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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