There's a saying that you die twice, once when you stop breathing, and again the last time someone says your name. Hummer suffered the former in 2010 when the final H3 rolled off the General Motors Shreveport assembly line. But the latter has yet to arrive. After a checkered life of building military-inspired trucks and soft-roading SUVs, the ghost of Hummer is walking the earth from door to door, a sad Willy Loman figure with an assortment of officially licensed colognes, deodorants, and body washes under its bony arm.
Yes, if you want to buy a sanctioned-by-GM Hummer product in 2019, it will come in a small bottle and smell strongly of male bravado. You may have some questions at this point. Why? How did an automaker turn into a antiperspirant peddler? And most importantly, is the stuff any good?
Where It All Began
Hummer first flirted with fragrance back in the early 2000s, when brand managers decided its lucrative truck marque could also push merchandise. The H-word ended up on everything from bicycles to laptops to flashlights—most of them yellow—as well as a cologne dubbed "Hummer." Produced by Canadian cosmetics manufacturer Riviera Concepts, Hummer cologne debuted in 2004 to a less-than-warm reception. One commenter on fragrance site Base Notes reported it's "nothing short of repellant." Another called it "eau de fart."
Nevertheless, Hummer's eau de toilette portfolio expanded as Riviera Concepts was acquired by cosmetics colossus Elizabeth Arden. Like the trucks, the original Hummer scent was followed by Hummer H2 and Hummer Limited Edition, and then really went off the rails with Hummer Pacific Blue, named after an H2 options package. Total sales numbers aren't available, but even if the cologne outsold the almighty Axe in the mid-aughts (it didn't), it couldn't have saved the Hummer brand from the financial crisis and GM's bankruptcy.
Sparkling White Hummers
Hummer cologne can still be obtained from a variety of online sellers, including the source itself, HummerFragrances.com, run by a Florida-based distributor, as well as Walgreens and Perfume.com. The original Hummer scents have been joined by newcomers Hummer Chrome and Hummer Black, still produced by Elizabeth Arden. GM, which still owns the trademark, licenses the name.
"There are still people trying to produce products with the Hummer name around the world," explained Gene Reamer, GM's senior manager of licensing operations, in a 2015 interview with The New York Times. "Because we still have the active fragrance, we're protecting the brand if we ever decide to bring it back."
In other words, GM is using the colognes to squat on Hummer. To what end? We'll just have to wait and see. What matters today is whether or not the scent lives up to the bold promise of the name, and if it's possible to distill the patriotic bravado and solipsism of Hummer into a single olfactory moment. To find out, we ordered a sampler of Hummer Black cologne, deodorant, and shower gel and took a good whiff. Like the trucks themselves, they're not for everyone.
For the Wannabe Mid-2000's Celebrity
The full Hummer Black line—launched in 2013 as GM's first post-bankruptcy renewal of the brand—comes in a gift box surrounded by plastic diamond plate, because of course it does. This particular box was actually assembled back in 2013 as indicated by the date of manufacture, so its contents are getting a little stale. But we decided to continue with the test, because we're doing this for you, damnit.
Let's be clear about one thing: Everything in this box smells exactly the same. The experts at Base Notes pick up a swirl violet and cypress leaves, green apple, tobacco, "rugged woods," and white musk, a synthetic form of animal musk. To reference that mid-Aughts giant of teenage hygiene again, Hummer Black could easily be a lost upmarket Axe variant. We wouldn't call the cologne offensive, but it's just not a very sophisticated scent, more a generic interpretation of a fancy cologne than a reasonable facsimile of one.
The least polarizing product is the deodorant; while its outward smell doesn't stick around for more than a few minutes, the promised deodorizing held up through a very sweaty bike ride. Meanwhile, the hair and body wash—never a good sign together—is trash. It comes out of the bottle looking like hand sanitizer, it's oddly sticky, and the scent lingers on you well after a shower. It almost makes the cologne redundant, but as they say, in for a penny, in for a pound.
We also pestered an entire office of people of both sexes for their valuable thoughts. More than half of the men described the smell as "inoffensive," although none professed a desire to actually wear it. Women were far more blunt, the majority finding it somewhere between unattractive and repulsive. We've included a few of our favorite remarks below.
- "I'd wear it if I wore cologne… and owned a Hummer."
- "It doesn't really smell bad, but anything to do with Hummer, I'm not really supportive of."
- "If I were a lumberjack, I'd wear that."
- "I've smelled worse."
- "Anyone seeking this is a loathsome, self-aggrandizing, insecure wannabe."
Fade to Hummer Black
So you probably wouldn't expect Hummer cologne to fly off the shelves, especially considering how it can easily be found at a steep discount. Even the box pictured here was procured from the official site at a reduced price. To most, the very idea of Hummer cologne has aged about as well as the Hummer H2, except there's no amount of cultural nostalgia that will make it smell good again. That's a fair conclusion.
But according to a GM licensing spokesperson, these products remain "pretty popular" almost a decade past their namesake's demise. So popular, in fact, that the active (and weird) blog on HummerFragrances.com claims a new Hummer Legendary odor will launch later this year. Maybe this will finally be the classy, rugged scent that puts Hummer back in society's good graces ahead of that hypothetical brand revival. Let's hope so, because Hummer Black isn't it.