I had almost forgotten the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Halloween series until one of my favorite vloggers uploaded a video on all the great things that were coming back this year. BPAL bottles can be pretty pricey, and most of the time you can get imps to test out, but when it comes to seasonal releases, you can only purchase the full-size bottle. That meant that I would have to choose just ONE fragrance from the Halloween 2015 collection. I like woody, spicy scents, and there were quite a few of those, but based on high praise from people I trust, I settled on Samhain as the quintessential autumnal fragrance. Because they make the batches fresh, it took a couple weeks to receive my order, but it did arrive prior to Halloween. Along with the bottle, I received two free imps (random, of course), Cathode and Croquet.
Samhain: Truly the scent of autumn itself — damp woods, fir needle, and black patchouli with the gentlest touches of warm pumpkin, clove, nutmeg, allspice, sweet red apple and mullein. This one is very interesting. In the bottle it has a very sweet, spicy scent, much like Evil (which I will talk about in a moment). When you put it on the skin, the fir erupts, and it sort of reminded me of creosote, but it soon mellowed to a nice, spiced apple. I wasn’t sure about the lasting power of this one, but people have been coming through the office all day saying how good it smells and pointing at all our fall decorations. The only fragrance in the office is my perfume, so I’m calling this a win.
Croquet: We have some trouble managing our flamingos, too. Pink lime, pink grapefruit, white nectarine, wild rose, sage, woody patchouli, bergamot, and ornery hedgehog musk. It’s so sweet and fruity when you put it on. It reminded me of a fragrance oil I bought from Earthbound Trading Co. I think the scent was Sex on the Beach. Out of the imp, it smells exactly like that. As it dries, you’re left with the musk and patchouli.
Cathode: A negatively charged scent. Ambergris, Spanish Moss, oakmoss and three electric mints. Negative nothing, this one’s so bright and fresh! The mints are very green out of the imp. As it dries, you definitely get a salty, mossy scent. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy it.
Prior to this season, I’ve purchased other scents from BPAL through different channels. I’ve purchased a pair of the RPG scents from ThinkGeek, and a grab bag of imps from the Etsy shop.
Ranger: Untamed wilderness: buckskin accord with Terebinth pine, Russian birch, black ironwood, elder bark, hay, armoise, juniper, patchouli, galangal root, Spanish moss, and cabreuva. I’m glad the woods in this come out as it dries, because in the bottle, it’s very heavy on roots and hay. No kidding, if you sniff the bottle, you’ll feel like you’ve just had hayseed packed into your face in every way imaginable. I need the sweetness (ironic) of Evil to mellow this out.
Evil: Smouldering opium tar, tobacco absolute, green tea, black plum, kush, ambergris accord, ambrette seed, and costus root. Here’s the deal, I don’t think this smells evil at all. I think it smells very classy, feminine and sweet. The interesting thing I noticed about the Evil Ranger combo, is that when you first apply it, it smells like Samhain. The difference is more noticeable as they dry. Evil retains the plum sweetness and a bit of tobacco. I like to wear this one on its own quite often.
The grab bag is packed full of discontinued and limited runs, so you may never find these for direct sale.
Magdalene: A stirring yet gentle perfume. The scent of love and devotion mingled with an undercurrent of heart-rending sorrow. A bouquet of white roses, labdanum, and wild orchid. The description nails it. This is the fragrance of the devout. It is classic. You’ll catch wafts of this in churches everywhere.
Destroying Angel: One of the deadliest mushrooms to ever pop through Gaia’s soil. Papery white notes evoke the grace of this fungi, grounded by thin, crisp soil. I can’t take too much of this one. I like the scent, but now I associate it with headaches. If I sniff it straight from the imp, I get pressure between my eyes and a feeling of unwellness like I’m coming down with something. My sinuses just want to close up from something in this blend, and if you store it with other imps, it dominates them all. I have my imps in a box together, and this is the only thing I smell when I open the box. It’s really strong.
Silk Road: A panoply of cultural treasures, spanning the herbs, flowers, oils and balms of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Mediterranean, the Levant, Northern China, Eastern Europe, Iran, the Bulgar-Kypchak, Mesopotamia, the Crimean Peninsula, Anatolia, Antioch, and North Africa. Yep, it’s an identity crisis in a bottle. Heavier on the oils and balms than the herbs and flowers. It’s really hard to describe, there are so many things going on.
Moon Rose: A crisp, pale, almost translucent rose dusted by moonflower and midnight dew. It’s very fresh rose. Not a sweet rose like old lady perfume, but more like a very fresh, rain-soaked bud. I’m not typically a rose fan, but this is just green enough for me.
Hellcat: A soft, sensual, luxuriant blend with a wicked bite: hazelnut, buttercream, honey mead, rum and sweet almond. “I’m gonna die of beedees!” Super super sweet, sugary, syrupy almond scent happening here. Wowzers! If you want to smell good enough to eat, go ahead.
Screeching Parrot: Golden rum, apricot liquor, pineapple, pomegranate, ginger, brandy, grapefruit, and pink lime. So this one has an interesting effect. It’s very fruit and sweet, but as that dries, you get the same scent that you expect from walking into a gift store. I expect to see dried flower arrangements, cards, candles, and little ceramic angels.
Ether: Glass globes fill with sweet vitriol, and the gas passes lazily through slim tubes. A misty fog veils the senses, and the world fades to hazy, opaque nothingness. Translucent blooms, ethereal white resins, and davana. I mourn this empty vial. It has been my most favorite scent, and it’s discontinued. The resin smells exactly the way a brand new plastic figure smells when you take it out of the box, so it brings the geek in me sheer bliss.
All in the Golden Afternoon: A bizarre blend of pineapple, tangerine, tobacco, apricot, and seltzer coated with hazy amber and heady sun-baked flowers. The prevailing notes here are dried apricot and tobacco, but it’s a pleasing sweetness.
I think that wraps up my BPAL collection at the moment. There are so many other scents I’m dying to try, and I can never choose. The random imps are the best thing ever, because then I get to try things I wouldn’t have picked from the descriptions and end up loving. What’s your favorite BPAL scent?