For me, the Clive Christian brand is a mark of quality. Given my experience with Clive Christian fragrances, including and especially the regal 1872 Men, I was excited to receive a sample of the new Rock Rose scent.
The opening of Rock Rose is distinctly citric, with a bergamot that nearly comes across as astringent as lime. Combined with the other top notes of neroli and black pepper, the scent conjures images of classical British men’s colognes. But before this brings to mind typical neroli/citrus fragrances, the peppery notes intensify and blend with a powerfully herbal clary sage, which reminds me of the way the note is portrayed in 1872 Men. Rock Rose is a distinctive fragrance (the overall blend doesn’t remind me of any other fragrance on the market), and from the opening it is clear that Clive Christian spared no expense.
True to the name, the rock rose aspect becomes present soon after the opening, and here it pairs very well with the clary sage. I have never smelled rock rose, but descriptions suggest that it has balsamic, amber-like qualities. A sweet floral amber is exactly what it smells like to me, related to rose in my imaginary through its delicate floral aspects, but not quite the same due to the balsamic edge. In any case, this rock rose element combines with a clean lavender and powdery violet, transforming the scent into something like an oriental fougere.
Early reviews of this fragrance were mixed, and I believe this is due in part to the notes that make up the base. The base notes are listed as cocoa, patchouli, amber, and vetiver. These notes are easily noticeable, but in combination are reminiscent of the dry woody amber aromachemicals that are present in an enormous portion of the men’s designer fragrance market. Some have described this aspect of the fragrance as cheap, and while I see where they are coming from, I’d rather describe it as “common”. The quality ingredients that lay on top of the base are quite nice and well-blended, and in my view prevent the fragrance from descending into something ordinary.
Rock Rose is very likable, not only because of its thoughtful construction, but also because of that controversial base. While the majority of Rock Rose will impress with its quality and distinctiveness, the woody amber elements give just enough commonality to the fragrance to ensure mass appeal. It’s a bit like wearing a sports coat over jeans and a t-shirt—classy, yet still relatable.
Would I buy it?: No, but not because it is not a great fragrance. For what it is, a higher end and better executed version of some common themes, I couldn’t justify the Clive Christian price. However, I can see how many might enjoy this type of scent as it is very comfortable to wear. Another option is my favorite from the line, 1872 Men. That fragrance is a similar yet more classical take on this herbal fougere-like style, but without the woody amber elements. Buy that one (it really is great), but when you do, add a sample of Rock Rose to your cart.