To get a sense what it's like experiencing Hermes's Rocabar, take your favourite song and play it very at a very low volume. You can barely hear a coherent melody and all the straining kills your joy.
Rocabar is one of the perfumes that make up the core Hermes's fragrance collection. Others fragrances it includes are Belle Ami, Equipage, Caleche, and Eau d'Hermes. I have been unfortunate to have never smelled the original release of Rocabar, as rumour has it, it was an amazing fragrance. I recall smelling a reformulated version around 2009, which I remember being a lot more potent than the watery juice Hermes is currently peddling.
I don't mean to be overly critical of Hermes reformulating Rocabar. After all, the IFRA rules have changed substantially since 1998 (when Rocabar was originally released) and as any rule-abiding company Hermes had to change the formula.
The current version of Rocabar is not bad but it lacks the alleged the power and tenacity of its ancestor. Rocabar is still a decent fresh-woody scent with a rooty-resinous dry down that strays away from the modern fragrance cliches. It is an elegant fragrance that speaks of class and sophistication, even though its volume has been turned down to a whisper.
Named after the contraction of two French words: rug and stripes, Hermes released Rocabar in 1998 to commemorate the striped horse saddle blankets Hermes used to make. The original version of the fragrance used to come wrapped in a piece of such striped blanket. The modern release, however, comes in the standard bottle and box reserved for all fragrances from Hermes's core collection.
What Does Rocabar Smell Like?
Jean-Claude Ellena says Rocabar is "a fragrance for wanderers drawn to wide-open spaces". Indeed, Rocabar is a transparent, ephemeral fragrance built around light vegetal notes and soft resins. It's a good fragrance for someone who doesn't want to smell of perfume and yet wants to smell good, while avoiding the popular cologne cliches.
Rocabar is a good gift choice for that uncle who has resolutely stomped his foot on anything to do with scent and skin care. #perfume
Rocabar opens with freshness, which is not typical for modern men's fragrances today. Instead of heavily relying in citruses, Gilles Romey (or Jean-Claude Ellena, who likely reformulated it) created an opening with coriander, cypress and bergamot. If you pay attention to this part of Rocabar's development you will detect a vegetal note. It adds elegance and quiet uniqueness to the composition. It is a gift to those who have the patience to smell Rocabar quietly.
The projection in the opening is quiet by anyone's standards. The standard two sprays on the neck or chest are not likely to give you a strong enough blast to keep your senses happy for more than 30 minutes.
Therefore, eve though I know it is futile, I put on five or six sprays of Rocabar the second time I wore it. As we all know, putting more of something weak doesn't make it any stronger. Doubling my dosage of Rocabar proved this rule and after the first half hour, the fragrance quieted to a skin whisper of soft balsamic resins.
The heart of Rocabar is resinous. Benzoin and Canada Balsam take a centre stage, while soft woody notes (cypress, cedar, and oak moss) give the scent an airy character.
Benzoin is an ingredient with airy, balmy qualities (e.g. Terre d'Hermes). In Rocabar, the soft woods take this transparent character even further. The result is a skin scent, which creates an sense of elegant outdoors. Think of the smell or feeling you might experience if you were to spend a long weekend in late spring on a chateau in Provence. The air is warm and light, buzzing with soft aromas of nature.
I won't blame you if by the second hour of wearing Rocabar you have given up on it. Good things, however, come to those who wait. At some point after the two-hour mark, Rocabar surprises you with a damp, earthy patchouli note. It is similar to the patchouli in Patchouli Imperial by Dior but it has only a 10th of its power.
Many of you would probably say - a soft patchouli note is hardly worth the wait, let alone the money Hermes charges for Rocabar. Reluctantly, I would agree. I wanted Rocabar to be the amazing vegetal-salty fragrance I remember it being five years ago but all I am getting is a pale imitation. Still, it is a good gift choice for that uncle who has resolutely stomped his foot on anything to do with scent and skin care.
Where to Rock It
If you think of Rocabar not as an eau de toilette type of fragrance but as a body splash, I think you will be a lot less disappointed with its poor performance.
In this sense, Rocabar would work well for any occasion where you want to smell good but you don't want to be too perfume-y. If you are camping or staying at a cottage and you don't want to get odd looks for wearing a perfume in the wilderness, put on Rocabar. It smells natural and fresh enough to blend with the atmosphere and at the same time will satisfy your craving to wear perfume.
Rocabar's biggest drawback (lack of power and presence) serves as its strongest advantage when it comes to versatility. You can easily wear it any time and any place, even though it will work best on a warm sunny morning.
You have just woken up and your lover is about to serve you a breakfast of black coffee, fresh croissants, and freshly squeezed orange juice on your bedroom balcony. You brush your teeth and liberally spray Rocabar to lift your moods while reading the latest edition of Le Monde. By the time you finish getting dressed, Rocabar would be at its last legs and you can put on another fragrance with more tenacity to get you through the day.
What Do The Frag Heads Say about Rocabar?
Since I couldn't find any reviews of Rocabar worth sharing, I've included this video of funny kittens for you to enjoy.
The Bottom Line
Rocabar might have been a great fragrance in its day. Today, the perfume Hermes sells under the same name has only that in common with the original - its name.
Rocabar is a passable fresh woody fragrance but for the brand name and money you would expect something with more tenacity and character.
In other words: Rocabar is not worth a purchase but if someone gifts it to you, it might make for a nice pick-me-up during your morning routine.
Would you buy Rocabar?
I wouldn't. If someone gives it to me, I'd wear it on occasion but it is not worth it the $150 Hermes is selling it for.
Would I get compliments wearing Rocabar?
Not likely. Rocabar is such a soft scent with such a timid character that even if anyone but you manages to smell it, they will probably think it's your shampoo or your soap.
What rating would you give Rocabar?
2 out of 5 is appropriate. Rocabar is not a scrubber. It doesn't smell bad. Its volume has been dialed down so much that it has lost any character.
Coriander, Cedar, Bergamot, Lemon
Carnation, Violet, Cypress, Cardamom
Patchouli, Benzoin, Canadian Balsam, Oak Moss, Vanilla