Gucci Rush is part of a legacy Tom Ford left as the creative director of Italy’s infamous fashion house of monogrammed leather goods and loafers. By the time Ford exited the brand in 2004, Gucci was one of the most coveted names in fashion. Gucci’s popularity soared after Ford injected sexuality into the brand’s line of prêt-a-porter and accessories. In 1999, Ford commissioned perfumer Michael Almairac to create Rush, a sexually charged fragrance for women. Whether it was coincidence or deliberate, the perfume referenced a stimulant, popular in the 1980s, known also as Rush. The stimulant was sold in small snuffboxes from under the counters of seedy sex shops. The ad campaign for Gucci Rush featured model Liberty Ross in a suggestive pose bathed in red light and the perfume itself was packaged in a red plastic case, similar to the casing of an X-rated VHS tape. The smell was unlike anything before it. Modern, confident and cleverly synthetic, it was a masterful blend of milky lactones and diffusive woody notes. A year later, Ford continued the theme with the launch of a men’s version. Rush for Men was another play on the balance between natural and synthetic materials. The body of the perfume was highlighted with milky lactones, and the base, shaded with notes of incense and wood. Givaudan perfumers Daniela Roche-Andrier and Antoine Maisondieu created Rush for Men in 2000. It explored territory Gucci had marked with Envy for Men in 1998. Envy for Men was a showoff and it longed to be noticed. Rush for Men, on the other hand was a more philosophical men’s fragrance, but like all Gucci products of this era, it had an underlying base of hedonism. Rush for Men was in stark contrast to other men’s fragrances of its time and it paved the way for a multitude of men’s incense fragrances that now seem so expected and unsurprising. In 2000, I remember Rush for Men feeling so futuristic. It was 2001 A Space Odyssey. Nowadays, like Star Trek re-runs, it seems charming but dated, as more recent works have pushed the genre further.
Recent reviews of Rush for Men criticize it as a tepid use of incense. I argue that in context, Rush for Men, was one of the first major explorations of incense in mainstream men’s perfume. It showed us that incense could be modern, dressed with metallic florals and 21st century musks; it did not have to play a supporting role as a base in traditional fougere or oriental accords. It had sufficient personality to play a leading role. Rush for Men also lead to Gucci Pour Homme (2003) a fragrance built around Frankincense- a beautiful resinous note associated with incense as well as religion. While Rush for Men may not be the best or most intense incense experience on offer, historically, it assisted in separating the market which until this point, was dominated by watery, ozonic fragrances or the conservative Fougeres that had survived past the turn of the century. Rush for Men starts with a modern hit of milky lactones and (I assume) ozonic notes that move into an abstract white floral accord. Even through the top notes you can perceive cedar wood giving it a Comme des Garcons type of feel. As it progresses you get spice, sandalwood and resin. After all these years I still find Rush for Men to be one of the most original compositions in my collection. It is a shame it was discontinued and I have read other bloggers mention Gucci plan to discontinue all perfumes that were created during the Tom Ford’s era. Rush for Men is now long gone and Gucci Pour Homme is fading fast- I suggest restocking this one soon as prices will skyrocket once supply becomes scarce.
Maybe I am being sentimental, but I find perfumes of this era have a magical quality to them. It was the turn of the century, the Internet was still an infant, and I was beginning my exploration of the world. Nowadays there are no real surprises when new technology is introduced to our everyday lives. To move your digital life from an online server to a ‘cloud’ requires no big shift in thinking. Twelve years ago, there would have been much more hesitation. In perfume, new molecules find their way into perfumes more quickly; now it is even a selling point. Fragrance houses will often include information in their press material of how a new molecule has been used or how a ‘natural’ has been transformed either by fractional distillation or another means to create a new super version of its previous self. Today is much more about constant refinement or optimisation (the faster the better). We know what we want and we are constantly refining the path to get there. I remember the year 2000 being a time of greater optimism- we had some idea of what we wanted, but we didn’t quite know what success would look like once we got there. In the same way perfume of this era is a mix of different ideas and philosophies. Gucci Rush for Men is an amalgamation of Italian sexuality, Zen Buddhist temples, sterile 21st century plastics and the memory of a guy I used to have a crush on. On that note I recommend it for the optimist, who doesn’t quite know what he wants in life.
Perfumer: Antoine Maisondieu, Daniela Roche-Andrier
Bottle designer: Doug Lloyd, Tom Ford
Release date: 2000
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods