"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."
Sometimes I do the same. When I read an interesting scene in a novel I imagine what the main characters would smell.
Imaginary Authors' Josh Meyer goes a step further and create a fragrance out of it. In the case of The Cobra & The Canary, orris, leather, hay and tobacco come together to create the olfactory experience of the road trip the main character in Spundt's novel (Neal Orris) took in his dad's Shelby Cobra Roadster and his best friend Ike.
When I first smelled The Cobra & The Canary none of this clicked. I hadn't read the back story and to me Josh Meyer's perfume was just a really good rendition of leather and iris.
It wasn't until I started my research for this review that it all came together. Josh Meyer didn't just create a leather fragrance. He wanted to tell retell Spundt's novel through scent.
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Luckily for us, Josh has saved the smells of some of the places Neal Orris and Ike visit.
I personally am glad that I don't pick out the smell of the "seedy motels", "hot debutantes" and "cigarette smoke". As for the asphalt, I don't get much of it either. A touch of something resembling machine oil peeks through in the dry-down of the fragrance.
Story telling through perfume, however, doesn’t require that every note or smell of the scent is clearly present. Perfume’s power lies in its ability to convey feelings and emotions by creating a certain ambiance. It is the wearer who fills in the missing links between what they smell and the scenery the perfumer wants to convey.
This is why, Josh Meyer doesn’t have to include a note of a “seedy motel” or “cigarette smoke” for us to get the sensation of the scene he is depicting. The overall experience The Cobra & The Canary recreates is that of bold adventurism, of putting your middle finger in the air and racing off in the horizon to chase your dream.
Dig Deeper: What Does It Smell Like?
The Cobra & The Canary opens with a blast of lemon on a background of soft leather accord.
The opening is an interesting juxtaposition of two fragrant opposites – fresh and dry. The contrasting notes in these first minutes are well-balanced and shape the accord of fresh, floral leather.
As time passes, the lemon slowly dissipates and an iris accord takes its place. The iris is not predominant and never overtakes the composition.
You inhale deeply and you smell the road, machine oil and the dusty interior of the Roadster Orris and Ike are riding.
In The Cobra & The Canary it plays a supporting role. The iris rounds off some of the sharp notes of the leather, which becomes more intense with time.
Leaving the iris and the leather accord to develop alone has been done and is a cliché in a certain sense. If you are familiar with Imaginary Author’s scents you know they are anything but clichés.
This is why, it is no surprise that something interesting starts emerging in the background of the iris and leather. A sense of dry earthiness creeps in behind them. A hay accord and maybe a touch of vetiver chime in and make things interesting.
Just when you are trying to figure out what is behind the hay accord, the leather hits you hard. What was a soft lady’s glove has turned into an strong raunchy leather jacket. You inhale deeply and you smell the road, machine oil and the dusty interior of the Roadster Orris and Ike are riding.
The time this intense glorious leather holds has the centre stage are the most memorable for me. This leather accord in the hearth of the fragrance defines The Cobra & The Canary. The rest is building up to or fading away from it.
After an hour or so the leather accord turns softer. Soft tobacco seeps in to support the hay, which is still holding the front from behind.
The official notes list includes asphalt. I can’t distinguish it in the composition but I suspect it plays in the background and gives the composition some longevity and that undefined weird nuance.
At this stage of its development, The Cobra & The Canary holds the same timbre until it fully disappears.
The Cobra & The Canary has an amazing longevity. It stays on me over 14 hours. The first two to three hours is where most of the development takes place. After that the fragrance remains fairly linear. There are minor changes along the way but nothing that will perk up your senses.
The Cobra & The Canary has a decent projection. I can easily smell it in the first three hours when I move around. In its dry-down the scent is still detectable but stays closer to the skin.
How to Wear The Cobra & The Canary
Imaginary Authors The Cobra & The Canary is an interesting fragrance but not necessarily an easy one to wear. In fact, how versatile you find it will depend on your exposure to leather scents and your comfort level with them.
The website of Imaginary Authors advises us to wear The Cobra & The Canary on “Hot, hazy weekdays when you can put your life on hold and enjoy a simple luxury like a fast drive in the country.”
I agree with the bit about putting your life on hold and driving fast in the country side. I’m not so sure about the hot and hazy day. I tend to veer toward leather scents in a colder weather.
This is a free-spirit, bad-ass type of fragrance. It’s what you wear with your bike gang at the local watering hole. Josh Meyer created The Cobra & The Canary to tell the story of a road trip. Maybe the best thing to do is follow the perfumer’s idea about this fragrance and put it on when we hit the road…even if it’s a family trip.
The Cobra & The Canary is a bad-ass fragrance for all ages. I’d love to smell it on that high school rebel with the leather biker jacket, tight jeans and pointy-toe shoes.
The Experts Say...
Kafka from Kafkaesque. A Perfume Critic
“It’s a lovely story, but The Cobra & The Canary was hell on earth for me. I mean it. The fragrance is laden with a cheap aroma-chemical that made me feel as though I’d been punched in the nose, had a scalpel scrape off the skin inside, and had a bloody nose. I have never had that reaction to a fragrance before, and it’s been a while since I experienced genuine physical pain in sniffing a fragrance. Each and every time.”
Star Rating: None Given
Read Kafka's full review here.
Tama Blough for Ca Fleur Bon
“The synopsis for this “book” reads: 'We were driving faster than dammit, headed due west for a place called Anywhere But Here.' The perfume conjures this scenario perfectly; the road, the passion, the hot tuck and roll leather seats. Get in your car and drive.”
Star Rating: None Given
Read Tama's full review here.
Peter from FragranceView. A YouTube Reviewer
“There is a sense of this overwhelming dryness, which is what I pictured driving through the desert in the heat in a convertible car.”
“I would say if you’re going to struggle with this fragrance, it would be in the first 20 minutes.”
“In terms of performance, I get 7 hours of longevity with the projection actually being quite good. One to two hours of modest projection.”
“Definitely unique and definitely paints the picture of getting in a convertible car and driving in the heat across the desert, just escaping life.”
Star Rating: None Given
The Bottom Line
The Cobra & The Canary is probably one of the most unique leather fragrances you’ll come across. It’s versatile and at the same time tricky to wear. It can work for any occasion and at the same time no occasion. It is up to you do decide.
Would you buy The Cobra & The Canary?
I think it’s a worthy addition to any collection. It’s the kind of fragrance you wear for your own enjoyment.
Would I get compliments wearing The Cobra & The Canary?
The Cobra & The Canary is like a Kandinsky painting. It makes you analyze it and ponder on it. You don’t, however, necessarily exclaim “oh, what a wonderful painting”. The Cobra & The Canary isn’t Bleu de Chanel and people won’t tell you smell nice. You may intrigue the braver souls but I would suggest wearing this perfume for the sake of your enjoyment.
What rating would you give The Cobra & The Canary?
I think it deserves a 4 out of 5. It is a unique, well-executed fragrance that will keep you coming back for another sniff.
Leather, Hay, Asphalt
Bottle Size: 14ml, 50ml
Concentration: Eau de Parfum
Where to Buy: Etiket
*Price is subject to change.