I'm often asked what is the difference between the two leathers I use. For those not fortunate enough to be able to handle these different leathers, I hope this write up will aid them in their purchase decision making.
Natural Veg Tan Leather / Saddle Leather
While the saddle leather (vegetable tanned) is firm with a high tinsel strength, it takes much more work to break in and soften up. Some folks don't want to wait, while enthusiasts are more than happy to spend the time necessary to earn their patina. Most leather enthusiasts prefer a natural saddle leather because of its distinct patina and eventual darker coloring that is achieved. Check out my personal Natural Port Wallet (at 3 months) that is natural saddle leather, compared to the same wallet brand new.
And it's even darker than that as of now. But if you were carrying the NWW Field Notes in a back pocket daily, it would break in quickly. It just needs daily love to become perfect in feel and beauty. The smell is what you would expect from walking into a saddle shop or leather goods outfit.
Horween Leather: Chromexcel, Dublin and Derby
Chromexcel, Dublin and Derby are all popular leathers produced by the world famous Horween Tannery in Chicago. Chromexcel has the biggest name recognition in the leather world, but do not let that get in the way of the quality that is in Dublin and Derby (which are waxed versions of their Essex leather).
Horween is an awesome leather and has developed a bit of cult following for a good reason. It is soft and supple, and barely needs any break in. It also has a unique aroma from their tanning process, and it smells fantastic. Their different leathers have different tanning processes, and so have different smells. The Chromexcel has my favorite smell, with what I feel is a subtle sweet note. Their Dublin also has a unique and wonderful smell. The feel of both leathers is smooth, with the CXL having a waxy layer that leaves a visible wipe when your thumb is rubbed across the surface, and the Dublin having a dry soft feel. The look of the Dublin and CXL that is most excellent to me is the "pull up" feature. The leather is hot stuffed with waxes and dyed oils that move around the leather as you stress it. Over time, or by rubbing the area vigorously you can push the dye back into place. This gives it an old world look and feel, and makes it fun to play with. See where the little black pen is inserted in this Horween Dublin NWW Field Notes and how the dye was freshly pressured out of the way?
After a day of the pen in place, the color returned to that area partially but not all the way due to the constant pressure. I hope this helps you in your decision of leather type. Feel free to comment with any additional questions you may have. Thank you.
Check out the patina on these Port Wallets that were featured on Fade of the Day at Heddels.