Ah, sport fragrances — (almost) universally hated by PerfumeFanatics© and apparently adored by, and selling like hotcakes to, the rest of society. For perfumers, being asked to formulate a sport fragrance for the mainstream market must be like Martha Argerich being asked to play the C major scale (right hand only) — easy work! And with sport perfumes, the ease smells; these fragrances are, for the most part, interchangeable and have no interesting facets (only the bottles and designer names are unique). This spring, Burberry and Gucci are but two companies involved in major sport fragrance launches.
Burberry Sport for Men
Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer, said: “I wanted it (Burberry Sport for Men) to feel like there was movement in the scent. I kept saying I wanted it zingy; I wanted to feel alive; I wanted to feel like it’s jumping.” 1 Burberry Sport for Men was developed by perfumers Sonia Constant, Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Antoine Maisondieu and contains notes of “frosted ginger,” grapefruit, wheatgrass, marine notes, juniper berry, red ginger, white musks, cedar, woods and “dry amber.”
Burberry Sport for Men starts off soapy, sweet and gingery, with a clean grapefruit note. The gingers in Burberry Sport are more spicy-candied (think preserved ginger or strong ginger ale) than fresh and rooty. There is also a light and indistinct floral character in the soapy opening. As the scent goes into its mid-phase of development it becomes a bit “astringent” (bracing and “cool” but not strident); the dry-down returns to the sweetness of the opening notes with hints of pale wood, light musk and soft ambergris. Though Burberry Sport follows the sport scent trajectory, it’s mellower than most sport fragrances on the market.
If you want to try Burberry Sport, skip the Burberry “scent cards” being handed out at department stores (they present a “foil-wrapped” quarter drop — at most — of perfume that presents the base notes and not much else); either douse yourself with fragrance from the tester bottle or ask for a liquid sample to take home. (Sephora and Nordstrom are usually helpful at making samples for customers.)
Burberry Sport for Men has good lasting power and sillage; Burberry uses “sporty” rubberized materials in the packaging and there is no Burberry plaid in sight (the scent is a complement to the “plaid-less” Burberry Sport ready-to-wear line of clothes). If you are wondering what to do with the red rubber band that’s wrapped around the carton…it’s a bracelet.
Burberry Sport for Men is an Eau de Toilette, available in 30, 50 or 75 ml ($45-72); other Burberry Sport toiletry products are aftershave balm and lotion, shower gel and deodorant.
Gucci by Gucci Sport pour Homme
Gucci by Gucci Sport pour Homme is a flanker to 2008’s Gucci by Gucci pour Homme. According to Gucci creative director Frida Giannini, Sport is “…a new, fresher and lighter fragrance to suit the demands of a spontaneous lifestyle. I don’t necessarily link it literally with sports. It’s more a sporty state of mind. Meaning, off-duty time and the attitude that comes from being relaxed and carefree.” 2
Gucci by Gucci Sport seems to have been created by committee (“a collaboration involving Giannini, the Procter & Gamble Prestige Products fragrance creation team and fragrance supplier Givaudan….” 2) Gucci by Gucci Sport contains grapefruit, mandarin, cypress, lemon, cardamom, fig, vetiver, patchouli, and ambrette seeds.
Gucci by Gucci Sport begins with “abrasive” citrus and a menthol-y note (cardamom on steroids? eucalyptus?); there’s also a second or two of “ripe” (cat-pee) grapefruit. As the citrus fades, minty/menthol notes dominate; I don’t smell most of the (well-blended) listed notes. In its early phase of development, I’d call Gucci by Gucci Sport a “mouthwash” fragrance with a hygiene-product odor: Listerine, meet Axe! Gucci by Gucci Sport dries down to a woody (cedar)-musk-fresh accord with a hint of hard-candy/patchouli sweetness In the extreme dry-down, the notes are a bit discordant and “salty.”
I really like the Gucci by Gucci pour Homme ‘horse-bit’ bottle (and I especially like Gucci by Gucci Sport pour Homme’s clear glass bottle filled with green juice). The Gucci bottle "elevates" the fragrance from the usual boring blue bottles and blue juice of many sport fragrances on the market and it avoids a kitschy “sport”-theme design.
Gucci by Gucci Sport Eau de Toilette is sold in 50 and 90 ml ($57/73); the fragrance is also available in after shave lotion and balm, deodorant (spray/stick) and shower gel.
Neither Burberry Sport for Men nor Gucci by Gucci Sport pour Homme are innovative. I’ve smelled this type of “stuff” time and time again…and with the wild commercial success of sport scents, I’ll probably smell these aromas many more times in the future. After drenching myself with these two fragrances over the course of a week, I came to prefer the Gucci fragrance. Even if Gucci by Gucci Sport pour Homme’s weird, harsh, off-kilter notes are an “accident” or miscalculation, they provide more interest for me than the staid, “soap bar” scent of Burberry Sport for Men.
1. Women's Wear Daily, 12/11/2009.
2. Ibid., 2/26/2010.
Note: top center image is Dempsey and Firpo, 1924 [cropped] by George Bellows, via Wikimedia Commons.