I haven't checked in on indie brand Imaginary Authors since last spring. Here are quick reviews of two of their recent-ish efforts. If you've tried anything from the brand, do share your favorites in the comments!
An Air of Despair
An Air of Despair was launched as a limited edition for Summer 2015 (it's still easily found), and features notes of cedar, saffron, musk and sadness. If the name and the notes sound like a bit of a downer for June, bear in mind that it promises to "lift you up inside while keeping the outward despondency that makes you so desirable in tact" [sic], and really, there's nothing depressing about the smell to my mind, unless you find cedar closet depressing (you can read the backstory here). That's mostly what we have here: a light but lively cedar with leather-y saffron. The top notes are zippy and bright, with citrus plus a mineral-ish effect giving it some lift, and the dry down is clean but not quite detergent-ish musk. The cedar is there from beginning to end, and while it does warm a bit on skin — eventually it is soft and cushy rather than zippy — it stays sheer enough for hot weather wear.
Verdict: It smells as spare as it sounds, but it's quite enjoyable to wear, and it's perfectly unisex. If you love cedar and need one that won't overwhelm in the heat, it's worth a shot. Plus, small size (30 ml Eau de Parfum is $55) and it would be great fun to answer anyone who asked what fragrance you were wearing.
A City On Fire
A City On Fire was created for Machus, a menswear boutique in Portland, Oregon. The imaginary book in this case is a "brilliantly dark graphic novel" with murder and perhaps some mayhem (you can read the backstory here). The notes include cade oil, spikenard, cardamom, clearwood, dark berries, labdanum and burnt match, and we are told that the "...refined smoke accord makes this an austere and luxurious scent for evenings on the town, whether with a special someone or alone and looking for trouble." Again, yes, the product is mostly as advertised. A City On Fire is as bold and quirky as Air of Despair is mild; the opening is a decent dose of woodsmoke with perhaps a smidgen of meat — it's strong, and has a definite medicinal undertone. As the smoke and the bandages calm, it gets slowly spicier and sweeter. The far dry down is quieter and cozier than the opening, but it's still quite a lot of dark smoky wood. I have a feeling it would be the perfect thing for a cold winter's night. On a humid day in mid-June, it's perhaps a bit much.
Verdict: I don't know about "austere", and the audience for a perfume with this much smoke is probably small, but you know who you are: if most smoky scents are just too wimpy for you, give City On Fire a shot. I found it great fun to wear (it made me smile every time), but it's not something I'd reach for often, and I should mention that my family did not find the sillage quite so enjoyable as I did. If it were sold in a travel size, I'd consider it, though. Nope: it's in 50 ml Eau de Parfum for $95.
For buying information, see the listing for Imaginary Authors under Perfume Houses.