Friday, July 24, 2009

Guerlain Habit Rouge Sport: fragrance review

~by Mike Perez

There was a time when I hated any scent that smelled like powder. Powder smelled ‘cheap’ to me, which may seem odd since I love mint in fragrances and many people associate that with store bought toothpaste. Guerlain changed everything.

The first time I tried Habit Rouge (the Eau de Cologne) a couple years ago, I found myself for the first time in love with a powdery fragrance. Also slightly dusty; antiquated and gentle, like those photographic effects where an image has a soft, hazy glow all around the subject in the picture. I liked the effect (maybe it was the ‘Guerlainade’) and instantly thereafter found it easy to love Shalimar, Vol de Nuit, and Jicky - other wonderful powdery scents which are an acquired taste. I’m aware that many men (of differing ages) don’t agree with me and dislike Habit Rouge. Nonetheless, wearing a popular fragrance has never been essential to me. Therefore, you might say, Habit Rouge is an important fragrance to me.

This year (March 2009) Guerlain released Habit Rouge Sport, the 2nd flanker to the 1965 fragrance (the first was 2005’s Habit Rouge Light/Légère) which joined the many formulations of the original: Eau de Cologne, Eau de Cologne Dry, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum, After Shave and Extrait/Parfum. I instantly disliked the name: Habit Rouge Sport. Why not just call it Habit Rouge Arctic Rush? Still, I was excited to smell how Guerlain would interpret Habit Rouge, into a ‘sport’ fragrance.

Oddly, the way Habit Rouge Sport opens up on skin, in the top notes, has absolutely nothing in common with the original. A very sturdy and synthetic fresh note both sharp (aldehydes?) and bright, is the first thing you’ll smell – not citrus, which when it arrives later isn’t very lemon prominent at all. The smell is piercing and I strongly advise you carefully sniff your skin closely upon application. Based on first impressions, I was initially instantly dissatisfied. Subsequent wearings have perhaps made it less shocking, but no less disappointed with the cheap-room-freshener sharpness.

The jasmine floral accord in HRS arrives after the fragrance warms on skin. A very transparent jasmine, similar to those used in designer feminines (Blush by Marc Jacobs, 24 Faubourg Eau Délicate by Hermès). Simple florals that lie on top of the aforementioned fresh and synthetic top notes, giving the scent a varnished surface effect. The plastic floral effect (Nappe Rouge [Red Tablecloth] Sport?) is probably due to the leather notes (a nod to the original scent) but which in Habit Rouge Sport has no solid citrus / oriental structure to blend with.

Saddened, I hoped it might progress in a pleasing way – Guerlain fragrances are appreciated for their intricate and satisfying dry downs. But no. It evolves into a synthetic woody / vanilla musk (annoyingly safe and conservative and miles away from Guerlainade) that extends the sturdy fresh notes for 4-5 hours before it disappears.

I’ve smelled synthetic notes, used unskillfully here-and-there is a few select Guerlain scents (Heritage (the EdT); Aqua Allegoria Laurier-Reglisse) and I’ve smelled shampoo-underarm-deodorant-esque fresh accords also (Guerlain Homme) – but I’ve never smelled the combination of both effects in a Guerlain masculine.

I wore it several times before writing this review – each time I patiently awaited the scent to evolve differently on me. It never happened. I have the strong feeling this scent was not created for Habit Rouge fans like me, but rather for those who have never smelled or are unfamiliar with the original. If so, how sad? Kind of like a cocktail party I’ve attended: I am the unpopular bookworm kind-of- guy, over in the corner all by myself and no one paying attention to me - while on the other side of the room everyone is crowded around the new-in-town, handsome, popular jock in his tight red shirt.
Habit Rouge Sport is available at select Guerlain boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman. A 100 ml atomizer bottle (red glass, with a silver cap) is $92.

The notes for Guerlain Habit Rouge Sport are: citron vert, bitter orange, pink pepper, bamboo, jasmine, leather, vanilla and patchouli.

Images via M.Perez


  1. Fiordiligi13:15

    Oh, but I knew even without sniffing it I'd hate it, darling E, because it includes "Sport" in the name. Sad but true. And Guerlain Homme is unpleasant to me, too. It's all very sad.

    Have you sniffed the Habit Rouge extrait though? I understand it is unspeakably gorgeous.

    Oh, the Guerlinade, it's everything I love in a perfume. Thank goodness I have my supplies....

  2. While I think the original Habit Rouge is exceedingly well made, I can't wear it: it's just to sweet and overwhelming--controlling, really. I've never tried the Sport version: based on the name, I probably wouldn't, and after your review, I certainly won't.

    But Habit Rouge Legere is something else altogether, a gorgeous variant of the original: lighter without being watery, less sweet without being cheap or astringent. It's gorgeous. You should try it if you can find it anywhere.

  3. Mike Perez14:21

    Fiordiligi -

    Well, I try not to base scents before I've tried them, just on the name, but I also tend to be frightened by the 'Sport' in a title. I too, was underwhelmed by Guerlain Homme - although I think you and I are in the minority.

    I have smelled the Extrait. Wonderfully chewy and dense, it riffs off of the Eau de Toilette structure, just subtler and less overtly citrus in the top notes. Very sexy juice...but alas, not in my budget right now.

  4. Mike Perez14:24

    Pyramus I'm sorry HR doesn't work for you. Have you tried vintage Eau de Cologne? I only wear this version and I find it is heads-and-shoulders above the other formulations. You can snag bottles on Ebay (look for the squat square-like bottles with the label edged in gold).

    I have tried the Legere. The problem with it for me, was the citrus: it smelled a little too strident for me. The EdC lemon is almost perfect, and resembles that lemon cupcake effect from the discontinued Shalimar Eau Legere (which you should probably try as well, it's very unisex).

  5. I keep forgetting to smell HR when I'm somewhere that has it.

    I'm always surprised to hear Shalimar spoken as a powdery scent. The original vintage was strong and incensy, not powdery at all. Very sexy and animalic. The closest to it now is the perfume strength.

    If I could transport myself back in time, but have Giorgio to compare side by side, I don't know if Shalimar would still have seemed so strong and potent. Perhaps not, because Giogio would blow you out of the water, so it made nearly everything else seem tame.

  6. Mike Perez16:37

    Karin -

    Something tells me if you smelled the HR on shelves now (usually you see the EdT on Guerlain shelves) you might not like it. Now vintage juice...that's the one you should see out - as I said above the Eau de Cologne is essential.

    I have heard similar comments about Shalimar. I need to get ahold of some vintage juice at some point - but honestly I am in love with the 1990's style Shalimar Eau de Cologne. Vintage juice sounds even better.

    I loved Giorgio - although the pineapple note made it stick in the Miami heat (where I live) so I always admired it from afar.

  7. It is a typical eau de toilette, more eau de cologne, so de noted develop completely different.
    I have it, and on my skin it smells the same in the end as the habit Rouge eau de parfum, but not that strong and a bit different. But that is normal. It's Guerlain, I like it, fresh, when I not want the use the eau de parfum or eau de toilette.

  8. Guerlain just makes me sad these days...

  9. Mike, I too was horrified when this "sport" iteration was released, and I still have not had the heart to try it. I love the original so very much, it's in my top 10 all-time favorite masculine scents. I think ANYTHING with the Sport designation is bound to be dreadful, at least it has been so in my experience. I have yet to find a Sport flanker that measures up to its so-called inspiration.

    BTW, some of us would much rather hang out with the bookworms than the jocks - we perfumistas can be pretty cerebral when we are not swooning over a perfume bottle. ;-)


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