Chanel No. 0.5 Eau Final


If there is anything which proves that I have finally reached the status of true fragrance fanatic, it is the fact that I am about to take a five-dollar fragrance seriously.

Very.  Seriously.

BUT WAIT!  It’s not like this is just ANY five-dollar fragrance that I bought in a computer store.  No.  This is Change 105, or “Change 105 Paris“, as it’s known to the fans of the famed iris fragrance, Prada Milano.

Change 105 is not to be confused with Chanel No. 5.  In fact, this great business advice is rendered right on the label, where it is stated, in no uncertain terms:

CHANGE 105 is not associated with the makers of CHANEL No° 5

Indeed!  Which is not to say that we have NO idea who those makers might be, but still – are we sure – QUITE SURE – that there is absolutely no connection?

For instance, in the very computer store (and not just any computer store – Frye’s Electronics!) where we purchased Change 105, there was a listing of many Famous Fragrances, along with the corresponding fragrance from The Diamond Collection which was intended to resemble it.

The Diamond Collection?  What’s THAT?

Glad you asked!

The Diamond Collection is – for lack of better words – a company in India which creates rather reasonable knock-offs of famous fragrances at almost no cost, and provides them to Americans for almost no money via a company in – you guessed it – NEW JERSEY – that place where chemicals used to be made, before they were made in India and China.

Wow!  That’s kind of like Ohio, where jobs used to be made, before they were made in India and China!

But I digress.  Because just as it is possible for management to convince itself that products initially produced in developing countries they are under orders to patronize are just as good as those created by the expensive co-workers whose skills they subvert and minimize in the interest of remaining in management, so too is it possible to convince oneself that fragrances from The Diamond Collection are actually rather good.  Particularly at a price which is very affordable on American unemployment benefits, or what is left of Social Security.

This, I know, because my purchase of Change 105 (LOL – I think I just got the joke) was not my first run-in with TDC – meaning The Diamond Collection, and not The Different Company, which is a future past overly expensive brand in a future Ohio known as France.

No.  For on a street-corner in Brooklyn, some years earlier, I was introduced to TDC by way of a five-dollar fragrance named Horus, the box of which looks mysteriously reminiscent of a future former famous fragrance known as Kouros.


Horus is actually rather good (SEE?  What did I tell you?) because it does what every Kouros flanker has done since Kouros: present a diminished version of Kouros.  And the first thing that every Kouros flanker does, in the way of diminution, is to tone down or remove the civet.  In the words of my dear wife, there is no tanuki in Horus.  And for her, that is a good thing.


Tanuki.  (狸。)  Yes.  It’s animalic.

Which is not to say that Horus doesn’t do something to redeem itself, because it does.

The essential crux of Kouros, as noted by thousands of perfumistae for decades, is a “clean/dirty” opposition which endlessly fascinates or repels.  Metaphors relating to the men’s restroom abound.  My favorite, by purplebird7 of Basenotes:


But what about the beautiful white marble of the Greek statues?   Must this always devolve into the tile of the men’s room?

I am tempted to quote from the great Brad Pitt:  “Inevitable.

Anyway, the fact is, Horus is remarkably true to the intention of Kouros, in that it manages to substitute SOMETHING for the missing civet.  I’m still not sure what it is, and I’m not sure I want to wear Horus enough to find out.  But it’s not really important.  The essential clean/dirty opposition is maintained, and Horus manages to earn a place among the Kouros flankers.

So back to our story which, sadly, happens to be true.

On first smelling Change 105 in Frye’s Electronics, I was shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – that it actually did smell like Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.  So familiar was the scent, that I knew immediately that I was going to buy this startling mimic.

The problem, as I now understand it, is that absence makes the nose go wander.



Chanel No. 5 Eau Première is one of those scents that was, for me, literally unforgettable.   However, unforgettability has its limits.   Ah, yes.  Send a boy to Vegas, and if he’s not busy drinking, gambling, carousing with hookers, spending the mortgage money on fragrance, or wandering around the desert in search of dangerous opportunities, bad things can happen.  One of those bad outcomes is that he will forget his true fragrance love, and smell some reasonable facsimile with high-heel availability and mini-skirt prices.

Time offers a chance for reflection, and thus we were led to break out our still-wrapped bottle of Change 105.  Would it still smell like a great clone of Eau Première?  We were about to find out.

Tearing off the cellophane and pulling off the silvery cap [movie idea: Sex Clones – The Unboxing], I was treated to a small shower of tiny, curly things – which turned out not to be perfume beetle larvae, but rather, small plastic turnings from the manufacture of the cap itself.  Brushing those away, I noticed that the bottle itself was not actually full, but probably about the maximum distance below full, that could reasonably be claimed not to be intentional short-changing.


And then the spray.


Not good.

Having just recently worn Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I was fully aware of her True Charms.  Those having been lovingly recorded in an earlier but slightly eccentric blog post on Basenotes itself.  A post in which we alleged rather shockingly that Eau Première wasn’t just great, but most likely legendary in her own time.


And we quote from the male lead of that little drama:

“You say our love is as if it were the first time. I say no – it is even before that! Your loveliness stands on its own, eternally. Your existence is not the dream of what once was. What came before was the prophecy of the unbelievable – of beauty even greater!”

And if that’s not enough:

Rubicene is red,
Dicycloocta[1,2,3,4-def:1′,2′,3′,4′-jkl]biphenylene is blue,
Eau Première,
Because of your perfect level of aldehydes I am utterly in love with you!

Yeah.  You get the point.  We was smitten.

So with moderate memories of such extreme beauty fresh in my mind, Change 105 wasn’t exactly smellin’ fresh.  In fact, there was a distinctly sharp and unpleasant note in my five-dollar fragrance that absolutely did NOT fit into my memories – neither those left from my sniffs in the computer store,  nor any of those involving my treasured bottle of Eau Première.

Now – let’s consider all possibilities.  It is entirely possible that my five-dollar fragrance “turned” while sitting in the dark for a year.  Some of my own amateurish fragrance experiments did exactly that, and in substantially less time than a year.  So there is definitely that possibility.

And while it would not exceed human mendacity for the tester I smelled in Frye’s Electronics to have been something other than Change 105 – say, a certain fragrance by the name of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I think it is far more likely that I was simply wearing “frag goggles”.

Frag goggles are entirely analogous to beer goggles, and are due to severe cultural and olfactory deprivation.  Having spent considerable time running around the desert outside of Las Vegas with my redneck buddies, looking for interesting ways to sustain injury, and NOT hanging out in the various boutiques and fashion stores on The Strip, I was severely at risk for frag goggles.

The cure for frag goggles, like beer goggles, is simply waking up.  This I did, by smelling the Real McCoy, Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.  Better still, doing so in a side-by-side comparison with Change 105.


Oh my.  Where do I begin?

Perhaps with the end.  With the truth.

Every rumor and innuendo you have heard, spread by French-speaking marketers and parroting fashionistas with 1000 purses in their attics, alleging that Chanel actually owns its own fields of natural jasmine – I am happy to report that these allegations are Snopes-level TRUE.

Even the rumors that the Lagerfeld and Polge families have married into the tribal leaderships of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, exchanging scalps with ylang-ylang garland-wearing daughters of the chieftains, in barefoot, at the altar of the Reformulated Church of Sustainable Fragrance, are TRUE.

Ladies and gentlemen – there are simply NO allegations of proper behavior to be lodged against Chanel at this point, that I am not willing to believe in full.

All of the above being the only conclusions I can draw, from the remarkable and obvious differences between these two fragrances.

The Chanel fragrance contains – and I do not say this lightly – natural ingredients.  Not, perhaps, in its entirety, but enough that upon reacquainting myself with the love of my life, Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, I immediately recalled a sniffing session I had done with IFF perfumer Yves Cassar.  In that brief meeting, he demonstrated to me the stepwise evolution of narcissus absolute, from a rather gardeny cacaphony, into the smooth beauty of his personal creation, Narcisse en Folie.

There is something unmistakable in the output of an experienced perfumer, just as there is in the output of an experienced programmer.  It is a guidance of tempestuous possibility into a smooth and logical certainty.  That certainty may be complex, variable, and filled with surprise and intelligence, but it is a type of certainty nonetheless.

Change 105 lacks something, which I suddenly realized was critical to Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.  The mimic lacks the beauty of natural jasmine and ylang-ylang, tamed by a finicky mind – one which would brook no ripple in the glass-smooth surface it desired to spread out before us in olfactory space.


How the knock-off evades these critical floral characteristics is simple – it doesn’t.  It can’t.  Whatever Change 105 is doing to avoid doing the heavy floral lifting of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, it’s not working.  In the end, Change 105 is reminiscent of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.  That is all.  Nothing more.

And when I say reminiscent, I don’t mean in any particularly appealing way.  The really haunting, mind-blowing aspects of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première are simply not there.  There is a resemblance, but it’s not centered on anything pleasant and attractive – nothing that would make me want to do anything but smell the original Chanel No. 5 Eau Première.

My guess is that Change 105 contains all or most of the synthetics, little if any floral absolute, or perhaps a cheaper variety, and a whole lotta benzyl salicylate.

No contest.  There can be no competition with juice which has been rounded up by Chanel, and tamed by a Polge.

But now, in the spirit of Mythbusters, we ask ourselves a final question.

Even if Change 105 isn’t a particularly good, or even a sufficient mimic of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, couldn’t it at the very least still be a decent fragrance in its own right?  Maybe just a good buy on a cheap fragrance?

Sadly, no.  It is what it is – a five-dollar fragrance – and WAY overpriced at that.  What good is 100 mL of perfume that smells questionable and never great, when 5-10 mL of Chanel No. 5 Eau Première at the same price would be infinitely pleasing for a reasonable amount of time?

No good at all.  A simple smell of old blotters betrays the truth.  DAYS after spraying, Eau Première’s basenotes are still stunning and on-message.  Change 105’s are barely there, and to make matters worse, barely Change 105.


No, my friends.  There are people who settle for less, but it is better not to be one of them.  I would rather spend the remnants of my dwindling check on two samples of Eau Première, than on a full bottle of Change 105.  And now that I think about it, maybe the same goes for real Kouros, over the other kind.

Sometimes we make mistakes.  Sometimes we erroneously regard a glass half-full of the real thing, as somehow being less than a glass brimming with a pale imitation.  But there is no requirement that we keep making the same mistake.

No, my friends.  Accept no substitutes.

When the cheap imitation walks by, strutting its stuff for what seems like a price which can’t be refused, refuse it.  Just suck it up, walk away, and come home to your tanuki.

You’ll be glad you did.


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

Sikkim Grlz


Real Sikkim girls – picture shamelessly stolen from Kelly Hollidays

I don’t think that I understood the whole Lush / Gorilla Perfumes concept until yesterday.  That’s when I smelled one of their earlier entries – Sikkim Girls – for the first time.

I was immediately transported back to a head-shop in a mall, somewhere in the 1970’s, where I purchased small vials of patchouli and sandalwood oils, as well as “other products” useful to juvenile delinquents of a longer-haired persuasion.  The smell of the place was exquisite – unforgettable.  I may have kept my money away from the girly florals back then, but I never forgot their odor.  And while I have since learned the glory and the name of jasmine absolute, it was not until I smelled Sikkim Girls that I realized when and where I had first smelled it.

Lush is – or aspires to be – the world’s head-shop.  Minus those “other products”, of course, but adding the brilliant concept of head-shop cosmetics, in a kind of Bath-and-Body-Works-with-piercings way.  Not surprising that these two stores reside in the same mall, albeit on opposite sides of the “international play-place”, where toddlers with genes from every corner of the planet share microbes from every corner of America.  Normally I shop on the rive droite, but thankfully, I did cross over to the rive gauche and stepped back in time.

Sniffing through their Gorilla Perfumes product lineup, the most obvious thing was that they’ve gotten better at what they do.  Everything seemed more plausible – more wearable – than the last time I had been in the store.  This is not to say that things had lost their brilliantly artisan edge.  The centerpiece sandalwood fragrance Smuggler’s Soul was every bit as intriguing to me as Breath of God was, the first time I set foot in Lush.  The difference is that the newer fragrance doesn’t invoke the immediate regret that I can’t wear it everywhere and anywhere that I might want to be.  Breath of God smelled like I’ve taken up smoking again.   Smuggler’s Soul smells like I have my clothes laundered at World Market.


Smuggler’s Soul deserves a bit of discussion.  It may not be “creamy” sandalwood, but it certainly is real sandalwood.  I was sorely tempted to buy it, and when one thinks about the costs of ethical sandalwood, versus the other kind (hence the name), the fragrance is actually quite a steal.  But – quite aproposSikkim Girls stole my heart.

The nice thing about Smuggler’s Soul is that less is more.  Rather than cover up the naturally restrained sandalwood – which is as criminal an act as latex paint on exotic hardwood – Smuggler’s Soul lets the subtle sandalwood be subtle.  Radiantly subtle, in a Timbuktu way, as pluran pointed out on Basenotes.

The other fragrances in the Lush lineup also deserve some mention.


Kerbside Violet is cute, and I think it’s perfect for the young ladies.  Just a bit of the grassy and the mineralic, it has a studied “almost innocence” that seems like a nice introduction to violet for the younger but still hipper crowd.  Personally, I like Bulgari’s approach to violet – “almost decadent”.  Bulgari Pour Femme and their various “Blv” juices are just plain classy/sexy to me.  They’re what Dad buys for Mom while Daughter shops at Lush.  And if Daughter buys Kerbside Violet, then Dad and Mom can high-five on weekend nights alone for a job well done.


Karma.  Wow.  Not really sure where to begin.  Perhaps with the admission that this is one of those great fragrances that I simply don’t like.  The salient point is that there is a totally high-perfumery opposition between orange and patchouli which puts this in a league with some real classics.  The problem for me is that this particular pairing simply doesn’t work.  I want to love the patchouli, and the orange gets in the way.  Insistently.  Annoyingly.  Disturbingly.  In exactly the same way that a lot of the greatest fragrances achieve their greatness.

I’m not convinced that I couldn’t come around to this fragrance.  But then again, why bother, when Sikkim Girls are winking and smiling?  Forget it!  See ya later, Karma!

There are others that were notable – and I sniffed them all.


Vanillary is – well – vanillary.  It’s certainly pleasant.  Didn’t really impress me, but very few vanilla fragrances do.  I can see a lot of people loving this, but I’m just not one of them.  In general, it takes an ornate vanilla like something from Creed or Guerlain to thrill me.  Maybe a classic like Givenchy Pi, or a new twist like Pi Neo.  B&BW and Lush are simply out of luck.

But I will say this.  If I see one more fragrance that throws a nod toward Hillary Clinton, who just got off for stuff that would have thrown me into federal prison, I think I’m going to puke.  I mean – really.

Typically it’s in the ad copy.   “Today’s empowered woman” seems to be the “me-too” brief of 2016.  But do not tell me for one second that the Hillary angle didn’t come up when Lush discussed the name of this scent at their annual meeting on a zip-line above the dolphin rescue park.

Please.  Somebody just make a frigging Hillary Clinton celebrity fragrance so that 90% of the fragrance world can gush about how it’s the first truly great celebrity fragrance.

Or am I just being cynical?  OK – I’m being cynical.  Let’s move on, shall we?  There’s a wee puddle of snark where I’m standing.

Ooooh.  Animalic!


All Good Things came close to getting my money.  I just love it when the fragrance matches the story so well.  But this is an absolutely great fragrance, which takes the citrus-and-pepper brilliance of fragrances like Blenheim Bouquet in a whole new direction – the happily poignant.  Very nice stuff.  I’m a sucker for a good black pepper note, and this has one.

I was about to take what probably would have been the “buy sniff” of this fragrance, when Sikkim Girls rose off the ad hoc test paper, mingled with my Spicebomb, and said “Are you sure your old girlfriend is exotic enough for you now?”

Of course, she – I mean they – had a point.  What was I thinking?


Very glad that the lovely sales associates at Lush got me to sniff this one.  Not a buy, and not even as interesting to me as the others, but still memorable, and recommended to be sniffed.  The ideas and odors of death and decay are perennial in perfume – not in a tired and cliché way, but in an essential way, that the best minds of fragrant composition are constantly trying to address.  Whether it’s mainstream creations like Eternity (heavy on floral death via indoles), or ultra-niche creations like Slumberhouse Mare (where the humid and the woody were used to good effect), there are no comments more insightful on the transience of perfume  – and everything else – than perfume’s own  comments on transience.

Worth reading the backstory on this one here.

I smelled some of the others, but nothing really stood out.

Dear John was nice.  Reassuring and nostalgic?  Check and check.

Sun was very enjoyable.  Sniff it – please.  I’m almost angry that Sikkim Girls lured me away from Sun, but hey.  THEY’RE SO AWESOME.

I don’t think I smelled Lust.  Or did I?  If I did, it didn’t catch my fancy.

Dirty?  W. T. F.!  It smells clean!  Is that the joke?  Whatever.  Not my type.  NOT DIRTY.

And now we get down to the WE MADE THE BUY stuff.


My wife is a rose lover, and this was a great way to get her something new in her favorite floral type.  The story on this one is nice and innocent, but the fragrance itself does contain a touch of ambrette, so it has some real depth to it.  Not as much depth as something like Rose Rebelle, with its rose / cacao / ambrette explosion, but depth nonetheless.  The overall fragrance strikes me as a cross between the old Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose (typically $10 in Marshall’s) and Creed’s ornate Fleurs de Bulgarie.  A combination of raw and refined, but both of them rich and full.

There is HUGE complexity here – and yet it’s a pure rose fragrance, stylistically.  Most of this complexity comes from the use of rose absolutes, but there are clearly some pushes, pulls, and assists from supporting components.  Not sure why, but I smelled a bit of violet in the mix, the first time I sniffed it.  Your mileage may vary on that one – don’t worry.  It may just be my imagination.

So – the time has arrived.  THEY are here…..




As soon as I smelled this, I knew it was going to be bought.  My first urge upon leaving the mall wasn’t to spray myself – it was to spray my car.  I wanted to be utterly surrounded with this fragrance, and spot-spraying my own body simply wasn’t good enough.

What does Sikkim Girls smell like?

It smells like a chapter in Jitterbug Perfume.  I don’t even want to know which one.  Maybe all of them.

It smells like patchouli without patchouli.  Spikenard without spikenard.  India without India, and maybe even Sikkim without Sikkim.  It’s like the zen of removing the last stone, and discovering – shockingly – that there’s still something left.  All it is, is dirty flowers, and yet it smells like everything else.

There is some serious smart going on in this fragrance, but it’s as destined to be lost, unrecognized and forgotten, as was the artisan overachievement of Spiritual Sky fragrance oils, now only wisps of dead-head-ish lore in the internet annals of hippie fragrance – referred to lovingly in overly texty posts by gray-beards and white-hairs who actually used Usenet and don’t know what in the **** Pinterest and Instagram are.

The story behind Sikkim Girls is simultaneously essential and needless, like a trade advertisement for inspiration in perfumery.  Nobody is going to truly appreciate it, except the people who already understand.  The backstory to the fragrance is wasted on us – not because it isn’t true, but because the exact story of the inspiration matters far less than the fact that somebody actually bothered to care, in an age when caring doesn’t translate to most people’s bottom line.

A flick of the hips and a knowing smile

Subtle, seductive, heady, exotic, floral. Inspired by the Sikkim girls, soft sirens who seduced a Darjeeling café owner’s son-in-law, simply with the subtle and sensual sway of their bodies. The frangipani, jasmine, vanilla and tuberose conjure up exotic climes and heady possibilities. It may rest lightly on your skin, but beware the undercurrents it may stir within.

Actually, it’s a little more complex than that.

Sikkim Girls is a fragrance that was inspired by stories regaled to us by sitarist Sheema Mukherjee, who collaborates often with Simon Emmerson to create our Spa soundtracks. Whilst travelling in India, she heard rumours of the Himalayan Sikkim Girls; women so entrancing that, dressed from head to toe, they could seduce a man with just the subtle sway of their hips. The perfume is sensual, heady and floral. Exquisite jasmine, tuberose and frangipani absolutes to create an intoxicating fragrance that whispers of the exotic women that inspired it.

OK – I give up.  There’s even more to the story.  From Sarah English’s Pinterest:

New Gorilla Perfume – Sikkim Girls – Musician and composer Sheema Mukherjee was inspired after she had an experience with the Sikkim Girls. While hanging out in the oddly named ‘Hot Stimulating Café’ in Darjeeling, the café owner warned Sheema to stay away from the dangerous Sikkim Girls. When asked why, the owner said they had seduced and stolen away his son-in-law. Somehow they had accomplished this whilst covered head-to-toe and simply with a subtle yet sexual sway of their bodies.

To say that Lush took this all quite seriously is an enjoyable understatement.  For your multi-sensory, multi-art pleasure, we present the video evidence…


I mean, really – what is life without the “art tent”?

Unenjoyable at best.  Better a thousand cringeable moments of uncomfortable seating, bad acoustics, and one face-palm stage debacle after another, than to go through life without the wonderful moments of art joy which link them all together.

So let’s talk about the fragrance, and try to make some sense of our emotional response.

Floriental is an apt description, though perhaps a bit misleading, because there is nothing overtly oriental, in the normal ways of perfume construction, about it.  Sikkim Girls is rabidly floral, and yet it seems to dodge the cliché attributes of both the standard floral feminine, and the standard unisex oriental, by letting all the non-floral debris and detritus of the floral absolutes take center stage, thereby alleging themselves to be something – say – oriental.

Is there patchouli in it, assisting the floral dirtiness?  Some noses familiar with Gorilla Perfumes think so.  There is certainly a chyprish harmony emerging from the massive florality which makes me suspect it.  However, it is not a patch bomb by any means, and that is what really makes this one stand out in its genre.

Is there spikenard in it?  It certainly has the “patchouli without patchouli” feel of spikenard, and yet I am not picking up the classic spikenard note that appears so overtly in L’Eau de Jatamansi, and so subtly in Creed Himalaya.  Part of my thinks that Lush would list a component as worthy as spikenard, and part of me thinks they would be wise to leave it under the protective umbrella of “fragrance”, which is actually listed ahead of jasmine absolute on the bottle.  Not having ever smelled spikenard in such a powerfully floral concoction before, I simply have to admit that I probably couldn’t identify it, even if it’s there.

Whatever.  Sikkim Girls is supposed to smell exotically Himalayan, and it does.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Beyond the reviews on Basenotes, you won’t do much better than Jessica’s review on Now Smell This.

Basenotes lists this fragrance as unisex, and I feel the same.  Although Sikkim Girls is massively floral, I hesitate to call it “feminine”, in the same way that I hesitate to call head-shops, waterbeds, pot pipes, Indian rose incense, or love-beads “feminine”.  Any guy who likes jasmine, patchouli, or exotic fragrances with an Indian or Himalayan vibe, will find reason to consider this fragrance.

There was an Iranian guy on Basenotes, years ago, who was on a holy quest of some kind to find the ultimate “boozy jasmine”.  I have no idea where he is now, but I am pretty darn sure I found his fragrance.

Boozy jasmines are useful – and in more ways than just being worn themselves.  I am really looking forward to layering this thing with all sorts of insufficiently floral masculines.  One of my favorite layering fragrances is Céline Ellena’s Jasmin de Nuit, which can and does add a nice floral character to anything.  But whereas that fragrance is clear and transparent, Sikkim Girls is much richer and deeply floral, making it more assertive in combination.

Definitely one of the more unusual scents in my collection.


There is one question, however, which is still to be considered.  A question that bothered me, until I took some time to answer it.

Is this story about “Sikkim girls” even slightly true?  Or is this entire fragrance built on some sort of lie?  You know.  Like certain fragrances that the wife and I are quite partial toward, and which may or may not have ever involved use by European nobility.

You know what I’m sayin’?

And things could be even worse than that.  What if this is all one big slander against the young women of Sikkim?  What if these “stealthy sirens” are actually innocent young things – the original valley girls – who love boys with motorcycles and cars and can’t wait to go to the centuries-old equivalent of prom?  What if they are in fact sweet young girls, who rescued some poor, hapless boy from an arranged marriage to the wicked daughter of a tyrannical restaurant owner?

See what I mean?  We have to open our minds here.

Well, I’m happy to report that, in the words of “Mythbusters”, we have to call this one – at the very least – plausible.  I’m not sure HOW it’s plausible, but it’s plausible.

Here goes.

Judging by the fur-rimmed hats, braided hair, and characteristic dress of the ladies on the label, they are likely to be Bhutias – a Tibetan people who speak Sikkimese, a Tibetan language which is partially intelligible to speakers of both standard Tibetan and the Bhutanese language, Dzongkha.

The Bhutia are considered to be one of the three main ethnic groups in Sikkim today, and one of the two indigenous peoples of Sikkim, along with the Lepcha, with whom there has been some degree of diplomatic intermarriage over the years.   That being said, the ethnographic history of Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan is rather complex, and – in my humble opinion – calling anybody there indigenous becomes a bit of a stretch.  However, it can be stated with certainty that those two older and somewhat allied peoples – the Bhutia and the Lepcha (pictures #3 and #2 above) – are the predominant inhabitants of the more mountainous and sparsely populated North Sikkim today.  These groups are also present as both residents of and visitors to Darjeeling, where the story behind Sikkim Girls takes place.

The demographics of North Sikkim include a sex ratio of 769 females for every 1000 males, which is closely linked to the historical prevalence of polyandry (and particularly fraternal polyandry) in the Himalayan region.  Apparently, the practice hasn’t died out completely, although it has certainly declined in favor of increasingly monogamous marriage.  One source, however, considered it quite common even in the 1990’s, particularly in the high-valley back-country, and goes into great detail about the rules of polygamous marriage among the Bhutia and Lepcha.

So – gender and sex relations in Sikkim are indeed a bit different.  We do need to be careful about passing judgment here, with our Western biases.  But the real question remains simple.  Would some exotic Bhutia-Lepcha hillbilly girls actually seduce and run off with a (presumably) non-Bhutia son-in-law, working at his father-in-law’s restaurant?

Well, it is true, apparently, that husbands in Sikkimese cultures may be forced to live with and possibly work for the bride’s parents, as horrible as that may seem.  And – apparently – divorce in Sikkim is relatively straightforward, rarely going to court.  So it looks like the son-in-law may have had means, motive, AND opportunity.

But would he cross ethnic lines?  That is a bigger question.  Thirty years ago, I might have thought not, but today?  Sikkim is definitely in a state of ethnic and cultural flux – and even more so after it became part of India.  As Satyendra Shukla put it (cited here)

Thus, Sikkim these days is a big cultured laboratory, where different blends are being mixed up and a synthetic culture part Bhutia, part Nepali and part Indian – is coming up.

This is not to say that ethnic assimilation in Sikkim has been rapid, with one recent analysis actually concluding the opposite.  However, any slowness of cultural blending needs to be considered within the high degree of inter-ethnic tolerance and neighborliness which Sikkim is known for.  But I would still say, that, once Sikkim became part of India, an accelerated cultural blending was probably not just inevitable , but irreversible.

Thus, at this point, we are left with a single question.  Would young and foolish members of these traditionally separated ethnic groups decide to chuck convention to the wind and ….. well…. WHATEVER?

Ha.  Young people.  Do the math on THAT ONE.

So what is the point of it all?


Yes.  I said it.  Nothing.

We need to be honest here.  There is no point to fragrance.  There is no point to the story about WHY a fragrance was made, nor even to whether that story is true or false.

Fragrance.  Doesn’t.  Matter.

And yet fragrance, like showing up in the “Hot Stimulating Café” in Darjeeling, and stealing the owner’s son-in-law – for good or bad – is fun, and occasionally exciting.  It does something to make the universe – at the very least – more interesting.  And tonight, as I sit here sniffing a bunch of liquids in bottles, including one called Sikkim Girls, that’s enough.

Stay fragrant, my fellow perfumaniacs.  Stay fragrant.




Posted in Art, Computers, Entertainment, Fragance, Fragrance Reviews, History, Internet, Music, News and politics, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Red’s Ultimate Fragrance Blogroll Post


The time has come to do something useful in this life.  And at this very moment, I am struck by the need for somebody to create a simple travel guide to the world of fragrance.  Something useful to newcomers.  Something that turns fragrance n00bs into sought-after opinions in as short a time as possible.

I have been blessed to know many wonderful people who have written many wonderful things.  However, I’ve never compiled a bibliography of my favorites sources – despite having promised on numerous occasions to do so.

Enough.  The time is now.  And to make sure that this project doesn’t falter, I’m going to put it out immediately, and just add a bit more each day.

Here goes.  Kinda rough, but it’s a start.

Version 2016.06.27.0 (30 links)
Version 2016.06.27.1 (37 links)
Version 2016.06.27.2 (45 links)
Version 2016.06.27.3 (47 links)
Version 2016.06.27.4 (52 links)
Version 2016.06.28.0 (57 links)
Version 2016.06.28.1 (58 links)
Version 2016.06.29.0 (68 links)

Well – it looks like I am getting a lot of good suggestions for additional links from my fellow Basenoters.  The list is growing!

Version 2016.07.02.0 (75 links)
Version 2016.07.17.0 (80 links)
Version 2016.07.17.1 (87 links)
Version 2016.07.18.0 (89 links)
Version 2016.07.23.0 (95 links)
Version 2016.07.23.1 (97 links)
Version 2016.07.26.0 (101 links)



Fragrance Communities (English Language)

Basenotes –

Fragrantica –

Parfumo –



Fragrance Communities (German Language)

Parfumo –



Fragrance Connoisseurs and Authorities (Published)

Chandler Burr (Personal Site) –

Denyse Beaulieu (Grain de Musc) –

Elena Vosnaki (Perfume Shrine) –

Luca Turin (Niche Reviews) –

Luca Turin (Fashion Reviews) –

Philip Kraft (Fragrance Chemist) –



Fragrance Pro Bloggers & Journalists (PR / New Releases)

Bois de Jasmin –

Ca Fleure Bon –

Colognoisseur –

Daly Beauty –

EauMG –

Katie Puckrik –

Now Smell This –

Perfume Posse –

Scented Salamander –



Fragrance Web-zines

Auparfum (French) –

Nez: La Revue Olfactive (French) –

The Whale & The Rose –

Sniffapalooza –

The Perfume Magazine –



Fragrance Bloggers, Reviewers & Critics (Prose)

Bigsly Fragrance –

The Black Narcissus –

A Bottled Rose –

The Candy Perfume Boy –

Civet Cinema –

Fragrance Daily –

Kafkaesque –

Mad Perfumista –

Il Mondo di Odore –

I Make Scents –

iridescents –

Memory of Scent –

Monsieur Guerlain –

Nero Profumo –

Nick Gilbert –

Olfactics –

Perfume Polytechnic –

Perfume-Smellin’ Things –

Persolaise –

Pink Manhattan (Perfume & Politics) –

Pour Monsieur –

À La Recherche –

scenthurdle –

The Silver Fox –

SmellyBlog –

Sorcery of Scent –

Take One Thing Off –

Té de Violetas –

Ye Olde Civet Cat –

(many more coming…)



Fragrance Bloggers, Reviewers & Critics (Video)

Brooklyn Fragrance Lover –

Dracdoc –

Fragrance Bros. –

FragReviews –

Marc (robes08) –

(many more coming…)



Designer Houses

Chanel (USA) –

Hermès (USA) –

YSL Beauty (USA) –



Niche Houses

Ayala Moriel –

Creed (USA) –

Slumberhouse –



Defunct Blogs

1000 Fragrances –

Arôme d’Ailleurs –

Olfactoria’s Travels –

Perfume Glossary –



Interesting Articles

Oakmoss in Perfume (Wired Magazine) –

Olfactory Perception and Biology (Nautilus) –



BBC Documentary: Perfume

Episode Guide – BBC Four – Perfume –

Part 1 – Something Old, Something New –

Part 2 – Bottling the Memory –

Part 3 – The Smell of the Future –




Cassell’s Directory of Scented Plants – David Squire –

The Chemistry of Fragrances: From Perfumer to Consumer – Charles S. Sell –

Common Fragrance and Flavor Materials: Preparation, Properties and Uses – Surburg and Panten –

The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession – Chandler Burr –

The Essence of Perfume – Roja Dove –

Folio Columns – 2003-2014 – Luca Turin –

A Garden of Fragrance – Suzy Bales –

Jasmine – Marie-Christine Grasse –

The New Perfume Handbook – Nigel Groom –

The Perfect Scent – Chandler Burr –

Perfume – Stamelman’s classic –

The Perfume Lover – Denyse Beaulieu –

Perfumery: Techniques in Evolution – Arcadi Boix Camps –

Perfumes – The A-Z Guide – Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez –

Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent – Jean-Claude Ellena –

Scent and Chemistry – Ohloff, Pickenhagen & Kraft –

The Secret of Chanel No. 5 – Tilar J. Mazzeo –

The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell – Luca Turin –

Understanding Fragrance Chemistry – Charles Sell –




Perfume Sales – Discounters

FragranceNet –

FragranceX –

Perfumania –




Perfume Sales – Niche

Beautyhabit –

Indie Scents –

Lucky Scent –

MiN NY –

Parfums Raffy –



Posted in Blogging, Books, Fashion, Fragance, Fragrance Reviews, Hobbies, Internet | Tagged , , ,

Four Dudes, a Classy Dame, and a Boozy Babe

….OTHERWISE known as Field Notes from Cowtown – this week’s ruberrific report on my spectacular sniffing experiences, out in the real world of designer fragrance, in the malls of flyover country.

But first, a message from our sponsor’s required movie of the day’s fragrance outing:


If I tell you that this movie is hilariously witty, smart and perfect, then spray me down with Sécrétions Magnifiques as punishment for understatement.  I normally DESPISE the prospect of being dragged by my dear wife to the anglophile counterparts of jidaigeki (Japanese historical dramas).  So it was with rather low expectations that I discovered that not only can Kate Beckinsale act without black leather, but she can deliver an Oscar-worthy performance that sets a new standard for lovable anti-villains.

The story is wonderful – I refuse to spoil anything about it.  The dialog is crisp and filled with humor on every level.  My favorite quip, delivered in sociopathic earnest by Beckinsale: “Facts are such horrid things.”  Oh, my.  You can’t miss this one.

OK – where were we?  Fragrance!  Yes!

And what better way to start, than with one of my favorite houses – C H A N E L


Chanel Allure Homme Sport Cologne.  As opposed to the old version, known as Chanel Allure Homme Sport Cologne Sport.  Yes.  They took the second Sport off the bottle, changed the sizes, and fluffed the marketing.  And that’s probably it.

There was some question on Basenotes as to whether there was a reformulation, or more accurately, a detectable reformulation.  Several members said no change in the scent, and I have to concur – at least in the opening.  If there actually was some tweakage, it was not readily apparent to my nose.

It was refreshing to smell this scent, nice and new, one more time.  My bottle is 8 years old, and the topnotes are – to put it nicely – GONE.  Well, not entirely true.  But the brilliance is gone.  Well, not entirely true.  The brilliance is MOSTLY GONE.  Yes – that’s it.  And it’s VERY noticeable.

Not sure I want to get a fresh bottle, but nice to know that I can.

And speaking of fresh…


Thierry Mugler A*Men Ultra Zest.   I was interested in this scent, because one of the perfumers, Quentin Bisch, was a perfumer trainee featured in the wonderful BBC documentary, Perfume.  Bisch, as a complete n00b, was extremely compelling in his earnest desire to become a perfumer.  I always hoped he would make it through the training, and go on to do something neat and distinctive – AND HE DID!

The first time I smelled this, some time ago, I don’t think I really got it.  But this time – yes – I loved it.  So did my wife.  Zesty is about right.  A prickly, spicy, textured, citric freshness infused into the usual A*Men wall of olfactory sound.  Granted – we’re just talking some paper in the store, and that is NOT the way to judge any kind of A*Men flanker – BECAUSE BASE.  But still – topnotes on paper is Hurdle One.  Good job!

Moving along…..



Yes.  Spicebomb Extreme.

Who did this one?  That’s what I want to know.  I got my first sniff of it, and YES – they actually made an “extreme” flanker that deserves the title.  In fact, the very beginning on paper is so strong, it’s a bit funky and off-putting, and it takes a very old-school moment for the scent to assemble itself into something that makes sense.


I remember thinking that Valentino Uomo – which I love in a gift set way – was a bit like Starbucks Dark Barrel Latte in a fragrance (only perhaps a bit better and more perfume-ready).  Well, it almost seems like Viktor & Rolf took some of THAT – then took some of the figgy Tom Ford oudy oomph from Extreme, Noir, and Black Orchid, and blended it all into Spicebomb.  YOWZA.  Now THAT is some stuff.

Not sure it’s on the “buy” list, but this one will go on the “buyable” list without further inspection.

Well – is there anything left to do after the daisycutter of Spicebomb Extreme goes off?  Yes there is!


You steal somebody’s graphic – probably from THIS YouTube video – and weigh in on the question of what happened to YSL La Nuit de L’Homme.

As the owner of a très vintage bottle of Nuit de L’Homme, I’m very interested in whether a new bottle is going to be as satisfying as my old one.  Based on what I smelled, I would say satisfying, but perhaps not AS satisfying.

The part that I really love – the cool, sweet, coumarinic fougère accord, not present in the original YSL L’Homme, is still there.  In fact, if anything, THAT part has been improved.  It seems clearer, sharper, and more thoughtfully crafted.  There was also a certain unfinished, scratchy aspect of the older formulation that seemed to peek around the main accord, and I always felt that this detail was a weakness.  When people first discussed the scent upon launch, the unfinished aspect bothered more people than just me.  So removing it?  NOT A PROBLEM.

However, cleaning the scent up came at a price.  Some of the DNA of the original L’Homme, which persisted in the older formulation of La Nuit de L’Homme, seems gone now.  Everything I was smelling on paper, from opening well into the drydown, seems to echo what was said on the linked video.  There is a change, it’s significant, and it’s not going to be to everybody’s liking.  This is a case where vintage matters.

And then we had to go.  But not before I pulled away from the wife, near the women’s section, grabbed a tester, and got what I needed.  ONE.  MORE.  SPRAY.


Well, well, well.  I don’t know when they start serving THIS ONE at Starbucks, but when they do, I’m ALL OVER IT.

Yes.  Imagine taking Valentino “Starbucks Dark Barrel Latte” Uomo and somehow turning the beer and coffee into lipstick and cherry liqueur, and BAM – you got it.  Girls – this stuff is awesome.  The only question is whether you’re confident enough to back it up.  This is a head-turner.

The thing that’s really neat about this scent is that it checks all the girly boxes on the aggressive side, without actually being aggressive.  It’s basically “Oh.  Pardon my physical beauty.  I didn’t mean to make you look.”  Or in this case, sniff and turn your head.

Donna is……

  • Womanly without being matronly
  • Young without being immature
  • Sexy without being pornographic
  • Boozy without being barfly
  • Upscale without being elitist
  • Pure without being inexperienced
  • Powerful without being intimidating
  • Confident without being pushy

Like Spicebomb, another Nordstrom exclusive, Donna has “Nordstrom values” written all over it.  See the list above.  It’s not exactly surprising that Nordies chose this scent to put in their prime aisle-end real estate in the women’s section.

One of the things I find most amazing about this scent is how well the scent echoes the packaging and color (or vice versa).  The fragrance has clarity but not full transparency – just like the bottle.  Not cloudy – more like refractive.  It’s pink, but more like stone, or sky, and less like something in the window at Victoria’s Secret.  It’s VERY sweet – but ABSOLUTELY not in the usual tooth-aching, sugary, Hello Kitty way.

Last but not least – the scent dries down very nicely, holding itself together immaculately.  WOW. Impressive.

I don’t know if this one is going to steal any fans of Angel, but it’s probably going to find its way onto many dressers, right next to the blue star.

I really, really want to buy this.  The trouble is, the entire scent and package is just wrong, wrong, wrong for my wife.  I actually do know a woman who this scent is perfect for, however….

OK – maybe not.  How about a REAL woman!


OK.  I give up.

Actually, there’s a great scene where Lady Susan frags up with a REALLY interesting antique “travel splash” – and then places the perfume bottle on her nightstand in the guest bedroom.  I can’t find an actual picture of that moment, but I can get one from the same scene.  Note the wooden vanity case in the background.  The bottle is inside it.


OK – enough about Jane Austen characters.

Or maybe not.

For our last scent, we leave Nordstrom, and go to Tiffany.  Now – mind you – I’ve smelled all four fragrances in Tiffany ten times over.  I own two of them – Tiffany for Men and Tiffany for Men Sport.  I even have the after-shave balm for the former.  But let’s talk about the ladies’ scents.

The older Tiffany – the implied pour femme – is almost the opposite of Valentino Donna, albeit in a good way.  It’s just plain old-school.  It’s very, very, very Tiffany.  This is not a girl’s scent by any means.  It’s a great one, but it demands a LOT of gravitas, which most younger women simply don’t carry around in sufficient mass quantities.  Lady Susan could pull it off.  Her daughter, Frederica?  Not really seeing it.

But then there’s Frederica’s perfect scent, which her mom steals when she needs to pass as a human being.  And that scent is….


No, wait.  That’s Frederica.  Sorry.  Here we go!


Pure Tiffany.  Great scent, which my wife loves.  A fresh, clean, youthful floral that has plenty of gravitas, but not so much that a young woman of character can’t pull it off.  There is just a hint of skanky indolic floral badness underneath all the innocent goodness – but it certainly doesn’t spoil things.  This one is almost painfully Chanel-like – and yet it’s – well – pure Tiffany.  I don’t know if Coco is secretly jealous that this scent isn’t hers, but she has to be giving Tiffany an “attaboy” for getting it into their world.

I think that my wife actually gave an under-the table blessing for me to buy this for her – and I really think I have to, at some point, before it’s too late.  I would definitely regret not grabbing a bottle while it’s still possible.  Truly a fabulous fragrance.

OK – that’s it.  Moral?  Hmmmm.

There are stories to be told, and scents to be smelled.  Sometimes, it’s almost the same thing.  So just enjoy them!  Together.  I think that’s the twelfth commandment, come to think of it.  Book of Creed.  My favorite gospel!

Because, after all.  Facts ARE such horrid things.  And stories, like fragrance, are such beautiful lies!


Posted in Art, Books, Entertainment, Fashion, Fragance, Fragrance Reviews, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sniff of the Week: Talbots Eau de Parfum


As I get back into fragrance, I’m starting to do what I used to always do – meaning sniff the juice at every opportunity.  So when my wife dropped into Talbots to check out the summer dresses, I took the opportunity to check out the juice.

Well, first check out the overall packaging.  The clarity!  I love the clarity.  Now – you probably see some pink there, and if you don’t, it’s more pronounced in this publicity photo:


But I have to tell you – in real life, I was seeing almost total clarity, and any thoughts that I was seeing pink were bordering on “no – it’s just my imagination”.  F’rinstance, check out this EvilBay image:


See what I mean?  Wonderfully clear!  It’s very impressive in real life.

Anyway, I do love the clear-glass “T” motif.  Did that get swiped from Hermès – known to habitually “drop the H” into their bottles?  Well, if it did, I’M NOT TELLING.  Ok, well, maybe just a little.  It looks so sharp, I insist that Hermès honor the homage!  Soak it in, art house, cuz y’all have just gotten flattered!

And that’s not all.  The bottle looks a LOT like one of my all-time favorite bottle themes, the little box shape of the Gucci feminines, including what may be my ALL TIME FAVE….


So – hey – you can do no wrong by emulating another awesome scent’s iconic bottle – even down to charm-bracelet details.  And while Talbots offers a little “T” trinket instead of Gucci’s stirrup, Talbots’ lineup of leather goods is somewhere between skimpy and non-existent, so GOOD CALL.

Sorry – THAT is the maximum snark you’re getting today, people.  Love Hermès, love Gucci, and LOVE TALBOTS.  They all make my wife either look hot or smell hot.  And you ain’t gonna hear no bitchin’ about that.

But wait – there’s more!

Oh, Lordy.  Blake, please forgive me, but we just have to go there!

In all transparency, let’s remember how they added transparency to Gucci by Gucci EDP.  Namely, by taking everything out (IFRA just smiled somewhere, trust me) and giving us…..


OH YEAH.  Gucci Première.  Which we don’t love just because Blake Lively is hot as you-know-what…


OK – sorry – that’s the EDT.  MISTAKES WERE MADE.  But intentionally, because the hotness just comes through better in the EDT campaign, IN OUR HUMBLE OPINION.


Yes – Blake Lively can do no wrong!  This woman is SMOKING HOT!

But seriously, Gucci Première EDP is where Talbots EDP goes, and in a big way.

There are basically two women’s juices on the market, when you remove all the stuff that’s distinctive.  Super-girly-sweet-red-fruity-floral and Super-womanly-sharp-clear-ethereal-floral.  Talbots EDP, like Gucci Première EDP, is the latter.

Now – let’s be clear.  There are certain distinctive motifs of Gucci Première, such as the beautiful remnant of a chypre (all you can have today, to be honest), which harken back to the Gucci by Gucci franchise, and which are NOT in the Talbots scent.  The scents, happily, are not so similar that there is any – how shall we say it nicely – ripping off of things.  No – none of that.  But, if anything, Gucci Première was targeting the Talbots woman, in my humble opinion, so it’s not exactly surprising that there’s some overlap.

Anyway, let’s sniff.

To quote from the back of the Talbots EDP test blotter, which is a white silhouette of the Talbots EDP bottle:

Created exclusively with the Talbots woman in mind, it has an easy elegance with sparkling top notes of freesia and citrus, feminine floral notes including tuberose and magnolia – and a memorable finish of blond woods and vanilla.

Easy elegance.”  Good grief – Talbots in a nutshell.  Patent it!

There is a bit more information on the website, which also answered my question as to what the rather reserved fruity note is supposed to resemble – pear.


I would say that’s pretty darn right, so no complaining about false advertising.  This is no tuberose monster that screams I’M A GIRLY GIRL, but neither is the citrus allowed to let its wheedling unisex vibe triumph over queen freesia’s insistent yet very businesslike (but still somewhat casual) femininity.  The longevity is excellent, and it holds its form throughout.  The sharpness, coolness and clear floral character persist strongly into the drydown without deformation – definitely a quality base.  Vanilla, like tuberose, is not allowed to hog the limelight, or even get a solo part.  Magnolia is a bit more prominent, but not actually prominent – a good thing.  Everything stays balanced, on message with the packaging (clarity, clarity, clarity), and consistent with the company image.

Bottom line – this scent screams I’M A WOMAN WHO SHOPS AT TALBOTS.  And that would mean classy, upscale but not glaringly so, seasonally aware, ladylike, and generally happy.  Emphasis on WOMAN.  This is not really a poachable scent for me, even though it’s not hugely “feminine”.  Nor is it all that poachable by the daughters, either (although the high-school chick who wears this into an interview is going to get the job, if you know what I’m saying).

It’s sixty bucks in the store, if you want the cute bottle (YOU WANT THE CUTE BOTTLE), or you can cheap out and get some stickish rollerball (NO!!!) for twenty.  You can save some money online, but then that means you don’t go into Talbots and soak up the Talbots ambiance, which goes very nicely with the fragrance, nor do you get the summer dress for yourself, or the jacket for hubs.  And when you add in shipping, the $40 online fragrance is going to look like $50 anyway, I’m betting.

Whatever.  Talbots EDP.  Thumbs up.


PS – Found a great article about Blake’s love of fragrance.  And I quote:

“My mom would have different fragrances for different times of the year. They were a part of her identity,” she told the mag. “I don’t remember the specific ones she used, but I remember the bottles. One was red and shaped like an apple. It was like something out of a Disney movie where you would hold it and be like, “The power!”

LOL!  Oh, yeah.  We know about that one!  But remember – moderation in all things, dear.  Moderation in all things!



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

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

….an abstract 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.


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, 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.


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, 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.


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.


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.



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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.

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