~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