New York Intense by Nicolai
Updated: Jan 26, 2019
Luca Turin is not a fragrance writer known for his generosity of spirit when it comes to giving his opinion on scents. He is witheringly honest and has dented the pride of many modern perfumers with his acerbic reviews of trendy new niche offerings. However, when he likes a perfume his enthusiasm is expressed without reservation and with the same erudite and colourful language that he uses in all his writing.
New York Intense by Nicolai is one of the lucky ones. It received a prestigious 5 star rating in Perfumes the Guide 2018 (which Turin authored alongside his partner Tania Sanchez.)
The book is a sequel to the original Perfumes the A-Z Guide (2008) in which the original New York (not Intense) garnered a 5 out of 5 score. That fragrance was released 1989 and was worn by the master critic himself for “a decade”. Turin described New York as “the one I would save if the house burned down”. Fast forward 10 years and Turin laments the reformulations, forced by regulations, which stripped the fragrance of its “mojo”. The original version is now discontinued, and in 2014 Nicolai launched New York Intense which Turin sees as representing the return of New York to “full glory”. Praise indeed. Presumably the regulations which forced Nicolai to weaken the magic of the original New York are still in place so we can only wonder what skilful techniques allowed New York Intense to come bouncing back, mojo and all. The fragrance is a classic spicy and woody masculine with a timeless elegance and a comforting manly aura.
These are the fragrance notes:
TOP: PETIT GRAIN, BERGAMOT, LEMON, THYME, ARTEMESIA
MID: BLACK PEPPER, CLOVE, CINNAMON, LAVENDER, CHAMOMILE
BASE: VANILLA, STYRAX, INCENSE, MUSK, CIVET, CASTOREUM
The perfumer is of, course, Patricia de Nicolai (great granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain) who founded the Nicolai house alongside her husband Jean-Louis Michau in 1989.
New York Intense opens with a blast of lemon and bergamot and a hefty dose of lavender. Before long the smooth spicy sweetness of the vanilla and cinnamon comes through and a perfect equilibrium between green citrus freshness and spicy warmth is achieved. The woods in the base combine with patchouli (not listed but I’m going out on a limb!) for a classic old school men’s fragrance dry down that is made more affable than many by the sweetness that balances this masterpiece so perfectly.
This one and its predecessor are often compared to Creed’s Bois du Portugal and there is indeed a marked similarity. However, Bois du Portugal is more green and bitter in the opening and retains this chypre piquancy,which is absent in New York Intense, to a large extent throughout its life on skin. The shared themes of bergamot, lavender and masculine woody tones do make these two fragrances which will probably appeal to the same noses.
The Nicolai fragrance lists three animalic notes: musk, civet and castoreum. Don’t be alarmed! This is no Yves Saint Laurent Kouros nor even a Chanel Antaeus smell alike. Any funky animalic ingredients have clearly been used sparingly and simply provide a subtle wisp of 1970s and 80s nostalgia to the scent. Fans of vintage Givenchy Gentleman and Guerlain’s Heritage may find much to enjoy, but New York Intense is not as dated in smell as either of those.
The scent lasts very well on skin with admirable but not obnoxious sillage. Judicious application would make it a perfect year round signature scent excepting very hot days when a more transparent eau de cologne or aquatic scent might be preferable.
Any fan of masculine fougeres and chypres, and anyone who misses the glory days of the 1970s and 80s when men smelled like men, would do well to try New York Intense. The beauty of the fragrance is that it captures much of this nostalgic aura without smelling outdated in 2019. The best bits of the old classics are here plus a little magic that’s new. Absent are the hairy chested medallion man connotations of many late 20th century powerhouses. Oh, and the price is great too. I wish more companies would offer reasonably priced 30ml bottles like this. Try it if you can.
New York Intense comes in three sizes:
30ml: 58 Euros
100ml: 171 Euros
250ml (plus 15ml refillable spray): 342 Euros