Cultural Capitalism: Fear and Loathing in the Perfume Aisle at Macy’s

….an abstact symphonic post, in which, by a Kansas tornado of antideconstuctive disestablishmentarianism, we consider the fragrant origins of Donald Trump’s cultural counter-insurgency, mostly by way of stream-of-subconsciousness, non-snob reviews of Trump’s two modern scents, Success and Empire.

Donald Trump Success and Empire

Image take directly and with great intention from Daily Kos article, announcing Perfumania dumping Trump’s fragrances. Review of Empire based on four-piece Empire gift set dumped from Perfumania, six months later, at full price.

prelude

When Donald Trump announced that he was going to seek the presidency of the United States we were horrified.  Horrified!  HORRIFIED – by the possibility that his celebrity fragrances would increase in price, or become unavailable, before we had made the buy.

Politics knows how to screw up a lot of things, but when it starts screwing up fragrance, my dog-ears perk up.

My initial fear was that Trump’s fragrances would become wildly popular, with scandalous shortages at Fragrancenet.com, to be followed inevitably by a reformulation.  Bad reformulations are, sadly, one more form of emerging foreign oppression which Trump has failed to properly catalog.  The oppression wherein Europe oppresses even itself.

Which is not to say that this hasn’t happened before.

But then Trump started saying things.  Things which are known to be true, to readers of the Drudge Report,  but which even WE THE DRUDGIES are not supposed to talk about – particularly without genuflecting in prescribed ways.  Which Trump utterly failed to do.

Clearly, trouble was brewing.

When Macy’s tragically broke up with Donald Trump, as part of their psycho-socio-erotic breakdown (which ended in closing some 40-odd stores, sadly), I rejoiced.  Not because Macy’s initially told the cultural Marxists to go to hell (you’ll have to search hard for that bit of suppressed reality).  No – it’s because Macy’s finally gave in, meaning Trump’s fragrances would go to Perfumania, for an excellent discount!

Sadly, my celebrity-fragrance schadenfreude was short-lived.  When Perfumania wept on the rack and told their tormentors at Daily Kos that they were going to “Dump the Trump”, I realized it was blind-buy decision time.

Still, I procrastinated.  Maybe Macy’s or Perfumania would wriggle out of their poor strategies for avoiding an audit, and simply let Lois Lerner crunch the numbers.

Meanwhile, Trump’s numbers kept going up.  It was all so simple.  He said “Make America Great Again”.  It’s like saying “Summer is awesome!” or “Above all, a perfume should smell good.”  Who the hell is going to take up an opposing position?   Excluding, of course, people who would put the real UFO pictures on their home PC.

But then Trump said something UTTERLY shocking.  He said that, if he won, he would hand over his businesses to the kids.  Businesses.  PLURAL.

I’m sorry, but THAT is a recipe for disaster.  We know what happens when the kids get the company.  You hope for flankers, but what you get is reformulations, discontinuations, and jaw-dropping new releases that have every review starting with “O.  M.  G.”

Thus, it was time to act.  It was time to buy the Donald Trump celebrity fragrances.


I: politico

I think it really says something, that when Charlie Sheen was at the most drug-addled nadir of his most highly televised and breathlessly reported Crackmania Featuring Viral Dementia, his first inclination – at the apparent thought that he might actually need to do something – was to announce that he was going to release a celebrity fragrance.

And when I say that it says something, I don’t just mean about fragrance.

In fact, let me get right down to it, as I step over a figurative homeless person laying in that downtown park in Portland, whizzing in the air like a fountain.  The O’driù Fountain, to be specific.  But I digress.  Kinda.

I really think this may say something about how thoroughly and completely the rive gauche of our American – scratch that – global – scatch that – worldly existence, has marginalized the once-corresponding rive droite.

Seriously.  I mean, perhaps there IS a balance to be found.

To refer to the above example one more time – there was a time when the idea of giving a drug addict infinite media exposure would have seemed…. well – for lack of a better word – psychotic.

But yet here we are.

Well, forget about this “feelin’ bad” stuff.  We are not here to lament the past – recent or otherwise.  We are here to bury it.  All of it.  And in the process, we perchance may dig up a wee bit of history, but that’s burial duty, so “whatevs”, as we are prone to say, when stepping over these Ecotopian fountains.

There IS somebody who DID successfully front two or more celebrity fragrances, who is not Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, and that person is DONALD J. TRUMP.

Donald Trump at Macy's Launch of His Second Fragrance, Empire

Donald Trump and Macy’s. Clearly in better times. Apparently, the ribbon-cutting for his second fragrance, “Empire”.

Now, far be it for us to wander into things political, but we would be remiss not to mention that Donald Trump is not only hawking the juice – he’s running for President of some country near the birthplace of Ted Cruz.

Indeed – not only is he running – he’s doing remarkably well in the polls.

And it is my contention, my fellow fragrance lovers, that FRAGRANCE is entirely responsible!  In fact, thanks to fragrance, out of the NONE of you who are going to vote for Donald J. Trump to be President (according to Facebook posts), a significant percentage of you will not only vote for him, but you will also take a moment to “sniff the juice” – as we fragrance people are prone to call it, at one time or another.

Hmmmm.  So how does THAT happen?

Well, there is a saying that there is no such thing as bad press.  The problem is, everybody SAYS this line, but nobody actually BELIEVES it.

Nobody, that is, except for Donald J. Trump.

Trump Coat of Arms

Trump coat of arms. Note Obama’s pen, captured and held aloft.

“The Don”, as it were, realized that there was nothing better for his brand than having a fragrance at Macy’s.  And then having ANOTHER fragrance at Macy’s.  And then – most of all – having NO fragrances at Macy’s.

Just think – YOUR cable bill paid Donald Trump’s political media bill, because he was savvy enough to have NO fragrances at Macy’s, just like O’Driù!

Yeah.  Try wrapping your head around THAT one.

The problem with cultural Marxism is that it’s smart, but it’s not REALLY, REALLY smart.  So along comes some guy who is apparently REALLY, REALLY smart, and who not only figures out how cultural Marxism works, but realizes that if you play it backwards at the proper speed, you get money.  I’m sorry, but I’m taking off my hat to THAT one, even on the day I’m normally supposed to feel guilty about not having one on.

Logo of Donald Trump Empire fragrance

Logo of Donald Trump Empire fragrance.  Note the remarkable similarity to Trump’s own coat of arms, even down to Obama’s pen and the Masonic squares used to build pyramids and Trump towers.

But enough about the politics of politics.  Let’s talk about the politics of fragrance.

One word – and it’s the one that everybody is now saying about Washington.

UNIPARTY.

Yes, we all knew that fragrance was a party, but we never realized that it was all one big party, conspiring to make money.  Not that this is a bad thing.  After all, SOMEBODY has to pay for those expensive natural components that mysteriously appear in stainless steel reactors in India and China.  Reactors which serve as portals to alternative universes where singular components of six-legged bison barf grow on strange-smelling cacti.

But I digress. ;-)

The problem with the fragrance Uniparty is that, just like the other one, the gauche and the droite, and the insiders and the outsiders, the good, the bad, and the ugly – they’re all basically the same people.  Sure, there are a few Josh Lobbs in politics, and there are a few Bernie Sanders – Sanderses – whateverses – in fragrance.  But even THEY get their anti-Uniparty celebrity from being outliers to – you guessed it – THE UNIPARTY.  So if you look at it in terms of either cultural Marxism or fragrant Machism, there’s simply no getting away from the rest of the universe.


II. successo

Let’s start with Success, before moving on to Empire.  Either way, it’s the same story, only different.

Who did Success?  And by that, I mean the perfumer.  It turns out that it was NOT created by Donald J. Trump, experimenting in his bathroom, mixing rogaine with isopropyl alcohol.  No, Virginia.  The perfume was created by a  guy whose Delta Tau Chi name is @unrealDonaldTrump, otherwise known as Yann Vasnier.

Perfumer Yann Vasnier - Creator of Donald Trump Success

Perfumer Yann Vasnier, the actual creator of Donald Trump’s fragrance Success.

Now, Yann Vasnier isn’t just “some French dude”.  Just as there is an elite in politics, there is an elite in perfumery, and Yann Vasnier is one of ’em.  And – kinda like certain real estate moguls – he may have started off with certain advantages (such as being a French dude), but in the end, only hard work plus talent get you to the top of perfumery.

I cannot encourage you enough to go look at his fangrl/fanboi biography.  In the interest of disclosing all my loans from powerful places in New York, I must admit to having written a couple of pieces for Ca Fleure Bon, back in the day, and will always have a fondness for the editor, Michelyn Camen.  But if you want to see just how respected this guy Yann Vasnier is, by people whose most important activity on Saturday is getting their butts to Macy’s to sniff a fragrance created by some person almost nobody knows about, because they didn’t get their usual early sample from industry insiders, then you need to click that link.

Yann Vasnier doesn’t do “bad” fragrances.  But perhaps you don’t believe me, and you didn’t click on that link, which unfortunately can’t afford a bunch of graphic designers and web geeks who would have recommended that the following picture be way bigger.  So allow me.

Yann Vasnier and Big Perfumery Honchos

Yann Vasnier with other perfumery big-wigs, in some large city which may or may not be New York, Paris, London, or Whatevs.

You will note the guy who looks most antithetical to Donald Trump.  THAT is Carlos Huber, who created the Arquiste line.  I think he’s done a bunch of other stuff that’s important to normal people, but none of that matters to us “sprayer nuts”.  If you don’t own any Arquiste fragrances, it’s because you didn’t let your wife go into Barney’s when you promised to buy her something, and she didn’t walk over to the fragrances with the really cute bottles, which cost a lot more than you probably wanted to spend, and didn’t let her sniff any of them.  SHE probably wanted to buy something called L’Etrog, which was created by Yann and the dude on the right, Rodrigo Flores-Roux.  YOU probably wanted to buy something called Anima Dulcis, created by the same tag-team.  And you got L’Etrog, because you needed money for that fancy dinner you had later.

So know this, O Ye Who Respecteth Not “Celebrity Fragrance”.  The Uniparty of Fragrance has your number.  You just don’t know it.  You can buy Paris Hilton, but you get Paris, France.  Like it or not.

The first time I smelled Success – IN MACY’S – I almost bought it.  Yes, I was put off by the idea that it was a “Donald Trump” fragrance.  I recall that the thought made me laugh and roll my eyes.  To myself, mind you, since I’m typically the only fragrance nut at the counter at any moment, and the less chatty fragrance specialists have learned to give this particular customer a wide berth, for reasons which completely elude us.

No – the reason I didn’t buy it, was that I said to myself – “Look, bro.  Do you REALLY need another bottle of Nautica Voyage?  No.  Walk away.”   Which I did – although with some minor regrets, because – well – to be honest – I liked Success better than Nautica Voyage.

That should have been my first clue.

Now, many if not most of you fans of niche fragrances have only grumbling respect for Nautica Voyage – this despite the fact that it was composed by Maurice Roucel, and earned four stars from that lovable Grumpy Cat of fragrance criticism, Luca Turin – who incidentally gives the same rating to Sophia Grojsman’s monumental Trésor [Note – for those of you who don’t waste your time studying this stuff, Maurice Roucel and Sophia Grojsman could be described as the Louis de Broglie and Marie Curie of late 20th-century fragrance.]  So while Success may not be the firstest of the bestest, which is typically Luca Turin’s standard of merit, it is definitely a fine elaboration of bestest.

Success is reminiscent of a lot of other “clear blue juices” as well.  Metallic citrus like – obviously – Chrome, or (colors aside) Silver Mountain Water.  Water-reminiscent citrus fougères like the cheap but effective Whitewater Rush (which I admit is a bit of a Yankee guilty pleasure, like a brand new, slightly used, Jeep Cherokee).  And one of my personal, oddball, blue-juice favorites, the aficionado-respected creation of Jacques Cavallier, Sander for Men.

But let’s say you DO decide to investigate this scent a bit more closely.  First of all, please don’t pay too much literal attention to the misleading “pyramid” of notes that you will see in various places.  Including a place that I heartily recommend for investigating fragrances of all kinds, but particularly men’s fragrances – Basenotes.  From which I have shamelessly stolen the following graphic for your edification:

Note Pyramid for Donald Trump Success

Note Pyramid for Donald Trump Success, Stolen from Basenotes.  And as a technical aside, wouldn’t this be cool widget that sniffas could insert anywhere, just like a Twitter post?

Yes, you can smell all of these things in the fragrance, if you study it carefully, like a perfumer, trying to figure out what makes it tick.  Bear in mind that few if any of these things were actually added per se to the fragrance.  Rather, a complicated and very, very smart mixture of organic substances either derived or separated FROM natural things, or created in analogy TO natural things, was used to create the final awesome fragrance.

I know it all sounds so horrible, but it’s not.  Think of it this way.  They don’t put bamboo leaves into the fragrance.  I mean, please.  No.  Just no.  They figure out what’s in bamboo leaves that smells good, find a different combination of those things that smells even better and lasts longer, find a cheaper place to get them, get them OUT of whatever they were in, create a marketable form of the new whatever, and mix it all back together with the brains of my old labmates and the talent of an olfactory artist like Yann Vasnier, in order to create something that you put in front of a focus group that is not run by Frank Luntz, but rather Ann Gottlieb, and the one Chinese American lady at the table, who left Yunnan 40 years ago, will interrupt everybody and say “Oh my God – I smell the bamboo forest behind my house when I was a kid.”  And then everybody goes silent and the woman tears up just a bit and THERE YOU HAVE IT.  You play the cultural capitalism backwards, and you have tears, and THAT is the genius of fragrance.

So where was I?  Oh, yes.  Success.

Notice the “iced red currant” and the “frozen ginger”.  Put that into Rocky and Bullwinkle’s fragrance market-speak de-obfuscating translator, and out pops:

We used red currant and ginger because almost every modern men’s fragrance uses these things, and guys like them.  To say nothing of vetiver.  Oy vey!  No, Paco.  The real story here is that we wanted a cooling effect to imply the idea of commercial and cultural success – something that goes along with the brushed metal motifs on the thin bottle, the thin vertical typeface, the standard men’s “blue juice”, and the universally likable aspects of the Trump image, for which we thank God there were some.  It had to be just right – it needed to stay away from Trump’s tacky, boisterous, headliner side, and tap into that “he’s rich as sin and doesn’t really show it, plus he has a beautiful wife and daughter” side.  The fragrance needed to almost touch that “why in the heck is this guy such a success?” thing, which is evoked by understatement – not overstatement.

Now you can definitely smell the other listed “ingredients” in Success.  The thing you don’t notice, but you should, is the musk.  We’re not talking about the skanky, thick, warm musk that smells like you just landed in bed with a French prostitute in the 1930’s.  That’s what people THINK when they talk about musk.

No – the CLEAN smell of this fragrance is largely due to a very healthy dose of “laundry musks”, which make Success smell like freshly washed, dried and pressed, clothing or linens.  So fresh, in fact, that it smells like you just brought them home from Macy’s.  Some people even think Success smells like paper money, fresh from the bank.  Whatevs.  At least it doesn’t smell like the metal that makes men crazy.  That’s a different Creed.

Now – mix in the cooling aspects of the coriander, the subtle sophistication of a restrained citrus fougère format, the floral hints from geranium that say “women in range”, and a plethora of other micropersuasions – which can only be delivered by the trained talent of a guy or gal like Yann Vasnier, or the rebellious talent of somebody like Josh Lobb – and there you have it.

Success.

Anyway, the advantage being a fragrance nut with a huge scent memory, is that I didn’t even need to know any of this, to know that I would like the fragrance.  A couple of sniffs in Macy’s a couple of years ago, and knowing who made it, was enough to plunk down the relative pittance for not just a bottle, but a gift set, so I could see how the deodorant and shower gel perform.  And they’re great, too, for those who prefer the much more subtle fragrance that body products have to offer.  The deodorant is cheap as hell – no excuse not to get it – and the functional perfumers did a great job making sure that the shower gel still smells like the eau de toilette, within the limits of putting your perfume into a bunch of powerful soaps.

Success even performs well in the grueling “one week French shower” test, in which I pretend to be various un-Americanized European guys I’ve known, who never understood why Americans wash off perfectly good fragrance once a day.  Indeed, if you’ve never smelled that magical equilibrium where perfume and body odor reach a kind of happy human authenticity, you haven’t lived.

However – to put it bluntly – most modern fragrances designed for Americans perform poorly here, as oddball cheap components with long lives build up in eyebrow-raising ways.  Not Success.  This fragrance has eyebrow-raising longevity to begin with, but keep piling it on for a week, and the floral aspects grow in a very acceptable way, like some kind of increasingly Guerlainish feminine knock-off.  Add in the way that it seems to leverage the human odors that it would otherwise mask, and the whole thing gets a big thumbs up from moi.

So……

Summary: Donald Trump Success is a nice, but unapologetically mainstream fragrance.  Easy to wear.  Interesting.  Smart perfumery, and wisely antithetical to the loud and controversial Donald Trump, Master of Ceremonies and Showman Extraordinaire image we’ve all come to know and love/hate.  No – this is sleek, cool (but not TOO cool) businessman with multiple hints of success.  Not exactly my normal choice in fragrance, but extremely wearable and enjoyable without the slightest bit of guilt.


III. impero

Now – the main reason that I am glad I spent a paltry 25 bucks on a three-piece set of Success, is that it got me to spend over twice as much on the less available, less economical, and less ordinary Empire.

Donald Trump Empire

Donald Trump Empire. Available at Macy’s. Not Available at Macy’s. Not Available at Perfumania. Available at Perfumania. Whatevs.

Empire was a bit more of a risky purchase.  Or – as we are prone to saying in the greater state of perfumania – a blind buy.  To understand why this is so, begin by taking a look at the alleged “notes” in this puppy.  Once again, the awesomeness of Basenotes:

Note Pyramid for Donald Trump Empire

Note Pyramid for Donald Trump Empire (from Basenotes)

Get a little over half-way down that list, and if you know anything about the way fragrances actually smell, and how names and bottles are almost always in some kind of stylistic harmony with the fragrance itself, then you would be doing the same WTF that I was doing.  In fact, it was only by getting to the last three items – Tonka bean (coumarin), Amber (resins and spices), and Musk (warm stuff) – that one sees what’s really going on here.  Everything else is just nuance.  The basic type of fragrance, in this case, is all in the base notes.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t going to get much past Peppermint and Chai accord before they’ve got this fragrance pegged as something it’s not.  Too bad – because this juice is really enjoyable, for what it actually is – a modern oriental using recent components and current styles.  [Note to the young and the PC.  The term “oriental” in fragrance means a Middle-Eastern-influenced style.  If you call these fragrances Asian, then YOU are the one committing a serious faux pas.  Just some friendly advice on the little-known subject of “olfactory correctness”.]

My immediate attraction to the possibility of getting Empire, after getting minimal information out of the fragrance pyramid, was the name of the perfumer – Mary-Pierre Julien.

Rihanna and Mary-Pierre Julien

Mary-Pierre Julien and Rihanna.  Eau my.  Friends, let’s not quibble here.  Aren’t women just the absolute greatest invention EVER?

I cannot steal the above picture without telling you where I got it – a positively brilliant slide-show article on Beauty Blitz, about how celebrity fragrances get made (which is essentially how they all get made, to be honest).  The author, Klaudia Tirico, gets an extraordinary interview with Ms. Julien, who elsewhere credits as her mentors both Michel Girard and Christine Nagel.  (See another great interview, albeit in French).

The reason I remembered Mary-Pierre’s name, was that it was associated with a rather obscure but extremely evocative green tea citrus scent called Hamarikyu Gardens, which was sold for a short while in the local Anthropologie.  I ended up getting a solid scented crayon of the stuff (talk about an odd format), because I wanted the entire collection (especially Claude Dir’s tea scent), but I didn’t want to spend $300 doing it.  But let me tell you, I was sorely tempted to buy the big bottle.  And if I was Donald Trump, I would have gotten them all.

But wait.  There’s more.

In looking at Mary-Pierre’s work history, two things stood out to me.

One:  she did Ivanka Trump’s fragrance, Ivanka Trump.

Okay.  Repeat business is usually a good sign of the satisfied customer.  And this scent is reputed to be good.  By a fashion nose we respect.

Two:  she did Kate Walsh Boyfriend.

The second item is what made me shell out WAY too much cash to Perfumania for my Empire gift set.  Kate Walsh Boyfriend was so breathtakingly innovative, I almost bought it for myself, and probably would have, had I not already spent way too much on fragrance, the year it came out.  Alas, it’s not really something I can wear every day, and it’s not my wife’s style of fragrance, either, so I have only the memories.  But they’re good ones.

The trick with Boyfriend is that it’s supposed to smell like a woman wearing her boyfriend’s shirt.  This is a great idea that keeps popping up in perfumery, over and over again, much in the same way that certain impossibilities keep getting re-postulated and resurrected in physics, simply because intelligence wants to go there and say what if?  I mean, seriously.  What guy wouldn’t want to chase, in predetermined failure, a witty, virginal, and utterly unsinkable skank nicknamed Mary the Magnetic Monopole, who wears your shirt, but never takes it off, and can only exist in your dreams, but never in reality?

It doesn’t help that Boyfriend was based on Kate Walsh’s scent memory of Ralph Lauren Polo – one of the greatest fragrances ever made, and one of my youthful favorites.  Carlos Benaïm could have cranked out adhesive monomers for the rest of his career and still retired on Polo. Thankfully, he cranked out way better than that, including the retrospectively coniferous and retro-stylistically edgy Liquid Night, also in my collection, along with what’s left of my original Polo.

Boyfriend.  Truly a work of genius.  If you’re a guy, you want to wear it because it smells like a really hot woman is wearing your shirt.  If you’re a woman, you want to wear it, because it smells like you’re wearing your hot boyfriend’s shirt over your really excellent perfume.  And the perfumer didn’t just make it work – she made it work BIG TIME.  People in Greater Perfumania immediately dropped all pretense that Boyfriend’s status as a “celebrity scent” mattered (much less a – GASP – television celebrity).  It was like when people see a person as a person, and not as an exemplar of whatever ethnicity or sex they happen to be.

Although, I’ve gotta be honest.  I love seeing women as women.  All of ’em.  Every last, beautiful-smellin’, one of ’em.

So when Empire was finally delivered to my door, I expected great things – not because of Donald Trump, but because of Mary-Pierre Julien.  And now, in seeing both the rightness and wrongness of that thought, I understand Empire, and how Mary-Pierre Julien applied her awesome interpretive skills to that one, too.

Opening the box, I sniffed the sprayer.  Normally, you don’t get much from a fresh bottle, because the juice hasn’t moved up the riser tube, but Empire is a fairly strong one.

This is what I first smelled – only better.

Viktor & Rolf Antidote

Viktor & Rolf Antidote.  Good for what ails you.  If you can find it.

Antidote – sadly discontinued – has a slightly rubbery incense accord which is truly mesmerizing.  Unlike V&R’s Spicebomb, which tempted me enough for the buy, Antidote never grabbed my money.  However, some of my most respected fragrance buddies love the stuff, and it remains an unbought favorite.

Empire was giving me something a lot like it, only a bit fruitier and more complex.   It was a good sign.  Maybe there was still a chance to have my Antidote after all.

And then I sprayed it for real.  And this is what I smelled – only better.

Body Kouros

Body Kouros.  It’s a whole ‘nuther Kouros.  Because you can’t deal with the real one.

Body Kouros is almost unique – at least in my experience.   It’s smooth, rubbery, medicinal oriental.  In the words of YSL’s own marketing….

The freshness of Eucalyptus contrasts with the spirituality of Incense smoke. The provocative blend of Chinese Cedar and Mace gives way to Benzoin and Camphor Wood which envelope the skin in divine warmth.

Like the five-star rubbery oriental Bulgari Black, YSL Body Kouros is another creation of Annick Ménardo, who has a habit of making fragrances that critical lovers of fragrance love.  Luca Turin sees Body Kouros as a rip-off (his words) of Yohji Homme, and further sees Yohji as a take on yet another Ménardo perfume, thus completing a circle of collaborative perfume inspiration, to my way of blameless perfumery thinking.  My knowledge of fragrance not being as encyclopedic as Turin’s – and my premiums on originality being much smaller – I’m willing to let Body Kouros slide into home base as a great one.  And truth be told, Turin gives it four stars, which is far from trivial.

But no matter what – this.  The fact that somebody made something that I preferred to a similar Annick Ménardo scent, is no small feat.  The same skills which figured into the creation of the psychologically manipulative oriental Boyfriend, were being brought to bear on a smooth, slick, and sensuous modern oriental that is the gist of Empire.

It was a final fragrance comparison that eventually dawned on me, which provides a solid metric of how good Donald Trump Empire actually is.

Givenchy Play and Play Intense

Givenchy Play and Play Intense.  Donald Trump Empire is the red arrow in the middle.

The story is coffee wood.  Or more accurately “coffee wood“, in Doctor Evil air quotes.  The real difference between the old Body Kouros and Empire is that the rubbery incense accord in Empire is much more like the coffee wood accords in Givenchy Play and Play Intense, than it is like the main base accord in Body Kouros.  Personally, I think it’s better.  But that’s not all.

I was never fully satisfied with either Play or Play Intense, and waffled back and forth between them – so much so that I traded bottles with another Basenoter at some point.  The fact is, the coffee wood accord in Play is far too weak, and the coffee wood accord in Play Intense is painfully overdone – to the point of being crude and slightly annoying.  Indeed, after my extended semi-satisfactory experiences with these fragrances – to get all Bill Kristol about things – coffee wood was dead to me.  With sadness, I told myself that it was simply a limited idea – imperfectable by anybody – even the talented hands of Emilie (Bevierre) Coppermann and Lucas Sieuzac, who collaborated to create those nicely done and best-selling Givenchy fragrances.

Well, Empire puts coffee wood into the Goldilocks zone for me.  Not too hot – not too cold.  Just right.  Meaning I finally found the Givenchy Play I was looking for.  And of all things, it turned out to be a Donald Trump celebrity flanker.

So thank you, Mary-Pierre.  Your hard work is appreciated.  This is really nice fragrance, which I thoroughly enjoy, and I’m going to be wearing it quite often.  In fact, at the moment, I can’t stop wearing it.

Summary: Donald Trump Empire is a quality designer oriental that is surprisingly versatile and extremely enjoyable.  Fans of similar fragrances with a slight rubbery edge – Antidote, Bulgari Black, Body Kouros, and Play Intense are probably going to like this one.  Longevity is good, and it holds up well, although the opening is really great, and makes you want to keep re-applying.  The opening is restrained but opulent – sparkly – and the drydown sultry, meaning it’s wearable by women who are comfortable with Bulgari Black, although more so at the beginning.

And speaking of women wearing Empire


IV. futuro

I thought a lot about Empire after that first sniff.  I wore it day in and day out, thinking about what it all meant.  Trump announced that he was running for President at the same time he released this fragrance.  Why?  What did it all mean?  What are the words that nobody says – that nobody CAN say?  Perhaps that only fragrance can say?

In the end, the first sniff had all the goods.  And my impression at the moment I first sniffed it was simple.

“Ooooooo!  Fruity notes!  Sweet notes.  But just a bit.  Not too much.  Overall, kinda masculine, but – you know?  This other stuff is a little bit girly.  What’s up with that?”

The odd fruity and sweet notes in Empire are immediately noticeable, but yet not out-of-place.  The whole thing has the luxurious feel of a Tom Ford creation, but significantly less provocative.  The “feminine” notes are set into the totality, but yet not smoothed into it.  They’re a bit like gems laying on black velvet – and they are definitely little sparkles of less is more.  I like ’em.  They need to be there.  They make the fragrance.  I desire them.

I then had another thought.

“Why did Trump sign off on the girly aspects?  Was he trying to please Melania or Ivanka?”

I even suspected that he might have let them sniff the samples and influence his decision.

And that, amigos, is when it hit me.

He loves his women.  He loves his family.  And that’s his empire.  His REAL empire.

One of the more open secrets of Trump, is that he is deceptively simple.  He is simple, but not in the way that your suspicions and prejudices tell you he is.  And Trump takes advantage of it.  Why tell a complicated lie, when a simple truth is even craftier, to all except those who choose to believe it?  Eventually, people understand this, and realize that their own preconceptions are what made them attribute motivations and meanings beyond the simple things that Trump says.

Trump loves women.  He says so.  Look at his life history.  He’s a hopeless romantic, who even pined for a real princess.  He’s had a storybook life, surrounded by beautiful women, and he loves it.  Because, let’s face it.  Women ARE awesome.  We can get all deconstructive, to try to create a narrative of misogyny, but no.  Just no.  Stop it.  The big picture doesn’t lie.  If you’re not explaining the big picture, you’re not explaining anything.

Trump loves family.  He says so.  Look at his statement about his company – that he’s going to hand it over to his kids, if (brace yourselves) he’s elected President.  I’m sure he means it.  Just watch that video if you don’t believe me.  When I say that video got me off the couch to buy his juice before it was gone, I may be joking, but I’m not kidding.  Who knows what’s going to happen to it?  If this guy becomes President, it’s going to shake up his family, no matter how lucky their stars.

We may want to think Trump is different from us, valuing his buildings, his wealth, and his company over family, but I think not. And like everything else, he puts the deceptively simple truth right in front of people, hidden only by our expectations of gaudiness, greed and whatever else we choose to project on the rich, as being more important to them, than the things that we, too, hold dear.

Trump Family Coat of Arms

Trump Family Coat of Arms

My mother, who was more old-world than my father, passed along a number of priceless/worthless relics from her mother’s European side of the family, not the least of which was a written account of her family history.  To both me and my brother, however, she also left the last surviving copies of the family coat of arms – his a rather large work in embossed leather, mine a small but very beautiful painting of the design.

There is so much beautiful tragedy in that family heraldry – relics of an imperial Europe that consumed itself in a quest for greatness by all the wrong means.

Some day I’ll write about it.  But for now, I’ll say this.  I do get what my mom and dad tried to tell me.  Family is everything.  Empires of the State rise and fall, but family is everything.

I had written more, but I’m going to delete it.  I’ll simply close with Trump’s own market-speak for the fragrance, which becomes tragically true when seen from that viewpoint.

Donald chose the name Empire “because every man has his own empire to build,” he said.

Indeed.  Perhaps those are the only empires which are worth building.


 

 

Posted in Art, Entertainment, Fashion, Fragance, Fragrance Reviews, News and politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Idéalogue

Sorry – I lied.  Not intentionally.  I guess it’s a time-based lie, which is interesting, in a no-new-taxes sort of way.  A change of plans.  But still a lie.  Whatever.  The failings of a finite universe.

I was going to opine about some science dealing with “shape versus vibration”, and all that nonsense.  And I will – eventually.  That stuff is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as GUERLAIN.  Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about.  (Fun link here, amigos.)

Guerlain L'Homme Idéal - The Luncheon

Guerlain L’Homme Idéal – The Luncheon.  It’s what you do while they engrave your bottles.  Maybe hers, too.

Having just returned from my first trip to Paris, I have worn almost exclusively two fragrances, and of those, primarily one: Guerlain L’Homme Idéal EDT.  The other would be the cologne version, which I wore all over Paris, because of the heat.

Up until now, I’ve never had a Guerlain that I could truly call my signature scent.  I’ve had Chanels and Diors that I wore week after week, and could not put down, but never a Guerlain.  Terre d’Hermès was certainly one of my first signature scents.  It will stay with me forever.  But for some reason, Guerlain never really did it.

L’Instant Pour Homme EDT got me into Guerlain, and the Extreme version showed me that the concentrations of EDP and beyond, is where Guerlain really does its magic.  These two are so easy for a guy to love.  However, it’s the women’s EDT that really stole the show for me.  I love it when my wife wears that one, and I’ve been known to borrow it on occasion, too, although it really doesn’t suit me.  The whole franchise is worthwhile, to be honest.  That would include the “68” fragrances, as well.  And yet – I can only love them occasionally.  So many times I sniff the bottle – smile – and put it back.

Guerlain Homme EDT taught me how to exercise some restraint, to experience the beauty of a finicky fragrance.  Just a touch, and it gives magical sillage.  Too much, and I might as well be cleaning a lawnmower.  While I rarely wear it, rumors of its discontinuation trouble me, because it’s a very original composition in its mainsteam genre, and I’d hate to see it go into vintage limbo.  In contrast, Guerlain Homme EDP Intense is an easy wear.  That one is a joy – everything that I’m sure the EDT was supposed to be.   But every day?  Impossible.

Beyond that, only Vetiver Pour Elle ever came close to something I could wear day in and day out.  Maybe for a week, but never more.

There were other Guerlain loves, to be sure.  Shanghai – amazing.  Derby – classic beauty.  Shalimar – made me wish to be reincarnated as a woman, although not in this lifetime, thank you.  And all the others.  I even got to experience the elusive Djedi – a scent memory that will last a lifetime.

No.  None of them ever hit me like Bleu de Chanel.  That was a case where the scent owned me, and vice-versa was merely a formality.  I was beginning to think that such a thing might be impossible for Guerlain.  Thus, I did not expect to find a new signature scent on my first trip to Paris.  I only wanted to score some things that were hard to find in the United States.

I don’t mean any disrespect to Guerlain by saying that.  Far from it.  In fact, on my pilgrimage to the historic store on Champs-Elysées, I actually walked the last mile-and-a-half on foot.  Yes.  Dust on my shoes, I entered The Mothership in fragrant reverence, for what I feared might be the only time in my life.

There was no way I was walking out without SOMETHING.  But still – I know better than to buy something I don’t at least respect, and preferably something I love deeply.  I’ve learned not to throw my money at things I don’t really, really want to wear at least once in a while.

68 Champs-Elysées

The Mothership, docked at 68 Champs-Elysées

The first whiff of L’Homme Idéal, in an alcove just up the welcoming stairs at 68 Champs-Elysées, was both expected and unexpected.  I knew I was going to like it.  By the time you get 5 or 10 years into fragrance, you can smell something off the written page.  I knew this would be up my alley.  But it was also far, far better than I expected.  I expected to like this fragrance.  I did not expect to be craving it night and day for the next month, with no end in sight.

I did not say “I’ll take it.” after the first whiff.  I smelled the Cologne, too, and said “I’ll take one of each.

Oh, Thierry, you drug dealer!

Thierry Wasser & L'Homme Idéal

Thierry Wasser, Olfactory Cartel Chemist, and His Latest Menace to High Society

I’ll try not to repeat all the things others have said.  I’ll stick to what seem like more personal revelations.

The Cologne.  Let’s dispense with that, first.

L'Homme Idéal Cologne

L’Homme Idéal Cologne

It’s good, and it’s reminiscent of the parent fragrance, but that’s it.  And let me state most categorically that it’s much stronger than a normal cologne – more like a robust EDT.  I was wearing 3 sprays in Paris and getting all-day fragrance, and it was actually getting a bit too loud for an hour or two after putting it on.  I was lowering the window on the train so as not to gas out the non-Latin tourists.  It’s not Fahrenheit, by any means, but it is almost certainly stronger than Dior Homme Sport.

The Cologne is interesting.  It has the zingy grapefruit opening of the discontinued guaiac gem, Tokyo by Kenzo, but the roughshod guaiac base of that one has been replaced by a familiar but subtle and rather nicely done woody aromachemical base, much more typical of the latest-generation designer sport fragrances.  The latter would make this – to borrow Francisco’s term – a gentle form of the norlimbanol bomb – perhaps more like a norlimbanol flash-bang.  But no matter what, it’s just not as impressive as the regular fragrance.  There’s a bit of the central almond accord, but not nearly enough for my taste.

So let’s talk about the star fragrance itself..

L'Homme Idéal - Component View

L’Homme Idéal – Component View – 68 Champs-Elysées

Everybody says “amaretto”.  Well – whatever.  Perhaps it actually IS a bit like amaretto, but I think that sells the remarkable primary accord short – and by a long shot.  I’ve drunk every form of cheap amaretto truck-stop cappuccino ever made, and I’ve tasted every amaretto concoction I could get my hands on.  Never in my life did I want to buy a box of amaretto creamers and take them home with me from France.

I would describe L’Homme Idéal as what pipe tobacco smells like in heaven.  Take away the smoke, but leave some essential part thereof.  Take away the tobacco, but leave a hint that it was once in the mix.  There is a plummy, cherry, almond-reminiscent accord, which is tempered in a very skillful and natural way with just a trace of the smoky and dark leafy effects of tobacco in a pipe.  Add in a touch of Angel candy and an even lighter touch of demure pepper, and the whole thing smells like a “Guerlain does Spicebomb, only better” moment.  It’s like Spicebomb in a white tux.  Er – maybe a black tux.  Whatever.  It’s nice.  And classy.  But infinitely wearable, too.  And that brings me right back to why I cannot put this stuff down.

Morning – evening – night.  The opening of this fragrance is awesome.  Longevity is fine, too, and the middle and the base serve up a very nice version of the opening for a good 10-18 hours.  But at the end of that time, I simply crave that opening, dialed up somewhere between 7 and 11, yet again.

There is a lot of homage going on.  I get bits of L’Instant – all of them, to be honest.  And yet it exceeds L’Instant, because it is more subtle – less fully gourmand – more modern and ethereal.

There is some Arsène Lupin Voyou going on, too, although again – I have to say that this does better.  There is a translucent, smoky, impressionist chypre aspect to Voyou that matches up with another great fragrance, Serge Lutens’ Un Bois Sepia.  I see that here as well, only – again – more subtle and compelling.  These other two fragrances are frequently accused of being “mainstream”, and no doubt, such accusations will be made against L’Homme Idéal.  Whatever.  It’s good.  If that’s mainstream, then give me more.

Is this coming to America?  I certainly hope so, although I must confess that I’m enjoying apparent exclusivity in my neck of the woods.  I had heard – deep in the fragrance rumorsphere – that the hold-up had something to do with the FDA not approving some ingredient.  Scandalous if true.  But in any case, I think it can be gotten though Beauty Encounter now, and I just got a sample from state-side Guerlain, so there appears to be a crack in The Wall.

Good.  As they say, the spice must flow.  The Houses of the Empire will work out how that happens.

The Spice Must Flow

The spice must flow.  The rest is details.

Posted in Fragance, Fragrance Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Exile on Mainstream Street

Although this isn’t the post I want to make, it’s the one that I owe my fragrance friends, before I make the post that I actually do want to make.

To say I’ve been away for a while would be an understatement.  After a long absence from the fragrance scene, I made a brief return in 2014, followed by an even longer absence.   Until now.

Were it not for a truly fascinating and important scientific paper on olfaction which just appeared, I would probably not be making this post, much less the next one.  However, I feel that it is something approximating a duty to share my scientific thoughts on said paper, and thus this brief return to the fragrance world.

So what have I been up to?  Work.  Keeping my computer very, very clean.  Keeping my mind clear and my body functional – and the whole, relatively pain-free.  And most of all, helping to steer the hive mind back into a functional state, where thoughts and ideas range freely.  Which, unfortunately, is not possible in the Fragrant Neutral Zone, located somewhere between The Very Voyager Federation and the Romneyan Empire.  Thus, I now find myself in the company of all sorts of heroes and villains.  Shape shifters.  Veterans of the Troll Wars.  Assorted spies, provocateurs, info-mercenaries, and the low-paid or unpaid workers who lay down both astroturf and natural grass.  Old farts.  Young hooligans.  Ex-this and almost-that.  Any and all of which may be a lie.  It’s a bit like Star Wars, and a bit like the Old West.  A table full of old friends and new strangers playing with marked cards.  And I would be lying if I said that I haven’t developed a taste for it.

But I miss fragrance.  I miss recording my scent of the day.  However, eventually one learns not to show up at the watering hole every day.  So, like Bleu de Chanel, I’ve learned to be a bit more unexpected.  My apologies for that.

Exiled on Mainstream Street, I stumble into the cool nights of Bleu de Chanel EDP.

Exiled on Mainstream Street, I stumble into the cool nights of Bleu de Chanel EDP.

Without the peer pressure of fellow fragrance lovers, I wear EXACTLY what I want.  It’s almost like back when my love for fragrance was pure and unshared.  I find that I now wear almost entirely mainstream fragrances.  Even more, I have fallen for certain perfumers.  The Polges – especially Olivier.  The Ellenas – especially Jean-Claude.  I drift into niche, but for the most part, I wear designer scents.  And it’s OK.  I’m happy.

I used to care if other people understood why I loved certain fragrances.  Now, not so much.  We love what – and who – we love.  There’s no need to justify or apologize for that.  How we show or don’t show that love matters, but trying to deny or justify is unnecessary.  As far as fragrance is concerned, there is only one really good reason to tell people why I love something.  And that would be so they might share that love – so that they, too, might appreciate the same beauty.  But to be honest, there are plenty of others who can do this.  I won’t fool myself into thinking that my contribution to the communal love of fragrance was ever more than a small and easily replaceable part.  Letting it go feels good.

Anyway, I leave you now.  Turning back into the twilight, I stumble along, down Mainstream Street, toward another adventure, in another town.  But before I go, I leave you with this – my next post.

Posted in Uncategorized

Luca’s Rose Garden

Nombre Noir by Serge Lutens

If black can have a smell, it might as well have a number.

Today, we sniff the great and near-mythical fragrance, Shiseido Nombre Noir.  This fragrance, which was, for a long time, the favorite fragrance of perfume critic Luca Turin, is something of a legend in the fragrance community.  I consider it an honor – a very lucky one – to be able to sniff this perfume and describe it for you.

We were discussing this scent on Basenotes, when somebody mentioned having seen it recently.  Thinking it might actually be out there, I wandered around on the internet,  looking for various bits of information.  At one point, I found some information on the website of the decanting and sample service, Surrender To Chance.  And then I noticed that the fragrance was actually for sale, and that I could get 1/4 mL for only $20.

Shocked!  Shocked, I say!  Shocked that we could actually get some of this to smell.  Shocked even more that we could actually afford it.

In any case, we will now begin the ceremonial sniffing of this legendary fragrance.

Knit, mi amiga – this one’s for you!

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

My first chore is to open the mailer from Surrender To Chance.  A hideously efficient affair, it forces me to cut the stuck plastic outer layer, at the joint, rather than try to tear at the adhesive, which appears to be stronger than the plastic itself.

The package opened, I take my first whiff.  A tiny bit of odd fragrance – familiar but distant in my memory – only makes me more doubtful.  I have no idea what it is – only that it is strange.

A tiny espresso candy wrapper falls out of the pack.  WTF?  Looking back into the pack, I am relieved to see that there is more.  Somebody has a sense of humor.  At least it wasn’t coffee beans.  Unwrapping the rolled-up receipt, which smells even stranger, a tiny bit of taped padding falls out.

Nombre Noir Sample

Full Sample Worthy!

Well, this is pretty much the moment of truth.  If the odd, screeching, mothball fragrance on the paper is Nombre Noir, this is going to be a serious WTF.

Cautiously, I open the small package by cutting the tape.  I open one end of the polystyrene puff-bag, and out pops a small vial, containing a surprisingly but reassuringly yellow liquid.

Nombre Noir Sample.

Nombre Noir – the real deal.

Cool.  We have arrived.  The sniff.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Sniffing around the seal of the vial, I detect something warmer than the cold mothball fragrance on the paper.  My instant impression is White Rose Natural by Shiseido, which I am very, very, very fortunate enough to own.  That is one of the most amazing fragrances ever.  But the tiny whiff of *something* just brought that to mind instantly.  Not really in any fair way, but I am faithfully recording my thoughts.  WordPress is my lab notebook.

OK.  Here goes.

I crack open the vial, and sniff intently for half a minute, then close the vial.

The fragrance IS somewhat reminiscent of White Rose Natural, but it is clearly less rosy.  It is odd, but the oddity is subtle and beautiful.  It has something vaguely reminiscent of my wife’s beloved but rather baroque rose fragrance, Fleurs de Bulgarie, by Creed.  That sort of ornamental rose from days gone by.  But just a touch.  A smidgeon, so to speak.  The Victorian ornateness is gone, but the class remains.  Impressive.  The fragrance is both warm and chilly.  I like it.  The cool stuff that infested the receipt and package is there, but it is balanced by something warm which makes it veer into guy territory.  I can see how Turin fell for this stuff.  It’s very “Serge” – that restrained, bizarre, humorless affect that the SAs in the Lutens boutique supposedly adopt – it’s all there.  I want to laugh out loud at it.

OK.  Time for a REAL sniff.  Let’s put some on paper.

Shiseido White Rose Abstract.  My review in 4 words or less.

Sorry – this is a beautiful fragrance.  If the best whiskey ever was a rose, this would be it.  Kinda like Jack Daniels in rose-space.  Yes.  I want to go back in time to my Ph.D. party, where I had a fifth of Jack Black, and wear a black turtleneck, a pair of sleek, black, smooth-rimmed Chanel glasses that won’t be cool until 30 years later, and just REEK of this stuff.  My whole life would have been different.  I’d probably be some sort of horrible lefty academic with three divorces, a bunch of respectable papers, and I wouldn’t know shit.  But for one magic moment, I would have been in perfect sync with this amazing fragrance.

Damn.  I have a black turtleneck.  All I need now are the Chanel glasses, a shave, mom jeans and a dye job.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I swear to G_d, I need a character who wears this fragrance.  Even Joey Waters cannot wear this stuff.  He has a Chanel poster in his studio, and the model wearing the glasses looks like the guy who wears this fragrance.  Snake walks in, and is always in awe of the “Chanel dude”, and wonders which Chanel fragrance the guy is wearing.  It’s Égoïste, but when he’s not on the job, he wears Nombre Noir.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

OK.  Back to reality.  Sorta. The Égoïste reference was not for naught – this stuff actually bears a certain similarity.  Imagine taking “Bois Noir“, as it were, and removing the woody crutch needed to make Égoïste a guy frag.  Now – as you do that, the ornate rose starts coming back, and the “Noir” starts to fade, but somehow keep it there, until the guy who’s wearing it becomes painfully cool, because he doesn’t care that there is only a small bit of what is needed to keep all the girls guessing whether he’s wearing one of their scents, probably poached from the vanity of some lucky lady who traded her reputation for a night with the guy.  Égoïste, not on steroids, but on some kind of androgynous miracle drug.

You know – I think I can back away from this scent enough to be clinical, and explain the Turin love.  This is a “guy wearable” rose, but it’s HOW it remains guy-wearable that is what is so amazing.  It sacrifices none of the greatness – the smoothness – the elegance.  But it still says “You can wear me, guy, if you have something about you that makes the Daniel Craig version of James Bond respect you, because THAT is what kind of scent I am.”

One of the secrets of this stuff, I am realizing, is that it uses the spicy/peppery trick that Le Labo Rose 31 uses, but at a much more subtle, almost imperceptible level.  The texture of the spice is so fine-grained, that it seems almost harmonic with the rose.  Just BRAVO.  I see this as somewhat analogous to the vetiver fascination in Portrait of a Lady, also one of the great fragrances of all time.  It is the judicious offsetting of rose with a textured sort of spice, wood, or similar stuff, that makes people say “Yeah.  That’s cool.  And a GUY can be cool, wearing it.

There is also a Platinum Égoïste thing going on.  If that one had been just a bit more rosey, and less of a fougère, it could have captured the high-pitched rose in this one.  Just sayin’.  I never really got WHY they named Platinum Égoïste Platinum Égoïste, but had they made Platinum Égoïste more obviously rosey, it would have made tons of sense.  Oh, man, this fragrance is inspirational.  How the fuck would I know how to correct a fragrance from the brilliant Jacques Polge, were it not that this mythical fragrance sitting in front of me had the answer?

OK.  I’m done here.  As Nombre Noir fades, it falls apart, ever so gently and ever so respectfully.  In its wake, it leaves that cool, fresh, smooth, mothball base note, like a soprano fading out.  The rose goes out on a high note, so to speak.  An intertwining mix of freshness and gamma ray rose.

Why they got rid of this – wow – who knows.  Does it matter?  But honestly, I think that somebody could make something like this again.  White Rose Natural has some essential element of this stuff, and that one is NOT gone.  Expensive, but not gone.  This could be done.

I leave you with a final thought.  Why I will never seek a real bottle of this stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE'RE NOT WORTHY!  WE'RE NOT WORTHY!

WE’RE NOT WORTHY! WE’RE NOT WORTHY!

Additional References For Those Interested In Nombre Noir:

http://doublebasenotes.blogspot.com/2008/01/nombre-noir-by-luca-turin.html

http://yesterdaysperfume.typepad.com/yesterdays_perfume/2009/09/shiseido-nombre-noir-1981.html

http://perfumesmellinthings.blogspot.com/2005/12/perfume-review-shiseido-nombre-noir.html

http://www.vinography.com/archives/2009/10/wine_will_never_smell_the_same.html

http://group.shiseido.com/corporate-museum/preservation/item.html

https://www.nyu.edu/greyart/exhibits/shiseido/zen042.htm

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/sample/read/9780061133848  (see Chapter 1)

Appendix I – The Next-Day Drydown

And here you thought I would be cheap and try to get a second post out of the part where I actually have time to look at the entire development of the fragrance.  Never!  This entire review must remain in one place.  Some would argue, so that it’s easier to take out the trash, but still.  We shall not make you chase down the complete set.

The way this odd fragrance falls apart is by divergence into it’s light and dark halves.  Strange as hell.  The dark parts are there, but their integration with the bright, fresh, high-pitched stuff seems to vanish, leaving the parts more easily discernible.  It’s difficult to get a handle on the dark parts – to some extent due to olfactory fatigue.  After taking a break and coming back to sniff this, there is a dark fruitiness in the base that is very enjoyable, and presumably makes for the name, but perception of it is difficult and its presence tenuous.  It falls away at the drop of a hat.  There is also the omnipresent, bright freshness.  And, somewhere between them, an abstract, tonal floral accord that is the true greatness of this fragrance.

OK – now I’m really done here.  Enjoying the fact that my touristy long-sleeved T-shirt from Desert Rock Sports in Las Vegas is not a black turtleneck.  But those Chanel frames.  Damn, they look good.  Maybe I’ll work up a belch, just to be safe.

Posted in Art, Fashion, Fragrance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Going Postal: Addressing the Perfume Mailability Problem at USPS with Technology

USPS Mailability of Perfumes

Yes, Virginia. You can mail fragrances without lying. And the USPS is now helping you to do it.

I will admit that I’ve been a merciless critic of the USPS in regard to fragrance mailability.  When it was pointed out to me on Basenotes that it is far easier to mail fragrances in China – as in RED CHINA – than it is in “red, white and blue” America….. well, that was the point where I basically decided that I would not bother to live in any country where I could not mail fragrance.  And while it was looking pretty grim for continuing to live in Uncle Red’s Cabin, here in the good old USA, I have good news for more than just my beloved family members, who all love our current location dearly.  You, too, can now mail fragrance in the United States.  And you can do so without having to lie about it.

So, the executive summary version is that the USPS did something right, by using technology to help interpret their own rules.  You can leave with that thought, if you’d like.  But if you care about certain things – fragrance, sharing fragrance, and truth – then I think you deserve the full story.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Where do I begin?  I could go on forever.  But let’s try to do it in one sentence.

You have always been able to mail fragrance domestically in the United States, but the damn rules are so complex, ever-changing, and impossibly worded, that almost every single postal employee was under the impression that perfume simply could not be mailed, thereby inducing millions of honest Americans to LIE about whether their packages contained fragrance.

Yes.  The rules are so bad, that – refusing to lie – I was once forced to call a variety of USPS and DOT officials, from my truck, in the Post Office parking lot, to ascertain whether I could either mail fragrance, or have my biggest-ever blog scandal scoop.

Sadly – or gladly, depending on your point of view – the truth was that I could mail my fragrance samples, and the clerk was – more or less – wrong.  Somewhere between “restricted” and “forbidden”, somebody either wasn’t getting the message, or wasn’t actually supposed to get the message.

Generally speaking, your fragrances can always be shipped domestically by ground.  Up to a shockingly large quantity.  With a simple “ORM-D” marking on the parcel, that can even be drawn by hand.  You can start to read all about ORM-D here, although once you go down the rabbit-hole of regulations, you will surely begin to freak out.  That link drops you in the middle of the rules – something like opening an organic chemistry book in the middle.  If you follow it long enough, in multiple directions, you will eventually discover the rules for packaging your fragrance.  Or at least the probable rules.  I’ve actually gotten slightly different rules from different officials.  So it’s a mess.  I don’t dare quote the packaging rules for you, since I have multiple versions.

But it gets worse.

The situation is so bad, that in one of my many frustrated readings of the regulations, I discovered a 30-mL small quantity exception that – as far as I can tell – nobody is even telling us about.  Not only would the small quantity classification seem to cover almost all reasonable quantities of fragrance samples – it seems to be a very preferable alternative to ORM-D classification because – shockingly – it would allow your small samples to travel by air, domestically.  However, in trying to determine which one trumps the other – small quantity or the USPS “simple dictum” that no flammable materials can go by air, I am simply running into a brick wall of logic.  The regulations as posted online clearly are not giving us the full story.

Worse still, I think I have an idea WHY they’re being a bit coy about letting us know our rights to mail things.

DRUGS.

Yeah.  Fragrance is suffering because of the drug wars.  OY.

Unfortunately, even correcting things online would be yet another waste of our tax dollars.  Why?  Because ORM-D is going away, to be replaced by something new, which is supposed to allow harmonization with international regulations.  That something new was supposed to arrive here in January of 2013, and then January of 2014, according to one source I found, but was apparently delayed.  However, you can see some of the new labeling requirements here.  Try to make sense out of it.  I dare you.  No – I double dare you.  Because, quite honestly, I cannot tell you whether I will be able to mail fragrance a year from now.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Every trip to the post office for the last six years has been a nightmare – a gauntlet of bureaucracy, as a lone redneck perfumisto, insisting on telling the truth about his fragrance parcels, had to run a gauntlet of underpaid fellow citizens who were simply doing what they thought was their duty, honorably and professionally enforcing a lie.

So – imagine my surprise when I mailed my most recent package of fragrance samples to a fellow Basenoter.  Instead of the usual problems, when I was asked if my package contained anything liquid, fragile, or potentially hazardous, and I answered (more or less) “yes”, I was directed to a signature pad and a stylus.  With the message (roughly)….

Does you package contain lithium batteries, paint, perfume, matches, etc.?

To which I answered…

YES / NO

Does your package contain hazardous materials?

Now I have to admit that I talked to the clerk, just to make sure, and for alcohol-based perfume, the answer is still…

YES / NO

Done.  Same price by weight as my non-fragrance mailer, which I sent at the same time.  Both were projected to make it to my friend 3 days later.  The fragrance package actually did.  And the non-fragrance package actually arrived in only 2 days.

Although I had marked my fragrance package ORM-D and SURFACE MAIL ONLY as usual, there was no checking for it.  There was no special tagging or labeling of the fragrance package.  Instead, it was all done electronically.  The “hazardous” package simply went by ground, as a USPS First Class Mail Parcel, while the other, non-hazardous package – presumably – went by air as the same thing.  Now I have to caution you that the ORM-D rule probably still applies, but the clerk did not seem to care about it.

The bottom line:  The machine has taken the job of interpreting arcane postal rules away from the clerk.

Shocked.  Shocked, I say.  Shocked, that our government did something so sensible to solve a problem.   Shocked enough, that I think this is worth examining in some detail.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

There is a techie demi-god named Tim O’Reilly, of the animal-covered IT books variety, and no relation to Bill O’Reilly, who is a big advocate of using technology to solve government’s problems.  Many of us – and that would include ME – are very wary of technology in government’s hands.  But sometimes, you just have to admit that it can and does solve problems.  We just have to be careful – to remain questioning, in order to remain free.  To do that, we have to KNOW what the truth is supposed to be.  But as long as we do, it makes sense to use technology to help us rule over ourselves more smartly and more honestly.

Let’s take our simple example of perfume mailability.  Can we make it Orwellian?  Absolutely.  We’ll simply add the Overton window to it.

What if – once we have a friendly, never-mistaken computer asking us about perfume in our packages – we start changing the laws that we are no longer looking at?  What if the computer, one day, says that our package weighs a bit too much, even though we could have sworn that we mailed a 4.2-oz bottle yesterday, and now the limit is 3.4 ounces.  That’s the way these guys work.  “They” will lull you into easy compliance, and then start changing the rules to fit their control agenda.  You are the frog.  They are the human.  And the pot – that is now everywhere.  No pun intended.

Or the government could simply inspect the package in mid-route, and determine which labeling regulation the civilian failed to perform properly.  Is it ORM-D, or the fancy new label?  Or WHICH fancy new label?  Who the heck knows?   Just BUST THE PERP.  Who is probably just a little old lady, but hey.  Maybe she’s in the Tea Party.

You could be suspicious of the government here, and I would argue that you should be.  But I also have to give somebody in the USPS credit, because if you look at the bottom of the picture above, located on the web right here, under the “Restricted” tab, there are links to the text of the regulations, here and here.  So if you don’t believe the interpretation by software, you can go to their website, and view the regulations themselves.  You can do exactly what the requirements analysts, programmers, and quality assurance people did.

Ghastly regulations, as demonstrated above, I will admit.  But at least they’re trying.

So let’s say that you’re in the Post Office, and the software mistakenly tells you that you can’t mail something.  I’m an IT guy.  I can tell you, most assuredly – software lies all the time, and fixing that is what pays my bills.  But I can also tell you, most people are going to believe it.  And most people will do what they were doing before – coming back a week later and lying about whether their package contains fragrance.  Of course, now their lie is actually caught in data, but you might say that the government’s lie – innocent as it may be at the programmer level – is caught in algorithm.  And here you thought Al Gore Rhythm wasn’t a dangerous thing.

Still, there’s something beautiful about that.  One lie undoes the other until they both go away.

Anyway, I think there’s a bigger lesson here.  Sometimes, technology can keep us free, if we use it correctly.  And a big part of that, is using it for truth.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

PS – Just to make this perfectly clear, I am strongly recommending that all you good folks out there start telling the truth about your perfume when the little YES / NO thing flashes in front of you.  Just in case the guv ain’t doing this for YOUR benefit. 

Yaknowhatimean?

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Additional References:

(1)  Appendix A:  Hazardous Materials Table:  Postal Service Mailability Guide

(2) Postal Service Table Entry For Perfumery Products

Perfume_Mailability_Entry

(3) Appendix D:  Hazardous Materials Definitions

(4)  CFR Hazardous Materials Table

(5)  CFR HazMat Table Headings

CFR HazMat Table Headings

CFR HazMat Table Headings

(6)   CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

CFR HazMat Entry for Perfumery Products

(7)  UPS International Shipping of Dangerous Goods, Including Perfume: PDF File

Posted in Blogging, Computers, Fragrance, Internet, News and politics, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Adventures of Hinoki Oh

Hinoki Oh on her iPhone

Puppet fashionista Hinoki Oh on her iPhone, confronting an anonymous NSA/TAO operative impersonating one of her attending kuroko.

This post was inspired by the amazing and unique Comme des Garçons fragrance Monocle Scent One: Hinoki.  Everything you are about to read is true.  As determined by a secret court that you cannot question, using secret law that you are not allowed to know.  Dig it, baby.  New world order.  The real question is – who’s the master of it all?

Ah-ah-ah!  Not tellin’!

**************************

When a star is born
They possess a gift or two
One of them is this
They have the power to make a wish come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind

She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

*************************

OK, peeps.  Jiminy Stinkbug here.  Yo.  It’s time to tell you a story about a wish that comes true.  Dig it.

There was this Asian chick – see?  She had a Japanese mother and a Korean father.  But that’s not all.  She was a PUPPET.  A big – and I mean BIG – f***in’ puppet.

Hinoki Oh

Hinoki Oh doing another blogger meet-and-greet for Missoni and Target.

Yeah.  I TOLD you she was big.  But see – that wasn’t the problem.

Hinoki had a wish.  Which wasn’t what you might think it would be.  She didn’t want to be “real”, cuz – hey – she already was.  And she didn’t want to be human, because she thought that being human was TOTALLY over-rated.  But she did want to be in a J-pop or K-pop girl band, because – well, c’mon, man!  BECAUSE.  Ya know?  Yeah.  In fact, it was her greatest dream to be in a band like this one:

The trouble was, she had a manager.  [I almost typed that she had a ‘manger’, but that’s a different story of innocence.  And since the NSA’s underperforming ‘watch while you type’ software is currently not on my computer, I have to tell them about all these beautiful little coincidences.  Although they may be back on WordPress.  Who knows?  It’s a secret.  We’re not allowed to know how we are policed, much less have actually voted on it.]

Now, the manager liked her just where she was.  Actually, he would have liked to have helped her reach her dream – to rise from a giant puppet fashion blogger to a giant puppet J-pop star.  But dreams like that are risky, and payoffs from mysterious agencies, helping to save the world from the risks of giant puppets – well, that’s more of a sure thing.  Money in the bank, you might say.  And who’s gonna show up at your door and complain about the mysterious money, when the people who show up are the ones who gave it to you?  Yeah.  That’s sorta how it works.

So the manager told her something designed to keep her from leaving.  He said that, as an inanimate object, she would have to work really, really hard to be as honest as a human.  And once she was, THEN he would help her get into a pop band.

Hinoki decided that she had to do everything she could to help her reach her goal.  First of all, she replaced all her wooden parts with real hinoki wood.  So when people like my wife said things like “creepy giant puppet smelling exactly like Japanese bathtub rich people having but not so often any more” – well, that’s because Hinoki not only replaced all her wood with real hinoki, but she also sprayed herself with ridiculous amounts of this fragrance:

MONOCLE Scent One: Hinoki

MONOCLE Scent One: Hinoki. Hinoki Oh’s scent of the day, every day.

Mmmm, mmmm, good.  I had forgotten how good this stuff is, until a friend asked for some, and I figured it was time to break it out.  There is this odd kind of lemony freshness that sometimes accompanies coniferous woods, and THAT is what you get with Hinoki.  The opening is a very bright, and completely unique woody note – the closest thing I’ve ever smelled is the impossible-to-find Etro Mahogany.  But there you have it.  That is what Hinoki smells like.

Now, Hinoki the fragrance is kind of linear, but that’s OK – if you have to be stuck on anything, being stuck on good is good.

But not everything is stuck on good.  And when the reach of your tailored access operations exceeds your grasp of their consequences, you may just get yourself into trouble.  Case in point – Hinoki Oh’s iPhone.

Hinoki loved her iPhone.  It’s something of a marvel of human ingenuity.  It’s the product of trust.  That’s why it works so well.  The people who want to build something trust each other, and they don’t trust the people who love the lie, because lies always destroy in the end.  Although we’ve had some post-Snowden doubts about the iPhone, Hinoki can tell you this.  They had to attempt an “interdiction” to try to get on her iPhone 5 recently.  See the fascinating picture above.  She’s, like, “Why are you doing this?”  But she never got an answer.  They could have just asked her.  But no.

Answers.  She needed to know.  And that’s where I come in.  Jiminy Stinkbug.  Not to be confused with Jimmy Carter, who’s actually one of the few really decent human beings.  Even though I totally disagree with much of his politics.  Or maybe all.  It’s hard to tell.

As a stinkbug, I don’t have much of a conscience.  But what little there is, is simple and well-defined.  Eat, sleep, dream strange dreams, enjoy the beauty of the universe, and try to hold down a job.  Make little stinkbugs, or go through the motions just because it was over-designed to make sure you’d do it a lot, which is kinda beautiful in itself.  Start off blog posts talking like a dude and end up talking like this.  Whatever.  It’s all part of being a stinkbug.

However, I ran into a bunch of people who don’t actually exist, although they are virtually indistinguishable from others who did exist, and don’t anymore.  Imaginary people.  They’re almost as interesting as dead people.  And almost as smart.  Case in point – René Descartes.  Talk about an amazing dead person.  Trying to deal with whether the universe is a simulation centuries before there were even the beginnings of the possibility of DOING simulation.  Pretty cool.

So anyway, as Hinoki Oh’s conscience, it became my duty to deal with this iPhone stuff.  Personally, I prefer to stay as far away from this crap as I can.  But Hinoki – I mean – even if it wasn’t my job to watch out for her, you just can’t let bad things happen to good puppets.  And Hinoki is almost as sympathy-engendering as a Hello Kitty plushie, so there you go.  Dude’s gotta help her.

But what stinkbug could call himself a true stinkbug if he actually solved the problem himself?  Nah.  That’s work.  I’ve got enough of that already.  So I handed her off to somebody else.

*************************

“WHOA.   Holy sh*t!”

“Sumimasen.  Wuruf-san?  Ohayo gozaimas!”

“Holy sh*t!  I’m sorry – I’m forgetting my manners.  Come in.”

“Thank you, Wuruf-san!”

“You might have to stuff through the door-frame just a bit.  There you go.”

“Ah.  That is much better.”

“Just one question.  You really are a giant puppet – right?”

“Yes – I am true puppet.  These are my kuroko-chan.  I need them to move me.”

“OK.  Just checkin’.  At my age, it’s hard to tell where peyote ends and dreams begin.  You’re kinda in between, so just wanna make sure.”

“Please forgiving my intrusion.  My friend Neil…”

“Don’t mention it.  He told me all about it.  You’ll have to forgive the condition of my trailer.  It got kinda cold last night, so I let the dogs all come in and sleep by the stove.”

“I like dogs, but have to be careful.  Many dogs want to bite me.”

“Sister – I have no doubt AT ALL.  I will bet there is no end to your stuffin’.  Please – take the couch.  I think that will work.”

“Domo arigato!”

“Your boys there will just have to do what they can.  And watch it with those damn sticks, fellas.  We’re kinda short on lightbulbs here.  Especially since they started forcing us to use the damn expensive swirly idiot jobs with the grid-communicated back-door on/off-switch that the NSA knows about, and the Chinese one that they won’t discover until it’s too late.”

“Wuruf-san, that is what I want to talk about.  Neil says the man who tried to get my iPhone from me was from NSA.  I am so scaring.  I am trying to be good person so that I can join all-girl band someday.  If the NSA trying to investigate my iPhone, then maybe I am criminal?  If criminal, I am never becoming all-girl band person.”

“Yes.  OK.  You’ve come to the right place.  First of all, you don’t have to worry about the iPhone.  Just because the NSA wants to be on your iPhone doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.”

“I am so relieve to hear that, Wuruf-san.  Thank you.  Very much.”

“Not at all.  You see, now that the NSA investigates innocent people and lies about it, you don’t have to worry.  Just knowing THEM, I know that you’re probably innocent.  But I have even better news than that!”

“Ahhhh!?  Tell me, Wuruf-san!  What is good news?”

“As an inanimate object, you are fundamentally incapable of dishonesty.”

“I am not sure I am understanding.  I am working on being more honest, so that…”

“You can’t.  You can’t actually be any more honest than you already are.”

“AHHHH!!!????”

“And not just that.  You can’t be any less honest, either!”

“But manager told me that I need to be more…”

“He lied!”

“Lied?”

“He’s human.  He lied.  It’s as simple as that.”

“AHHHHHH!!!!”

“You see – as an inanimate object, nothing you do can be intentionally erroneous.  Which makes YOU better than all of us.  Even the NSA!”

“AHHHHHHH!!!!”

“Man, I love it when giant puppets make that sound like Japanese women discovering that Obamacare didn’t get destroyed when that damn website crashed.”

“So I can be….?”

“Yes.  You can be in an all-girl J-pop OR K-pop band.  Just the way you are!”

“GOODY!  Wuruf-san – you don’t know how much…”

“Boys – just keep her on the couch.  I have enough woman trouble with the dog and my wife’s ghost.  Don’t need to be adding a giant foreign puppet to that mix.”

*************************

And so all’s well that ends well.  Wolf went on to teach Hinoki Oh that just like rock spirits, the universe without people is fundamentally correct.  But he added that the error that humans introduce is really just the same as malfunctioning cognitive robots, so one could argue that they’re fundamentally correct, too, and that their errors are just a byproduct of autonomic choice.  In either case, forgiveness is a good idea.

Hinoki Oh went on to join a girl band a lot like this one.   We like to think that she adds an element of reality and honesty.

 

References:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/the-nsa-uses-powerful-toolbox-in-effort-to-spy-on-global-networks-a-940969.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nsa-secret-toolbox-ant-unit-offers-spy-gadgets-for-every-need-a-941006.html

http://www.cio.com/article/745196/Apple_Cisco_Dell_Unhappy_Over_Alleged_NSA_Back_Doors_in_Their_Gear

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/12/more_about_the.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/29/der-spiegel-nsa-hacking-unit-tao

http://bgr.com/2013/12/30/nsa-spy-malware-tao-ant/

http://cryptome.org/2013/12/nsa-tao-ant.pdf

Posted in Blogging, Computers, Entertainment, Fashion, Fragrance, Internet, Music, News and politics, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

We Interrupt This Blog

…for this important message.

We regret to inform  our few readers, that we are unable to continue our series of reviews, Letters to Primrose.  We may resume reviews of these scents at some time in the future, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to review them now.  We thank you for your interest, and hope that you will tune in again, in the future, when we are able to return to this blog.  Until then, keep it fragrant, and spray on!
-RP

Posted in Blogging, Fragrance, Internet, Uncategorized