Do you know what BPAL is? No? That’s unfortunate. Here, let me educate you: BPAL stands for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (and for once I spelled Phoenix correctly on the first try, truly a thing to celebrate) and they create perfume oils.
I was first introduced to them some years ago by a friend who can’t bear the thought of me having any money in my bank account. She fixed this by going “here, have this eclectic collection of scents that cannot actually exist and yet they do.”
They offer a range of scents, usually based on some sort of theme (they have an Alice in Wonderland line, for example) and every single one of their blends is evocative and captivating and will take you somewhere else with one whiff.
Needless to say, I’m a bit obsessed. I’m not going to run through my entire collection (of which there are many and they are varied.) But I am going to give you a down and dirty review of the latest collection of scents I bought from them, because I too cannot stand to have any money in my wallet.
FAKE NEWS: A scent of misdirection, of 140 frantic characters typed out in spite at 3am, and paranoia-clouded churlish accusations hurled at perceived enemies: crushed pink pepper pod, bitter white tobacco, gnarled patchouli, all covered in glinting, garish slashes of gold.
First, you need to know this is a “charity” scent, and proceeds from this scent go to the ACLU. Second, you should know that I am a sucker for anything with patchouli. I cannot help it, put patchouli in it and I will head directly for it. IN THE BOTTLE: It’s very bright, very big. As soon as the cap comes undone it smacks you in the face with patchouli which is amazing as far as I’m concerned. At first, it smells a lot like one of their previous charity scents, #occupywallstreet (are you sensing a theme yet? because BPAL is very liberal, very for the people. I love them.) which was practically straight patchouli. FRESH ON: kind of soapy and clean and still very much patchouli. My dad noticed the soapy note through a sinus infection. This scent has a very big throw, I’m pretty conservative with my dabs but you could smell me from a decent distance and that didn’t go away as it dried. DRY DOWN: patchouli but instead of being the super green fresh there’s something peeking around the edges that makes it sweet, almost sickeningly so. I wore this on my first day at my new job and was kind of miserable because I kept catching whiffs of the sweetness and it was upsetting my already upset stomach (long story for another post perhaps). FINAL THOUGHTS: I still like this smell but it’s definitely one to use with caution and maybe a paper towel to dab some excess away before you leave the house.
THEOI NOMIOI: The Theoi Nomioi are the gods and spirits of the wild: the countryside, the pastures, the forests. Under their auspices, untamed nature thrives, the beasts of the wild feast and multiply, the mountains reach to the heavens with their stony, snow-capped fingers, and the forests grow thick and dark with mystery.
Hey guess what, another charity scent! This one donates to the NPS. IN THE BOTTLE: a bit like pinesol. Mom actually opened this one, made a face and declared “IT SMELLS LIKE A PINECONE” to which I said: yes, it’s pretty much suppose to. FRESH ON: very very pine-y. Imagine just shoving your face into a pillow of pine needles (why you would do that is beyond me, but that’s the way this smells) this doesn’t have a big throw like FAKE NEWS, in fact you have to get pretty much on top of it before you can sniff it out. DRY DOWN: after a couple of hours the pine trees simmered down and made way for other things, things I can’t really name because all we really got around here are pine trees but things that I can sniff at and say “yes, this smells like a tree thing” it faded out pretty quickly though and as I type this I’m having to press my nose into my elbow joint to try and whiff it.
ALTERNATIVE FACTS: If you truly want to obfuscate what you really smell like, this is the scent for you! Sugar-crusted vanilla, a firecracker-blast of cherry and sour lemon, a hint of scuttling spiders, encroaching fog, and trumpets of bombast, bluff, and bluster.
HEY GUESS WHAT, YUP ANOTHER CHARITY SCENT! this one also goes to the ACLU. Consider it a sister scent to FAKE NEWS. IN THE BOTTLE: borderline medicinal and extremely sweet, makes my eyes water. Very big smell. Not sure what scuttling spiders smells like but I think it’s hidden by the cherry (which I’m assuming is the medicinal scent I’m catching) FRESH ON: sticky sweetness that you want to run away from but can’t. I close my eyes and the scent creates a picture; a golden ballroom with chandeliers housing wax candles, high ceilings, burbling fountains of white chocolate. This scent has a big throw, not as big as FAKE NEWS but bigger than I would prefer since it’s so sweet. DRY DOWN: something goes very, very weird when it dries. I thought something was on fire and spent a good thirty minutes checking the house before I realized it was me. It smells kind of the way heaters do the first time you turn them on when it gets cold? When you burn the dust out? But only from a distance and if I bring my writs up closer it’s soft and powdery and shyly sweet.
MME. MORIARTY, MISFORTUNE TELLER: Red musk, vanilla bean, pomegranate, black currant, patchouli leaf and wild plum.
HEY GUESS WHAT, this is not a charity scent. This is from BPAL’S Carnaval Diabolique line, which is a semi-limited edition thing that shows up and disappears without a word. I’d been eyeballing this scent for a while, because hey there’s that patchouli, and since I was doing a big order anyway decided to finally give in to her allure. This was my first Carnaval scent and it doesn’t disappoint. Along with the bottle, BPAL sends a “ticket” for the Carnaval and, I’m not sure if this is specifically for Mme. Moriarty or not, but I got a tarot card! (Queen of Wands, which is hilarious because I have been super productive on the creative front this week and I feel like she’s justifying all my hard work. It’s a very nice card too. Classic illustration, standard deck size. I’m going to keep her with my writing stuff for inspiration.) and a sepia illustration that matches the one on the bottle with the scent’s full description on the back. IN THE BOTTLE: Vanilla and patchouli are prominent with the musk a close runner up and the pomegranate and black currant bringing a sweet sharpness to it all. FRESH ON: it smells like root beer? dusty table cloths and old wood and the distant smell of fairground sweets. It’s a little warm without being overwhelming (and I think I might be having a mild allergic reaction to something in it as it tingles where I applied) the musk comes out to play a lot more. DRY DOWN: sad to say that this faded super quickly! I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t apply “enough”, it’s a darker color liquid than the others and it was threatening to stain my skin instead of absorb so I rubbed it in a bit more than I usually do, or if it’s just that gentle a scent. I hope it’s the former because I like what I was able to catch of it!
FRIMPS! BPAL offers samples of their general catalog, the scents that usually stay put unless they develop a major issue with a component (R.I.P Mock Turtle’s Lesson, I shall never forget thee) for a fraction of the price of a bottle and they call these samples Imp Ears. When you buy a bottle you get two complimentary samples, referred to as Free Imps or Frimps! I bought four bottles so I have 8 samples total.
DRINK ME: However, this bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
This is probably one of BPAL’s weirdest scents and not my favorite in the least, which is saying something because I love foodie scents. It was very toffee and coffee and toasty and I swear to god I smelled turkey. It went too coffee on me but mom tried it and it went very toffee and she liked it so I passed it along with my blessings.
DEATH ON A PALE HORSE: The End of All Things: empty white musk and mint seeped with solemn lavender, doleful patchouli and vetiver, scythe-sharp yuzu and lime, with geranium bourbon, white sandalwood and calla lily.
Imagine my regret when no patchouli showed up for me at all. Instead it was super boozy and something I can only describe as “purple smoke” which I think is the vetiver because I’ve gotten that image before with things that have vetiver in it. The bourbon was strong enough to turn my stomach. I’m passing this on to a dear friend who was like “alcohol perfume? yes pls.”
DRAGON’S BLOOD: Powerful, commanding, blazing with strength.
sometimes the BPAL copy is extremely unhelpful. I’ve gotten Dragon’s Blood before and did not enjoy it so tbh I’m reluctant to crack the seal on this one but alas, I cannot remember what it smelled like or why I did not like it so open it I must. It’s bright red in the little vial. OH! It’s extremely floral. Someone else said lilacs and yes, that’s it. Just crushed lilacs right up the nose but there’s also something kind of candy sweet behind it? Honestly, it smells like a Bath and Body Works when you try to scurry past it in the mall. It’s going sweeter on me, like a lollipop but a flavor nobody wants. Licorice maybe? I almost want to lick my finger but I know all I’ll get is perfume and bleh.
TWEEDLEDEE: Ridiculous! Kumquat, white pepper, white tea and orange blossom.
Honestly it smells like bubblegum to me. Specifically Juicy Fruit. It’s very fun and bright and light and makes me think of summer days in the park. (also, if anyone has any recommendations on how to open these damn vials without splash back/the lid popping across the room PLEASE let me know)
NYARLATHOTEP: Brooding, yet electric: the scent of buried secrets, roiling nightmares, the essence of the Crawling Chaos, the Father of Knives and Locusts, the Hunter in the Dark. This is the blackest of ritual incenses charged with flashes of ozone.
I refer to this as “nyah” because what even is that word. This is a darker color in the vial than some, which always makes me worry. Oh man this scent is dark and lemony which is a weird combo and as it dries it goes SUPER LEMON (which, I mean, I like lemons? I don’t know how I feel about smelling like a lemon but it’s hardly the worst thing to smell like.) No, I’m sorry there are no secrets here, this is Grandma’s Famous Lemon Bars. All Lemon All The Time.
MALICE: Ylang ylang, clove, Indonesian red patchouli, and dark myrrh.
C’moooon patchouli. aaaah yes. Patchouli. Good ol’ faithful. It’s spiced a bit by the clove and the ylang ylang comes out a little towards the jasmine side and it’s all grounded by myrrh. As it dries more of the clove comes out to play.
THE LITTLE WOODEN DOLL: Gently carved wood warm with a maternal love that reaches beyond death: rose-infused amber and soft golden sandalwood.
I don’t usually like rose scents and that’s the first note I pick up here but it’s immediately chased by the amber and woodsy smells. It’s not an over powering scent and it’s decidedly feminine without being choke-on-it-floral. It’s warm and comforting and when I close my eyes I see a rocking chair with a well loved quilt sitting in front of a sun lit window in a small, cozy cabin.
HELLFIRE: A scent celebrating Sir Francis Dashwood’s Order of the Knights of St. Francis of Wycombe, also known as the Hellfire Club. A swirl of pipe tobacco, hot leather, ambergris, dark musk and the lingering incense smoke from their Black Mass.
This smells like my grandpa and I mean that in a good way, I think. Definitely all tobacco and leather and shadows lingering before dawn.