He welcomed me with a warm and friendly smile. I was ushered into his cozy space where he pulled out a seat for me and offered me a shot of Four Roses Bourbon. We exchanged stories and laughter. What I thought was a quick five minutes became a rapid fire twenty minutes. I was caught up in the moment. My husband and daughter came looking for me and there I was caught red handed with an empty shot glass and perfume samples.
I know it almost sounds like a tawdry affair but I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in dramatic word play when it comes to this independent fragrance from Portland, Oregon: Imaginary Authors.
Meet Josh Meyers (see that dapper guy in the crew neck sweater), a former real estate agent turned self-taught fragrance creator and brain behind the brand. I found Josh’s table at the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason, SF. My husband was selling products from his own line, 265 Design. As I walked away from his table to make a phone call to some girlfriends to break the news that I was just too worn out to make a drive out to Napa for a girl’s weekend, I felt so defeated. I need a pick me up. I turned around walked a few steps and noticed a quirky fragrance booth. It immediately lifted my spirits.
Each fragrance, there are seven in the collection, is set up on two hardcover books. The fragrance is captured on a bookmark that’s meant to be sprayed with the fragrance and is placed inside a wineglass right side down.
I first smelled The Soft Lawn and was taken by the fresh lime scent but there was something different, odd perhaps? Next he had me smell Violet Disguise and then he mentioned The Cobra and The Canary for it’s tobacco flowers, orris root and leather. I asked if had an animalic quality. He shot me a quizzical glance and asked what kind of fragrances I wore. I mentioned that I loved the independent and lesser known brands such as Slumberhouse and Atelier Cologne. His eyes lit up as if he were lost in a foreign land and met someone that magically understood his language.
I inhaled the base of the wine glass that trapped the aroma of The Cobra and The Canary and then I smelled Violet Disguise. At first I was more smitten with Violet Disguise because I detected the plum note right away. I sniffed my way through the remaining five fragrances in his collection but I kept going back to Cobra and Violet Disguise. His top seller, Memoirs of a Trespasser slyly entered the scene by tempting me with its boozy vanilla presence. I quickly reached into my wallet and pulled out some cash to buy a sample of The Cobra and The Canary and Memoirs of a Trespasser. Josh also slipped me a sample of Violet Disguise – what a gentleman! I walked back to my husband’s booth in a cloud of plum from one arm, smoky vanilla on the other and a dreamy smile on my face.
Lucky for me this was the first day of the craft fair. I’d be returning the last day to help out my husband transport some of his wood crafts home. I wanted to make it a point to return back to Josh’s table to see if I could steal the last ten minutes of the day with a quick conversation of the wonderful world of fragrance. I was extremely lucky that it also involved some bourbon.
I love learning about the earliest fragrant memories of fragrance makers and Josh’s was no different, “my youth spent in Southern California…a mix of linden blossoms and the salty sea.” So I was really surprised when I asked the Sophie’s Choice like question about the one note he would love to repeatedly work with was leather because it can take on a dramatically unique appearance or it can be soft and subdued in the background.
Josh even provided some advice to the young female novice that only buys department store brands, “buy fragrances for yourself and not what you think your boyfriend might like…you might be surprised what you find.” I could have used this advice sooner. I started buying for myself in just the past three years. I will admit that I make my husband smell every sample I procure on my arms. However, if he doesn’t like a scent that I truly love, it doesn’t stop me from keeping on loving or purchasing it. I just try not to wear it around him.
When asked about the creative approach to his fragrance marketing, Josh explains that he wanted to create a fragrance world that was smart and evoked memories without relying on in your face sexuality. Therefore, creating authors and story lines behind each fragrance reinforces Josh’s vision. Also, for the literary nerds like me, it’s pretty awesome. It also goes without saying that a big goal for him is to create complex scents that will not be found in your average mall retailer.
Here’s the fragrance lineup and I included the brief synopsis each scent inspires, as well as my own thoughts:
Falling into the Sea
At the age of nineteen Nica Galas published her first book, the autobiographical tome Falling into the Sea which chronicled her short and torrid love affair among the hot beaches and lemon trees in the Gulf of Naples. The breathtaking story opens with Nica and her girlfriends picking bunches of jasmine flower for boys while they cliff-jumped into the sea. An innocent first kiss erupts into an ardent summer entanglement which is cut short one moonlit night when her lover leaps into the dark abyss never to surface, leaving Nica naked on the cliffs screaming his name.
Notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lychee, Tropical flowers and warm sand.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test or smell this fragrance. I’m really bummed that I missed this one. Bergamot is one of my favorite notes that always puts me in a bright summer state of mind. I may have to purchase a sample of this one from Josh’s site.
The Soft Lawn
Claude LeCoq published his first book, The Soft Lawn, in 1916 while still attending Princeton University. A controversial portrait of adolescent upper-class rebellion in New England, the coming-of-age story follows Hampton Perry, a charmingly snotty college tennis champ who, after years of having everything handed to him on a silver platter, finds himself handing it all back.
A little known fact about the author: Claude LeCoq wore only seersucker suits, known in that era as the wardrobe of the poor, and it was his gallant presence at high society dinners and prestigious sporting events that brought the fabric into popularity among the affluent in the ’20s.
Notes: Linden blossom, Laurel, Ivy, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Fresh Tennis Balls and Clay Court
I can’t recall exactly what a fresh can of tennis balls or even a clay court smells like because I never really played tennis but the lime from the linden blossom transported me to sunny country clubs. I gave this a few minutes to bloom and I did get an aroma that was reminiscent of gym class tennis activities. It’s a rubbery green scent. I did get an earthy, woody vibe when at the drydown. This is great fragrance that adds a creative twist to a traditional summer scent. It will boost and elevate your mood.
The Cobra and The Canary
When a tip from a clairvoyant leads 23-year old Neal Orris to a rural Connecticut barn housing his deceased father’s secret obsession, a pristine 1964 Shelby Cobra Roadster, it is the getaway ticket he was desperately searching for. After liberating his best friend Ike from his dead-end job on the family farm, the two hit the open highway. Aiming for the Palm Springs race tracks, their journey is a blur of seedy motels, cool swimming pools, hot debutantes, cocktails, and cigarette smoke. Each stop finds the friends inventing new pseudonyms and personas for themselves, their innocent game hurtling into the depths of decadence and desolation.
Notes: Lemon, Tobacco flowers, Orris root, Leather, Hay fields and asphalt
This was a first runner up to Violet Disguise but then I gave it another go around. I found myself wearing this three days in a row. I need a full bottle of this in my life. I love the fresh lemon opening accompanied a dry, leathery accord. This is the tobacco flowers working with the leather and hay fields. I can still detect tobacco in the background. When this beauty dries down, the leather is softer, and the orris root kicks in more by making it a bit powdery. It’s still dry but now I can detect a bit of floral and even a bit of clean skin musk. There’s now a faded tobacco scent lingering. If anything this is for a girl that is loves a good leather jacket and perhaps owns a leather purse with a worn out inner pocket that carried around her bad habit many years ago, a pack of smokes. This is a great a scent for men and women. I am dying to spray this on my husband and I’m dying to smell this on him while we sneak off into a dark corner of a dive bar.
A stunning portrait of Paris in the fashionable 50’s, Audrey Blavot’s L’Orchidée Terrible tells the story of Honey Martine, a young girl from England who, while on holiday with her family in Paris, is discovered by a fashion designer and thrust into the glamorous world of haute couture. Her mantra “I’ll try anything once” leads Honey from one adventure to the next and stirs in her an insatiable lust for trouble.
Though the true identity of Audrey Blavot has never been revealed it is rumored that she was, herself, a model or designer of the era. A post address in the 8th Arrondissement is published in each of her books but no one has ever been seen coming or going from the residence. Fans now leave orchids on the doorstep as a tribute to the elusive author.
Notes: Orchid, Aldehydes, Honey, Muget, White Musk, Satin
This is a very soapy aldehyde scent on me. It’s bit overwhelming but I can’t help but be impressed with it’s longevity and how it transcends into a deep honey scent. This isn’t a big winner for me but I bet I may change my tune if I wear this with a pencil skirt, a leopard print twinset and killer patent black leather heels.
Devante Valéreo was raised in a dusty Spanish village on the Balearic Sea. He fondly recalled going to the bullfights with his father, an ex-picador, and credited those early experiences with inspiring his most popular novella, Bull’s Blood. The book’s lurid tale of seduction garnered obscenity charges against the author. Though the charges were rejected by the court, a ban on the sale of his works persisted for a number of years.
A fixture in Barcelona, smoking cigarillos and writing in the cafés and bars into the night, Valéreo disappeared as a fugitive in 1967 after a highly publicized bar scuffle with American sailors, one of whom later died from his injuries. “A man who has killed,” he wrote in Bull’s Blood, “is a man who knows passion.”
Notes: Patchouli, Rose, Costus Root, Tobacco, Musk, Bull’s Blood
I love patchouli, rose, musk and sometimes tobacco but costus root and bull’s blood? Ugh. So I spray a bit on my arm and immediately I get patchouli and then some rose. Okay this isn’t so bad but wait, what is that hair tonic smell? Costus root. It actually reminds me a bit of my late grandfather, who was a barber, he would put tonic in his hair daily. This is also the first scent that gave me a bit of a headache within the first 15 minutes of wear time. But I persevered, if not for Josh but for myself and I wanted to discover the next scent it would turn into. I’m glad I did because about three hours later it was a faint tobacco and soft musk. This scent reminded me of my father that often smoked a cigarette right before his shower. Not a huge fan of this scent but I was happy of the memories it stirred within me.
“Invigorated by the reckless blooms of spring she took to the street like a blossom on the breeze.” So begins Violet Disguise by Lenora Blumberg. A Californian through and through, Blumberg’s early stories invoke the innocence of picnics in the park, days whiled away picking plums in the orchard, and warm nights cruising canyon roads with the top down.
After Violent Disguise was adapted for the screen Blumberg spent several years consorting with Hollywood’s elite but abandoned the glitz for a quiet life on a plum orchard in the Ojai Valley.
Notes: Violet, Plum, Dried Fruits, Balsam, Amber, Evening Air and The Month of May
Okay, honestly I do not know what the month of May smells like because I live in city that has only two seasons: winter and a very short summer that comes around the end of September and lasts for just two weeks. I am a sucker for plum scents but this one is a little different. I like my plums to settle with some tartness. There is some plum there in the background but it is overshadowed by the fruit notes. If you love violets, this may not be for you. The violet comes right out the gate and then fades. Then the amber comes in and it settles into a deep fruity resinous scent. If you’re patient and willing to put the time in, this scent is worth checking out.
Memoirs of a Trespasser
The early exploration writing of Philip Sava bent the limits of post-modern fiction, revealing fantastical worlds that fooled many into believing they were, in fact, real. Sava’s kaleidoscopic collections, of which Memoirs of a Trespasser is the undeniable centerpiece, drew upon true experiences from his exotic travels but were infused with a hallucinatory inventiveness that set his work apart from others in the genre.
Though Sava had associates all over the world, he spent most of his time living in solitude on a ranch in southern Madagascar. When interrogated by the press on his cloistered lifestyle he notoriously answered, “Who needs love when you have cognac?”
Notes: Madagascar Vanilla, Guaiacwood, Myrrh, Benzoin Resin, Ambrette Seeds & Oak
This is not your usual sweet gourmand vanilla. It goes on smoky then transcends into boozy and within time it settles into an incense scent that is reminiscent to church. This is a vanilla that may be an acquired taste for some but for complex fragrance lovers like me, this is comfort.
Longevity is an A+ with all of these scents. Do choose with care because the scent will stay with you longer than four hours!
As you know, I’m a sucker for packaging and presentation so again kudos to Josh’s keen marketing sense. I love that the usual fragrance strips you’d use to spray and sample are actually book markers. I just wished I grabbed all seven book marks.
I am a new fan of Josh and his impressive line of fragrances. I think I’m in awe of him not because he is self-taught and walked away from a lucrative corporate career but because he listened to his inner voice and wasn’t afraid to jump into his passion. He is an inspiration to people like me, late 30’s still asking myself what am I really doing? What do I really want to do. I am hoping that I can answer that question myself. His last bit of advice to me on fragrance writing, “keep writing, read lots of fragrance books and just keep smelling.” I guess I was hoping for something more profound but it doesn’t get any easier than that. It’s up to me to stop being lazy and just start writing.
In the meantime, I’ll be busy burying my nose into my wrist to get every whiff of The Cobra and The Canary, from beginning to drydown.
Each scent is 60mls/$85.
For more info on each scent, how to purchase samples and where to find these scents at a boutique near you. Please check out the Imaginary Authors site.
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