Perfume Directory

Bourbon (2015)
by Hendley Perfumes


Bourbon information

Year of Launch2015
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 12 votes)

People and companies

HouseHendley Perfumes
PerfumerHans Hendley

About Bourbon

Bourbon is a shared / unisex perfume by Hendley Perfumes. The scent was launched in 2015 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Hans Hendley

Reviews of Bourbon

I was interested in the indie house of Hendley due to the artistic and seemingly powerful attributes of the scents, and Bourbon stood out to me most of all as one that I would like to try. The promise of the note breakdown seemed very high, with positive reviews, despite a couple of areas of small concern.

Unfortunately, for me, the orange zest seems to be most of what sits front-and-center throughout the early wearing and beyond. It outshines any of the sweet and/or boozy elements, such as the cognac, vanilla bourbon, tonka, or benzoin, and it all but eliminates the distinctiveness of any of the smaller woody or floral accords.

Bourbon sadly slightly reminds me of Urban Legend by Sebastiane, one of the worst scrubbers I've ever had the displeasure of smelling, but admittedly Bourbon is not nearly as quirky and problematic. Bourbon is far more toward the middle despite the dominance of the orange zest to my nose.

Bourbon is a pretty good performer, at least, but still quite pricey, at a $260 for 50ml extrait, so it's roughly in the area of one needing to love it in order to buy it.

I wouldn't say I despite it, but I certainly dislike---just that orange zest, sadly, is a ruiner.

4 out of 10
15th February, 2017
We're approaching a bubble. Or we're already in one---bubbles are notoriously identified after the fact. The Perfume Bubble has all the features of previous speculative bubbles, from the Dutch Tulip Crisis in the 17th century to the Housing Market Crash of 2008. It even follows the five stages:

1) Displacement, or New Paradigm. (Independent Perfumery)
2) Boom. (Groovy Early Niche and the Celebrity Perfumer)
3) Euphoria. (The Rise of Luxury Perfumery)
4) Profit taking. (The Whores are at the Gate)
5) Panic. (You Can Smell the Fear)

Look around you. Grossly inflated prices, escalating new releases, more new luxo-lines than you can shake a stick at. When the bubble bursts who among us will be saved? Economically, the most adaptable survive, and while large companies might have deeper pockets, my money is on the small indies surviving. Scalability is key to living past a bubble and artisanal perfumers, whose scale is the single perfumer, might stand a better chance than others.

So how did we reach stage 4.5 so fast? The seeds were planted early in independent perfumery, where new perfume brands responded to the perceived poor condition of the state of the perfume market. They focussed on quality, favoring novelty over reiterating traditional forms. It makes sense that the perfumes that drove creativity at this time were the oddballs, the beautiful freaks. Professionally-trained perfumers who chafed at the limits of their days jobs were free to test new ideas in the new niche houses. Fairly quickly the old guard learned the lessons from the indies and threw a lot of money at new, pricier alt-niche lines, often hiring the same perfumers. Ellena reinvented Hermès. Roger invented Roja. Chanel created les Exclusifs. Guerlain, launched the new blah-blah line. Dior, likewise. Tom Ford, ditto. Less experimentation, more lavish olfactory symbolism.

Artisanal perfumery signals a return to fundamentals, though I don't mean to imply that it is either reactionary or prosaic. No single impulse drives independent perfumery. Small-scale work is an alternative to the noisy world of commercial perfumery, not protest against it. As for why artisanal work takes the shape it does, after early-niche experimentation played the 'unconventional' card, outrageousness started to seem easy. The high-end commercial lines went the other direction, filling surprisingly uninventive compositions with oud, molecular derivations of rare botanicals, and horseshit. If there is a goldilocks center to be found, artisanal perfumery might point the way.

Hendley is trained in photography. One risk of crossover work is that technical training in one form won't translate to another. Despite a strong conceptual framework, will the artist's 'new' form have an amateur appearance on a technical level compared to the form that he was trained in? Compared to the professionally trained perfumer?

In Hendley's case, creativity translates, though not literally. I'm new to the line, having tried only four of the perfumes recently: Rosenthal, Amora, Jade and Bourbon. I don't know Hendley's photography, but his perfumes are clearly not simply an extension of visual work---they don't translate photography to scent. They do offer a coherent approach and well-finished, well-edited perfumes. Of the four, three explore a resinous range of tones without too much overlap. Amora is fruity-resinous, Rosenthal is a balsamic rose and Bourbon explores vanilla. The fourth, Jade, offers a new angle on the maligned "fresh" category. It has a buoyant, aromatic quality without leaning on citrus and herbs or the dreaded ozonic and aquatic notes.

Why turn to the artisanal artist for a new take on a known idea? The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I'm not usually drawn to vanilla-centric perfumes. Vanilla brings out my conservative tendencies, I suppose, and Jicky and Shalimar cover my vanilla needs. But Bourbon is the vanilla I never knew I needed. It's is more than just a simple vanilla perfume and the furthest thing from the ditzy stereotype of the nom-nom vanilla. It avoids the traps of gourmanderie and humdrum orientals, and, like Hendley's Rosenthal, finds plenty of new twists in a well-worn trope.

The single word bourbon tells you about the two sides of the perfume. Vanilla from Réunion (formerly Isle de Bourbon) and Bourbon whiskey find common cause in wood. Unsweetened vanilla has smoky and woody facets and whisky is a reflection of the charred cask in which it ages. Bourbon (the perfume) smells like a sip of whiskey or brandy feels--potent and invigorating. Smooth and rough at the same time.

The perfume makes great use of its extrait concentration. It strides out of the bottle and covers a lot of ground very quickly. It has moderate throw, but if you're within range, it is deadly handsome. The opening is djinn-in-the-bottle alluring and the tweedy drydown still manages to growl 12 hours down the road. It doesn't coast into coziness as vanilla perfumes can. The liquor gives it a speakeasy quality and the drydown speaks in shady Lauren Bacall tones.

The early indies responded to a market of dull, unsatisfying perfumes by taking unconventional approaches. The current luxe market again offers uninteresting perfumes, now at stratospheric prices. Crossover perfumers still can and do question convention (Cognoscenti Warm Carrot, Cadavre Exquis) but Hendley's Bourbon doesn't shock. Its inventiveness is in the half turns and subtle juxtapositions that undercut expectation of a well known note/material.

24th January, 2017
This is my second full bottle from the Hendley line. I was lucky enough to receive both as gifts, but I won't hesitate to buy others and replace as needed. As a relative newcomer to this perfume fascination, I can't yet say that about too many other scents I own. What is it about these scents that draws me so? This is a rich, deep scent; there's that vintage-y felling that castoreum lends, but it's subtle. I have a few vintage perfumes with animalic notes, and I have to choose when and where to wear them with care. Not Bourbon. It pulls off a sweet, boozy, animalic richness while remaining somehow not overwhelming in tone. For me, a little vanilla goes a long way, but here it's just inviting, not cloying or pudding- like. It's a very well-balanced scent, in which no note is domineering. There's a restraint here that's very appealing. Gosh, I love this line.
29th December, 2015

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