Bartenders in New York City area secretly fragrance connoisseurs.
Last summer I was at a swanky bar at a weird time. Somehow I had gotten the times incorrect for an early dinner and had time to kill. I was at the bar with another person and a very talkative bartender. Long story short, it’s New York City, so you never know how any awkward encounter will end up or who is at the bar with you. It ends up after a brief conversation that the bartender, The Other Guy and myself were all really into fragrances. The bartender, like every damn bartender in New York City, had strong opinions on vetiver. The Other Guy scoots up to me and makes me smell him. Weirder things have happened between me and strangers in NYC! He smelled absolutely amazing. It was a smoky, leathery vetiver, almost a like a chypre.
“What is that?!”
“Luigi Borrelli Vicuña Wool.”
I had never heard of it before and I especially didn’t understand it with his Brooklynese. He explained to me that it is from an Italian menswear line. I don’t really have a reason to be up on fancy Italian menswear fashion lines. He said he usually goes there while on business trips in Milan and Florence, where he picked up the fragrance he was wearing. I then noticed that he was really well-dressed and I probably didn’t want to know how much that watch costs. I also learned that day that they also have a store on Madison Avenue and I could try their fragrances there.
I never did.
But, a year later I get an email about these fragrances. They sounded interesting. I love the thought of perfumes inspired by fabrics since I often think of fragrances as textures. The samples were sent to me from Italy. As soon as I sprayed Vicuña Wool, I remembered it as that fragrance That Other Guy was wearing. Suddenly I remembered the brand and was even more excited to try them. Especially, since I could smell them at home instead of around people wearing watches that cost more than graduate school!
Notes listed include lemon, bergamot, black pepper, elemi, nagarmotha, lily of the valley, oakmoss, leather, vetiver, amber, cedarwood, musk and patchouli. Launched in 2016.
To me, Vicuña Wool is the perfect “masculine” fragrance. It’s a smoky vetiver with woods. The opening smells like vetiver bottle rockets. It seriously smells like glamorous fireworks. The citrus smells like incense. It’s like lemon resins. There’s a peppery leather. What I love about this perfume is that it smells natural but also industrial. I’m reminded of natural things like vetiver and elemi, but I’m also reminded of fireworks and sports cars. Like, isn’t that exactly what everyone wants to smell like? Anyway, I love this fragrance. It’s leather, new tires, smoke and musk. It eventually dries down to a classic, mossy chypre with patchouli. The overall feel of it is heavy/dense, just like wool.
Vicuña Wool smells like a classic but it’s also an updated chypre. It’s timeless and dare I say it? It smells tailored. It smells bespoke and expensive. And it smells like something I want to smell like and what I want other people to smell like.
Final EauPINION – Smoky vetiver chypre. It’s perfect.
Notes listed include black pepper, bergamot, dynamone, incense, labdanum, cistus, gaiacwood, vetiver, earthy notes and musk. Launched in 2016.
Cashmere is an incense fragrance. It opens as sweet, balsamic resins sprinkled with spicy black pepper. It eventually becomes more powdery. But, not in a way that is “powder” but more like incense resins and woods. On my skin, it’s a bitter, leathery labdanum softened by woods. Cashmere is a smoky incense. It smells like lit, smoldering incense. The dry-down is like a sour/tangy palo santo, clay and warm skin.
Cashmere is one to try if you like incense perfumes, especially those that aren’t overly liturgical (no frankincense or myrrh). To me, it’s a “desert incense”. It’s arid and dry. It actually reminds me a lot of the discontinued Norma Kamali Incense, a cult classic.
Final EauPINION – A really good incense.
Notes listed include bergamot, rose, lavender, orris, clary sage, oakmoss, amber, cedarwood, musk, vanilla and vetiver. Launched in 2016.
To my surprise Cotton is more floral. It’s a really good iris. It opens with a citrus-y rose with an aromatic lavender. And then there’s the rooty iris! It wears like a lavender-iris. It’s herbs, flowers and roots. I can’t help but to think of a cottage garden while wearing this. In the heart, it reminds me of the fabric cotton. It’s a light, airy iris-violet with radiance, like that of Nomenclature Lumen-esce (a synthetic, cool violet composition). I also pick up on something that reminds me of white tea. It’s an ozonic fragrance that isn’t overly “ozonic”. The dry-down is clean and fresh but also substantial. I’m impressed by this because it doesn’t smell like fabric softener, an easy thing to do with a perfume named “Cotton”. Instead, it’s a musky, herbal sage and generic woods. In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It really is an olfactory equivalent of a classic, timeless white button up.
Final EauPINON – An lavender-iris. I really enjoy Cotton because it’s an aromatic, herbal iris and I don’t have anything like that.
Overall, I think this is a really solid trio of fragrances. Each one has a distinct personality; yet, they smell like they belong in the same collection. I don’t know much about men’s fashion, but it’s easy for me to see these as a wardrobe. Between the three of these, there’s something for any occasion, any season. It’s a really smart line.
Oh, and longevity and projection are above average. And yes, they are a menswear line, but I think they’re unisex. However, my spouse has stolen Vicuña Wool from me and I’m totally fine with that. It smells great on him.
The 3.4 oz bottles retails for €180 at Luigi Borrelli. A discovery set is also available.
Want more reviews? Try…