As always, my Reviews en Bref are for scents that — for whatever reason — didn’t warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed review. I recently tried out some fragrances from Imaginary Authors, an American indie line begun in 2012 by perfumer, Josh Meyers. In another post, I looked at Cape Heartache and The Cobra & The Canary. This time, I will focus on Memoirs of a Trespasser, and Soft Lawn.
According to its website, the Imaginary Authors line was “born from the concept of scent as art and art as provocation.” Each fragrance is entitled with the name of a book, penned by an imaginary author who does not actually exist. All the fragrances are eau de parfum in concentration, and a vast majority were released in 2012.
MEMOIRS OF A TRESPASSER:
Memoirs of a Trespasser is meant to be an author’s memoir of his exotic travels, with a hallucinatory bent. The fragrance is an oriental vanilla, and its notes are:
Madagascar Vanilla, Guaiacwood, Myrrh, Benzoin Resin, Ambrette Seeds & Oak Barrels.
Memoirs of a Trespasser opens on my skin with vanilla, a weird fruitiness, musky sweetness, and oak. There is a momentary booziness, followed then a soft, creamy guaiac wood. The whole thing is laced with a scratchy, synthetic, aroma-chemical hum that is common to many of the Imaginary Authors fragrances, and which them so difficult for me. Here, it is dry, but sweet, with only a trace of the peppered element distinctive to ISO E Super. Yet, at the same time, the note is extremely dry, as if another aromachemical is responsible. Perhaps it is ISO E’s drier relative, Kephalis, but whatever it is, each and every time I smell Memoirs of a Trespasser up close, the inside of my nose feels raw, bloodied and scraped.
Within minutes, Memoirs of a Trespasser turns into a cloying, sickly Bourbon vanilla with a subtle tinge of soapy, cold myrrh, followed by smoky, woody notes and peppered, dry aromachemicals. I find the whole combination oddly nauseating, perhaps because the vanilla smells like a really cheap version of Madagascar extract with a hot, buttered rum undertone. I’m also not keen on the unexpected fruited nuance that smells like oranges, peaches, and Tang juice all in one. It doesn’t last long, perhaps 25-30 minutes, but it perplexes me the whole time. Out of all the notes, I like the oak element the best, but that is not saying much.
Towards the end of the second hour, Memoirs of a Trespasser shifts with the woody elements bypassing the vanilla and taking its place as the dominant accord. The primary bouquet is of lightly smoked guaiac wood, followed by myrrh and a touch of thin, dry vanilla, all infused with ISO E-like synthetics. The guaiac is difficult for me here, especially as it takes on an increasingly stale sourness as time goes by, which meshes oddly with the dry-sweetness of the other elements. A clean, white muskiness also starts to become noticeable, adding to the fragrance’s synthetic hum.
By the end of the 5th hour, Memoirs of a Trespasser is really various forms of sour, dry, smoky woodiness with a light sweetness and only a suggestion of vanilla extract. It remains that way for a while, until suddenly the vanilla returns at the start of the 8th hour. From that point until its end, almost 12 hours from the start, Memoirs of a Trespasser is a dry vanilla scent imbued by an abstract woodiness and a hint of powder.
I didn’t enjoy any of it, probably because I had the same extremely strong physical pain in my nose that I did to testing The Cobra & The Canary. I don’t know if it is an issue of the quantity of synthetics used in Imaginary Authors’ fragrances, or something else, but the degree of my reaction to the line far exceeds what I normally experience. This is not like the occasional headaches I get from ISO E Super when a vast quantity is used, but something akin to my more serious reaction to the super chemical Norlimbanol, and its relative, Kephalis.
Few people share my sensitivity to chemicals, and many are anosmic to things like ISO E Super. Yet, even without the synthetics, I wasn’t impressed by Memoirs of a Trespasser. It was simplistic, uninteresting, quite cloying at first, and discordant as a whole. It never felt refined or sophisticated. It was simply…. there.
Soft Lawn is described in the context of an imaginary author in 1916 who attended Princeton University and was a tennis champion. The notes are:
NOTES: Linden Blossom, Laurel & Ivy leaves, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Fresh Tennis Balls & Clay Court.
Soft Lawn opens on my skin with freshness and green notes that are crisp, bright, and aromatic. On occasion, they are almost a little herbal, as there is a minty nuance lurking underneath at the start. Then, a soft floral creeps in, along with a clean, fuzzy, synthetic element. Hints of vetiver, grassiness, and ISO E Super dance around the edges. The floral note initially smells only vaguely like linden blossom, but not as sweet, lemony, or honeyed as it usually is. As a whole, Soft Lawn truly smells like a freshly opened can of tennis balls with linden, vetiver, green elements, and synthetics.
As time passes, the fragrance shifts a little, though not by much and primarily in a textural way. The lemon undertone to the linden blossom becomes more prominent, along with the overall floral aspect. As a whole, though, the notes are very blurred, lacking delineation, clearness, and force. In contrast, the ISO E Super and its peppered touch are much more distinct, noticeable in a clear, separate way that stands out.
The oddest thing about Soft Lawn for me is how the fragrance’s texture is its primary smell. It’s hard to explain, but Soft Lawn soon turns into something wholly fuzzy in feel. It’s an amorphous, indistinct blur of floral greenness. The fuzziness of the tennis ball texture is its actual smell, though its infused with that fresh, green floracy. The whole thing is imbued with a synthetic freshness that is initially sweet, delicate, and light.
There really isn’t much more to Soft Lawn than that. The fragrance never changes in any substantial way on my skin, and I tested it twice. It’s linear, simplistic, and uncomplicated, though Soft Lawn is not completely terrible from afar in the beginning as some sort of extremely generic, green freshness, I suppose. Up close, however, it smells industrial to my nose, with the aromachemicals increasingly dominating the scent. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but Soft Lawn does smell almost entirely of tennis balls on me after the first hour. All in all, the perfume generally lasted about 11-12 hours on my skin, with moderate sillage throughout, but I didn’t apply a lot due to my problems with all the synthetics in the IA line.
My experiences with the Imaginary Authors line led me to ask a family member for a Zyrtec anti-allergy pill before my second test of Soft Lawn, in case I had potentially developed allergies for the very first time in my life. Nope, that was not the cause of my pain. I was fine until I smelled Soft Lawn up close, and then…. bam, it felt as though someone had taken a straight razor to the skin inside my nose. Even without the synthetics though, I find it hard to summon up much enthusiasm for the fragrance. I’m not keen to smell like tennis balls, I don’t like Soft Lawn’s lack of nuance or definition, and it’s a damn boring scent from start to finish. I’m afraid I simply don’t get it.
ALL IN ALL:
My primary problem with the Imaginary Authors line is obviously the physical pain I experienced but, even apart from that, I struggled with the scents as a whole. None of them felt sophisticated, refined, or elegant to me. Each one seemed to merely exist, as if a combination of related (and sometimes random) notes were put together primarily with an eye to meeting a plot line about a tennis champion or an imaginary person who went on travels to exotic places. It’s hard to explain because it’s not about a scent being unfinished or amateurish, though some element of both seems to be the case with each of the fragrances.
Rather, it’s more about the feel of the perfumes as something lifeless on the skin. Some of them lack a defining identity or force beyond the novelty factor, whether it is “tennis balls” or the unusualness of the hodge-podge combinations. The Cobra & The Canary seemed to have the greatest actual or developed character out of those that I’ve tried, but it is not an approachable, easy fragrance in my opinion. I could see more of the original story and goal in The Cobra & The Canary, but the rest transported me nowhere, evoked nothing, and felt as if they were merely just… there.
I understand wanting to do something different and experimental, about wanting to create a novel fragrance that is outside the usual box. I think that’s laudable, but being different for the sake of being different doesn’t always work. Successful execution is also key, as they often tell chefs on shows like “Top Chef” when they are trying to be different but fall flat on their face with some utterly peculiar combination.
Still, the Imaginary Authors line has enough fans for all of this to be a highly subjective matter of personal opinion. At the end of the day, the fragrances simply don’t work for me.
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Oh my! I haven’t sniffed my Cape Heartache yet, and now I think I’ll need to make a trip to the drugstore after reading your reviews yesterday and those today. I have Tylenol and wine in stock, and now I feel compelled to purchase Zyrtec and am thinking of smelling salts, Vicks vapo-rub to lubricate my nostrils and possibly an epi pen. Perhaps I’ll just spritz it on a tennis ball. I DO like the smell of a can of tennis balls when they’re first opened.
I’m peculiarly sensitive to this line, so I hope you have the more common, safer experience. I’m sure you will. A lot of people really like the IA line. Hopefully, it will work for you, too, Holly. 🙂
Thanks. Then again, I’m wondering if I like it, perhaps it will be off-putting to others. I must admit, I have been swayed by the concept to a great degree.
I am sharing my love of fragrance with my clients who are in hospice and eldercare, and it’s so gratifying to pursue their stories and hope that I can revisit with them their cherished olfactory memories. Imaginary Authors just sounds so perfect to me, and perhaps that is marketing or it will prove to be true for us. Regardless, I really appreciate your reviews.
That you for these wonderfully comprehensive ‘en bref’ reviews, though there seems nothing much to detain me here I’m always grateful to you for allowing me to decide what not to try (whioch really is half the battle).
That with you wit and undying wisdom make you an indispensable part of the perfume scene, I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you through 2013.
So, as the time draws near, here at least, might I take the chance to wish you every happiness in the year ahead that I would have for myself.
Beau, The Perfumed Dandy
My dearest Beau, I very much feel the same way about you. I’m so glad we’ve become friends over the course of the last year, and I just know that 2014 will add further layers to that friendship. I wish you nothing but success, fortune, love, laughter, good health, and perfumed peace in the upcoming year. With much love, K.
Dear Kafka, please don’t sugar coat your opinion. (Tee hee!)
All kidding aside, this is what I (we) respect about you… THANK YOU! Well, that and the fact you have an amazing ability to detect and describe the notes, feel, etc..
I am so glad I am not the only one to detect a sour note in the MoaT. I swapped for a decant of it earlier this year in a swap meet thinking … this is right up my alley…. Smokey vanilla? Yes, please! Visions of a more affordable LL V44 danced in my head … sadly, no dancing experienced. Big sigh …
I tried it a few more times to be fair. Nope. Not for me. I would love to send it to a good home for anyone who likes it or wants to try it.
I wish you a most delightful NYE and may 2014 be healthy, happy and magical!
Thank you, dear CC, may 2014 bring you all the very best in life as well! I hope it’s a lovely year for you, and I look forward to getting to know you even better. 🙂
Memoirs did nothing for me. The notes looked nice on paper but the scent, not so much. Soft Lawn was okay until the tennis balls took over. Stanley the poodle would probably love that one since he lives for tennis balls. I don’t mind the smell of tennis balls but I don’t wish to smell like one myself. Great reviews as always.
Hope you have a very Happy New Year!
Zola loves tennis balls as well, and I have a lots of cans for him to use at the dog park. Like you, however, it’s not something I’m keen to smell of, especially for hours on end. lol.
Happy 2014, Poodle! I hope it’s the best year ever for you, and that your kiddies have put aside all the ill-health that plagued them in 2013. I hope Greta, in particular, does well on the new program. xoxoxo
Thanks sweetie, but sadly it couldn’t have started any worse than it did. I’ll send you an email when I’m up to it.
Hugs and happiness to you and Z.
Oh no….. I’m so sorry to hear that. I had such hopes for Greta’s new regimen. Sweetie, I’ll keep you both in my thoughts, and Stanley as well, in case it’s him as well. Give your furry ones a gentle hug from me, okay?
Happy New Year, dear Kafka.
And to you, too, Cheryl! Happy 2014! I hope it’s a fantastic year for you, my dear.
Hehehe! Lmao. …you+Synths= *#$#*# …….choose a swear word
Anyway happy New Year from cold old rainy London!
LOL, sweetheart, I’m pretty consistent in my unhappy reaction to them, aren’t I? Thank you for the friendship in 2013, my dear, and Happy 2014. I hope this is the best year ever for you!
K when you have time try Norma Kamali’s incense……….you will thank me it’s soooo good. It’s Amazing! Or at least I think so….
I’ve heard sooo much about it, but it’s like a unicorn, isn’t it? Discontinued and hard to find, no?
Well I will spare you a ml or two of the 80s vintage Kamali with also my much coveted ambre Mediterranean for you to try as well. …..just bare with me as waiting for empty sample bottles. Believe it or not, vintage NK is still available in NY. Will send you a link once I find it
That’s hugely generous, Sultan, HUGELY so, but I could never accept something so rare. Perhaps just the Ambre Med. instead, since that one is not discontinued and I’ve wanted to try the Profumi del Forte stuff. But thank you for your thoughtfulness with all of it!
Hello K, I think you hit the nail on the head with Imaginary Authors creations. They are just so darn weird and abstract to the point that you can’t really enjoy the scents, at least the ones I have tried. For the record I have only sampled two ( Violet In Disguise & Falling Into The Sea) and I was totally put off by both. VID was a hybrid of Peptol Bismol and cough syrup while FITS was A disgusting Glade air refreshener and you know how much I hate those things UGH. I haven’t given up hope though. I would like to try more and see if my opinion of his fragrances are any better than the ones that turned my stomach recently. I wonder if Josh altered his formulas to reduce the amount of aroma chemicals will that improve it. I think so. Need to try Soft Lawn, now that one sounds interesting, but you never know. I have a feeling that it will turn my stomach as well. Here goes nothing. Lol
LOL, the descriptions, the descriptions….. I’d love to know what you would come up with after Cape Heartache and the other one I reviewed, Cobra & the Canary, which may have been even more difficult for me to handle. Be sure to let me know if you ever do. lol
I tried four of these scents (VD, OT, MoaT, and CH) and had the same physical reaction you seem to have had. I’ve never actually run to the sink to scrub something, but I did with these. I’m so glad you shared the names of the chemicals that are likely involved in this reaction (burning skin around my lips and the inside of my nose, slight nausea, headache) because I will certainly be on the lookout for perfumes with these chems. I was able to tolerate and very much enjoy the Ormonde Jayne scents I’ve tried (Ta’if and Tolu) so perhaps it is the amount of Iso E or the other chems you discuss. Whatever it is, thanks for the PSA!!
Very interesting, especially as you don’t seem to be one who is sensitive to synthetics in general. There does seem to be an extra degree of something more in the IA line that goes beyond mere ISO E Super, but I have no idea what precisely and specifically it may be. My guesses here are just guesses, but it’s hard to know for sure because I’ve never quite had a reaction as intense as I did here (especially to Cobra & The Canary). The thing is, perfume companies almost never list any of these aromachemicals in their note list, so it’s difficult to know which fragrances one might want to avoid if one is very sensitive to a particular element. Thankfully for most, the average perfumista isn’t like me and doesn’t seem to have the same problem.
You can sit next to me in the weirdo corner when it comes to IA’s perfumes. 😉
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