The worst year I can remember is almost behind us - A global pandemic, shattered lives, a battered economy. It’s hard to look back on this year and find anything to be positive about. Still, these dark days make positivity more of a necessity than ever, if for no other reason than to have a shaft of light at the end of a really crappy tunnel.
For Damn Yankee, it was a year of unexpected challenges. Admittedly, I did not foresee the scope of job losses in 2020. With so many people struggling financially, beard care took a back seat to bigger priorities. Yet, the bottom didn’t completely drop out as I expected. The biggest challenge this year was packaging. Americans complain about China, but we found out this year that, without cheap imported Chinese goods, business life gets complicated. The supply of plastic containers dried up pretty quickly in the spring, and the remaining supply was snapped up by larger companies with much deeper pockets than Damn Yankee. That’s why you saw a lot of smaller companies changing their look this year. That was one reason I decided earlier this year to transition away from plastic, but, more on that later.
We started 2020 with a new collection called Structure. Structure had been in the works since late 2019, so when the pandemic came around, I struggled with whether to release it or not. Structure was my first attempt to really get away from what had traditionally been the look for Damn Yankee. Cobalt bottles, white metal caps, modern artwork, bottles in boxes, and essential oil scents. I still like the idea of Structure, but it just came at a bad time. I think the uncertainty COVID created coupled with some essential oils that guys were unfamiliar with killed Structure. This collection also marked the first time a reviewer/tester noted that a scent of mine smelled of urine. That wasn’t what I was going for. Also, Structure convinced me that, by and large, lavender is the kiss of death for a beard product. I like it personally, but guys hate it with a passion. Noted.
There were three months between the release of Structure and our Summer scents, so I spent most of the spring just keeping my head down, seeing what was going to happen in a COVID business world. To be perfectly honest, I was feeling a little burned out creatively going into summer, so I wanted the summer scents to be easy. I don’t think most people realize how much creative energy and thought goes into a beard scent. After a couple years, it gets really difficult to a.) do something you haven’t done before and b.) do something nobody else is doing. So, if you see a Damn Yankee product with a weird scent profile, and you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind, that’s why – I’m trying to bring you something nobody else is doing.
Growing up in the 80’s, I always loved the smell of Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil. The memories of summer in high school, baking away in the sun unconcerned about skin cancer, those were the days. The smell always stuck with me over the years, and early on in 2020, I found a fragrance oil that smelled exactly of the coconut in Hawaiian Tropic. I already had a pineapple scent from the previous summer (anyone remember Rupert?), so Bronze Age was kind of a no-brainer. I love plays on words, so the name also made me laugh. Beach House came about after a few summer trips to Florida. At the end of a beach day, you’re hot, you’re sweaty, you’re covered with sand, and you just kinda want to wash all that shit off. That shower you take after being at the beach all day is Beach House. I wanted something that smelled clean and “beachy” at the same time. I found all that in a single fragrance oil. I never feel good about single fragrance oil scents, but like I said, I was pretty burned out creatively and just wanted something that was easy to do. I still like the smell of it, but it’s not something I’ll likely do again.
Our second anniversary as a company fell in June, and I wanted to do something special. The idea came to me to combine all our launch scents into one. I actually tried it with horrific results. Coffee and leather are not good together. I settled on taking elements from each original scent, and concocting something from that. And, Fustercluck was born. At some point in my Facebook feed, I saw a video about hydrodipping and I was mesmerized. The idea of it is pretty mad. So, you fill a large container with water, spray paint on top of the water, and slowly submerge items in the water. I’m still not entirely sure why this works, but the paint adheres to the dipped item perfectly. I got the idea to hydrodip beard oil bottles, and after a bit of trial and error, I got the process down. I’m still pretty proud of how they turned out. And to this day, I don’t think any other company has done it. There’s a fair chance I’ll do it again in June 2021 for our third anniversary.
Fall and Holiday scents are my favorites. We had some really good ones in 2019, so I struggled not to repeat anything. One of our 2019 scents was Bountiful, which was pipe tobacco and pumpkin spice. It is, to this day, one of the best scents we’veever done. I was going to re-release it, but that seemed like kind of a cop out. I also discovered some time in the summer that pumpkin spice and oud smell great together, so that’s how Homecoming was born. Glazed Over is one of the craziest ideas we’ve had. I was thinking about Thanksgiving, and the idea came to me to do a glaze like you might have on a ham. Originally, it was brown sugar, clove, pineapple and cherry. There was too much going on, so I simplified it to pineapple and clove. It’s an unusual combination, but I still think it smells really good and I still wear it myself from time to time. PSL was a last minute addition. I had been working on an apple/pipe tobacco scent, but I couldn’t get it to work, and I ran out of time before the Fall release date. I was wondering how guys would react to a Pumpkin Spice Latte scent, and now I know – not well. It’s a shame because, if you forget about the hype and stigma, it’s a really nice coffee scent.
I try not to release scents more than once, but I had a customer order Northern Spruce a few months ago and I had the chance to revisit it. I’d forgotten how good spruce essential oil is. It remains, to this day, the only single essential oil scent we’veever done. I felt weird about releasing it again, so I updated the labels to make myself feel a little better about it. I think they look pretty good. Last but not least, Hippie Holiday. What can I say? Hippie Holiday is my favorite scent Damn Yankee has ever done. It started as an accident. It began as peppermint and patchouli. I like patchouli, but it definitely has a dirty smell that some people would call “earthy.” I remembered that I had a cannabis fragrance oil from earlier in the year that I’d been wanting to use in a scent, so I swapped out the patchouli with cannabis, and the result was sublime. It went from a dirty scent like you’re smoking a blunt in the garage, to a fresh, herbaceous smell that I really, really love. I love it so much that Hippie Holiday will live on after the holidays as a scent called Hippie Hollow. More on that later.
So, 2021. The end of this year was a preview of what to expect in 2021. Damn Yankee is expanding our line into some other areas. Natural soaps and body washes. Hand-made candles. We’re branching out to offer you some new things. We’re also completely changing our packaging in January to offer a more environmentally friendly Damn Yankee. I’ll announce more on that in the coming weeks. But what you can expect from Damn Yankee is the unexpected.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a customer and a supporter. We only exist because of your support, so as long asyou want us to be around, we’ll keep bringing you new and innovative products to make your beard (and the rest of you) smell and feel better. Happy 2021 to you and your family. I don’t know where Yankee is headed in this new year, but we’ll find out together.
Peter and Amanda Spence
Damn Yankee Beard Company