I wrote very recently about a re-vamped, re-launched brand, Atkinsons 1799 and how this suddenly appeared, pouf!, as if from nowhere. Like any perfume mad person, it’s great to know the history and how the brand has been re-energised and re-visioned but would the new scents live up to the hype? I say new, as these are all reconstructed not original scents. Based on the original formulations, certainly. But new. So from the start, I’m tempering expectations. None of this phoenix-risen-from-the-ashes complex, syrupy thick, original fragrance to blow your socks off. They’re quite lovely but no, they don’t do that. A splash not a slick, dear.
I’ll also state that only very few do re-construction extremely well. (I’m looking at you Grossmith and even you, Robert Piguet). So much has changed since the original formulations were created, despite the best records of any man or woman, banned or illegal substances (sometimes both), the dreaded constantly changing IFRA regulations, prohibitive cost, availability and changes in taste aside, recreating a perfume from scratch from history books is a minefield. Then, if it’s a brand re-launch such as this, any businessman worth his salt will want to know the market he’s aiming at and if the carefully constructed product will appeal and sell. And the retail price, of course, will affect the perfume formulation, concentration and availability. To my mind, re-issued labels are successful when they stay ever so close to the originals’ roots but are daring and confident enough to inject the name with scents that smell and feel right for the brand.
I have no doubt that Atkinsons 1799 is a smooth sale in terms of looks, heritage, gravitas and construction but I did have just the niggling doubt before trying anything that this may be a tad style over substance – an Olde Worlde British brand aimed at the Euros or American market who wouldn’t know better. AKA, a perfume equivalent of Ralph Lauren. Re-construct those terribly British aesthetics then sell it back to us. And the rest of the world. Replete with a set of beautifully tailored perfumes that carry the story through to the end. A fait accompli. But, this needs star players. Would the product deliver the oomph needed of a heritage brand or at the very least, not disappoint. Here and now folks, it’s a mixed bag.
The house scent ‘24 Old Bond St’ that marks the address of the original J&E Atkinson is a fresh, lively affair. More splash it all over than apply with subtlety as you need a fair amount for this to catch.There’s juniper (v English) and black tea and a hint of rose but it’s the second layer of smoky whisky that brings it to a head. To be very honest, I expected more of the big bold star of the show. It’s modernist interpretation is playing with modern Englishness and eccentric twists and id light and playful but not the beast of the businessman in Pall Mall that I would have expected. Like the rest of the scents, it is light. Airily light. When all you want is for one of them to be a big kick in the pants gutsy accord.
I fared much better with British Bouquet (created by Benoist Lapuza) which is turning out to be my choice re Atkinsons 1799. Here’s a chap that could twirl his moustache while threatening to spank you. (Yes, I do know such real life characters). It surprised me more than it will surprise you that this owes its strength and power to synthetic isobutyl quinoline mixed with gaiac and birch oil. What tha’? But this is a powerful, rich, velvety textured perfume that smells faintly of shoe wax on hand-made brogues merged with the slightly fetid air of Pall Mall institutions like the O&C and R.A.C, of discarded newspapers and tweed jackets, of smooth cigars calming disgruntlements. Of gentlemen who should know better. Yes, this one works for me.
Fashion Decree sounds like I should like it ,with its Indonesian patchouli, magnolia and Moroccan rose and it’s lovely (aside from the ever present pink peppercorn ingredient)….but I guess the name of ‘Fashion Decree’ (almost followed by, for the laydeez’) coupled with the fact that if you’re going to come over all Oriental on my ass then hit me up with YSL’s new Majestic Rose. That’s how to do deep and murky Oriental sensuality with its Mai roses, saffron, mate absolute, guaiac wood and oud. Fashion Decree hints of times when precious fabrics were wrapped with patchouli leaves to stop insects from destroying the precious cargo, but it just doesn’t have the big’ness about it that I need. That’s probably the difference between Miss Atkinsons 1799 and Ms Atkinsons circa 2013. Hell, we don’t even like our cocktails watery.
I’ll say here and now that Nuptial Bouquet sounds very much like I’d want to punch its lights out. So, it’s nice to know that its personality isn’t at all twee and thoroughly persuaded me to Facebook friend it, if not meet it for a drink in real life. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has caught the essence of dainty Victorian values with a much more upfront 21st century immediacy. First formulated to celebrate Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, this re-working is way more in tune with present, and all the better for it.Crisp, fresh and floral notes of Lily of the Valley and violet leaves are concurrently punchy and romantic. An acquired taste, for sure. But that’s no bad thing.
Odd Fellow’s Bouquet has its charms. God knows, I want this one to work for the name alone. No doubt, thousands of women are already nodding in agreement acknowledging the gamut of odd fellows that they, indeed, know. This is what I imagined 24 Old Bond Street to reek of – a worn tobacco essence with sweet floral notes of heliotrope and ginger with a dose of sticky labdanum. Of course, pink pepper does try to rear its familiar little face again but thank God it doesn’t overstay its welcome. This Odd Fellow is affable and likeable if not a charismatic charmer.
Atkinsons 1799 may take delving into a bit more to suck it and see for its longevity. No doubt there will be other releases planned for the future. There’s already a Home Collection of scented candles (Isle of Wight, Hyde Park and Mayfair). As I’ve inferred, the stories, the names, the aptness is all there. Atkinsons 1799 just needs a bit more meatiness and a fuller range of emotions from A-Z, and not the famous Dorothy parker quote re Hepburn, from A-B.
The Legendary Collection of Fragrances from Atkinsons 1799 are priced £95 for 100ml. 24 Old Bond St is priced at £60 (50ml) and £80 (£100ml) and has a full range of ancillary bath and body products. All available from Harrods.