You may be aware that New York is the fragrance Luca Turin tells us in Perfumes: The Guide that he wore for a decade. It’s an eau de toilette aimed at men that was launched in 1989 and is described as Woody Spicy.
Patricia de Nicolai is related to the Guerlain dynasty through her mother’s side of the family and has a long-standing love and admiration for the house’s iconic fragrances. It perhaps comes as no surprise then, that New York has been described by some as “a masculine Shalimar”.
The top notes are listed as bergamot, Amalfi lemon, cloves, lavender and green notes; middle notes are thyme, cinnamon, pepper, paprika, patchouli and cedar; base notes are amber, vanilla and leather.
On the face of it the top notes seem comparable. It’s that same citrus twang of lemon with bergamot, but New York lacks the caramelised crackle of Shalimar. It is much more fresh and cologne-like, although it has a depth a lot of citrus openings lack. You get an initial squirt of the juice, but then you also get the peel and then the flesh.
Almost immediately after the citrus, I notice a mossy under-tow from the combination of lavender and green notes. It rapidly becomes herbaceous and earthy, creating that “forest floor” effect. The spices are dusty and very low-key, none of them taking a noticeable lead. They just add a bit of interest to the aromatics, a slight oriental twist.
Unfortunately, during this stage New York turns just that bit too bitter and herbal for me to find it pleasant. It rolls on in this vein for a number of hours with the sour edge lessening but never disappearing completely.
The base is the only time I’m truly reminded of Shalimar. The ambery vanilla with touches of leather mirrors the Guerlain classic like a fraternal twin. It reveals a welcome sensuality and lets us know it’s not completely strait-laced.
New York has a square-jawed sophistication with a dash of sex appeal beneath its smooth exterior (think Don Draper from Mad Men). Perfect for a well groomed businessman with a corner office and a hint of mischief in his eyes.
Those who strongly believe things are not necessarily better just because they are modern may well appreciate this approach.
I should state that women would have no problems wearing this if they are fond of dry, aromatic fragrances. In fact it could well be more interesting on a woman because she would make it seem less traditional and conservative.
It may not be unique or on-trend, but New York is an example of well executed classical perfumery and I feel there should always be a place for that.