My list of Ten Masculine Perfumes Women Should Borrow has one almost unforgivable omission: Parfums de Nicolai New York. I think I chose not to include it for the same reason I skipped Patou Pour Homme: New York no longer smells the way that it used to, and since my bottle is of the original version I decided to move on. But even in its current state, Patricia de Nicolai's New York is still a terrific perfume. Tonight, though, I'm talking about the older (pre-2008) version.
The Husband says that if this is New York, it has to be the gritty, seedy city of the 1980s, which I guess is right, as Nicolai launched New York in 1989. To me, though, this is an even older NYC, a truly vintage one. New York of black & white movies, classic cars, and men who looked like Don Draper. New York also smells very classic, almost French, like a descendant of Jicky. Or what Jicky would have been like if instead of its suave continental ways it'd crossed the ocean and started hustling.
New York is an aromatic fragrance with a dirty woody base that dries down to a wonderful leather. The opening is beautifully lemony (this is what reminds me of some classic and newer Guerlain perfumes), but the spices quickly gather around to make things more interesting. There's lots of pepper there, and a very earthy vetiver that brings in the dirt, though not exactly NYC dirt (and that's a good thing). The fragrance has an interesting contrast between what is obviously fresh and outdoorsy and those murky leathery notes. The old version of New York is also nicely laced with oakmoss, giving the fragrance the familiar kick of a chypre.
New York smells very classic, as it should. Is it really a masculine? Maybe a little. Aromatic herbs and leathers are often classified as such, but women who are leather fiends and chypre hounds have every chance of adoring it. Personally, I can't get enough.
Notes: bergamot, Sicilian lemon, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, pimento, oakmoss, vetiver, amber.
Parfums de Nicolai New York is available (in a new, lighter and fresher formula) at Twisted Lily, Luckyscent, and MiN NY, $50 for the 30ml EDT.
Image: NYC in 1933, photo by Samuel H. Gottscho.