Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015)

Atkinsons' Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong
Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong

I remember listening to a radio show on which the host asked listeners to call in and talk about their favourite movie director. A guy called in and said his was Tim Burton. When asked which movies of Tim Burton he liked most and why, he could only name “Nightmare Before Christmas”. Ridicule ensued.

I was like that listener when I declared Maurice Roucel to be my favourite perfumer two years ago, partly because he was one of the very few high-profile perfumers whose name I could remember (due to CRNCNTWS, Can’t Remember Non-Chinese Names Too Well Syndrome), and also he was the nose of one of my favourite perfumes, Le Labo’s Jasmin 17. (I was senselessly madly in love with Le Labo back then.) However, I was very troubled by the fact that I didn’t care about his most famous work, Musc Ravageur.

Now I don’t think I have any favourite perfumer, although I have a few favourite perfumes and perfume genres.

I admire Mr. Roucel’s ability to create hits out of shoestring ingredient budgets, like DKNY’s Delicious (2004) and Nautica Voyage (2006). His style to me seems to be all over the place, but when he is given a bigger budget and freedom (this is purely my speculation), his affinity towards certain style of perfumes becomes more apparent.

When I found out recently he had created a perfume named “Amber Empire” for the British brand Atkinsons, I was very intrigued. To my knowledge, I don’t think he has designed any amber themed perfume before. And the main supporting note that he picked was unexpected, too – oolong tea (a type of Chinese green tea.) This big amber/tea combination is quite novel to me (Annick Goutal’s “Duel” being the only one that comes to mind), and neither ingredient steals the show. The opening is mildly sweet and herbal, like an ice tea sweetened by light brown sugar. Shortly after, the shy tobacco flavoured tea note appears and disappears. A rather simple and intoxicating perfume, both grand and unassuming at the same time, and it’s a joy to wear.

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Atkinson’s The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet (2013)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

While testing a bottle of Atkinson’s “The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet” (2013) at a department store, an experienced sales lady approached me to tell me that the word ‘bouquet’ in a British perfume title didn’t mean ‘a bunch of flowers’, but ‘a characteristic scent’. But she didn’t tell more about the ‘odd fellow’s’ part of the title.

I thought an odd fellow would be someone like the Shamwow towel commercial guy or Wimpy, the character in the Popeyes comics who likes to eat hamburgers all the time. But Wikipedia told me that in British English, odd fellows is a name broadly referring to “any of a large number of friendly societies, fraternal and service organizations”. So… essentially everyone in this Facebook group.

When you are part of the odd fellowship, you’d better smell good or you stay home and watch Netflix by yourself. After applying “The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet”, you immediately smell half-drunk because of the whisky notes. Then the little spiciness of white pepper and the sweet tobacco and ginger notes instantly make you smell very approachable and conversation-ready. (Luckily I don’t talk to myself when I am wearing this, or I would be crazy.) A very alluring scent, but don’t wear a tuxedo or an Armani suit to wear this perfume because it will kill its humour. (Think Cookie Monster Monsterpiece Theater.)

Atkinson’s Oud Save The Queen (2013)

Atkinsons Oud Save The Queen, EDP, 100ml
© Victor Wong

British Amouage Contender?

I remember visiting British perfume house Atkinson’s brand new website a few months ago – super confusing to navigate, a bit cheesy and very British-looking. My immediate association was Penhaligon’s and Floris, both British perfume houses that no one is crazy about.

Today I went to a department store (Toronto’s Holt Renfrew) and to my surprise, found out that it is now carrying Atkinson’s perfumes. A British sales woman wearing a huge sparkling ring with a British flag design standing next to the table greeted me and showed me their products… in a British accent and with pride, of course!

I immediately checked out their range, and wow, they are good! Fresh ones smell fresh and not synthetic; rich ones smell posh and decadent! The ones that stood out was “The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet” and “Oud Save the Queen”

Oud Save the Queen and Oud Save the King are really good perfumes with silly names; they reminded me of Amouage Gold (without the dirty musks) and some Tom Ford’s oud perfumes.

Atkinsons save the British asses! No more lame perfume houses!

You know I am joking, right?