Dolceacqua is one of several recent releases in Masque Milano‘s separate and new collection line called La Donna Di MASQUE. All the fragrances in this new line have female names, city names, or female city names and also, if I recall correctly, are all made by female perfumers as well, at least thus far. (The prior Masque fragrances with which you and I are accustomed have belonged to The Opera Collection.)
Dolceacqua is a fragrance with a bit of background. It was one of Masque Milano’s two debut releases (along with “Petra”) back when they started in 2010. Now, it has been revamped and released as something different. In addition, it is now one of a few new releases that comprise Masque Milano’s new line called La Donna Di Masque.
Dolceacqua is an eau de parfum that was created by Delphine Thierry and released in 2020. The official description on the Masque website is lengthy and offers only a few olfactory specifics within its detailed romance story set on the French Riviera.
The only relevant details, in my opinion, on an possible olfactory basis, are that Masque: calls Dolceacqua “[a] fresh floral bouquet, uplifted by the coastal breeze;” envisions a scene taking place at 8 a.m. on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais (a boardwalk right beside the sea); and says that Dolceacqua is supposed to include a “mixture of Cote d’Azur flavours, in their magic blend of floral and marine” but also a woman’s perfume that is “sweet and mellow, a mixture of flowers and fruit and some hints of vanilla at the bottom.” I’ll let you read the rest on your own, if you’re interested.
Coastal breeze accord, muguet [aka, lily of the valley], ivy leaves, mediterranean marjoram, mimosa, almond flower, white rose, ylang-ylang Nosy Be, saffron flower, Virginia cedarwood, benzoin, oakmoss, silky musks.
Fumerie summarizes Dolceacqua’s gist as:
A tranparent [sic] floral gourmand fragrance that opens with soft greens tones and powdery floral nuances with a delicately sweet drydown.
Dolceacqua opens on my skin with fresh sea salt and sea water that are sprayed over beautiful, fluffy, sweet, somewhat vanillic mimosa blossoms. The mimosa is not wholly pollinated, but there is some aspect of that which translates into a mild touch of floral powder with a vanillic undertone.
The sea salt accord is fantastic during the first 20 minutes. I loved it. (Please, note, however, the time qualifier in that first sentence.) The accord smells crisp, clean, refreshing, salinic and, here’s the key part, devoid at this moment in time of wretched calone, the aromachemical used to create ozonic, oceanic, aquatic, watery, or melon and cucumber scents. (You can read the simplistic gist about Calone on Wikipedia, if you’re new to perfumery or interested.) Here, instead of the typical calone aromas, Dolceacqua’s sea notes feel – initially – authentic and realistic, particularly in terms of saltiness. I only wish it were a stronger, more overt note on my skin, instead of a light, gauzy touch.
Other elements arrive within seconds. There is an almondy floralcy that I assume is the almond blossom, then silky clean musks, and splotches of an indeterminate greenness that quietly, mutedly, suggest ivy only because of the tennis ball fuzz aroma that typically accompanies “ivy” in perfumery. With regard to the musks, to those of you who share my abhorrence for the way they typically translate in perfumery, let me say that, here, they do not, thankfully, smell like galaxolide or Bounce/Downy fabric softener or dryer sheets.
Dolceacqua’s greatest number of changes and discrete nuances all occur within the first 55 minutes. It is also the time when the fragrance is the prettiest, in my opinion. 15 minutes in, the diaphanous, thin-bodied nature of the bouquet grows incrementally, subtly thicker, as well as incrementally creamier. In addition, the clean musks grow stronger as does the vanilla undertone and, unfortunately, the calone (which, even more unfortunately, becomes more and more central to the scent as Dolceacqua develops). 30 minutes in, the fresh, clean musks become an integral part of the scent while the rosebuds and ivy (tennis ball fuzz) continue to unfurl. 50 minutes in, Dolceacqua takes on a lovely creaminess which I suspect is due to the ylang because there is a sweet floral quality to the texture.
I want to briefly discuss two aromas or materials in Dolceacqua that later grow to be quite central: The vanilla and the calone. With regard to the former, I’m absolutely convinced that an actual, independent or separate, vanilla material has been used in but simply not been listed. Dolceacqua has too strong of a vanilla component later on, long after the mimosa disintegrates into abstraction, for it to merely be a part of the mimosa’s innate sweetness. The mimosa is likely a mixed accord with vanilla in it but, however the vanilla has been incorporated, it’s unquestionably there in my mind.
With regard to the calone, I must note that its clarity and its overtness depend on how much fragrance I apply. In my first test where I was simply trying to get a sense of Dolceacqua and its evolution, I used a minimal number of smears: roughly 1-2, not my usual 2-3 generous swathes that is my typical baseline for proper, full testing. 1-2 smears is an amount equal to about 1 spritz from a bottle, rather than the 2 sprays that I tend towards because it’s what most people use when spraying from a bottle.
The reason why this is relevant is that, with 1-2 vial smears or 1 spritz on the smaller side from a bottle, I never detected calone in its chemical, commonplace sense. There was only a naturalistic, authentic, light wisp of fresh sea spray like that which you’d detect if you were walking right on the beach. (And it doesn’t last long, either.)
That is not the case when I apply more fragrance. Instead of the realistic sea salt and sheer spray of sea water that vanish after 45-50 minutes, what happens is that they turn into a strong calone undertone identical to what one smells in common, mainstream aquatic or ozonic scents. And it lasts for hours!
I think that that scent/quantity/outcome difference is important to specify because this review describes Dolceacqua using, like all my reviews, my standard baseline quantity of 2-3 good, wide smears. That is roughly equal to two sprays from a bottle and that is what many people use when applying scent. Consequently, I believe it’s relevant for you to know what amount might potentially trigger the unmistakable and hours-long presence of calone in its common, typical olfactory sense.
On a slightly tangential note, I hope you’ll forgive me a slight digression because it’s driving me a little crazy in terms of being a nerd and in terms of my compulsive focus on details. As someone who walked on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais many times and on Cannes’ Croisette for months at a time for years and years, I feel absolutely compelled to tell you that you will never be sprayed by any oceanic elements whatsoever on those elevated strolling boardwalks, no matter what Masque Milano may say in its romance story for Dolceacqua. The distances and geography simply do not permit it; for one thing, there is a wide beach between the promenades and the sea.
As for the general air around you being salty or sea-like, I personally don’t recall that on the Croisette, not really, not the way you would be able to smell the salty air while walking right on the beach. (Perhaps due to the overwhelming amount back then of Bain de Soleil suntan oil filling every inch of space.) Anyway, I apologise for this segue into total irrelevancy and for the compulsive side of me momentarily turning into that annoying “Actually….” person on social media. Please forgive me.
Going back to Dolceacqua’s opening as it develops within the first hour, there are other changes beyond the calone. The most important is the mimosa whose clarity, 50 minutes in, differs in prominence depending on whether I smell it on the scent cloud or trail or whether I sniff my arm up close. When I wave my arm around (Dolceacqua’s sillage is somewhat low), the mimosa is a major, unmistakable, and dominant part of the bouquet. Up close, however, it vies with the almond blossom (which is not apparent at all on the scent trail), greenery via the ivy “tennis ball” aroma (also not discernible from afar), and the burgeoning impression of pale rosebuds (ditto).
To put it another way, the components of the floral bouquet, their clarity, and their visibility depend on whether I’m smelling Dolceacqua on my arm or on the scent trail.
75 minutes or 1.25 hours in, Dolceacqua segues into its second stage. The fragrance is, in the most simplistic terms, now an amorphous, fresh, clean, somewhat aquatic, sweet floral musk. The mimosa has sadly dissolved into the rest of the flowers, leaving only a vanillic floral powder behind as proof of its existence. In fact, all the floral notes have turned into a blurry, generalized floralcy without any clear olfactory traits beyond being “floral,” vaguely creamy, and dusted with sweet, golden vanilla powder. There is no ivy (tennis ball fuzz), no almond, and, even worse, the sea salt and sea water have now taken on a clear calone aroma. Lastly, everything feels like soft, highly feminine floral gauze, like a semi-translucent scarf or veil rather than a more substantial fabric.
Dolceacqua is also rather discreet and soft in terms of sillage on my skin. 90 minutes in, the sense of a small cloud of scent around me has vanished. To be clear, however, I can still detect Dolceacqua easily if my nose is about 4 inches from my arm. If I don’t do that, I have to wave my arm close to my face. For my personal tastes, it’s disappointing to experience such intimate sillage a mere 1.5 hours into a fragrance’s development, though it will probably appeal to people who have concerns about noticeable scent in the workplace.
I need to return to the issue of the calone. It’s one of the things that ruins Dolceacqua for me personally. It simply doesn’t go away. I’m sure Masque asked Ms. Thierry to use just the tiniest amount but, as I learned yesterday on Twitter, the most microscopic amount can be all it takes when it comes to calone.
The calone quantity discussion started with a perfumista Twitter follower, Tim Wilcox (Twitter @TimWilcox) responding to a tweet about an unspecified fragrance’s notes by guessing that it was Dolceacqua and by sharing with me an olfactory blurb about “One calone,” which is created by a raw materials house called Camilli, Albert & Lalou and is described in Nez magazine, issue No. 5:
[one’ Calone] is a very versatile molecule: its detection threshold is 31 picograms per litre. This means that you would only need to add a quantity the size of a grain of salt to perfume a whole Olympic swimming pool of water!
Quoted from Nez magazine no.5
— Tim Wilcox (@timwilcox) March 4, 2022
Dr. Olivier David (Twitter @Vol_de_Nuit_333) who arrived at those calculations is the man who Luca Turin told me teaches him a lot about chemical materials in perfumery and their characteristics. (I know a lot of you aren’t on Twitter but, if you are, you should follow Dr. David. He’s a clever, erudite, charming fellow with a true love of the great masterpieces of perfumery.) So, if Dr. David brings up a grain of salt and an Olympic swimming pool, I doubt it’s hyperbole.
Which brings me full circle to my ultimate point and what I was trying to warn you about up above: The amount of Dolceacqua that you apply might push the initially lovely “sea salt spray” into something else due to the strength of the underlying fragrance material.
Now, enough of wretched calone. Let’s finally move on.
Dolceacqua shifts as it develops during the second hour. First, it turns more and more vanillic. Then, it starts to take on slivers of generic woodiness in the base.
In the middle of the third hour, or 2.5 hours into its development, Dolceacqua turns from a clean, fresh, aquatic floral musk into a clean, vanillic, floral musk with a soft streak of calone subsumed within and with a growing but muted woodiness in the base.
As a side note, I never detect either “oakmoss,” as we know it from the old days, or saffron in any clear, concrete fashion on my skin.
A little into the fourth hour ,or 3.25 hours in, Dolceacqua enters into its heart stage. For the most part, it’s basically nothing more than a clean, vanilla-infused floral musk. Whatever woodiness there once was, even to a muted degree, has now gone. The vanilla has become co-equal with the abstract, generalized floralcy and the clean white musk. The calone remains, though it is detectable only if I bring my nose half an inch from my arm.
Dolceacqua’s extremely long drydown begins at the 5.25 hour mark, or just after the start of the 6th hour. The fragrance is merely an indistinct gauzy whisper of clean, sweet, slightly powdery vanilla musk with a muted, muffled floralcy layered within. In essence, the clean musks have steamrolled over much of the other notes except for the vanilla.
I’d estimate that the bouquet consists of roughly: 55% clean musk; 35% vanilla (and sweet vanillic powder); and 10% characterless floralcy.
One thing about the musk that I will concede is that it actually does feel “silky,” as described by Masque, a lot of the time, though it’s most definitely clean as well. But it is not, to be clear, redolent of galaxolide laundry detergent musk or Bounce dryer sheets on my skin, thank god.
Dolceacqua doesn’t really change after this point. 8.75 hours in or late into the 9th hour, it remains a vanillic musk with fluctuating levels of floralcy and vanillic powderiness infused within. Ditto the 11th hour and the 12th. In its final hours, all that’s left is clean muskiness imbued with a faintly powdered sweetness.
Dolceacqua has excellent longevity and relatively low sillage when taken as a whole from beginning to end. In terms of its longevity, it lasted a little under 15 hours on me. In terms of sillage, the opening scent trail was about 6 inches but, as noted above, after 90 minutes to such a discreet level on my skin that I had to either wave my arm from my nose or to bring my nose to about 4 inches from arm. To put it another way, there was no cloud or trail around me, but the fragrance projected about 4 inches from the skin and was easily detectable there. Dolceacqua stopped projecting completely when the drydown began 5.25 hours in and I had to put my nose almost on the skin to detect it. The fragrance became a true skin scent between the end of the 7th hour and the start of the 8th hour.
You can read other people’s experience with the scent on Fragrantica.
Though Dolceacqua isn’t for me personally and I’m a little disappointed in parts of it after the lovely opening, I really like the originality of the notes in combination. Sea salt with almond blossom, mimosa, and ivy? That’s different and the sort of the creative, out-of-the-box thinking that led me recently to call Masque Milano the epitome of real niche and the sort of niche innovator that Serge Lutens once was. (See, Masque Lost Alice review.)
I think Dolceacqua will appeal to a number of women. Specifically, those looking for: a soft, clean, fresh, vanillic floral musk and who also don’t mind some light, sweet floral-vanillic powderiness; people who enjoy aquatic or Spring-like florals; those seeking something symbolically or metaphorically ethereal in both vibe and actual fragrance body; and those looking for a hyper-feminine, fresh, clean, light, and discreet floral. Of course, I would also recommend Dolceacqua to mimosa lovers, though I would caution them that the note may be short-lived on their skins in a clearly delineated and concrete way.
If you fall within one or more of these categories, give Dolceacqua a test sniff for yourself.
RETAIL Details/links: Dolceacqua is an eau de parfum that comes in a 35 ml bottle and generally retails for $145+, £110, or €138. In the US: Luckyscent doesn’t carry Dolceacqua but Portland’s Fumerie does, along with samples. However, be advised that Fumerie charges $160 for a bottle. Another US retailer is Indigo, which sells the bottle for $158 but which also offers a convenient and affordable 10 ml travel for $52 as well as a 1 ml sample for $5. Outside the US: Masque sells Dolceacqua as well as several Discovery sample kits. The specific Donna di Masque sample set (Petra, Madeleine, & Dolceacqua) has a 2 ml atomizer of each scent for €38 total. In the UK, you can find Dolceacqua and samples at Scent City. To find a Masque Milano retailer near you, you can turn to their long, global Stockist page. Samples: I purchased my sample from Portland’s Fumerie which has Dolceacqua for $6 for full-to-the-top 1ml vial. There are other decanters and sample sellers out there as well.