I am very fond of my old housemate Emma, whom I lived with at university. She's kooky and a little bit weird (rather like myself), so when she messaged me asking if I'd like to review some products from an indie brand she was a big fan of, of course I said yes! When they turned up on my doorstep I couldn't wait to get my hands on them.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL for short) is an independent company that specialises in making perfume oils. Each scent is hand-blended in the lab and inspired by something old, creepy and/or cool: examples of their collections include Neil Gaiman, Hellboy, and Mad Tea Party. As BPAL put it; "We specialize in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone. Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of magickal, pagan and mythological blends, Renaissance, Medieval and Victorian formulas, and horror / Gothic-themed scents."
BPAL bottle their scents in blue or amber glass bottles, giving it a real apocethary-type feel. With each order they include small plastic sample vials or 'imps' that allow you to try some of their other scents. Emma sent me a bunch of imps she'd received in various orders to try. This is going to be a long one, so bear with me!
|Emma sent me 9 imps in total, from various different collections|
|Each imp is labelled with a printed sticker containing the shade name and BPAL's logo|
|The lid of each imp is attached to a small plastic rod, allowing you to apply the scent to the skin without making a mess|
|The perfume oils all range in colour, from clear to amber to dark brown - I'd love to know if other oils have different colours too!|
This is all well and good, but what do the scents I received smell like? I'll talk through each (in no particular order).
This scent is from the Ars Amatoria collection.
BPAL say: A decadent, deep perfume, lusty and luxuriant. The scent evokes images of velvet-lined Old West cathouses, tightly laced corsets, rustling petticoats and coquettish snarls of pleasure. Bawdy plum with amaretto, burgundy wine and black currant.
I say: In the imp this is quite a heavy, plummy scent. On the skin it lightens up and becomes sweeter. It reminds me of vanilla. I quite like it!
This scent is from Illyria, the Shakespearian collection.
BPAL say: Sweet pea with stargazer lily, calla lily, heliotrope, honeysuckle, white musk and a touch of fresh pear.
I say: In the imp this has a strong floral scent with an almost vinegary edge. On the skin it becomes less vinegary and is sweet and floral. It sort of reminds me of what my Nanny's bedroom smells like - powdery and old ladyish, but in a nice way!
This scent is from the Excolo collection.
BPAL say: Beautiful, radiant daughter of Demeter... her loveliness was so exquisite that even Hell itself could not resist her. Pomegranate and rose.
I say: In the imp this has a sharp, unpleasant vinegary smell. On the skin it dries down to a sweet rose scent - I adore rose fragrances so this gets a big thumbs up from me!
This is a discontinued scent, once part of the Sin & Salvation collection.
BPAL say: The essence of pleasure heightened by pain: the raw scent of leather.
I say: In the imp, this one has a heavy, musky scent that does sort of smell like leather now that I think about it. On the skin it takes on a sweeter, woody smell. It's weird. I can't decide whether it's awful or quite nice.
This scent is part of the Wanderlust collection.
BPAL say: Grand, courtly and robust: a glittering, golden scent that would do Louis XIV proud. Gilded red and gold citrus with amber, ruby roses, jasmine and orris.
I say: In the imp this has an orangey chocolatey scent that also reminds me of Nag Champa incense, which I usually loathe the smell of, but it sort of works. It dries down much the same, with a talcum-powder edge. Again, weird, but I think I like it. I think...
This scent is also part of the Wanderlust collection.
BPAL say: The smoke of Sacred Incense of Apollo twined through laurel branches, bay, and honey wine.
I say: In the imp this smells straight up nasty. It makes me gag every time I try and sniff it. The 'honey wine' just smells like fermented fruit, and is absolutely vile. On the skin it really doesn't improve much; it becomes slightly sweeter which just makes the fermented fruit undertone worse if anything. No idea what they were going for here.
This scent is part of the Bewitching Brews collection.
BPAL say: Sea spray with an undercurrent of leather, Bay Rum, and salty, dry woods.
I say: In the imp this smells sort of like sandalwood. On the skin it retains that woody scent and almost smells sort of aftershave-y. I think this is a smell more suited for an older gentleman as it's not particularly fresh or uplifting.
This scent is also part of the Bewitching Brews collection.
BPAL say: Nostalgia encapsulated. A soft, wistful blend of dry flowers, aged linens, and the faint breath of long-faded perfumes.
I say: In the imp this smells sweet and soothing, like it would make a good bubble bath! I think it reminds me of a bubble bath mixture my Mum used to use when I was little. On the skin it remains sweet and probably smells the most perfume-y of the oils I received. I love it!
This scent is part of the Ars Moriendi collection.
BPAL say: Dried roses, rose leaf, Spanish moss, oakmoss and deep brown earth.
I say: Apparently BPAL created this scent when someone bet them they couldn't make a perfume that smelled like dirt. Well, they managed it! In the imp this has a really earthy, mulchy, leafy, mossy scent that smells just like wet soil. It doesn't change at all on the skin. I really want to get Suzie to sniff this to see how she reacts! I definitely wouldn't wear this but I appreciate the novelty :P
I have to say, I'm impressed! The scents all vary in how nice they are - some are lovely, some are straight up nasty. Once applied, they last all day on the skin, and don't stain at all - even the darker amber/brown oils. I think what makes them the most intriguing is that like any perfume, they smell different on everyone, as people all vary in temperature/skin pH and so on.
In terms of price: these really are quite expensive. They range from $17.50-$26 for a 5ml bottle. Combined with the $25 shipping to the UK, that really isn't cheap! I can see why they're expensive though; the oils are hand blended and sometimes take time to develop/mature, plus the cute glass bottles and printed labels mean costs can add up. They also include the imps of different scents in every order. I can see why people go crazy for them as they're so unique. I'm sort of tempted to order some of the fruity scents; the Fraggle Rock collection in particular looks right up my street! I might see if I can find some on eBay first. They also have an Etsy for their overstock or one-off items.
As Emma said in her letter; 'I adore anything slightly gothy and a wee bit pretentious'. I think that sums BPAL up perfectly. This is my first experience of an indie perfume company, and now I have the taste for it, I want to try more! What do you ladies think? Is BPAL your sort of thing, or does it sound a bit too out there for you?