Please welcome guest blogger Mlle Ghoul from Unquiet Things. S. Elizabeth is a fancier of fine old things, nostalgic whimsies and magics both macabre and melancholy. She is a shadow seamstress, star stitcher, word witch, and weaver of the weird. Find her on her blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
BPAL Intermediate and Advanced Studies
Apart from the general catalog of scents on The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab website, you will also find Limited Edition scents. I have read someone comment that they doubted “the BPAL fandom would be as rabid in its acquisitional habits if there weren’t limited edition oils.” And I am here to tell you – that is absolutely true. I go a little bit nutty when I know they are planning a Halloween update, and I don’t even really consider myself a particularly rabid collector…so I can just imagine how crazy-making it is for those who are! However, I am getting a little bit ahead of myself.
There are several different kinds of Limited Edition (LE) scents:
The Lunacies, offered once a month, celebrating that month’s full moon; usually available for about 72 hours or so. It was during one of these Limited Edition lunacy runs (their Black Moon collection, I believe?) that I found my all time favorite scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab – Schwarzer Mond ( The keeper of secrets: opoponax, Tunisian black amber, night musk, antique patchouli, zdravetz, terebinth, myrrh, and Pimenta racemosa.) I hoard bottles of this scent – the last time they were offered, back in 2013, I bought 5-6 bottles worth. Okay, so maybe I’m a little nuttier about BPAL than I care to own up to!
The Seasonals, which can include Yule (Krampus! Snow! Cookies!) Samhaim or “Halloweenies” (Pumpkins! Pumpkins! All the pumpkins) and Lupercalia (Bonbons! Smut! Dildos!) among others. These are usually available for about a month or so. Some of the scents return year after year, so if you miss Signior Dildo, for example, one year, it’s very likely that if it proves popular enough and if there are no shortages on the components, it will return the next year.
Black Phoenix Trading Post, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s sister site, sells accoutrements and accessories ranging from nail polish to atmosphere spray, from jewelry to apparel. You can sometimes find Limited Edition scents that don’t appear on the main site, perhaps in conjunction with a tee shirt or storage accessory, and often times products scented with fragrances that are not listed on the main site.
Event exclusives – you will often find Beth and crew at conventions like San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, or Dragon Con, and more than likely they will be selling scents created exclusively for that venue and that are not available for purchase on the main site. You may also find Limited Editions at Will Call events, a monthly brick and mortar event that takes place on or around the full moon.
Retailer Exclusives / collaborations can be found through Dark Delicacies, a horror themed bookstore in Burbank, CA; Loved To Death, an oddities shop in San Francisco, CA; and Haute Macabre’s very own line. Previous retailers with BPAL offerings for sale include thinkgeek, the Mutter Museum and Le Pink & Co.
Twilight Alchemy Lab, a branch of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, is founded for ritual and magickal use, “ …the fruit of a millennia of research, hands-on experimentation and investigation in the history, theory and practice of alchemy, the Hermetic Sciences, the art of rootwork and aromatherapy as it pertains to ritual, spirituality and low magick.” Twilight Alchemy Lab’s small batch oils can be purchased in their etsy shop.
Discontinued/Unreleased scents are older oils which have either been removed from the general catalog, or blends that were created but, for varying reasons, never made it to the website. “Some of the Unreleased scents eventually make their way into the general catalog, but many never do” notes one fan-made BPAL FAQ. You can sometimes find these type of scents sold by individual sellers on eBay, or in swap communities, either in the BPAL forums or elsewhere.
Random LEs may show up on the website with the monthly Lunacy update, so keep your eyes peeled for unexpected surprises! And if you are a forum member (highly recommended!) you may encounter, clever, silly, “forum only” scents. I am not certain if there’s been one in a while, but I remember one from a few years back called F5 (“A refreshing scent! GET IT?! Aloe, white musk, lime peel, fresh mint, seaspray, verbena and green tea.”) It was probably made to gently poke a little fun at us folks sitting in front of our laptop screens in the dark, maniacally refreshing the pages, when we knew a particular update was imminent. Hey, I’m cool with that! You can’t take yourself too seriously, and if you can smell good doing it, why not?
Speaking of the BPAL forums, ah. There’s a veritable wealth of information to be found there. Detailed reviews of every fragrance in the catalog, by both long time and newbie members – real people, weirdos just like you and me – make up the bulk of the site. Any question you have after reading this (and you may have a lot!) can probably be answered there, for example: how to layer your scents, similarities to commercial perfumes, and a list of the BPAL-related abbreviations you will find both on the forum and in your further researches on the internet.
Regarding abbreviations, here are a few to get you started…
BPAL Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
BPTP Black Phoenix Trading Post
TAL Twilight Alchemy Lab
GC General Catalog
LE Limited Edition
What else will you find in the BPAL forums? Chatter on just about every topic under the sun, and if you are lucky, like me, perhaps some amazing people, kindred spirits, and folks who will become very dear friends.
When the forum was first installed in 2004ish, it was a very different iteration – phoenix.joylandpark.org. I don’t know why I remember that down to the url, but I do (*waves at everyone who was there at that time but who probably doesn’t remember me*). I was very secretive about my internet usuage, due to the possessive, jealous, controlling nature of the relationship I was in, and I frequently would create accounts, delete them, and then show up under a different name, probably making my forum presence a bit challenging to connect with.
I was terribly worried that I would be “found out” by the man I was living with and that there would be consequences. What kind of partner would even care that their girlfriend was on an internet forum talking to people about perfume? Who knows. Someone insecure and unhappy, I suppose. I was with that person for a very long time, and it made online connections and subsequent friendships with like-minded folks very difficult. I did make some friends on the BPAL forums though, and these are people that I love dearly to this very day. They kept me sane – whether they knew it or not, and I suspect they didn’t, because I never spoke of my troubling relationship – on days when I thought I could not possibly make it through another hour. And years later, now that I am in an entirely different place in my life, I have even met some of them!
When you hear people talking about “finding their tribe” – well, that is precisely what happened with me. And I found them on this wonderful, supportive forum dedicated to these marvelous fragrances.
When I started writing this guide, or article, or whatever it becomes, and I mentioned that Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab changed my life – I meant it quite literally. It re-kindled a long ago love of fragrance, it introduced me to incredible concepts and ideas, and led to the discovery of people and projects that I never would have known of otherwise. All of these things combined helped me embrace my inner weirdo, too long ignored. I could list all of the friends I’ve made outside the forums, all of the opportunities I’ve had because of related connections, but I won’t because none of them mean anything to anyone but me…but my point is this: none of these things would have happened the way they did, if not for stumbling across those BPAL descriptions on that lonely winter evening, so many years ago.
When I recommend BPAL to people, it is not solely because I think they may like a particular scent, or the company’s aesthetic. There is so much more that goes into it. Twelve plus years watching the company and it’s family grow, having met the amazing creator/owner herself on multiple occasions, all of my own memories and experiences surrounding every strange and sublime scent I have tried, and every interaction I’ve had with the folks on the forums – I am not just making a recommendation for a perfume, but for a journey, a dream, an experience of your own.
I hope that your experience with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab changes your life in some small way, too.
But first – try the following scents …if you can find all of them! A small collection of my personal favorites.
Snake Oil (GC)
Melanis (LE Lupercalia)
Madame Moriarty, Misfortune Teller (Carnival Diabolique series)
Eve (Only Lovers Left Alive series)
Smut (LE, Lupercalia)
Beautiful Death (Retailer exclusive, Dark Delicacies)
Molly Grue (The Last Unicorn series)
Skekzok, The Ritual Master (The Dark Crystal series)
And two discontinued scents
Antique Lace (DC)
Do you have a long favorite from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab?