Rarity, luxury and provenance combine in Escorial, a wool long prized by Europe’s royalty, from sheep now only to be found in small numbers in Australia and New Zealand.
Warm yet lightweight, breathable yet resilient, the wool originates from a flock that roamed the grounds of Philip II’s magnificent monastery-palace, El Escorial in Spain. The soft wool was exclusive to the royal family and formed the basis of many exquisite cloaks and cloths. In 1765 King Charles of Spain gifted one hundred of the sheep to the Elector of Saxony whose investment in the breed made Saxon cloth the most expensive in Europe.
However, these were not peaceful times. The Napoleonic Wars decimated the flock and the breed would almost certainly have become extinct were it not for a Scottish farmer, Eliza Furlong, who shipped 120 of its sheep to Tasmania in 1829. Today, three small flocks are carefully preserved, bred to get the best out of the fleece, to offer a cloth that is both rare and luxurious.
What makes it so sought-after is the wool’s feel and performance. As Campbell Carey, Huntsman’s Creative Director, explains: ” From our point of view, the handle is key: soft like cashmere but with better durability and crease resistance.” These qualities are thanks to the wool’s natural curl, which gives it a high crimp frequency. Escorial’s owners have learnt how to tame these tight coils while keeping the volume, giving the cloth a natural bounce and elasticity. And because the fibres have 30% more scales than other wools, they are better at retaining or releasing moisture to provide a more ambient temperature.
From long days in the city to long weekends in the country, comfort and performance are a given with Escorial. Its unique properties mean you get a shape that holds, a resilience that lasts and a depth of colour with a matt finish that gratifies the eye. Add that to its exclusivity and provenance, and you have a cloth that’s the discerning choice for those who value the finer things in life.