpinning to the other notes. It feels like a river bed upon which flows a stream of velvety soft iris petals. They no longer smell yeasty, damp, cardboard-like, excessively clean, or excessively green. It’s almost entirely a floral and buttery aroma now, laced with only a touch of rootiness. At the same time, the ISO E’s woody scent is replaced by a creamy woodiness that feels wholly natural, thanks to the Mysore sandalwood fused with the iris butter. Finishing things up is a fine veil of powderiness that lies over the whole thing, either from the iris, the ISO E, or both.
In short, L’Attesa has transitioned from a citrusy green floral into a very elegant, plush iris-sandalwood bouquet. It’s half creamy, half suede-like, but both parts flow seamlessly, fluidly, to result in an incredibly appealing woody-floral. Without all that greenness (something that regular readers know is not my cup of tea), the iris butter holds center stage and one’s attention. It may be thinner now and not as thick, velvety, and buttery as it was at the start, but it’s silky smooth nonetheless. The only thing that ruins the appeal for me personally is the ISO E/Timbersilk which, on my skin and to my nose, is beginning to emit a chemical clang that only gets stronger as time passes. However, since most people are either anosmic to ISO E or don’t mind it, I doubt that will bother the average user.
L’Attesa’s main heart phase slowly begins to take shape towards the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th. The focus changes from a clear, unquestionable, solid iris scent to a more abstract floralcy that is iris-ish. More importantly, the leather awakens in the base, sending up wisps of smoke, turning the fragrance drier, cutting through some of the iris, and weakening its silky plushness as a result. For a little while still, the primary accord continues to be iris-sandalwood but the overall bouquet is smokier now, less floral, less clean, less fluid, and significantly less creamy. Just as the bergamot, neroli, oakmoss, and tuberose faded away, so too has all vestiges of the suede, replaced by now something darker.
The leather is clearly knocking at the door, and it sweeps onto center stage roughly 4.5 hours into L’Attesa’s development. It marks the start of the fragrance’s heart stage, a dramatic pivot from the green floralcy of the opening and a transition away from the sandalwood-iris into something much darker that is centered almost entirely on an iris-y leather infused with smoke upon a soft sandalwood base. (There is also an ISO E chemical clang that is extremely loud now on my skin, and which consistently gave me a headache whenever I smelt my arm up close for too long.)
L’Attesa remains a smoky floral leather for roughly the next 5 hours before changing direction yet again when the drydown begins at the end of the 10th hour. The leather finally retreats to the sidelines, letting a number of the older accords re-emerge. Somehow, L’Attesa returns to being a very fresh, crisp, green floral bouquet laced with ISO E violet leaf/woody tonalities. It’s an abstract floralcy that is nebulously iris-y in that sort of impressionistic, gauzy, clean manner that so many “iris” fragrances have, and its edges are smudged with smoke as a lingering vestige of the leather, but the flower’s primary characteristic is greenness on my skin. Once in a while, there are hints of a sweeter, richer, spicier floralcy lurking underneath, but it’s only detectable when I sniff my arm up close and not once did it appear as a clear, distinct ylang-ylang note. In L’Attesa’s final hours, the fragrance changes yet again, turning into a blur of creamy, clean floralcy. It finally dies away as nothing more than clean softness.
L’Attesa had excellent longevity, but generally soft projection and sillage. Using several spritzes from a small manufacturer’s atomizer equal to roughly 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, L’Attesa typically opened with 2.5 to 3 inches of projection, and roughly 5 inches of scent trail. After 90 minutes, the projection was about 1.5 inches, the sillage about 3 inches, at best. The fragrance hovered just above the skin at the end of the 3rd hour and start of the 4th, and there was no scent trail at all. L’Attesa turned into a skin scent 4.5 hours into its development, but it wasn’t difficult to detect until the middle of the 6th hour when I had to put my nose right on my arm to detect it. There, it was very clear. Given the discreet nature of the scent, I was very surprised by its longevity which was consistently over 13 hours with the equivalent of 1 spray from a bottle and roughly 15 hours with the equivalent of two.
L’Attesa was even softer on my skin when I applied a smaller amount, roughly equal to one spray from an actual bottle. The opening projection was about 2 to 2.5 inches, and the sillage was about 4 inches, but both numbers rapidly dropped after an hour. By the start of the 3rd hour, the fragrance extended about 0.5 inches above the skin, and there was no virtually no sillage unless I moved my arms.
As a slightly funny story, Masque was kind enough to send L’Attesa a month ago, and I received it shortly before being summoned for jury duty. If you’re unfamiliar with the American (mandatory) jury summons process, it can be quite a lengthy ordeal and typically involves a lot of waiting, so I took the atomizers down with me to the huge courthouse. As I waited (and waited) for my panel to be called and questioned, I applied several small spritzes and took notes. After three hours, I was still waiting but was now waving my arms about in order to assess the sillage or repeatedly sniffing my arm, putting my nose almost right on the skin, much to the bewilderment of the people and bailiffs in the room. I received some very odd looks, but I had to do that because of the unexpected softness of the scent on me.
More importantly, as I learnt in that test and others that I’ve done in the past month, I had to do that because smaller amounts or lighter sprays really seemed to impact the development of some of the notes. L’Attesa remained a citrusy, green floral for far longer when I used the equivalent of one spray; the iris wasn’t as richly buttery, velvety, or thick; the green accords were largely a shapeless blur; the oakmoss wasn’t clearly delineated in any distinct way at all; and and the chemical clang of the ISO E was louder. Later on, the sandalwood, leather, and smoke elements were quieter and not as strong. In fact, the sandalwood was barely apparent in one test. The heart of the scent felt more like a floral woody musk than a sandalwood-iris or a smoky leather-iris. In short, if you test L’Attesa, don’t skimp on amounts. Apply more than a few light dabs or spritzes in order to experience either its most nuanced, prettiest, or darkest parts.
L’Attesa has generally received great praise in early reviews. On Fragrantica, there are three comments at this time: two detailed, gushing raves from from Alfarom and Q80, and one extremely brief, minimal comment that largely calls it a dusty flower scent that smells like broom (a plant that has a sweet, herbal, green, and hay-like aroma). For Q80, L’Attesa was the iris-leather fragrance that he’d been seeking. For Alfarom, it was an “outstanding” iris fragrance with multiple facets and his detailed review reads, in small part, as follows:
L’Attesa starts with a unique and yet familiar accord of rooty iris and something I would classify as green and kind of sour (the champagne accord?). The iris becomes more classically powdery while the introduction of an extra floral component preserves the fragrance from falling into the usual *woody* whisper we generally get from modern iris perfumes. it’s a full bodied iris that keeps all of its iris-y aspects all the way through its evolution. It’s powdery but also leathery, rooty and yet floral, buttery and decadent. A grown-up kind of approach to the main theme or something you would expect from the most classical french perfume brands such as Chanel or the likes. Something that won’t make any pants drop or won’t make you feel any cooler while wearing it. Something only people who actually like fragrances will probably appreciate in its complex sophistication. [¶][…]
All the blog reviews that I’ve read thus far are equally enamoured of the scent. There are quite a few, but I’ve been sick for quite a while, am still not up to full strength, and don’t really have the energy to go through them all, so I’ll only point you to the detailed one by the talented “Claire V.” on Fragrance Daily which concludes by saying “L’Attesa is stunning, and if you’re an iris lover, you won’t want to miss out on it.” I’ll leave it up to you to read the specifics in full on your own if you’re interested.
I’m not a hardcore iris lover, so my indifference to the note probably impacts my reaction to L’Attesa. I admire parts of it and its general, overall feel, but, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the “be all, end all” iris fragrance that I had hoped for. I’ll stick to SHL 777‘s Khol de Bahrein for those occasions when my mood calls for a buttery iris, particularly as it has amber and heliotrope in lieu of greenness.
That said, I agree with everyone else that iris lovers should definitely give L’Attesa a sniff. Its effortless, fluid sophistication bears the best parts of the classical style, while always feeling like a very modern scent, rather than something dated or retro. It’s easy to wear, unisex, and versatile. And its soft character make it something suitable to the office (or jury duty) just as much as its chicness makes it something one could wear it on a date or evening out. All in all, it’s a nice addition to the Masque line but what I appreciate most of all is that it feels as though a lot of time, care, and thought went into the making of the scent. When taken together with Romanza, it represents the growth and development of the Masque aesthetic, pushing into new areas, styles, or genres, and that’s always one of the things that makes Masque one of the most interesting perfume houses out there.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi of Masque Milano. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.