Times Square, one of two new releases from Masque Milano, seeks to take you back to the cacophony, smells, and busy streets of New York City before Mayor Giuliani cleaned it up in the 1990s. Masque’s official scent description is one of the most unusual, unexpected, and humorous accounts that I’ve come across in terms of what a perfume brand promises to offer you if you try its fragrance. It bluntly and cheerfully talks about the city’s “stink” and its many, divergent “miasmas,” from the scent of cheap tobacco to the garbage on its streets and how the “cherry of the whore’s bloody-red lipstick melts with the strawberry of her chewing-gum.” Yet, if you “find your way through the crowd of bachelorettes waiting for the male-strip show,” [there… ] will be a flood of tuberose and carnation.”
I was interested in trying Times Square for a number of reasons: Masque always offers something interesting or different; I’ve lived in New York on several occasions, two of which were before Giuliani cleaned up Times Square; and I’m currently watching “The Deuce” on HBO, a series about Times Square, New York, and the sex trade in the early 1970s, by the creator of The Wire (one of the best television shows ever made, in my opinion). Like The Deuce, Masque’s Times Square is not what I had expected. But it is different, I’ll give you that.
Times Square is an eau de parfum that was created by Bruno Jovanovic, and it was released in June 2017. Its official note list is a highly abbreviated one in my opinion, and it omits at least 5 notes that I found quite significant, a few of which are mentioned in Masque’s scent description. The curtailed summary is:
Hazelnut accord, glossy lipstick accord, tuberose, osmanthus, sandalwood, gaiacwood, styrax
Times Square opens on my skin with a green and slightly sour tuberose note that is immediately engulfed in waves of nutty sweetness and tangy, apricot-laden osmanthus powderiness. The last two fuse together almost instantaneously to create a single accord, one which rapidly becomes the primary focus of the opening. In the base, there lurks a dry, cigarette-like tobacco note accompanied by a whiff of smoky, leathery, woody darkness, but both are the merest whispers and quickly disappear.
The opening bouquet initially bears a few, minor similarities to Vero Profumo‘s new Naja, but the differences are far greater, in my opinion. What hits my nose again and again with Times Square is a tart, tangy, and sour fruitiness that extends even beyond the osmanthus’ usual apricots to encompass a slew of other elements: sour cherry Jolly Rancher candies, an unexpected green apple note, red berries, and even a fleeting hint of strawberries. It smells as though there were a lot of ionones here, a material which is often used to create fruity and/or violet aromas in perfumery, particularly in lipstick accords, and my sense is underscored by what appears next.
The sour cherry, berry, and green apple notes are immediately followed by a waxy, fatty element that is exactly like what you’d find in lipsticks, lip gloss, and ChapStick. Vintage lipsticks frequently relied on orris fixatives and, while there is a definite, growing olfactory whiff of violet-scented orris here as well, Times Square goes beyond that to also include a strong undercurrent of creamy waxiness as well. The cumulative effect calls to mind someone sucking on Jolly Rancher Sour Apple candies, then applying ChapStick, on top of which is smeared shiny, red berry lip gloss. (Later on, the accord turns into something more like a mix of waxy ChapStick, cherry lip gloss, and Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Masque’s official scent description really nailed some parts of the scent.)
In Naja, sour fruitiness, apple candies, tart berries, lipstick, and toasted hazelnut sweetness were not factors, let alone powerful central elements in the opening bouquet. The only thing really connecting the two fragrances is the way a heavily powdered osmanthus lies upon a base of darker elements. On my skin, Times Square is primarily a fruity floral in its opening phase with lipstick tonalities, not a tobacco-osmanthus fragrance with vintage Habanita cigarette vibes. I think Sammarco‘s new Naias might be a closer fragrance analogy since it has quite a few fruity-floral, violet, apple, berry, lipstick, and make-up aromas in its opening, followed by a smoky, woody, leather middle phase.
I know some of you hate tuberose or powder, so a few words on each. On my skin, the tuberose is essentially swallowed up mere minutes into the fragrance’s development, never to reappear in any concrete, solid, or noticeable form. The powder is a different story. Initially, it ceases to be a textural element after 10 minutes. However, roughly 30 minutes in, Times Square is deluged by a powerful, strong impression of violet-scented makeup face powder, thanks to the orris’ growing presence. Together, they push Times Square’s opening phase firmly into feminine territory.
Times Square changes in small increments which eventually build up to create a very different fragrance during the middle or second stage, almost as if there were two separate fragrances in the same bottle. But it happens gradually. Roughly 1.25 hours in, the smoky guaiac and styrax resin begin to seep up from the base, spreading wood and smoky darkness onto the outer fringes of the lipstick-powder centerpiece. The sour, tart, fruit salad and candy accord begins to weaken at the same time. (So does the initially strong sillage, but more on that at the end.)
Then, 2.5 hours in, the guaiac and styrax take over, trailed at a distance by a much quieter, diffuse sandalwood note. Together, they kick the makeup accords to the New York City curb (and to the fragrance’s background), while completely eradicating the fruits. Hovering more discreetly over the skin, Times Square is now primary a smoky-woody or woody-smoky fragrance set against a soft, heavily muffled, hazy backdrop of sweet makeup powder. The latter smells mostly like orris with light touches of violets, osmanthus, and tonka subsumed within. Up close, the makeup powder is sometimes just a soft aura, an impressionistic suggestion, but when I smell Times Square from a distance and on the scent trail, the floral powder is much more noticeable in a concrete, distinct way.
Over the course of the next two hours, Times Square’s main focus is split between these two contrary elements: the charred woods and the floral face powder. Each vies for supremacy, wrestling for the lead, but the smoky woods generally win out and are dominant.
I’m uncertain how well these polarities mesh together. It’s as though a guaiac-styrax campfire in New York’s Catskills had suddenly been transplanted next to the Guerlain beauty counter at Bergdorf’s. I find it disconcerting. Curious, but disconcerting. On me, they don’t blend well together, perhaps because they lack a common olfactory connective tissue to tie them together. It’s as though I had applied two contradictory, disparate fragrances from unrelated perfume genres together, one atop the other.
Times Square’s third stage begins at the end of the 4th hour, roughly 3.75 hours in. Essentially, the first two stages merge, although the main emphasis is on the makeup accords and the bouquet skews closer to the opening. The red berries, cherry-scented lip gloss, waxy ChapStick, and apricot osmanthus stage a comeback, followed by a new element that reminds me of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. They fuse with the ever-present, inescapable, now very Guerlainesque floral-orris-tonka makeup powder and, together, they engulf the smoky, dark elements. The end result is a bouquet that smells of smoked guaiac Guerlain face powder, Juicy Fruit gum mixed with singed woods, and cherry-scented lip gloss layered with leathery styrax resin, all of which is then blanketed by apricot osmanthus powder. It’s… different, I’ll give it that.
Times Square’s drydown begins not long after, roughly 5.25 hours into the fragrance’s development. It’s a simple one that can be summed up in three words: sweet, cherry powderiness. It basically smells like tonka or orris powder infused with red cherries. If I put my nose right on the skin, sniff hard, and concentrate, I can detect vestiges of an indeterminate guaiac-ish smokiness and sometimes even a hint of osmanthus apricots, but it requires effort and the whispers are heavily muffled. Times Square remains a cherry-scented tonka powder bomb for hours and hours on my skin without any change until it finally dies away as powdered sweetness. In total, the drydown lasts for more than 8 hours.
Times Square had average projection, initially strong sillage, and good longevity. I applied several spritzes from a little atomizer sample, amounting to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle. The opening projection was about 4 inches, but the sillage was large, extending 7 to 8 inches to envelop me in a strong but diffuse, weightless cloud. The numbers dropped after 90 minutes. The sillage shrank to about 4 inches, then moved close to the body at the 2.5 hour mark, which is also when the projection dropped to 0.5 to 1 inch, at best, above my arm. Times Square became a skin scent at the start of the 5th hour but was easy to detect if I put my nose right on my arm until the 9th hour. After that, it took some effort. All in all, Times Square lasted approximately 13.5 or 13.75 hours.
There are a handful of reviews for Times Square on Fragrantica. I’ll let you read them on your own, if you’re interested, since I’m trying to get through the huge backlog of fragrances I have to cover by simplifying my schedule, writing short(er) reviews, and not spending time providing an extensive list of retail links.
I’ll end things today by saying that there is no doubt Masque took an inventive, novel, and creative approach to Times Square, which is something I admire about the brand and give them kudos for, but just how well it actually works on someone is probably going to depend heavily on their skin. How much will it amplify the guaiac wood smoke and leathery styrax? Will it do so to a degree which works well with the many makeup elements? Will the fruit cocktail mesh seamlessly between these two countervailing, contradictory forces, or will it add to the sense of discordant and sometimes jarring polarities? The answers will very much depend on what is emphasized, and I don’t think there will be one answer or “one size fits all” uniformity. My advice is to sample first and test before you buy.
Next time: a look at Masque’s other new release, Mandala. See you then.
Details/links: $165 or €125 for 35 ml of EDP; Masque Milano; Luckyscent; First in Fragrance; ParfuMaria; Neos1911; Jovoy (does not currently have Times Square listed on its Masque page at the time of this review); Surrender to Chance; and Fragrantica.
Disclosure: I received a sample of Times Square with the purchase of an unrelated fragrance from Luckyscent. I received another sample from Masque Milano. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.