Alpha Male – Review: Parfums de Nicolai New York

By Tara

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.


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in By Tara, Fougère, Fragrance Reviews, Parfums Nicolai and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Alpha Male – Review: Parfums de Nicolai New York

  1. Hey Tara,
    I love Patricia de Nicolai’s work. Am yet to find one thaty doesn’t work on my skin. A masculine Shalimar you say. Intriguing, must find.
    Portia xx

  2. Ines says:

    Now I need to find my sample and smell it again. I completely forgot what it smells like…

  3. Emma's Room says:

    Tara, thank you for your lovely piece which has, once again, tempted my senses. Shalimar never quite worked on my skin but your notes described for this, I love. Where would be the best place to obtain a sample and try this out on me and my hubbie?!? Xx

    • Tara says:

      Thanks, Emma!

      If you’re in London then you can try it at their Fulham Road shop, otherwise you can get a sample from First in Fragrance.

      Hope you and your other half like it.

  4. Vanessa says:

    I remember having a sample of this early on in the days of my perfume hobby, but passed it along because of this issue you mention of it being rather too dry and aromatic. I gravitated more towards SL ‘Five O’Clock au gingembre’ around that time which had a similar level of spice but was not so herbal.

  5. Sandra says:

    Tara the timing of your review could not be better. I will try to find a sample to give to the Norwegian. He is on the look out for a new perfume. xo

  6. ringthing says:

    Thanks for the review, Tara! I like this one very much, for me, it’s the first Nicolai I purchased early on. It’s nice this time of year, too – I’m very fond of dry aromatic scents in warm weather. The Shalimar comparison is interesting. Shalimar is among my top favorites and it smells wonderful on my husband too; he’s a very manly man but has a hint of dandy in his tastes 🙂 New York smells sour on him but on my skin I really get the sweetness in the drydown. I haven’t worn it in a while and my bottle is almost empty.

    • Tara says:

      Hi ringthing!

      I really enjoyed your experience of New York. How interesting that it’s sour on your husband but works well for you. I love that he rocks Shalimar.

      I’m wearing the remainder of my sample today in 28C and you’re spot on – it is good in the heat. The base is fab.

  7. anitathepianist says:

    I love it that Sandra calls her husband “The Norwegian”. I’m going to try it on “The Scot” too. The nice thing is that if he doesn’t care for it, I’m sure that I will.

  8. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Hm, do you think it would be something for a picky LJG ? It sounds pretty tempting (and Don Draper is not a bad advertizement for a scent either 🙂 )

    • Tara says:

      You know, it might be good for you. You’d love the citrus opening and the vanilla drydown so if you think you’d be happy with the slightly bitter, herbal heart you could be on to something.

      • Lady Jane Grey says:

        The herbal is, in fact, very fine with me. I was rather afraid of the cloves, but you mentioned that’s not really dominant

        • Tara says:

          I’m not big on spice (and clove in particular) but here they are very nice and soft. I wouldn’t have known there was clove to be honest. They are very well blended together, providing a pleasant hum in the background.

  9. Asali says:

    Even if square jawed sophistication is not (meant) for me, 🙂 that was a great description and highly informative post. I could definitely imagine a man smelling very handsome in this. I must admit the Nicolaï’s I have preferred so far have been the ones out of the MDCI line.

  10. Lavanya says:

    I think i smelled this ages ago either after reading Robin’s review or Luca Turin’s..I didn’t wait till the dry down then so I don’t remember loving it (but then I didn’t love Shalimar then like I do now)..Must sniff again..

    • Tara says:

      HI Lavanya

      Yes, it may well be worth you trying it again now. Although as much as i enjoy the base it doesn’t cancel out the bitter edge in the heart for me. I’d be interested to know how you get on. Our tastes change over time for sure.

  11. Pingback: Madeleine’s 2015 Top Five Traditional Masculine Scents « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

  12. Pingback: New York by Patricia de Nicolai for Parfums de Nicolai 1989 « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s