A fragrance for wanderers drawn to wide-open spaces. — Jean-Claude Ellena1
During my Now Smell This years, many men have written me asking for a review of Hermès Rocabar.2 I'm wary! I assume the guys writing me love Rocabar; what if I don't? In that case would Rocabar fans prefer I keep quiet? Hermès is one of my favorite perfume houses so why was Rocabar unknown to me? Maybe I tried it ages ago and didn't like it? Was it just a case of Fate — Rocabar and I always just out of each other's reach? But last week, at the Hermès boutique inside my local Nordstrom, there was an easy-to-sniff tester bottle of Rocabar and I finally wore it. (This review is based on the current Rocabar formula; I assume late-1990s Rocabar was different).
Hermès says the name 'Rocabar' is a "contraction of 'rug' and the French words 'à barres' meaning striped." Rocabar...
...takes its inspiration from traditional horse rugs made in the Hermès workshops, with blue and red stripes on a saffron background.3 From the hand of [perfumer] Gilles Romey4 in 1998, Rocabar reveals its most powerful facets in tones of wood, balms and resins, underscored by the full-bodied notes of cypress in its sillage.
Rocabar's opening is balmy, powerful and sweet; it has a Guerlain vibe. Rocabar starts with a waxy evergreen-needle aroma mixing with herbal lavender and spicy juniper berry. I do detect Rocabar's nutmeg-cinnamon, and they smell more bracing than edible.
Ten minutes into its development Rocabar's cedar and cypress notes begin to take over; they are sticky, warm, intense and...cuddly. To me, Rocabar is more about evenings on the sofa covered in a fur blanket than wandering in wide-open spaces wrapped in your horse's rug. But that's O.K.; warm woods and vanilla are always welcome. The extreme dry down is my favorite part of Rocabar: soothing wood smells, sheer vanilla with a hint of muskiness.
After reading a large quantity of online reviews/comments about Rocabar it seems many men find it old-fashioned, "too much"...one commenter earnestly recommended it for "elderly men and women." Rocabar is certainly not a youthful or sprightly fragrance but I don't find it dowdy at all; it's a hefty (great sillage, 16-hour duration), HERE-I-AM perfume for bold fragrance (and bold-fragrance) lovers.
Aside: The last several times I've gotten fragrance samples made for me at Nordstrom perfume counters I've noticed if I don't use the sample within a few days it goes "off" and starts to smell of plastic and chemicals. I assume this is the fault of the soft-plastic sample spray vials Nordstrom uses. My Rocabar sample from Nordstrom smelled great on day 1 but had altered so drastically by day 3 I could not use it for this review; I had to return for a new sample — taking along my own little empty glass sample vial. Nordstrom: I love your generous fragrance sample policy, but please investigate new sample vials!
Hermès Rocabar is $129 for 100 ml Eau de Toilette.
1. All quotes via Hermès USA.
2. Listed notes of juniper berry, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, balsam, cedar wood and needles, cypress, vanilla.
3. See top-of-post images; you can still buy the wool horse rugs for $540.
4. Bernard Bourgeois and Jean-Claude Ellena are also listed as perfumers for Rocabar.