WOW. We’re coming up on almost four years since Crimson Peak was released in all its gothic glory, and along with it, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s accompanying collection of spellbindingly immersive scents and accessories. I had written of my thoughts for this collection at that time, but in the following years, the reviews sadly became homeless when the site they were originally posted on disappeared. That’s okay and in all honesty, for the best– these reviews belong here, at Haute Macabre. They’re home now. Many of the fragrance oils are sold out; however, most of the atmosphere sprays and the nail polishes are listed as available on the site!
Crimson Peak has been on our collective horror-nerd radar for the last three years, and we’ve anxiously been counting down the days until its release earlier this month whilst working ourselves into a feverish delirium awaiting its myriad charms.
A lush, lavish gothic romance in high, bloody style – and a dizzying exercise in glorious excess – Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak delivered on a grand scale. A tale to delight the senses on every level, brimming with terrible, tragic beauty and dreamy imagery, both elegant and savage – the only thing missing from this gorgeous experience is the fragrance of those dark secrets and monstrous revelations.
The mad geniuses over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab anticipated this, and October 31, 2015, marked the release of their Crimson Peak-inspired line of fragrances, nail polish, jewelry, and statuary.
BPAL As to the scents themselves, the lab has outdone themselves. I’ve been wearing their fragrances for years and although they consistently provide marvelous olfactory experiences, never had they made as strong a showing as they have with this singular collection. Among the oils I sampled, each was beautifully nuanced, deliciously complex and perfectly – uncannily – captured the essence of the character or the theme conveyed.
In short, I think I loved them all. My wallet weeps at this pronouncement.
Some standouts include:
Edith Cushing (pearlescent vanilla musk with white sandalwood, grey amber, white patchouli, ambrette seed and oudh) smells of wholesome beauty, youthful innocence and somehow…of butterflies and ruffled nightgowns. The airy warmth of delicate musk and sweetly powdered limbs.
Both Sir Thomas Sharpe (black amber darkens a pale fougere) and Lady Lucille Sharpe (faded red roses and a glimmer of garnet with black lily, yang slang, smoky plum musk and black amber) share the same melancholy amber base. Sir Thomas is a close to the skin scent – slightly sweet, with a hint of light musk and tinge of tears – it is a somewhat sad-smelling thing. Lady Lucille, on the other hand, is plummy with dark roses and the tang of something deliciously unhinged. “Love makes monsters of us all,” she mused, and you can smell that cruel, desperate sentiment in this bottle.
Dr. Alan McMichael (Bay rum and sandalwood) is a deceptively simple, comfortable scent. A feeling of safety, of familiarity, of leaning into a warm neck and breathing in skin and a hint of luxurious aftershave. Also…of horses. I have never actually seen a horse in real life, mind you -I only know them from books, but I am fairly certain that story-horses share this smell.
Crimson Peak [EPONYMOUS] (snow marbled with blood-red clay frozen over the scent of decayed wood) conjures a bleak, chilled incense. Not an entirely welcoming fragrance at first, but as it sinks into the skin, becomes a part of you, you detect a very slight woody warmth and its peculiar charms become a thing to crave.
The Manuscript (leather and paper and splotches of ink, with a hint of ghostly chill) Rich, buttery leather, parchment dried with age and subtle, acrid scent of something you can’t quite place -something from the corner of your eye or a mostly forgotten childhood memory. This smells of déjà-vu to me; a book I’ve not yet read and yet have somehow have committed the tale to heart.
Black Moths (wild plum and black currant with aged black patchouli, vetiver, red rose petal, tonka absolute, and opoponax) Brittle, papery, musty darkness that becomes lighter in the wearing never but quite loses that tinge of unease, of quiet menace.
Perhaps you’d rather scent your rooms than your person?
Young Edith’s Bedroom (beeswax, leather-bound paper, white gardenias) hints at porcelain and wood, lace and shadow but becomes the most incredible, bombastic honey scent I have ever encountered.
Lucille’s Room (lilac water, fossilized black amber, lily of the valley, violet leaf, oakmoss) is a lighter, more subdued fragrance, recalling the play of shadow and light and the flutter of moth wings in between.
The Workshop (sawdust and gear lubricant, metal rods shining in golden afternoon light) –is it possible to smell a vision of dust particles floating lazily in a patch of dim afternoon sunlight on a cold, clear afternoon in late January? I believe I have.
Allerdale Hall (A grand house brooding against the horizon, a silhouette of jutting chimneys and sharp angles silhouetted against the grey sky) Allerdale Hall is a challenging scent to pin down. Dark, oiled woods and the scent of the sky before a snow.
As an update to the above reviews, I had the opportunity to try the accompanying nail polishes created by The Lab; I have never reviewed a nail polish before, and so I am not sure what to mention! But I can tell you these are excellent formulas–long-lasting and beautiful, and I’ve become to prefer them over my mainstay Christian Louboutin (and thank glob for that, because that’s $50 a bottle, which is just stupid.) There are two coats on each finger, which gives excellent coverage, and I’m sorry I don’t have better nails or skills, but even so–I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!
Of the colors featured above, I adore Temptation, which is described as a “deep currant creme” and is featured on my right thumb. Of course, it’s the one you can’t see very well, but trust me when I tell you it is the PERFECT OXBLOOD. My second favorite is naturally on my left thumb and also not well-captured in the photo; it is Buried Secrets, a shimmering midnight blue and is reminiscent of the shadowy velvet folds of Lucille’s dresses. If you’d prefer to opt for something less evocative of morbidly incestuous drama, Bruised Violet is a very pretty metallic sangria-fuchsia-hibiscus. Totally out of my comfort zone, but a lot of fun to wear is Insatiable, a sun-bright, golden yellow, and a surprise love is the subtle taupe-y shimmer, pale brown hum of Natural Science. Not featured at all in this image, because I only have ten fingers, is Dream Awake, a stunner of a gorgeous gilded glimmer, and which I recently wrote about a few weeks ago in my Summer 2019 Needful Things!
And, I am thrilled to share, all of these polishes are still available!