Legend in a Bottle

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Written by Constance Dunn

As a child in Northern Ireland, Desmond Campbell would sit on the floor of his grandparents’ house and soak up John Wayne movies. “It was the highlight of my life,” the fragrance pro says of those days in the 1960’s and ‘70s. 

 Wayne’s presence created not just a sense of peace for the lad, but served as an on-screen avatar of integrity, whether watching him saving lives in The Searchers (1956) or busting up a Communist spy ring in Big Jim McLain (1952). “Seeing Wayne on screen putting across his own ideas and values gave me codes to try and live my life,” says Campbell. Decades later in 2015, Campbell, who by then had worked in the fragrance and beauty industries for years, was at a licensing show in London when he happened to meet Wayne’s youngest son. “Desmond is a very enthusiastic person who feels a strong connection to my father,” says Ethan Wayne of that meeting. In the midst of this star-struck conversation, Campbell asked Wayne about creating a fragrance with his father’s namesake. “He felt there was a strong desire in the marketplace for a masculine scent,” recalls Wayne. And who better to front a masculine scent than his father? Ethan was convinced, and Campbell went to work. 

Desmond Campbell and John Wayne’s youngest son, Ethan Wayne

Desmond Campbell and John Wayne’s youngest son, Ethan Wayne

It was a painstaking process and Campbell was determined to do it right. “I had to find a way to encompass the spirit of what he was like, and what he had done,” he says. After a lengthy search for the perfect bottle—a compact flask-like silhouette wrapped in an earthy, leather-like material—the rest, Campbell recounts, “fell into place.” For the next seven months, he worked on a formula chock-full of traditionally masculine elements: vetiver, patchouli, cedar wood, amber, berries and cloves. Soft orange notes at the top. Campbell wanted to evoke fresh aromas of the West. “Obviously, if you’re talking about the West, you have to consider what would actually remind you of the West,” he says of his choices.

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A selection of formulations—variations on this initial theme—were presented to Ethan, a scent was selected and, in June 2018, Legend Fragrances began distributing John Wayne: Duke cologne. “It’s a leathery, tobacco, spice scent,” says Wayne. “My father loved to smoke cigarettes and cigars, and loved to chew tobacco. Leather, particularly leather saddles, was a big part of my life growing up. It represents memories of my father.” 

 John Wayne: Duke, which will be joined by another fragrance—“A signature scent more along the lines of some of the older things I saw in my father’s bathroom and dressing room,” hints Wayne—is available online and at Western stores. Places where John Wayne is a beloved figure, just as he was to the Irish boy who would grow up and create a cologne in his name. “John Wayne stands for the good values of a family man growing up as a hardworking rancher, tending to his cattle and farmland,” says Legend Fragrances’ Bonnie Odneal, who’s been selling to such places for more than three decades. “John Wayne is a household name to these mom and pop stores.” legendfragrances.shop