Perfume Directory

Rocabar (1998)
by Hermès

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Rocabar information

Year of Launch1998
GenderMasculine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 336 votes)

People and companies

HouseHermès
PerfumerBernard Bourgeois

About Rocabar

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.

Rocabar fragrance notes

Reviews of Rocabar

Rocabar (1998) was extremely misunderstood upon release, as at the time, every single Hermès masculine made had been a leather-themed scent but here was Rocabar presenting itself as an almost-stifling coniferous scent like something Hermès dug up from the competition's recipe book from 20 years prior. However, the intervening years since the initial release, and all the cruel write-ups from perfume gurus expecting another Equipage (1970) or Bel Ami (1986) fading from memory, people discovering Rocabar without the peer pressure of "expected not to like it" can see it for what it is: something a bit different but still fitting with the character of Hermès as a house. The thematics behind Rocabar are that of the traditional striped horse rugs found in the Hermès stables, and I'm guessing the dry, rustic woodsy smell of the stuff is supposed to impart some of the atmosphere from that setting. Yeah, I'll agree with the powers that be on the general consensus that Rocabar isn't terribly stand-out stylistically, compared to past masculine perfumes which stood either head-and-shoulders above the crowd or just plain outside of it, but I don't find anything particularly lacking in the quality department. Part of the less-auspicious personality of Rocabar no doubt comes from the era in which it was made: The "Beige Age" was my nickname for the years after aquatics and freshies took over, where everything had to be inoffensive to the point of apologetic, and fragrances almost had to be unwaveringly pleasant and nothing else. Rocabar has the same intensity of most other Hermès masculines, just not the provocative machismo, and is something of a missing link between those old virile beasts and the sensible aromatics of the later Terre d'Hermès (2008).

There is also the fact that a whopping 3 perfumers were put to task on Rocabar, a move that became more popular into the 2000's when design houses thought tossing more talent at a scent rather than making them compete with their ideas for one winning perfumer might somehow increase chances of striking olfactive gold. Whatever the case, future house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena worked on this with Giles Romey and the relative unknown Bernard Bourgeois. I find too many compromises result in having that many perfumers, and maybe that is why Rocabar seems so conventional. The overall aura is one of juniper and spices with a lavender accord over a foundation of dry woods, balsam, vanilla, olibanum, and oakmoss. Juniper and lavender open first, followed by a dry nutmeg and cinnamon that then gets sharpened to pencil-shavings grade weaponry by some bergamot. The heart is a whole mess of woods, including cedar, sandalwood, pine, with a light dusty floral component that feels like carnation to me. The base is aforementioned balsam fir, oakmoss, and incense note smoothed down with just a spot of vanilla. Rocabar feels aromatic, basic, and somewhat traditional by 90's standards, but also very neutral in personality outside all the dry warmth such woods would impart. Wear time is about 10 hours, which is fantastic for an EdT, and the scent has really good sillage, almost too good for a 90's fragrance. In the modern day, Rocabar feels downright bold compared to most soft "amberwoods" or sweet ambroxan creations, even if it still does come across a little flat compared to the mighty Hermès leather chypres of old. Rocabar is still a semi-oriental despite it's lack of any significant sweetness, so keep this one to formal occasions or colder weather if worn casually, unless you want to choke everyone to death on the coniferous cloud you'd make in summer heat.

If nothing else, Rocabar could be a more-austere alternative to a scent like Gucci Envy for Men (1998), which released in the same year and also had a dry woods focus but featured stronger citrus, greener heart with patchouli, and a bit more sweetness with opoponax in the base. The Gucci was killed off and sells for stupid prices in the aftermarket, so if you can deal with a little bit of "toughening up" on the main accord, Hermès Rocabar might be for you. If not, there's always Aura Jacomo for Men (2000), which pushes more in the green direction and away from the woods. All comparisons aside, this is likely the best Hermès could do for men to fit within the stylistic confines of the 90's since their typical leather perfumes would be too ostentatious to fly with the self-conscious "anti-image" types that deliberately wanted to merge with the background noise. Like most things Hermès, Rocabar sits just left of center and stands out from its peers, just not as much as past creations, which is where I think all the beef is with other critics. When you get used to such outstandingly unique output, anything that is less than godly seems like a miserable, boring failure, when in fact it is still a far cut above the din surrounding it. Such is the case with the no-frills log cabin feelings of Rocabar, and I give it a thumbs up for being a more rugged, humble, and outdoorsy cousin that is a little less direct, but no less personable member of the Hermès masculine family. Rocabar won't make you feel like a bare-chested stud on the catwalk with all the best pick-up lines ready to go like Bel Ami (1986), but you'll at least feel like you could wrestle a bear if it stood between you and the person you wanted to ask out on a date, just so long as they don't mind you smelling like you chopped a cord of wood before popping the question, and surely that counts for something?
19th January, 2019
The opening has clean cedar/sandalwood notes for a drier, cooler feel mixed with a not-too-sweet vanilla and something a little warm and spicy. That cool vs warm dichotomy is what makes this otherwise pedestrian scent a little more interesting to me. It's very nice and agreeable. A soft, smooth scent that seems very work-appropriate. Not super-masculine, almost feminine.

Not as heavy as you might think, pretty versatile. There's a powderiness in the drydown that makes me think cool weather only but it's really not that heavy. The year this came out (1998) does not surprise me as it has some modern and classic feel to it. Fits perfectly in the 90's.

Performance is good on my skin. Above average projection with all workday longevity.
04th July, 2018
From the pyramid I thought this sounded really good, so I got ahold of a decent slug of it in decant form from TPC. I've worn it a few times now and, assuming this isn't a somehow adulterated sample, it is a big disappointment. It mainly hits with a very screechy aldehyde opening and there might be some ambroxan as it settles in. Once these volatile notes evaporate after an hour it has a faint presence of woods and spices. Very little "body" and mostly you get a smell of poorly integrated aromachemicals.
02nd July, 2018
A nice balsamic fragrance, a mix of pine green, woody notes and vanilla. Smooth, creamy, non offensive and distinctive smell.(previous version bottle)
Great longevity on my skin.
10th January, 2018
Dear Mister Manly,
I really like your fragrance
But it burns my eyes!
29th September, 2017
Bigsly Show all reviews
United States
If you like Envy for Men, this is along the same lines, as are a few others. I'm not a huge fan of these scents, because they seem to get cloying awfully quickly, especially if you use too much, but I'd rather wear those than most of the recent designer offerings. I'll give it a positive rating because there's nothing really "bad" about it, other than it having a derivative feel to me.
03rd May, 2015

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