Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab released the expansion to its 2007 Good Omens collection this past May, maybe a week or so before the television series was released on Amazon Prime and BBC Two– and it has taken me quite a while to compile my thoughts on this bustling commotion of scents. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Or more to the point, I don’t have enough fingers to put all of those digits on all of the reasons why. There’s just so much stuff–feelings, memories, emotional baggage–tied up in the book for me, and, I suspect, for so many people. I have a dear friend who loves it so much that she reads it once every year! I personally have not read it more than once, but that’s no slight against the story. I adored it. It’s more a defect with me, I suppose; there are very few occasions upon which I will revisit and reread a book.
It was through a book recommendation thread on the bpal.org forums that I first discovered Good Omens, and Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s writing, really. So how could I not associate it BPAL and all of its creators, friends, and fans? I envy young people who discover things like this early on in life and have had so many years to mull it over and ponder its wonderments. I was twenty-eight when I began reading the works of these authors, and I had a lot of catching up to do. Does it really matter, though? I guess not. I have a feeling that if you’re the sort who likes this sort of tale, the apocalyptic comedy of Good Omens will thrill your heart at any age, at any time in your life.
Even if you have not read the book, if your sole knowledge of Good Omens comes from the television series, well, that works too, because they faithfully, fantastically adapted the high-stakes hilarity of this cosmic conflict for the screen. Watching the centuries-old relationship/alliance between prim and fussy angel Aziraphale and swaggering, devil-may-care demon Crowley were some of the most joyous moments of television that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. And I’m not the only one whose heart burst and broke and blobbed together over and over again while watching them–I mean, have you seen all of the #ineffablehusbands fan art that has popped up on Instagram? Just do a search for it and grab your tissues, because I guarantee some weepery and tears.
Anyway, damn. I’m like one of those food bloggers who make you read about their life story before they share some instant pot recipe for keto pancakes with you. Just get to the Good Omens reviews already, Sarah!
Deeds of the Day (scorched aluminum and white-hot copper solder, cracked aluminosilicate glass, conflict-full tantalum, and the gingery-bubble of a short-circuiting vibration assembly stewing in a thick, hot black musk). I can’t reconcile myself to these notes but what I can tell you is that it smells like being fifteen and skinny dipping in your boyfriend’s grandparent’s swimming pool when they’re out of town for the summer and it’s a blistering hot day, with the tose-tickling scent of chloramine, concrete hot enough to barbeque teenage feet, and the wisp of spicy-oakmossy-lavender Drakkar Noir in the air. I don’t think any of these are unpleasant smells (I actually still love Drakkar Noir and that’s totally what I am going to name my Norwegian Ridgeback one day.) Anyway, this scent conjures fun memories for me.
A Flaming Sword: (fiery red amber and sweet oudh, flickers of honeyed patchouli and red musk, pale white coconut flecks, and crushed peppercorn.) Fruity amber, sweetened, resinous oud, and milky/woody coconut meld for a gentle, gossamer glow.
Don’t Touch: (a scattering of apple blossoms and apple pulp, a handful of pomegranate seeds, and a soft, serpentine hiss of poisonous green musk, opoponax, and frankincense) A startled apple tree awoke in a rainforest, and surprisingly, flowered and flourished far from its midwestern orchard home amongst the lush, humid jungle vegetation; or, a few ripe apple slices hidden in the midst of a tropical fruit platter, touched on one side by tart pineapple, the other by jammy guava.
Slate Black Clouds Tumbled Over Eden: (a rapidly darkening sky blasted by thundercrack of ozone, blast of cold, black rain, punctuated by a thin flicker of amber) A storm, gathering on the horizon all afternoon has with boom and bluster, announced its arrival, as a torrential rain begins to rattle and splatter against the windows. Placing a clean, earthenware pitcher in the far corner of your darkened kitchen, you watch a slow trickle, drop by drop, suspend and fall with an inaudible swish and a soft clink from that rotted, sagging spot on your roof. These cold droplets smell chilled, and earthy, and electric. As a shriek of lightning splits the sky in two, you inhale the comforting scent of yeast rolls browning in the oven. They only have a few minutes left on the timer; you send a small hope skyward that they finish baking before the power goes out. Slate Black Clouds Tumbled Over Eden, interestingly, smells like all of these things.
Sister Mary Loquacious (white musk, lemon peel, vanilla incense, and wild bergamot) There’s a scent, or the dreamy memory of a scent, that I really love and I feel like I may have mentioned it before. A sort of plastic-y, vanilla scent, like maybe if you buried your nose in your 1980’s Strawberry Shortcake doll’s synthetic hair and just huffed that strangely pretty childhood fragrance for a moment or two. Imagine if you crossed that memory with a pocketful of lemon candies and a wisp of Antique Lace. Now that I think about it, if you’re bummed that Antique Lace is no longer available, I think Sister Mary Loquacious has got a similar feel and would make a lovely substitute.
Anathema Device (white sandalwood, blackcurrant, bourbon vanilla, and warm amber) There’s a quote that used frequently as people’s Twitter bios: “though she be but little, she is fierce!” and I regret to inform you that until just now, I had no idea that is taken from some dialogue in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I’m not as well-versed in my Shakespeare as I ought to be and anyway, that’s not my point. Anathema Device smells like a fierce, little creature: a teeny-tiny, big-eyed anime blackcurrant wearing comedically large cyborg boxing gloves. This is a pulpy, juicy beatdown of a berry scent, strengthened by a vaguely metallic backbone, powered by a syrupy amber core.
Beelzebub (black, red, and white pepper buzzing through a brimstone-suffused bloody clove musk) Hoooooo, old Beelz is a spicy boi! A massively peppery, lightly musky, incense. Fiendish. Gorgeous.
A Complex Wiggly Sigil (blood-red ink, fiery pomegranate, and black oudh) A shadowy wine, bitter at the tip of the tongue, velvety as it lingers on the palate, and smoky as it slides down your throat.
The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (a seventeenth-century tome, pages lined with witching herbs and lightly spattered by gunpowder residue) Fruity herbs, the sweet grassy-vanilla smell of old books, and an odd whiff of a burning, ozoney tang.
Old-Fashioned Satanists (armchair leather, chamomile tea, cashmere, and a tangle of sweet 7-year aged patchouli) When I first sniffed this, I caught notes of coffee, milk chocolate, and the cozy comfort of warm, worn-in robes? But today it smells of a delicate porcelain cup of black tea brightened with a spritz of lemon, warming and softening the embossed tooling of the old leather book it is perched upon. Those wily Satanists! I can’t quite get a fix on them, but it’s a wonderful scent, either way.
He’d Been an Angel Once (leather and smoky musk, damask rose, incense, brimstone, and vetiver) This is going to sound nuts, and there is no evidence listed in the notes here to support what I am catching whiffs of, but this smells like sauntering into perdition with a pocketful of skunky cookies. Edibles for the end-times.
Three Rounds, One Fall, No Submission (beatific gardenia, virtuous lemon flower, and sacred frankincense clashing with infernal musk, a burst of sulphur, and a little bit of hellfire) A soapy, creamy white floral musk paired with the vaporous ghost of a charcoal briquette ; the soft scent of summer’s wilting gardenia blossoms against the vast and vaulted cloudless, cerulean cathedral of an August afternoon sky, while you wait for the hurricane to hit. A moment’s glimpse of an endless heaven…before all hell breaks loose.
Evil Does Not Sleep Perfume (blackened lavender, red labdanum, sweet hops, and violet leaf) Although that astringent, herbaceous lavender is at the forefront, it’s immediately both tempered and goosed by the sweet, animalic labdanum.
An Ineffable Game (pitch-black vetiver with a strange, sheer patchouli, orange blossom, and fig leaf) Within every collection the Lab creates, there’s always that one scent that seems perfectly quaffable, so delightfully juicy and spirited and effervescent , that no one would blame you or think you’d taken leave of your senses if you just tipped the bottle past your lips and downed the whole thing in one gulp. Of course, let’s please not do that and I am definitely not suggesting it! I would, however, suggest conjuring a cocktail inspired by this fragrance, an ineffable tipple of our own devising: a libation citrusy and bright, with an undercurrent of something earthy and bitter and strange. Do patchouli bitters exist? Maybe patchouli syrup? An Aperol Spritz with a smallest dropper drip of dank, and perhaps mythical, patchouli bitters.
Mr. Young (Pipe tobacco, black tea, starched white cotton, and a very respectable aftershave) smells of freshly laundered linens airing on the line on a cloudless spring morning, and the lightest, lemony musk of wholesome thoughts and honest deeds.
Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti (fossilized amber, dusty white sandalwood, galbanum, balsam of Peru, and brown oakmoss) Rich, earthy and slightly bitter balsam and leathery-green oakmoss lend some glam-gorgeous 70’s chypre vibes to a dusty, crumbling dinosaur vertebrae propped on an ancient piece of driftwood in a vast warehouse of musty arcane books and bones.
The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast That is Called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness (baby powder, goat’s milk, and a distant whiff of brimstone) For the briefest, most flickering second, you do get a sense of all of those unholy nursery notes. A smoky, perfumed iron cradle and a sweet, powdered milky fragrance. Teensy-weensy little hoofikins!
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Good Omens collection is currently live and available for purchase in 5ml bottles for $28 each. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available for Good Omens