DARKLY DREAMING: BLACK PHOENIX ALCHEMY LAB, A GUIDE (PART II) | Haute Macabre

DARKLY DREAMING: BLACK PHOENIX ALCHEMY LAB, A GUIDE (PART II)

DARKLY DREAMING: BLACK PHOENIX ALCHEMY LAB. Part enthusiast’s memoir and part course guide.
BPAL Intermediate and Advanced Studies

Read Part I 

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.” Which…ok, maybe, maybe not, because so many of the general catalog scents are supremely dreamy, but I am also the person who goes a little bit nutty when I know they are planning their annual, much anticipated Halloween update! 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 Alchemy Lab

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 Lunacy / Will Call events, a monthly brick and mortar event that takes place on or around the full moon.

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Retailer Exclusives / collaborations can be found through Dark Delicacies, a horror themed bookstore in Burbank, CA; BloodMilk Jewels and Ritual Cravt, 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 recall 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 okay with that! You can’t take yourself too seriously, and if you can smell in the midst of your mania, why not?

Speaking of the BPAL forums, ahh. 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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

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 usage, 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 that really means 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 (15+ now as of the time of this re-posting!) 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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

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)
Morocco (GC)
Dee (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
Danube (DC)
Antique Lace (DC)


Do you have a long favorite from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab? Or one that you’re dying to try out? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a set of five scents – Dee, Dorian, Embalming Fluid, Morocco, and Mme. Moriarty.

Winner shall be picked at random from the comments & contacted via email on Monday, October 7. International entries welcome. Follow @blackphoenixalchemylab on Instagram. **winner has been contacted, contest is now closed!**


135 Comment

  1. My significant other and I love bpal so very much! We have been devouring their catalog for about 3 or 4 years now and it is basically all we wear. A personal favorite of mine is Hellfire, the incense mixed with everything else is amazing. Also malediction is good on its own but puts a great twist on other scents while layering. Dracul is the next on my want list!

  2. I stumbled across BPAL and bought The Last Unicorn scent and since then I won’t buy perfume from anyone else. the last unicorn is kinda my signature scent, but I also love The Black Forest. My family is German and I live close to a lot of state forests in Wisconsin, so that scent holds a very special place in my heart.
    I’m wearing sort of an accidental blend today too! I put on Abolish ICE, reached for it again later and accidentally grabbed a LE called Le Carrousel de Montmartre Paris, which is very apple-y. They actually go quite well together!!

  3. I loooove Lust. I wear it everyday….the muskier scents really work with my skin chemistry apparently. I hope it stays in the catalogue forever! I’d love to try any of these listed – haven’t ever sampled any of them!

  4. I discovered BPAL, ooh probably back in 2001? I was instantly in LOVE! My first order was for Snake Oil, Dorian and Antique Lace and these still remain my favourites, followed closely by Oneiroi which bought to use for bedtime, and the vivid dreams I experienced while using this oil took my love on another level, these are not just scents, they are pure magic…

  5. My absolute favourite is Embalming Fluid, I’m on my 3rd bottle- I can’t describe why I like it so much but it’s immensely comforting to me and my number 1 go to when I feel like I need a little confidence boost. Just smelling it on my wrist makes me more confident for the day to come ? I got the first bottle as a gift from my brother and I haven’t looked back since ?

  6. It’s funny when finding BPAL in early 2005, makes you feel like a baby in the group still 😉

    I think too many GC’s are underappreciated, and I had a long list of them to suggest, but over time quite a few of my top favourites sadly have gone discontinued or out of stock, the top two of those are Thalia and Jailbait. But I think Shub Niggarath and Blood Rose are still some of my favourites ever from GC’s.

    I also want to give love to the funniest little unloved scent Numb. Back in the old days long shipping times were the norm, as the Lab worked in smaller quarters, with less workers, doing smaller, more frequent batches, it meant it could take months for a new scent to go from release to people’s hands. Notes didn’t use to be released for everything either, I suspect this scent might have changed that process, anyway, it was listed as a “cooling scent for a hot LA summer” or something along those lines. One person on the forum guessed it was going to be mint, in no time it was like gospel this scent had mint, so mint lovers bought the scent up. Then the bottles arrived and it’s not mint, all the mint lovers cried, sadly all of the light, stunning, floral note lovers didn’t race to buy this one and Numb became sadly unappreciated for the beautiful scent she really was. I always felt bad for this little scent, it didn’t stand a chance, but she made changes to bpal, and as a scent it really is so beautiful and it reminds me of a scent I had tried to track down, after it was discontinued by another maker so I really, really love Numb. I suspect at one point I might have had the largest horde of the scent too, in fact some mods thought I was suspicious because I was buying so much, nope I just loved and wore a lot of this scent lololol

    Loved you articles thanks so much for sharing your stories of bpal.

    1. Ahhhhhh I loved this story! I remember this! I was a lot more active on the forum way back when (even though it was a lurking sort of active, I guess) and though I don’t miss, like 99% of the stuff from that time in my life, I sure miss how much time I used to spend there! I remember the shipping times, too, hee hee. So much has changed!

      P.S. when I was first-first on the forum I was pumpkinpoppet, but then I changed to inkdarkmoon. Pretty sure I’m just ghoulnextdoor over there now!

  7. Morocco is my favorite, To the point that I use it as an indicator of a new person I’m dating. Thanks to my ex husband who hated it (I should have known) I have created a bpal test in his dishonor- I give my dating prospect three scents to choose from, Morocco always being in the line up. Their answer will determine if I want to continue dating then. If they don’t pick it, they are not a dating option, if they do pick it, they must be a good person with good taste and so they can keep dating me! thankfully it’s my new boyfriend’s most favorite scent. I’m now hoping to get the bath oil for all over me ?

  8. Oh, Morocco, Morocco, Morocco, my all time favourite. They didn’t have it in stock the last time I ordered and I was so sad! I live in Finland so it’s not so easy (or cheap) for me to order often, so I’ve been living my life Morocco-less and it’s been difficult, I tell you!

  9. So many to love! I think I always come back to The Lion and my tiny bottle of snake oil hair gloss that needs to be hoarded. What a lovely prize!

  10. My all time favourite scents are „fuck you said the raven”, „chaotic” and „sin”.
    I also have an imp of „Dorian” and love the scent, but everytime I wanted to order a full sized bottle it was sold out on the site, that’s just my luck I guess.

  11. Oh boy! There are sooooooooooooo many blends I want to try! And a few long-time favorites, but I’d have to say The Antikythera Mechanism is probably my #1 long-time favorite, words can’t describe my love for how it smells on me. BPAL is the scent form of the soundtrack of my life.

  12. Masquerade is a hugely underrated perfume in the GC! I love it deeply, it’s perfectly woody yet salty and deep. I also love the LE The Passionate Shepherd to His Love; it’s the freshest bouquet of flowers in the middle of a spring meadow.

  13. I’ve been a lurker on the forums since, gosh, 2008? For years I just had a couple sets of imp’s ears, which was mostly doable because I worked in food service and couldn’t wear scents 5 days out of 7. During that time, I saved up my Coyote imp for times when I felt I needed a little protection – a fierce friend to ward off enemies. Two years ago, when I finally got out of food service and was starting a new, scary-exciting phase, I got myself a full bottle of Coyote to give me strength. I’ve since added full bottles of Fenris Wolf, Anne Bonney, and Masquerade to my collection, but Coyote is still for days when I need a little extra help.

  14. I’m another forumite from way back…hello! My all-time fave is probably Blue Moon 04, which I’m gutted to be out of. Other LE loves worth searching for include VILF, WILF, Eve, and Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. There are MANY incredible scents available now as well. Some that I would strongly recommend are Scheherazade, O, ImPEACHment, Big Bertha’s Big Molasses Muffins, Theoi Nomoi, I Sit and Sew, Miskatonic University, and The Small Brown Cat, among many others.

  15. BPAL has been one of the things keeping me somewhat sane and happy over the past several years. The LE scent I probably love most is About Midnight—it’s one of the few of which I have backup bottles! Gently-aged Dee is probably the GC I never want to run out of. There are many close contenders vying for those spots, however, and they do change from time to time. One thing I haven’t ever tried but would like to is Alisz (and I’d also cosplay her, honestly).

  16. I have just recently began my love of BPAL and I am addicted! I love all the beautiful bottles and labels and the scents are divine! I sometimes sit alone in my room at night and smell my bottles! lol I would have to say my favorites are B.B3 Prototype and Leather Phoenix and Samhain..

  17. My all-time favorite is the leather/pear/vanilla Quincey Morris from Halloween 06. I guard my bottle like a dragon on a pile of gold.

  18. Dracul and Eden are probably the top two for me followed by New Orleans, Lawful and The Bow and Crown of Conquest. Dracul’s very hard to beat though–warm and sweet and bitter and cold all at once.

  19. I absolutely LOVE “Lust”! I could bathe in it! I’m a new customer and love all I’ve tried so far! I would definitely like to try the ones shown above!!!

  20. Nosferatu and Hollywood Babylon. Kitsune Tsuki trips me out becayse it smells just like this Sailor Moon cologne I had as a kid.

  21. I love Transcendent Luxury, which was limited edition with a kickstarter. I’m dying to try my way through the Neil Gaiman scents, Stardust in particular ?

  22. I have so many BPALs that I put them on my homeowners insurance. My husband also wears them daily, and just dips into the box at random, layering several, which drives me a little crazy because I am more covetous but at least he smells great. My all-time fave is Masabakes (discontinued). Over time I had to stop myself from only buying the LEs because it meant that I was overlooking so many good ones from the main catalog. Thus lately I’ve been exclusively wearing the free imps, and when I can start buying more I really want to dive deeper into the catalog… some of these are on my list of ones I’ve been wanting to try. I don’t even own Snake Oil yet my aged frimp is…..so fucking divine.

  23. First BPAL scent I ever tried was Snake Oil. Now I love Horn of Plenty, and use TAL’s White Light, Lionheart, Feiry Wall of Protection and 9 Muses on the regular. There are sooooo many others on my wish list!

  24. Well said. Eve and Spooky Action at a Distance from Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive are some of my absolute favorites along with Snake Charmer Resurrected, Halloween 2015 and Womb Furie. Morrocco and Embalming Fluid are lovely and I miss having them as Imps, so would love to win these! ?

  25. Alice and The White Queen were my BPAL virginity lost. It was my first taste of real perfume. Not headache-inducing clouds of candy floss-coloured nonsense behind glass cases in a Wal-Mart. Real, grown-up perfume that hit a note inside of me and awakened something new and alive. I kept them in a little wooden box for every move, slipping it open whenever I felt lost and taking a good sniff. My only regret is that I never wore them enough, fearful that they would run out when I most needed them.

    Those two were spirited away at some point over the last few years and I’ve missed them terribly. Both the exquisite scents themselves and the notion of something hidden, just for me, untouchable in my life. I look forward to trying many new BPAL and BPTP scents, but those two will live on in the pockets of my brain that keep special secrets and tell faerytales.

  26. My favorites, as of today, are Crimson Peak’s Lucille, Only Lovers Left Alive’s Hal, the Knave of Hearts & Lampades. My moods, the weather, how I’m dressed decides which of the many imps and/or bottles that I’ll choose from. Variety is the spice of life. ?

  27. I have been buying imps for years, and my favorites after all this time are Belladonna and Bruised Violet Compound. It’s always been easy to find new scents because the BPAL website lets you search by scent component (for example, amber, rose, gunpowder…) and they are constantly expanding their inventory. Every time I shop, there are more I want to try than I can possibly buy, so picking a small selection is simply the gateway to YEARS of happy scent experimenting.

  28. I have a few that are on the order them regularly (or when they show up in the seasonal posts, like Smut), but hands down my favorite scent was the Lurid Library. Not just because I’m a librarian, but it helps. I bought a couple off eBay after I ran out of my first bottle, but sadly, there is no more to be found. My second favorite is the July 2012 Thirteen.

  29. I have so many favorites (don’t we all!), but if I could only use one for the rest of my life, it would be Nymphia. It’s a Lupercalia scent from 2011. It’s a light, pretty scent, and though I can’t figure out why, it reminds me so much of my grandmother. We were extremely close, and I was holding her hand when she passed away when I was 16. Wearing that scent is one of my favorite acts of self-care and comfort!

    Other favorites include Mary Read, O, Candied Pumpkin, The Vine, Snake Oil, Chimera, and Embalming Fluid (which was my very first BPAL scent!).

    I have enjoyed reading this so much! Your statement (in part I) of “It’s easy to get lost in the poetry of those expressive, eloquent scent descriptions and lose hours of time sussing out which you’d like to choose for an introductory order from The Lab” perfectly describes my experience, too! Thanks for putting so much thought and love into your article, and thanks for sharing it with us!

  30. My first tentative foray into BPAL was four imps: Roadhouse, Sea of Glass, No. 93 Engine, and Niflheim. I’ve tried hundreds of other scents in the subsequent years, but the first three scents remain some of my most beloved favorites that I keep coming back to time and again. (The fourth kind of made me smell like Swamp Thing’s taint. Sorry, Niflheim.)

  31. Snake Oil is a long time GC favorite. Ninon is my favorite LE. Druid is my current obsession. And I’ve always wanted to try Dorian.

  32. My first and only scent is Burying Point and I love it so much!! There are so many wonderful scents I’m dying to try. I think I first discovered them on Instagram when they did the scents and nail polish for Crimson Peak and I really love the idea of creating scents for movies, books, and places. So fascinating and intriguing!

  33. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Dorian scent. I tried it for the first time at New York Comic Con and immediately ordered more. My boyfriend has fallen in love with it too, so we both use it haha. I also really love “Eat Me” “Shattered”, and “O”. I think I’d be most excited to try Morocco because I know quite a few people for whom this is their all-time favourite.

  34. I love Lyonesse – it smells amazing on me. It was my first BPAL love and remains my most constant favorite. I also love Samhain, Embalming Fluid, and an old LE, The Emathides.

  35. Defutua and Coraline Jones are my absolute favorites and by far my most repurchased. I also love Dee, Bruised Violet Compound, and Fuck You, Said The Raven.

  36. Danse Macabre from the general scents! I feel like no one knows this one but it’s my holy grail. Earthy, woodsy and addictive. They were out of stock for a year and I tried to find a similar scent to no avail. You know I bought multiples the day it came out! Plus I love the Middle Ages and the connection to the dance of death is just the cherry on top.

  37. midnight is my absolute favorite but it was discontinued such a long time ago ??

    so not including that, i would have to say i love perversion and dorian most of all!!

  38. I recently bought my first eight imps from BPAL! My favorites of the bunch have been Golden Priapus and Eat Me. I also bought Centzon Totochtin, which isn’t something I’d wear daily but is an incredible scent. It’s chocolatey and sugary and firey and sharp. I’m really eager to purchase more imps in the future. They threw in The Red Queen as an extra imp with black cherry and piney notes, so I want to try other cherry notes like Carnal and Vice next.

  39. Dee is a favorite, but my long-gone love was Szepassony. I still have an imp, but the bottle went missing at some point and I’m still heartbroken.

  40. Very tough decision with so many scents I adore! One I do choose often and absolutely cherish is my bottle of Alone, which I will be very saddened to run out of eventually. It’s very comforting and nostalgic to me. I’m eagerly wanting to try escape the autumn carnival! Seems like a very exciting autumn scent!

  41. I have been a BPAL fan and customer for sooo long(the first scent I remember was a special edition scent from Ted called “June Gloom” ,so I’m talking way back). BPAL has been the scent backdrop to so many memories in my life and I honestly consider the scents works of art. But even with all of this waxing poetically I hate to say that I have never tried “Snake Oil”(gasp). Some of my favorite scents that I have tried are Juliet, Bathsheba, Black Pearl, O and Eos (how I wish Eos would return…) But I really hope who ever picks the winner would pick me because I have a certain English teacher in mind to be gifted Dorian 🙂 .

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