The press release accompanying my lab sample of Norell New York says that “the heritage of the campaign” is “Fusing Then and Now.” To a lover of vintage fragrances, these are dangerous words. I wonder, what’s wrong with leaving the “then” alone — why not simply offer the classic Norell made with good materials and balanced by a skilled nose? By “now,” do they mean “market-driven” (aka “pandering”)? Deepening my skepticism, the press release says “Norell New York makes you feel like ‘Each Time is the First Time’.” I groan in dread.
I’m happy to report that Norell New York does not pander to fragrance trends, and although I wouldn't call it a dupe, it respects the original's bones and character. Whether it's for you is a different question.
Perfumer Céline Barel developed Norell New York. Its notes include galbanum, bergamot, pear, mandarin, jasmine petals, peony, orchid, gardenia, orris butter, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla and musk.
Like the original Norell, Norell New York is a green floral of the old-fashioned variety, with a nose-tingling cloud of aldehydes and a composition that never dips below second soprano. Threading the fragrance’s initial puff is a touch of juicy orange and pear with a lovely, tart jolt of green. Pear-phobes beware: the pear is definitely present, although nowhere as insistent as in, say, Bill Blass Nude.
These bare touches of fruit are bolstered right away by hazy gardenia and, to a lesser extent, iris. The gardenia isn’t the lush island-type of gardenia, but is rather a sheer, grayed-out gardenia. An insistent foundation of something with a moss effect — but not the marvelous mossy texture — underlies Norell New York’s floral heart. This moss-like, musky note drains some of the prettiness from the fragrance and replaces it with a post-lunch cigarette sort of vibe.
As Norell New York wears, no definite wood, vetiver, or sweetness jumps out to take over as it does in so many fragrances. Instead, it remains pseudo-mossy and floral with robust sillage and astonishing longevity for a floral perfume.
To me, Norell New York smells conservative and not particularly youthful. It would do well at Daughters of the American Revolution luncheons, or on the mother of the bride at a society wedding. As far as "Each Time is the First Time" goes, this is no virginal fragrance — it's built for matrons of a sort that may not exist anymore. On the other hand, it could be wildly chic on a Halston-loving woman who rocks the glossy-lips-and-pant-suit-with-heels look. In short, Norell New York’s feel respects the original’s intent. It may not be “me,” but I like that it exists.
As of this writing, Norell New York is only available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. A limited edition Extrait is $1,500 for 50 ml in a handcrafted Baccarat bottle (limited edition of 500 bottles); Eau de Parfum is $150 for 100 ml with a 24-karat gold-plated collar; body cream is $95 for 189 grams; and body oil is $80 for 140 ml.