The Remarkable Story of California Poppy
Poppy isn’t a flower that immediately comes to mind when thinking of floral notes in a fragrance, but it has inspired perfumers over the years. Perhaps it is the delicate nature of the blossoms and the vibrant colour as they sway in the wind in early summer when they bloom. James Atkinson, official perfumer of the English Royal Court, was so taken by poppies that he created “Californian Poppy” in 1906.
Established by James and Edward Atkinson at 24 Old Bond Street, London in 1799, the pair produced their fragrant creations at a factory at Eonia Works, Southwark, Park Road in London. They began with classic citrus colognes that featured bergamot, lemon, bitter orange flower, lavender and rose predominantly. But James’ creativity flourished and he began formulating fragrances around lotus flower, Joss flower, hyacinth, lilac and black tulip. Californian Poppy was one of his earliest scents.
The black-and-white advertisement for the fragrance featured a man and woman in romantic embrace with the words:
“As wayward as a coquette…as constant as a vow…as exciting as a first kiss…as thrilling as a first meeting…as gay as the song of the lark. Californian Poppy Perfume.
Poppy flower oil is a hazy, powdery floral note that is soft and clean. It can have a citrusy and slightly sweet character depending on where it grows and weather patterns.
This herbaceous plant is most famous for its one species that is the source of the narcotic drug opium. Gardeners love poppies for their vibrant colour and bees use the flower as a pollen source. When horticulturists refer to California Poppy, they are referencing the yellow or light orange variety that grows wild throughout central California, particularly around San Francisco. The poppy is said to have been domesticated by the indigenous people of Central Europe as early as 6000 BC. It’s an ancient flower.
The iconic scent was re-orchestrated for a new generation in 1995 by the cult British perfumery brand with new packaging. While the original was very floral in character, this new formula is better balanced with some woods, lemon and incense. Yet, it still maintains its powdery poppy accord.
Atksinson’s California Poppy is a free-spirted floral scent with a signature poppy accord and tender muskiness. It boasts notes of jasmine petals, poppy accord, lemon essence, pink pepper, orange flower, incense and cedarwood.