Atkinsons is a perfume house with some seriously prestigious history. Founded in 1799 by James Atkinson, a northern lad with grand ideas and copious amounts of rose scented bear grease, he travelled to London to seek his fortune and within a very short time had established Atkinsons as the fashionable place to acquire your fragrance. The bear became the emblematic logo of the company, Atkinson going so far as to chain a live bear outside his first premises on 44 Gerrard Street.
Earning high profile fans within the royal family and awarded the unrivaled position of Official Perfumer to the Royal Court of England in 1826, Atkinsons continued from strength to strength, finally acquiring a grand headquarters at 24 Old Bond Street. If you would like to read a most interesting article on the history of the company then please have a look at james-sherwood.com. I found it completely by accident when googling whether the aforementioned bear was actually real and it tells the tale of Atkinsons rather better than I could.
So, to quote the re-established Atkinsons:
“After a most delightful hibernation, Atkinsons and it’s growly bear have awoken from their slumber totally refreshed and revived……..we are now ready to usher in a new century of perfume snobbery”
I don’t know if I am a perfume snob, but I do know what I like. The branding of Atkinsons is absolutely spot on. The rich orange and royal purple theme with the coat of arms conjure modern decadence and luxury extremely vividly. The bottles are satisfyingly sturdy and classic and the tone of all the literature is tongue in cheek british in the best kind of way. I love the re-invention of the bear as a modern dandy and I was suitably impressed by the quirky website and Facebook page. The perfume descriptions are engaging, intriguing and just a little eccentric. The juice itself? A real mixed bag for me, so I shall save the best for last…….
There are four perfumes in the Legendary collection. ‘The British Bouquet’, ‘Fashion Decree’, ‘The Nuptial Bouquet’ and ‘The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet’. There is also the house’s emblematic fragrance, ’24 Old Bond Street’.
‘The British Bouquet’ I was the most excited about and liked the least, mainly because it descended into nostril singeing mayhem after 10 minutes on my skin. Inspired by Beau Brummell, the original dandy, it contains lavender, myrtle and malt, citrus notes of bitter orange and lemon with a leather accord woven thoughout. Potentially glorious, and the opening was a stunning, bitter slam of citrus and whiskey that had me very excited. That leather note was also, for about 5 minutes, one of the most interesting I have experienced. Very smooth and fine, like brand new handmade shoes on velvet carpets. But then, alas, complete melt down and the whole scent burnt up into an acrid hum of chemicals that left me unable to detect anything but a headache. I don’t know why this happened, I do have a fairly sensitive nose so it may be that for others this doesn’t happen. If that’s the case then I’m jealous, because that first 10 minutes was really rather nice.
‘Fashion Decree’ is a pink peppercorn, chinese magnolia and patchouli scent inspired by an era where silk brocades where shipped from the Middle East packed in patchouli leaves, ready to be fashioned into exquisite gowns for the most discerning ladies. ‘Fashion Decree’ is a massive wallop of fiery pepper and indolic florals, lusty, busty and overflowing with red petals and boudoir secrets. Pretty potent and not my thing at all, I can see this being very popular with all those lovers of oriental perfumes. It has a very extrovert nature, it makes me think of rouge and floodlights and sultry dressing rooms where rushed embraces occur between curtain calls. Evocative, certainly, but maybe a little unfinished and brash. There are some definite rough edges here that I would be more forgiving of if I knew whether they were supposed to be there or not.
‘The Nuptial Bouquet’ is based on the blooms that Queen Victoria carried in her wedding bouquet. Violet leaves, lily of the valley, myrtle and white sandalwood form a fragrance that is awash with dewy tendrils and delicate white petals. The opening is all about the lily of the valley, which I like very much. The scent is extremely feminine and sheer, green and floaty light. Every inch a young Victoria, madly in love with her dear Albert. It does not rock my world but it should be praised for its subtlety and delicacy. A lovely scent for young ladies and those who prefer to keep their perfume light, floral and fresh.
‘The odd Fellow’s Bouquet’ is a perfume described as “Lawrence of Arabia ensconced in the splendour and leather Chesterfielded comfort of a St. James gentleman’s club.” It is by far the most interesting and most successful of the Legendary collection in my opinion. It opens with biting cold pink peppercorn which is chased and set alight by a ginger spined dragon smoking a pipe of finest Balken tobacco. The pipe smoke is eerily accurate, sweet, slightly fuggy and richly creamy. Just as I remember the old tobacconist’s shop smelling when the owner was still allowed to smoke in there. The leather accord here is much deeper and more convincing, it is redolent of the arms of a chair where a thousand palms have caressed the leather until it is shiny. Later in the development comes a very comforting milky almond note from the heliotrope and amber which pulls a warm blanket over the knees of the ginger dragon. There is a coal fire warmth and a hot toddy coziness to the scent as it mellows. Totally eccentric and very pleasing.
The perfume that wins hands down for me is ’24 Old Bond Street’, the cologne named after Atkinsons grand former head quarters and the chief representitive of the brand. This perfume seems much more finished and considered than the other four and I feel it better represents the brand in it’s re-invented, modern incarnation. With notes of juniper, rose and black tea, it is an invigorating scent that surprised me because I usually don’t go for this type of fragrance at all, yet I like this enough to wear it.
’24 Old Bond Street’ bursts open with a classic cologne feel of coolness. The juniper is pure gin in these first few seconds, then along comes a lovely sheer rose to pretty up the splashes of alcohol. The tea is more of a tanin type stain at the back of the fragrance, the juniper and rose are definitely the main characters in this scent. The whole perfume has a very crystalline, cold water feel to it and doesn’t really warm as such. The supposed peat whiskey note I’m afraid I don’t get, such is the power of that dashing juniper. ’24 Old Bond Street’ is very linear and simplistic, which I appreciate after all the convoluted storytelling of the other perfumes. It is well blended and clean, bracing and surprisingly long lasting. A modern scent for modern men and women which doesn’t rely on a historical theme to give it presence. This is a perfume that is great if you like to smell fresh out of the shower, without any of the usual ‘laundry’ type elements associated with that type of scent. It is clean cut, casually tailored and effortlessly classy. Here I think Atkinsons have hit upon a winner.
I think that I wanted more from these perfumes than they were able to offer up. With such impressive marketing and evocative back stories the juice has to hold it’s own, and in three out of the five I’m not sure it quite does that. Yet. I believe that there is more work to be done here. I got a sense that perhaps the creation of these perfumes was a little rushed and disconnected, created by several different perfumers and without any solid links to bring all the fragrances together coherently. The simple brilliance of ’24 Old Bond Street’ has captured my interest sufficiently to stay interested in the brand and what they have up their sleeves next. Atkinsons is owed a little more time, a little more love and a little more dedication to produce genuinely beautiful fragrances. This launch has been all about creating the look, next time let’s hope they make it all about the perfume.