The Harley-Davidson Product No One Remembers

Woodsy smells with traces of tobacco: every Harley-Davidson rider’s dream scent.

Strength, fearlessness and the promise of the open road. Which brand could possibly be responsible for selling this identity in its branding? It could only be Milwaukee’s own Harley-Davidson.

Since 1903, Harley-Davidson has been producing motorcycles tailored to the needs and tastes of its devoted consumer base. Alone, these bikes allow Harley owners the opportunity to see the world from a seat of a Harley-Davidson bike, but many Harley owners opt to buy not only a motorcycle, but a set of shared lifestyle values. Because of this, Harley-Davidson offers many accessories and branded items that match the bikes they make. These items include merchandise such as T-shirts, leather jackets, caps, helmets, socks, gloves and even key chains.

But how could a Harley-Davidson owner complete the full experience and fully indulge in the lifestyle without the addition of a Harley-Davidson perfume or cologne?

At least that’s what Harley-Davidson thought back in 1996 when they attempted to capitalize on the company’s unique brand loyalty and began to produce their own line of perfumes and colognes.  

Featuring iconic scents such as Black Fire, Destiny, Legendary, Hot Rod, and Territory, Harley owners were finally able to complete the all-encompassing Harley-Davidson lifestyle and smell like their favorite bike at all times. The line of perfumes and colognes were called “Hot Road” and featured woody aromas with hints of tobacco.

Harley-Davidson Perfume. Photo courtesy of Sofie Lindberg.

This was every Harley-Davidson owners dream, right?

Not so much, according to Tracy O’Connor, a Harley rider of twelve years. O’Connor is scarcely more surprised about the perfume line’s failure than she is about its existence in the first place.

“Harley has high-heeled shoes, which kind of surprised me. So it doesn’t surprise me that they had a perfume, because Harley riders are of all types,” O’Connor said. “I’ve seen women that look like they are going out to dinner and yet they’re riding their Harleys. It’s all types of people and not just a certain stereotype that ride Harleys.”

While many Harley-Davidson riders love the brand and would buy almost anything with the Harley logo on it, Harley fans were not as willing to spend their money on a bottle of perfume with prices ranging from $25-$60. This particular extension of the brand was too far for lovers of the motorcycle — many accused Harley-Davidson of  ‘Disneyfying’ the brand and believing that more products equaled more sales.

It’s evident that woodsy scents with faint traces of tobacco do not make the top of the list for even the most loyal Harley-Davidson fans.

Today, the “Hot Road” perfumes and colognes have made their way into the Museum of Failure located in Helsingborg, Sweden. There, they are joined by other failed products such as Colgate’s frozen dinners, a Donald Trump board game and Coke BlaK, a coffee flavored soda.

Trump board game from the Museum of Failure. Photo courtesy of Sofie Lindberg.

If you are curious though, a few of the failed perfumes can still be purchased online. You just won’t find them anywhere on the floor of a Harley-Davidson store.



Megan Otto is a digital and editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has previously interned in London.