One of the best things about discovering the perfume forum Basenotes were the swaps. You would read someone’s thoughts on something you wanted to try. You would contact them and see if you could work out a swap of something you had for what you wanted to try. What these often turned into was not only the desired choice, but a couple others thrown in. I don’t remember what the target of the swap was, but the extra has stuck with me for years.
That was 1989’s Penhaligon’s Racquets Formula. It is an odd hybrid I think of as barbershop chypre. It has a lively lemon, lavender, and vetiver top accord freshened with florals. This is on top of a classic oakmoss chypre base with incense. It was discontinued around 2012. I was sorry to see it go but my bottle is still half full. Which is why I was interested to receive the announcement of a reboot of sorts called Penhaligon’s Racquets.
The press release mentions the older perfume calling this version, “a daring reinterpretation”. When I looked at the description, I was skeptical. Upon receiving it I was wondering if this was as interesting to those who love woody citrus as the original was to me. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin serves that up.
It opens with a noticeably synthetic lemon. It is fresh but it also carries a little heavier quality than other sources of lemon. This is followed by indole-free jasmine to add some of that lift back to the lemon. It then goes to a duet of synthetic woods as Ambrox and Woodleather form the base. Surprisingly, the lemon is strong enough to resist the two big woody ingredients for a while. Once they win it becomes a very dry leather over the latter stages.
Racquets has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I wore this, I was thinking of how tennis racquets have changed. Back in the days of Racquets Formula they were wooden frames. Now they are high-tech carbon fiber. Racquets felt like a sleekly modern citrus woody perfume. It isn’t going to replace Racquets Formula but for those who enjoy this style I think Racquets is going to be a summer favorite.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.