Atkinsons The British Bouquet & The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet ~ fragrance reviews

Atkinsons The Odd Fellow's Bouquet

In the early Spring of 1799, James Atkinson, an enterprising young gentleman from the wilds of Cumberland, set forth by carriage for the glorious city of London. In his suit pocket were recipes for fine scents and toiletries of his own devising. Next to him sat a sizable quantity of rose-scented bear grease balm. Next to the balm sat a growl-y bear. The growl-y bear was thoroughly devoted to James. Within mere days the utterly fantastic balm became indispensable to London's most uppity crust, who braved the bear at the door of 44 Gerrard Street ("that marvellous perfume shop with the most terrifying bear") to procure sufficient stock for the Social Season.

After a most delightful hibernation, Atkinsons and its growl-y bear have awoken from their slumber totally refreshed and revived. Drawing on 200 years of English eccentricity, style and impeccable manners, not to mention an incomparable heritage and imperishable commitment to making the highest echelons of society as fragrant and delectable as humanly possible, we are now ready to usher in a new century of perfume snobbery. How? By means of our newest collections, our boldest and most irresistible to date. "True style," as Beau Brummel once said, "never goes out of fashion. You simply cannot keep a good bear down.1

I can do without snobbery and the highest echelons of society, but I do love an animal story (whether it's true or not).

Since we're in high-summer mode, I thought I'd grab a couple of "bouquets" to review this week.

The British Bouquet

Perfumer Benoist Lapouza; listed notes of bitter orange, caviar lemon, lavender, myrtle, malt, leather

The British Bouquet goes on smelling of, no, not flowers, but medicine: rubbing alcohol, (high-end) antibacterial wipes, and an orange-flavored "pill" scent that reminds me of Bayer Children's Chewable Aspirin; these head notes quickly become watery, light and airy and are almost undetectable within a few minutes. Then, in mid-development, British Bouquet revs up and turns sweet, with none of the realistic scents of a garden bouquet, British or otherwise; all its notes are "perfume-y" and blended in such a way that I can't tell lavender from myrtle, bitter orange from lemon. I am able to detect a leather scent in the base, but only if I put nose to skin (the leather aroma disappears quickly). As it dries down, The British Bouquet becomes even blander — a too-eager-to-please, mid-market, "department store"  floral fragrance; it has so-so sillage and its lasting power is average. The British Bouquet smells decidedly feminine to my nose.  

The Odd Fellow's Bouquet

Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin; listed notes of  heliotrope, tobacco, ginger, pepper, labdanum and benzoin

I grabbed my next "bouquet" with more hope: how to go wrong with heliotrope, tobacco, labdanum? Well, The Odd Fellow's Bouquet is not odd at all, no eccentricity or "bear in a suit" here. The Odd Fellow's Bouquet is sheer and its notes indistinct (though a rather "abstract", i.e. "artificial," heliotrope-pepper accord is the opener). There's a rough, jarring moment or two as heliotrope segues to tobacco (the bridge between these facets smells minty and then sours...ginger?...or just an unfortunate confluence?) Odd Fellow's Bouquet's tobacco is a bit floral and verges on the powdery. The Odd Fellow's Bouquet does not amplify its discordant features to make a truly "odd" scent, but presents its notes in a hushed/subdued fashion.The Odd Fellow's Bouquet has mediocre sillage and lasting power. (To me, Pellegrin did a much nicer job with tobacco in his Diptyque Volutes perfume.)

The longer you wear them, the more The British Bouquet and The Odd Fellow's Bouquet smell alike; they both wear down to sweet, banal white musk aromas. Frankly, I find the price ($175) of these two perfumes shocking; they don't smell "top notch."

After wearing these fragrances for a couple of days, my interest went back to Mr Atkinson's bear. Was the bear a he or a she? Did s/he have a name? Did the bear even exist or was it a marketing fantasy, like the claims these perfumes are bold, stylish and irresistible? 

Since I've only tried two Atkinsons fragrances, I'm curious if any readers have a favorite from the line...or if one of these perfumes that left me icy cold is beloved by someone. Do comment!

Atkinsons The British Bouquet and The Odd Fellow's Bouquet are available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette, £95 or $175. For buying information, see the listing for Atkinsons under Perfume Houses.

 1. Via Atkinsons 1799.

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  1. jirish says:

    After such a wonderful story, I was sad that neither one of these scents panned out. I do wonder what that rose-scented bear grease balm smelled like – talk about an animalic rose!

    • Kevin says:

      jirish: really! bring that product back! HA!

  2. Merlin says:

    Well, if I ever meet a bear in the woods I hope he is as well dressed as the one in the picture!

    I did hear some good things about the old Atkinsons Lavender, but when I looked at whats available (in UK department stores) there seemed to be only a newer, more complex blend containing lavender and which was MUCH more expensive (read higher echelons, snobbery, etc) and which had garnered much worse reviews.

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: lots of good talk about the OLD Atkinsons, but not this new stuff.

  3. poodle says:

    When I was an EMT I had to go to a nursing home called Odd Fellows once in a while. That’s the first thing I thought of. The second thing was that I don’t want to smell like that place.

    • Kevin says:

      poodle: ha! Well, what odder fellow could there be than a bear in human clothing…a missed opportunity for Atkinsons!

  4. Aparatchick says:

    British Bouquet doesn’t sound like me kind of thing, but I must say the Atkinsons’ coat of arms is adorable.

    • Kevin says:

      Aparatchick: agreed…love the double-bear logo

  5. Oakland Fresca says:

    Sorry, someone had to say it: Based on the Goldilocks principle, the next one you try should be “just right….”


  6. kindcrow says:

    Eek! I would be growl-y too, if I was sitting next to vat of grease made from one of my own kind.

    • Kevin says:

      kindcrow…you are indeed KIND…I didn’t even think … ya can’t make bear grease without killing the bear. Atkinsons didn’t think this one through! HA!

  7. nathanthomas50 says:

    I found the whole line very bland and uninteresting – especially at that price point ! The 2 Ouds they do were the only ones I found vaguely interesting and had a little bit more life to them

    • Kevin says:

      nathan: thanks; that’s good to know. I won’t take any trouble to find samples of the others.

  8. nozknoz says:

    Clearly, there is a rose-scented bear grease balm-shaped gap in my collection. I immediately checked ebay and was excited to see charming tins of “Finland’s internationally famous Bear Grease leather dressing.” Unfortunately, it’s been drastically reformulated and is nowadays made with petroleum products.

    I did, nonetheless, find detailed instructions on the internet for rendering bear fat, including the following:

    “If you’re single, render your fat inside. If not, ALWAYS do it outside or face the wrath of your partner for stinking up the house. You’ve been warned.”

  9. Kevin says:

    Noz…I too read up on bear fat…especially horrified at the prospect of using it in pastry instead of butter!

    • nozknoz says:

      I’ll never look at bear claws the same way again.

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