Memoirs of a Trespasser Eau de Parfum by Imaginary Authors Review
Now this is Bourbon vanilla with a capital B.
Upon first getting a whiff of my sample vial, I thought I smelled actual booze for a second, before realizing this is just a very boozy, oak-laden vanilla, a little dirty around the edges in the best way.
Memoirs of a Trespasser Eau de Parfum by Imaginary Authors is a more gourmand, foodier vanilla than those I’ve seen in other woody “not like other vanillas” vanilla fragrances. Where Eau Duelle is the gentle vanilla suggestion of the candy aisle in an Eastern European market, Memoirs, though similar in many ways, is more committed to being a luscious, sweet ice cream vanilla with a touch of booze on top.
But it’s more than just sweetness and alcohol: Memoirs of a Trespasser plays with woody, smoky, and bitter earthy accords in a fascinating way. The result is warm and yet still unique, a little bit twisty, compelling and strange.
After the booziness of the rich brown vanilla, the next thing that hits me in Memoirs is the smoke.
Stretching across the length of the fragrance I smell what I think at first must be balsam of Peru, that slightly unoriginal and common smokiness with its aromatic and fresh spicy facets, making up that slightly “sausage-y” note I also get in Diptyque’s Eau Duelle and Maison Martin Margiela’s By the Fireplace.
That smoky balsam is more prominent here, and is paired with a fascinating multi-dimensional earthiness. Namely, there is a strong undercurrent of clay, mineralic and muddy. This isn’t the refined, clean smell of red or white pottery clay in an artist’s studio. No, this is the clay you dig up straight out of the ground, that stubborn hard layer of earth a few feet under your garden.
The mineral notes in the clay accord remind me a bit of Hermès’ Terre d’Hermès Parfum with its sharp, flinty mineral notes. The minerals are much softer here, warm and brown and muddy with tiny glinting flecks buried within.
Along with the mineral earthiness, there is also something more bitter and inky to Memoirs, with a timbre almost like oakmoss. This is the darkest undertone of the clay, swirling underneath the rest of the scent like a storm current in a sewer.
There’s no actual oakmoss here, of course, but a trick of the light makes the clay act like it. Like strong oakmoss, it’s dark and earthy and almost metallic in places. I think of the fading final hours of Lush’s incredible pure oakmoss number, Devil’s Nightcap. The clay here reminds me of the latter stages, when the moss has calmed down to a trickling inky stream with flecks of light reflected by glinting coins at the bottom, when the softness and creaminess of oak wood has grown around it.
The oak and guaiac wood lend woody depth and dimension to the vanilla, preventing it from collapsing in on itself in a mess of empty sweetness and connecting it to the earthiness of the clay.
I smell something aromatic and herbal in here somewhere that is missing from the note pyramid: perhaps clary sage, or something similar. It may be a trick of the aromatic balsamic smoke, making me think of meats being roasted with herbs on an open fire.
It’s likely also augmented by the myrrh note. It’s resinous and warm, balsamic and very aromatic, almost spicy in a way that suggests savory food peppered with herbs. Though muted, it contributes to the resinous aromatic backbone of the scent, blending the vanilla with flavorful cooking smoke.
There are moments when the manifestation of this herbal note in combination with the sweetness and smokiness is a bit repulsive and odd, like a vat of some sort of very strange sweet and aromatic tomato soup. The effect only lasts an instant, though, and only seems to hit me in a certain type of too-warm-for-a-coat-too-cold-for-just-a-sweater fall weather.
Throughout the colder months, Memoirs of a Trespasser keeps up a unified front of coziness and warmth, subversive in its dark and muddy clay corners but still curling around you with licks of comforting flames. It feels like the warmth blazing down your throat after a swallow of good aged bourbon.
Om second thought, perhaps that woody, sausage-y aromatic smokiness is not balsam of Peru, but guaiac wood, also known as palo santo (Spanish for sacred wood).
Like balsam of Peru, I often find its smoky, sausage-y scent inoffensive but tiring and cliché when left unbalanced and in large quantities. There are enough other things going on in Memoirs of a Trespasser, however, to keep things interesting, and that smoky palo santo is really only a prominent part of the composition for the first few hours, before both it and the clay begin fading into the background.
This isn’t a sweet smoke, but, rather, an aromatic one like burning firewood that really reminds me of Maison Martin Margiela’s By the Fireplace. It’s lighter here, more balanced, less dark and smoggy, but it’s still a cool, outdoorsy sort of smoke rather than an over-sweetened incense stick burning in a crystal shop. There’s a very faint resinous edge to it from the myrrh, but this doesn’t feel like an overwhelmingly resin-heavy, opoponax-like sweet smoky scent.
Together with that delicious oak woodiness, which only seems to become more prominent as time goes on, that gently fading smoky palo santo creates an illusion of delicious vanilla booze. Combined with the considerable dose of soft ambrette in the drydown, this soft oaky amber reminds me considerably of the absolutely stunning bourbon whiskey note in Nasomatto’s Baraonda.
I wouldn’t call Memoirs of a Trespasser an explicitly boozy fragrance, but there is a slight, sweet suggestion of liquor to it, something like bourbon or cognac, which I find supremely comforting and a touch seductive, in the way one seduces oneself by wearing a good perfume.
It isn’t nearly as photorealistic here as in Baraonda; this isn’t a scent you have to worry about wearing out in public. It’s just an association that comes together from its pieces: its fine aging oak wood, intensely aromatic vanilla, swirling smoke, and general caramel-brown timbre paint a picture of a secret underground bar with warm-colored lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and oak barrels lined up along the walls.
Some seven hours in, I notice that the mellowing vanilla has gotten slightly more buttery with time, offering just a glimpse of a warm, buttery side like popcorn. The boozy facet of it is still there, but you increasingly have to really search for it, along with the tiniest edge of earthiness: the clay is effectively mostly gone some four hours in.
A trace of clay and smoke remains present the whole way through, but these fade from their relatively shocking prominence by the middle of the scent, becoming faint cohesive foils rather than dazzling main characters.
Past this point, Memoirs is increasingly dominated by that lovely, extraordinarily gourmand vanilla, in all of its buttery-popcorn glory. It’s sweet in a smooth way, like salted caramel or seductive late-night jazz. In the cold, it may seem, for a flash, somewhat honeyed from this smoothness paired with the faintest memory of mineral sharpness.
Let me tell you more about this popcorn-like note. It’s not real popcorn, but a smooth, buttery, sweet vanilla idea reminiscent of perfect little popcorn clouds.
A year ago today, my boyfriend and I went to a very camp, run-down, understaffed old movie theater to see Dune, an aesthetically gorgeous movie with a soundtrack I could not stop listening to for weeks afterwards which was tragically built around a book series I cannot stand at all. (What do you think of Dune? Let me know in the comments!)
At some point during one of the many scenes of interminable dialogue about space politics, I went to the restroom — which was actually pretty clean for a movie theater! — and the air freshener or whatever they had going on in there was, in that moment, one of the most heavenly smells I’d smelled in my life: sweet, light, fluffy, buttery, probably vanilla, but in a context that made me think of it as heavenly sweet popcorn.
That’s precisely the sort of sweet, buttery, aromatic vanilla that’s going on in Memoirs. It isn’t actually popcorn, with its unctuous yellow and savory notes, but it’s decadent and buttery in a way that feels similar.
I know that comparison doesn’t seem flattering, but in the moment it was simply divine. Along with the sweet, boozy ambrette that reminds me of Baraonda and the woody, smoky vanilla, that fluffy fantasy buttered popcorn note is what I smell in the late drydown of Memoirs of a Trespasser, and it’s simply heavenly.
Most languages, English included, have a very narrow lexical field regarding smell. That is, while we have all sorts of words to describe different dimensions of sights or sounds or tastes or even textures, we have very few words to describe smells.
This is why, being in English, so much of the language on this blog is metaphorical, comparing a scent to the smells of other things, or to colors or textures. We just don’t have a lot of rich adjectives for smells. Stinky, fragrant, and musty are the only scent-specific English adjectives I can think of, and the first two don’t really tell you much.
But not all languages are so poor. The Jahai people of Malaysia and the Maniq people of Thailand each use twelve to fifteen different words to describe scents. These aren’t advanced or little-known terms. They’re basic vocabulary, just as words like yellow, bumpy, or loud are basic vocabulary for other senses. The Jahai can describe the scent of something with an adjective as easily as they can describe its color.
One of the Jahai people’s many scent words is ltpit. It describes a certain scent quality shared by some soaps and flowers, pungent durian fruit, and the bearcat or binturong, a large black mammal that famously smells like popcorn.
I haven’t smelled all of these things, and I can’t say for sure what the quality is that all of them have in common to be described by a single word. But I wonder whether Memoirs of a Trespasser might possibly be described as ltpit, with its sweetness and its mellow, unctuous buttery qualities and that dark earthy clay streak.
I could very well be entirely wrong. It’s possible a Jahai child would laugh at me for even suggesting it. But smelling this perfume reminded me of that word and the excellent study where I had first encountered it.
The late drydown of Memoirs is predominated by soft ambrette, warm, muted benzoin, and that simply gorgeous edible vanilla, which incredibly never collapses or curdles into playdough as the complexity of this fragrance fades away.
How is it that the vanilla here can be so strong, sweet, and well-performing without getting nauseating or playdough-y? My hypothesis is that most of that nuanced, unique vanilla accord isn’t actually made up of vanilla. Instead, a soft, muted burbling stream of ambrette and benzoin makes up the warm center of Memoirs, while the bourbon-woody accord gives it rich dimension. It’s a strong choice that makes for a distinctive vanilla scent that stands out in a sea of nondescript amber fragrances.
Memoirs of a Trespasser fades incredibly gracefully, keeping enough nuance and structure to breathe life and dimension into that vanilla and keep it delicious. That clay note, too, continues to survive, staying perfectly blended into the vanilla.
Some perfumes only seem to project a unique signature when first applied, and fall apart into unrecognizable, disparate generic notes as time goes on. Not so with Memoirs of a Trespasser. The linearity here is impressive. Though the general aura gets softer and softer, more ambrette-forward and smoked rather than outright smoky, that buttered-booze-vanilla-smoke-and-clay signature is still almost identical to the opening.
This is a masterclass in linear composition. The scent stays cohesive, fading elegantly in a way that keeps things interesting, gracefully mellowing out into a final trace of cooking smoke and amber.
A touch of the palo santo, a faint mineral suggestion of the clay, and that oaky boozy woodsy whisper all keep this fragrance standing on its beautiful legs until the very end, some impressive fourteen hours in. I haven’t smelled Imaginary Authors’ A Whiff of Waffle Cone, but I can only imagine it works in a similar gourmand vanilla space, with more sugary sweetness.
I don’t think of myself as someone who likes intense or gourmand vanilla, but Memoirs is changing my mind. It’s a gorgeous quality of vanilla, incredibly smooth and cut with that fascinating dark clay note and smattering of un-sweet aromatic smoke.
Perhaps there’s something like butterscotch in here (in addition to the smoothness of actual butter and the unctuous boozy ooze of actual scotch). Buttery-smooth and sweet, his phase is delicious and just the tiniest bit dusty from the hint of leftover clay powder. Like a powder soaking up unwanted moisture, this dryness keeps the sweetness from getting too rich and cloying. It feels like a natural bookend for the palo santo smoke that’s fading along with it, like a dusty touch of ash mixed in with the campfire smog.
In many ways, I think Memoirs accomplishes what Atelier Cologne was trying to do with Vanille Insensée. Whereas Memoirs of a Trespasser goes all-in with the earthiness of the clay, confident that it belongs there and is balanced out by a delicious vanilla, Vanille Insensée waffles restlessly, adding murky oakmoss and dank woods into the middle of the scent and hastening to cover them up with playdough-y stale vanilla like some kind of inexpensive deodorant, throwing in some tacky, out-of-place citrus top notes in an attempt to divert attention from the musty and bitter nuances of the fragrance.
Where Vanille Incensée buries its challenging facets in crowd-pleasing apology, Memoirs of a Trespasser commits to what it’s doing here with confidence: this is clay, no doubt about it, along with the tastiest butterscotch vanilla I’ve ever smelled. It’s balanced, nuanced, all notes interconnected with one another, and structured with woods. It’s not too sweet, but sweet enough to keep you pressing your nose to to your arm wanting more.
The clay is the bane of this fragrance, but it’s also what makes it so balanced and beautiful. It reminds me of the mineral flint note in Hermès’ Terre d’Hermès Parfum, with its odd sharpness that smells a tiny bit like crushed up, well, Flintstone vitamins, or some other sharp mineral powder. The clay is a touch softer and warmer than flint, providing a subtle inky bitterness a little like oakmoss, but also bringing some of that flinty sharp mineral edge, particularly for the first one to two hours.
In a way, smelling it in something so delicious and intriguing fulfills some sort of primal urge to eat dirt.
(Don’t tell me I’m the only one that has that. You know what I’m talking about. Right? Guys?)
It provides a pleasing antithesis to the butterscotch vanilla, a duality that keeps Memoirs of a Trespasser from becoming cloying or too much.
The clay isn’t just here for shock value, though: the warm and bitter facets blend particularly well with the tasty vanilla and woods, while the hint of sharpness keeps things complex and interesting.
I don’t love that sharpness, but I don’t mind it, either. You’ve gotta take the rainbow with the rain, and that edge keeps me on my toes, appreciating the contrast with the smooth, buttery gentle sweetness of the rest of the scent.
Imaginary Authors have created a compelling woody vanilla that, in my mind, completes the triad of niche vanillas for people who don’t usually like vanilla: Eau Duelle, Vanille Incensée, and Memoirs of a Trespasser. Eau Duelle is the greenest and most aromatic of the bunch, the lightest and fluffiest. Vanille Incensée is the most dark, dank, damp and woody of the bunch. And Memoirs of a Trespasser? This is the most boozy, heady, high-quality aged sort of vanilla, with a fascinating smoky signature that will appeal to lovers of By the Fireplace and similar smoggy scents.
Eau Duelle has always been my favorite vanilla, but Memoirs of a Trespasser is giving the Diptyque a real run for its overpriced-candle-company money. Though each of the three is a distinct, surprising vanilla, this one feels, perhaps, the most distinguished and distinct of all. I don’t know of anything I’d confuse this with right now. There’s something very particular about that mix of fine vanilla booze and clay that can only be Memoirs of a Trespasser.
This is a tastier, earthier Eau Duelle, with oak-barrel booze, buttered popcorn, and clay. When I first tried this, I told myself I needed several wears to wrap myself around it… but no, I simply wanted several wears to enjoy it. I’m writing this review, telling myself I’ll need to sample it again tomorrow to get a closer examination of the clay note, when really I just want to enjoy this oak-vanilla-boozy-butter-popcorn hug again.
I tend to be skeptical of gourmand descriptions, of vanilla, and of over-sweetness, but Memoirs of a Trespasser is not-too-sweet and simply delicious on me. I was nervous to try it because I was expecting something unbearably sweet and syrupry, somewhere in the uncanny valley of food-ish-but-not-quite-food scents.
I needn’t have worried. The decadent sweetness here is a fascinating burnt-sugar bronze, incredibly warm and not overwhelming. It’s balanced by smoke and clay such that the composition is captivating and distinct, and somehow doesn’t get on your nerves despite the potentially nauseating strength of all those sweet-and-earthy components.
Instead of a strangely hollow food-inspired scent, in Memoirs I have found something nuanced and lovely, inspired in some vaguely food-like directions but ultimately a balanced mix of boozy, woodsy, earthy, and gourmand influences.
This is like a richer, more edible and simultaneously dirtier Eau Duelle, and I’m very pleased. It lasts all day on me, and keeps me happy and warm. It’s a perfect companion for a cold winter day when you want something sweet and comforting, yet niche and interesting, with a cutting edge that keeps you awake and a cloud of smoke that keeps things from getting too saccharine. The combination of sweet vanilla whiskey, smog, and mineral-laden clay feels sexy to me in a bold, I-know-exactly-what-I-like-and-I’m-going-to-have-it-all sort of way.
I wore Memoirs of a Trespasser to my college graduation, at nine in the morning on a miserably rainy day as I sprinted in four-inch lucite heels and a soaking wet cap and gown to the location of the ceremony (which didn’t permit bags or umbrellas). It gave me something warm and comforting to hold on to, but also retained a sophisticated niche edge.
There’s nothing wrong with scents that are sweet cupcakes through and through, but to mark that miserably rainy celebratory day I felt I needed something cozy with a modern avant-garde twist to it, and this was just the thing.
Memoirs of a Trespasser isn’t a perfume that’s happy to fade into a background vanilla room spray. It’s a distinct composition that demands attention and keeps you sitting up straight while simultaneously reveling in its warm creature comforts. That pinch of clay feels so entirely unique, subversive and strange, and is what really pulls Memoirs together. But even without it, it’s one of the most delicious, tempered-yet-decadent vanillas I’ve ever smelled.
A distinctive, sophisticated, and richly comforting perfume that straddles the line between sweet crowd-pleaser and weird niche-y number. Nose Josh Meyer has done a great job here. This is smooth, well-performing, and very, very nice.
Where to Find Memoirs of a Trespasser Eau de Parfum by Imaginary Authors
You can find samples, decants, and full bottles of Memoirs of a Trespasser EdP at Scent Split.
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