Ever since oud became a thing in perfume there has been a myth about many perfumes having the actual material in the formula. The great majority of oud in perfume is an oud accord built around cypriol. It has its place because a perfumer wanting a lesser oud effect can tune that accord to provide a precise amount. When a perfumer makes the effort to use real oud in their perfume it becomes a bit like riding a tiger. Every source of oud has its own powerful scent profile. Subtle oud is entirely a myth. If you’re going to work with the genuine stuff, you’re going to have to work with what the oud gives you. Independent perfumer Josh Meyer has produced an excellent example of how to do this with Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths.
Before I get into the review Imaginary Authors always begins with a fun snippet of prose from a non-existent writer. I found the one used with Whispered Myths to be one of the more illuminating entries, “When the long hours Azzam Issa pulls at his family’s bakery begin to interfere with his day-job as a security guard at The Louvre things turn bizarre. Angelic creatures move from one painting to the next and statues speak to him in cryptic whispers. The delusions are a nuisance and the few hours of sleep he is afforded between jobs are no better; dominated by visits from ancient mariners and supernatural figures from worlds past. It isn’t until he begins to listen to these apparitions that he becomes truly unhinged. In the frantic search for the true identities of these lost souls, Azzam discovers something far more remarkable, his own.”
It didn’t strike me at first but as I experienced Whispered Myths this is also a journey from the mythology of oud in perfume through to a discovery of its real identity.
The oud Mr. Meyer chose as his keynote is a Cambodian oud. The sample I have of this kind of oud is one I would describe as medicinal, fruity, and woody. I am guessing the oud sourced by Mr. Meyer also has a similar scent profile because he makes some intelligent choices on how to interact with those aspects of the oud.
Whispered Myths starts with a nose-tingling dose of oud-y reality. Mr. Meyer lets the Cambodian oud out to roar with its medicinal quality right away. This is no myth it is a slap of reality. The opening moments are going to be difficult for those who don’t appreciate this part of the oud experience. If you can get through these opening minutes what comes next is remarkable. First up is a melon note. Mr. Meyer uses this to bring forward that concentrated dried fruitiness of the oud. Melon is a trite overused ingredient. Mr. Meyer makes it relevant in his usage of it here. Then a sweet honey accord provides viscous contrast to the oud. This is my favorite part of the development as the honey finds the medicinal core of the oud and tames it. The base accord opens with ambrette providing a transparent botanical musk to underline the animalic part of the oud. The remainder is a reminder that oud is agarwood as what Mr. Meyer calls “salvaged shipwreck” is a combination of the dry synthetic woods. They provide an ascetic counterweight to the woodiness of the oud.
Whispered Myths has 12-14 hour longevity and for 90% of the time average sillage except for those opening moments then it is above average sillage.
Since the beginning of Imaginary Authors Mr. Meyer has had a distinct house aesthetic. Whispered Myths is the first to break most completely from that. That might be jarring for some. I found it showed the maturity of Mr. Meyer as a perfumer. I’ve thought very highly of the last few perfumes, but it seems like Mr. Meyer was looking for a new identity. With Whispered Myths, along with his fictional museum guard, he has seemingly found one.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.