Does your dairy herd get skittish every time you hit the milking parlor drenched in Drakkar Noir? Does a splash of Hugo by Hugo Boss have your flock of sheep heading for the hills? If so, the answer to your fragrance faux pas may well be Portland General Store's new Farmer's Cologne.
When I first caught wind of the cologne -- made by the same Maine-based company that makes manly grooming products like tobacco-scented beard oil, whiskey-scented aftershave and a soap called "Hunting Camp" -- I was intrigued by the notion that the potion was formulated to be "aromatherapeutic and pleasing to cows and livestock."
After giving it a test run I'm happy to report it a qualified success -- at least in the office cube farm environment (I never made it to a real farm)-- where my co-workers found the earthy, ever-so-slightly woody fragrance "intriguing," "complex" and "interesting." To me it was redolent of the grain and hay smells of the cow barn from my Vermont childhood (we usually had one dairy cow at a time - some five over the course of my youth), with an ever-so-slight medicinal note my scent memory puts in the same category as the various salves, udder balms and tinctures that went along with that '70s-era exercise in animal husbandry.
I recently had a chance to chat with Portland General Store's co-founder Lisa Brodar (the "nose" of the company) to find out a bit more about how the idea came about and who, exactly, the target audience is for a $110 vial of cow-calming cologne.
All the Rage: How on Earth did you come up with the idea for this scent?
Lisa Brodar: I was looking for an idea for a new cologne – I was thinking about doing a Hollywood scent actually – but my partner [co-founder Troy Tyler] and I have really gotten into homesteading and farming and trying to establish a permaculture garden so we decided to do something that involved that -- and supports the causes we support. That’s why 10% of profits goes to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn.
ATR: Is cologne-related wilding a widespread problem?
LB: In doing my research I found some material that talked about how cows and livestock don’t like strong fragrances. I remember reading one story about a farmer whose wife washed some of his clothes in a fragrant detergent and the cows really went really crazy and started acting up. They just hated it. And I thought: ‘Now that’d be a challenge!’”
ATR: What was your process in formulating this scent?
LB: Believe it or not, I actually found a list of scents that are beneficial and aromatherapeutic to livestock – cows specifically. But the actual making of the cologne was very challenging because a lot of those scents are a little off-putting to humans; they’re very strong tree-type essential oils that tend not to blend very well. And some of the scents do different things, some are supposed to calm them, others are for fertility.
ATR: So it’s safe to say that the process for creating this scent was a different animal altogether?
LB: Yes - exactly. I played around with a lot of different things – there were a lot of failures. I would let a version sit in a bottle for a few days and come back and it would smell terrible. Eventually I decided to use Sandalwood Vanautu essential oil for a base. Sandalwood wasn’t on the list [of beneficial scents] but it doesn’t really bother them either – it’s neutral to them. Then I added in some essential oils of the things that cows do like.
ATR: Such as?
LB: One is blue tansy, which has a really interesting smell, it’s almost like an ammonia-type of smell with some earthiness to it. Another livestock-friendly one in there is violet leaf.
ATR: Did you end up field testing the final product?
LB: I did. I have some friends with farms that have cows and horses and I wore it while I was near the animals. I put my arm up to a cow’s nose and gave the side of his face a scratch and he seemed happy. And I had one horse nuzzle me – of course I have no idea if that was because of the scent or if he was just a friendly horse. But none of [the animals] seemed put off by it.
ATR: Who do you envision as the core customer for this scent?
LB: It’s become a trend that a lot of urban – or previously urban -- people want to have livestock. You can see that with all the modern homes adding chicken coops. I thought that this would be something for the people who dream of that kind of life. At the same time it is something that’s good for the livestock.
ATR: You launched this July 1 – where has it been most popular?
LB: We’re just shipping it out to stockists now so we’ve only been selling it online so far, but most of our customers are in the major cities – Austin, Chicago, New York City -- Brooklyn is huge – and in California I think we’ve sold some of the Farmer's Cologne and some of our new whiskey beeswax candles in San Francisco already.
ATR: Do you have plans to return to the Hollywood scent idea in the future?
LB: Actually the next thing we want to do is a Farmer's candle – though the sandalwood will probably make it really expensive.
ATR: And it should probably have a warning label that says: “Do not burn in the hay barn,” right?
Farmer's Cologne (60 ml bottle, $110) available at PortlandGeneralStore.com.
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