Perfume Directory

Racquets Formula (1989)
by Penhaligon's

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Racquets Formula information

Year of Launch1989
GenderMasculine
AvailabilityDiscontinued
Average Rating
(based on 95 votes)

People and companies

HousePenhaligon's
PerfumerFrancis Pickthall
SupplierCPL Aromas
Parent CompanyPuig Beauty & Fashion Group
Parent Company at launchLaura Ashley

About Racquets Formula

Racquets Formula is a masculine fragrance by Penhaligon's. The scent was launched in 1989 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Francis Pickthall

Racquets Formula fragrance notes

Reviews of Racquets Formula

Penhaligon's Racquets Formula (1989) was an early men's revival scent attempt from one of the house's many owners during the "hot potato" period from when Sheila Pickles - who had resurrected the brand - divested herself of the operation, until it was later picked up by Puig to be taken upmarket as a niche luxury brand. Unlike competitor Geo F Trumper, who kept Penhaligon's on life support throughout the mid 20th century just so they could make and sell the ever-popular Blenheim Bouquet (1902), Sheila Pickles was interested in using the house as a vehicle for her own dabbling in perfume, which resulted in mostly new feminine-market creations throughout the 70's outside of reissued barbershop classics and once-bespoke original formulas. However, once she handed the reigns to Laura Ashley, it was decided to make an entirely new masculine for the house but to also keep it in line with the traditional aesthetic of their masculine barbershop vibe. Francis Pickthall, founder and CEO of CPL Aromas, was a business partner to Laura Ashley and huge fan of Penhaligon's, so he composed Racquet's Formula in a rare turn as perfumer (and his only documented one). The theme of the scent is Racquetball, a popular upper middle-class sport at the time in the UK, and the style is squarely in the dry traditional Victoria barbershop genre but with a mossy mid-century fougère foundation more typical of the American barbershop, since racquetball was invented by the American Joseph Sobek in 1950. The powdery and classic "sport" vibe of Racquets Formula is entirely intentional, albeit very anachronistic being released at the very tail end of the powerhouse era, but since this is Penhaligon's, nobody was really surprised and the scent enjoyed some moderate popularity with gents who still dug the aesthetic of wet shaving.

The opening of Racquets Formula is pure American neighborhood barber-on-the-corner with a bright bergamot, lemon, smooth lavender, and the surprise addition of linden blossom. Linden is the "x factor" that really keeps Racquets Formula from being too much of a Fabergé Brut (1964) clone despite in those opening phases, and a healthy dose of geraniol courtesy of a rose/geranium blend awaits in the heart to further that separation when the ylang-ylang which also recalls Brut starts to appear. Clove enters the fray after a few more minutes, adding that spicy "brown" tone American bay rums and the evergreen Shulton Old Spice (1937) are known to have, but Racquet's Formula leaves America behind by the time the base comes on to stop by France on its way back to the UK. The use of vanilla and oakmoss to establish that proper French fougère accord a la vintage Dana Canoe (1936) or Caron Pour Un Homme (1934) is to blame for this. There isn't very much tonka here like one might expect - because again - the final destination of Racquets Formula is in the sharp dry down typical of a UK barbershop fragrance but dry amber and olibanum help achieve an incense-like warmth in the partial absence of tonka. Touches of vetiver add that green element which helps keep Racquets Formula in its fougère lane, and that's a wrap. Wear time is the typical Penhaligon's standard 8 or so hours with mild to moderate sillage. Warm weather is actually a friend to this in spite of the vanilla thanks to the sharp incense accord in the base, but overall I'd call Racquets Formula something better enjoyed indoors, much like the sport after which it is named. This could be a good daily office scent or casual use affair after a good shave, but there is a slight problem with frequent use for Racquets Formula, and that problem is a total lack of availability. This scent is very, very, very discontinued, and nobody even talks about it anymore, much like the sport of racquetball itself, so perhaps there is a bit of irony present.

When I say discontinued, I don't mean "search eBay for a moderatly-plentiful number of overly price-gouged listings and bite the bullet to own it" kind of discontinued, but rather the "this scent is so far gone from circulation that you'll have to know a friend who hoarded it when it got cleared out and beg them for a bottle" kind of discontinued. You won't see this stuff on eBay, Etsy, or any backwater seller site that stumbles upon unsold stock of perfume, and if by chance you do, it's gone in 60 seconds worse than Nicholas Cage's acting career after he remade The Wicker Man. Seriously, this is one of those few scents that I classify as "extinct in the wild", and my review comes from a OEM sample given to me by a kind friend who wanted me to experience and write about it, but be not sad. Racquets Formula is nice as a neat little "bridging of the barbershops" kind of shindig, but a 1990's (or newer) bottle of the re-orchestrated Dana Canoe has about the same vibe, since the tweaks to the formula involved mainly sharpening up the top, and drying down the base, removing the blob-like qualities of the richer original Canoe formula. So if you miss Racquets Formula, just plunk down a few peanuts on modern Canoe, and I know it's not the same (nothing ever is), but it will scratch the same itch this once did. Penhaligon's Sartorial (2010) as composed by Bertrand Duchaufour seems to use much the same formula as this, but with some of the top notes smashed down into heart to make room for his aldehydes and synthetics to create that "hot ironed fabric" effect; Racquets Formula was in essence the same scent minus all that wizardry. Thumbs up, and hats off to this long-gone love affair with classic gentleman's grooming.
08th February, 2019
Great Fragance

European Barbershop meets USA Barbershop. wonderful cologne

Pros: TOP NOTES
Cons: Incense Touch"

19th September, 2013

One of the best Penhaligon's, classy, sporty and finally musky/powdery with a feel of vetiver and spicy/laundry rose.The initial citrus/lavender is dry, natural and more than vaguely barber-shop type. I soon detect a fresh orangy/cedary feel with airy lavender and lemon. The powder starts rising up by the central interaction of cedarwood, geranium and ylang-ylang and it is a daring type of feel, airy, sharp and yes, exotic (i mean a bit colonial style with a rose/ylang-ylang accord conjuring far colonial memories). The rosey and yet powdery feel is the prelude to a virile boise dry down with a sort of faint mossy vibe and a dustiness coming from the link of aqueous vetiver/cedarwood/ambergris/incense. White clothed players of Cricket and gentlemen engaged in Polo's matches come to mind. Serious, sporty and masculine, with a more than good sillage and longevity.
21st January, 2013
cello Show all reviews
United States
Racquets Formula is possibly the perfect "sport" fragrance out there, as it holds it's head high and keeps the standards up front and honest.

This one is all soapy, slightly powdery and is somewhat formal smelling. But it retains a freshness throughout. The citrus opening is dusted with lavender, and smells clean and cool. There is a spiciness from the geranium that adds a punch to this. It is wonderful and refreshing.

The transition to midnotes is smooth, as a powdery aspect comes in, but it is not feminine powdery, just something to add interest. A green mustiness creeps in, mossy but still spicy. This is the wonderful vetiver and incense combo that blends all of this together. Fantastic drydown!

Classic, Penhaligon in nature (meaning it will not punch you in the face - this is not boxing sport!). A great sport fragrance that adds interest all the way through.

Unisex, leaning masculine. But I would wear this and not blink an eye :)
09th August, 2012
I like this one from first sniff. Doesn't smell likes a "man's" fragrance to me like some other Penhaligon's fragrances do. Like the powdery dry down and the oriental feel to it.
29th April, 2012
Marais Show all reviews
United Kingdom
An unusual brew, this; dense rather than ethereal, yet very clean and refreshing. A semi-sweet powdery citrus (lime)/floral with a barbershop flavour. One of my favourites from Penhaligon's.
14th March, 2012

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