Apologies, all! It’s the most wonderful time of year–it’s WEENIE time of year–and your faithful reviewer has been laid up with violent food poisoning. I am sorry to say that with the ol’ tum in turmoil, the last thing I have wanted to smell over the past week was Pumpkin Spice anything.
I am feeling loads better now and so let’s forgo the clever or flowery intro (I’m pretty sure you all know why we are gathered here today, right?) The skies have darkened, and summer’s last bright green leaf has turned, and I shall just jump right into Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s rabidly anticipated, annual 2017 Halloween (“Weenie”) collection!
Cinnamon Chai Cupcake (no notes provided) The coziness of lightly spiced cake batter on a chilly autumn night, a bowl of sweetened buttercream frosting, a dusting of cinnamon.
Pumpkin Brownies The Lab’s description indicates this is a pumpkin brownie swirled with caramel and topped with sour cream frosting, but to my nose, these are peanut butter brownies. Begin with a beurre noisette, and swirl high quality butter in a pan on low heat until it gets foamy and brown, and begins to release that nutty, toasty, delicious scent. Toss this in a bowl with a minimal amount of cocoa powder–really, just a dash– and add a jar of the chunkiest, saltiest, most delicious peanut butter you can find. Then do all that other stuff that makes brownies, brownies. I don’t know man, I make mine from a box.
Hallow-e’en, 1914 (Dried ivy and maple leaf with honeyed fig, black cypress, and grave dirt.) An incense of dry, dusty earth sweetened with dark, syrupy fruits, for welcoming for the dead come home.
Samhain 2017 (Damp woods, fir needle, and black patchouli with the gentlest touches of warm pumpkin, clove, nutmeg, allspice, sweet red apple and mullein) Autumn fruits stewed on the stove, spiced with all the usual seasonal suspects, and with half a mug of local apple cider stirred in to gild the lily. The mixture, perhaps left on the burner a few seconds too long as you stepped outside to turn your face up to the October sun, begins to break down into a pulpy jam, the sugars caramelizing and smoking slightly.
Haunted Seas (Seaspray and flecks of foam welling with opoponax and labdanum’s sepulchral moans.) Ooh, at first Haunted Seas smells very much like one of my long-discontinued favorites–Danube. A cool, dark, and mysterious floral-aquatic. A slow, lazy current, running through a sun-dappled glade, swirling with strange, pale blooms. As it dries on the skin, the spectral grey skies and cool, faint fog become apparent, but even so, there is a hopeful brightness at the core of this scent, the breaking of dawn after a midnight of storm-tossed seas.
La Calavera Catrina (Autumn leaves, wild roses, bourbon vanilla, dry chamomile, and a bouquet of bright chrysanthemums and Mexican marigolds.) This elegant Lady of the Graveyard’s arrival is heralded by a sour pungency, green and bitter, and the sweet rot of fallen foliage, damp and decaying. She extends her hand, and gripped lightly in the furled, gleaming bone of her fingers, is a bouquet of the reddest roses you can imagine, their scent lemony and uplifting, mingling gently with the sweetly herbaceous chamomile and the musty spice of marigold petals, crushed underfoot.
Pumpkin Chypre (A gleaming auburn chypre shot through with streaks of pumpkin) Roasted pumpkin, sprinkled with sea salt and not quite Parmesan. Maybe nutritional yeast? Foody, but in a savory main course sort of way, as opposed to the fancy dessert cart options. There’s..something here. I can’t put my finger on it. I want to say umami-esque. Umami adjacent. I don’t know if I want to smell like it, but I’m pretty sure that I like to eat it.
Dead Leaves, Hemp, Mossy Soil, Frankincense, and Oudh Confession time, friends. Your stinky friend here never properly partied it up during her youth and wouldn’t know what hemp or any other weedy business* smelled like even if she was right in the middle of it getting a contact high. Is that what you call it? I don’t even know the language for drug talk. My sister once laughed at me because I referred to “crystal meth,” she told me I sounded like an out of touch octogenarian. I was 30, by the way. I’ve led a fucked up, fascinating (well, I think so, anyway) existence, but super fun, mind-altering substances were unfortunately not a part of that. ANYWAY. This particular Dead Leaves blend smells briefly of dank earth, but it’s final form is a rich, fruity resin.
*I know hemp and marijuana are different plants! …but that’s pretty much all I know.
Dead Leaves, Violet Candy, and Sugar Crystals This initially struck me as one of the more unusual Dead Leaves combinations and I wasn’t entirely convinced it was going to be a pleasant. It begins with an earthy, murky, pile of damp leaves with the powdery woody-floral of the violets growing in a patch next to it. A waxen, sugar-crusted candy wrapper blows by in a brief but sudden breeze. All of these pieces are like jerky stop motion animation; you see them in separate frames in your mind’s eye, disparate entities that don’t even interact, let alone connect, until all of a sudden they do. Underneath the decaying plant matter is an elusive fragrance that smells like, oh, I don’t know…nougat made by dryads? Pillowy and sweet and utterly magical. Imagine there was a secret woodland fairy folk candy shop, shelves sweetly stocked with confections concocted and created with forest roots and resins. You’d have to go pretty far into the forest to find it; you might not be allowed to leave once you do. If you do make it back home again, you’ll not remember a single moment of your delicious adventure …but you’ll dream about those sylvan sweets for the rest of your life.
Pumpkin Spice Shoggoth (Bursting bubbles of self-luminous pumpkin spice!) Amorphous and radiant, and definitely drinkable as a latte, it’s possible that something either went horribly awry…or exactly as it was meant to be, when the The Elder Thing created created the Pumpkin Spice Shoggoth. Iridescent lemongrass and coconut slime, pustules of tartly fizzing lime, rolling over and crushing the gentle pumpkin spices, like so many frantic penguins–this is an oddly refreshing fragrance that is not at all terrible or indescribable.
Chiroptophobia (Fear of Bats) A flutter of leather becomes a swarm of buffeting musks, tangled with a white flash of sandalwood and near-inaudible shrieks of eucalyptus and elemi. Dark and velvety in the bottle, Chiroptophobia immediately turns screechy and bite-y on application, nipping with tiny mentholated fangs. This phase is fleeting too, as the fragrance shifts again to a mild, oily leather and milky, soft sandalwood. The result is a fuzzy creature that you want to cuddle and feed banana chunks to just like in those bat rescue instagram accounts, but whose dark heart beats an unknowable, alien song…and you remember why you were afraid of bats to begin with.
Blood Squib Who knew that blood splatter smelled of rich cherry cordials and marzipan?
The BPAL Halloween 2017 update is always big and exciting, like a jam-packed trick-or-treat bounty bag. This year’s especially thrilling addition to the line-up is a collection based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, with wonderfully spoopy label art by Drew Rausch. There are 14 scents total; I have reviewed a handful of my favorites for you below.
Suspicion of Foul Play Clean wood floors, a clean tub, clean, clean, clean, with no stain of any kind, no blood-spot whatsoever. I had to try this one a few times before I got where it was coming from. At first I thought it smelled like one of the scratch-n-sniff stickers that you always tried to trade away because you wanted something that smelled like ice cream or popcorn, not hot garbage. Obviously my sniffer was off that day, for the next time I tried it, it made total sense. I might have been getting a nose-burning trash heap pile of citrus peels right out of the bottle, but Suspicion of Foul Play is a actually just a very limey floral cleanser. Nearly caustic, but it reigns itself in after a moment or too. Could you clean the shit out of some blood stains with this? Well. Maybe just scent yourself with it. Or you know, don’t do any murders.
Groan of Mortal Terror (Opaque grey amber and opoponax swelling up like thick smoke, pressed under the weight of baleful tobacco.) Soft smoke and delicate resins.This is a gentle scent that makes me think of a lonely soul who might volunteer to spend a night in a haunted house because the ghosts might be the most company they have had in quite some time. Groan of Mortal Terror is absolutely lovely and wonderfully wearable. And think of all the phantoms you’ll befriend!
The Dead Hour of the Night (Mist-shrouded pine and moonflower creeping over flaccid opium poppies.) THIS SMELLS EXACTLY LIKE A WOMAN IN A FILMY PEIGNOIR RUNNING HEADLONG FROM A TOWER, WITH A SINGLE LIGHT IN ITS TOP MOST WINDOW, IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT. Seriously. This smells like running for your life across a landscape of darkness. If you’ve been searching for the perfect scent to pair with your date night ensemble worn to impress the creepy sweetheart who may or may not want to kill you and also possibly has a lunatic spouse locked in their moldering attic, this is the one.
The Mournful Influence of the Unperceived Shadow (Thick black patchouli, shadow musk, myrrh, and threads of hot saffron mired in sweet, viscous labdanum). I wore this one afternoon, and felt myself cocooned in a cloak of old-world glamour. There’s a deeply powerful leathery note present that seems simultaneously mellowed/amped up by something earthy and intimate and just slightly sour. It reminded me of the last dregs of perfume in a cloudy glass flacon on a starlet’s mirrored vanity table from another era.
The Hellish Tattoo of The Heart (Blood musk and pulsating black pepper, a throb of bitter almond, and cracked pimento.) This is a gloriously bittersweet scent for me; it conjures every time I ever crept into my mother’s bedroom and inhaled the combined odors of her perfume tray, her costume jewelry, her stacks of astrology books precariously piled at her bedside. The wafts of Rachel Perry products from her medicine cabinet, with that gorgeous label artwork that I thought was so very beautiful and sophisticated when I was younger. For you, The Hellish Tattoo of The Heart may smell of cool musks with a peppery bite, but for me it’s the scent of every secret my mother kept, and the sadness I forever carry knowing that I no longer have the chance to unlock them.
I Heard Many Things in Hell (black iris, French lavender, Roman chamomile, and frankincense) These Tell-Tale Heart scents are crazy, I tell you what. I don’t think I have ever had so many shifting and contradictory thoughts about a collection of scents. When I initially sampled the scent, I got a strong blast of something that I can only refer to as bubblegumm-y. It pains me to say that. It pains me to even type that. If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I just cannot even with gum. People chomping and chewing on their gum grosses me out me out in such a way that I can’t even think about without retching a little bit. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to gum-shame. I don’t mean to tell you that what you enjoy is wrong. But that’s just a thing about me, okay? So, anyway, when I smelled that, I thought “what in the world…?” But, in researching the fragrance of iris, though, many gardeners do say that their irises smell very much like grape bubblegum! That validation would be all well and good, but the next time I wore I Heard Many Things in Hell, the metallic, medicinal aroma of the lavender was most prominent–but was soothed and softened by the apple-y chamomile. The iris, that strange, hateful bloom, was nowhere to be found.
The Wild Audacity of My Perfect Triumph (A jubilant and deranged lime absinthe) I’ve never been able to reconcile myself to the taste of absinthe (which I of course want to adore, but I think in reality is disgusting); but I think The Wild Audacity of My Perfect Triumph is the perfect antidote for my absinthe aversion. This is a remarkable little fragrance. The notes are so simple, and so well-blended that you can’t tell where the tart, tangy lime ends and the dry, bitter absinthe begins–because it is actually none of those things at all. It is a cool, woody cologne that smells vaguely but handsomely poisonous, but in the very best way, and I imagine it would smell equally beguiling on men, women, and dismembered corpses with still-beating hearts.
What are your favorites from this years Weenie collection? Which scents are you dying to try? Give us your thoughts in the comments!
The Weenie 2017 collection is currently live and available for purchase in 5ml bottles for $23 each. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available for Weenie 2017.