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Well, it wouldn’t be 2020 if we weren’t talking about Halloween perfume reviews in December, right? But around the shadowy and haunted corridors of Haute Macabre every day is Halloween– and so too is the case for the spooky scent sorcerors at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. And I imagine you might feel the same way, as well! So we’re really all on the same time table here, right?
For this year’s reviews of the ‘Weenies and various autumnal celebration scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, I thought I might do something slightly different. I’ve been watching a great deal of YouTube this year and in taking inspiration from the always entertaining How To Drink YouTube Channel, I am revealing my lists of “tasting notes” for each of these fragrances; the reflections and ruminations I had/experienced while testing each one.
Do not mistake me though, these perfume oils are not to be literally tasted or ingested in any way! To avoid confusion, let’s instead call them “smelling notes.” Because again, we’re not to be drinking them. So don’t do that!
Without further ado, then, I present to you:
…Smelling Notes On Fifteen ‘Weenies ..
Dead Leaves On Fire
-The manky, softly rotting vegetation and the dry, smoky embers are a spellbinding and pretty sophisticated arboreal chypre-like combination
-Makes me think of little forest goblins gone for a weekend of glamping
-This is ingenious
Pumpkin Gazpacho (roasted pumpkin pulp, tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, sage, and cream)
-I feel like…it’s not what you think it’s going to be!
-Warm autumn gourd -creamy sweetness at the outset, and then it morphs into something sort of airy and green and cool with a crisp bite….but still somehow a little sweet?
– It is sort of like a cold soup…but more of a palate-cleansing dessert soup?
-Like a fancy little after-dinner treat Ina made for Jeffrey because they are trying to eat less cake but they still want to end the meal on a sweet note.
Flickering Lights, Fluttering Curtains (Brittle smoked vanilla lace with yellow champaca, white cognac, davana, white amber, and chamomile)
-This seems to have that delicate vanilla and phantom floral of Antique Lace
-Also a smokiness that gives it a bit of depth of heft and an almost bitter 70% dark chocolate quality.
-A great many people will like this one!
From Sunset to Star Rise (Thorn-strangled roses, vetiver, honeysuckle, twilit musk, and black oud.)
-At the outset, strangely sour and a bit… fungal? Also smells alien and unknown, like feeling your way blindly through forking forest paths in the deep dead of night
-A bit earthy and rooty, things that grow at the base of ancient trees in feral violet shadows.
-Cosmic mycelium under the silver-scratches of a meteor-streaked midnight dome.
In Night When To All Colors Into Black Are Cast (ink-black vegetal musk, opoponax, velvet myrrh, nagarmotha, black champa, labdanum, and plum honey)
-I feel like I am typecasting myself, especially since I thought I was slowly coming out of my all-black-everything phase (but don’t worry, it wasn’t just a phase in my heart) but honestly, this is the me-est thing I have ever smelled in my life.
-If there was such thing as:
– “sad dried flowers from my mom’s funeral, marking a page in a ghost story” musk
– “when I have to get up to pee at midnight and I divine phantom shapes from in the shadows of the shower curtain” musk
– “reading poetry by candlelight at 5am because I perversely read early in the morning and not late at night” musk
– “ordering a lucid dreaming blend from Etsy and drinking it, not realizing that the seller and I got our wires crossed and she made potpourri—not tea— and I stupidly brewed up and DRANK potpourri” musk
-All of the me-ness of me, all of my weirdness and sadness and joy, and strange inner darkness, but also so much joy for beauty and friends and the lovely things in the world, this too.
-Somehow found a way into this bottle.
-And it smells like me.
Dead Leaves, White Champa, Palo Santo.
-Reminds me of hippies and crunchy types? Is palo santo the new patchouli?
-Not the 60’s hippies, but rather a particular brand of YouTuber, zero waste, off-the-grid species of vlogger.
-I actually really love this, it’s a sort of refined outdoorsy scent, there’s a whiff of “fresh air” in it, and astringent herbal/lemony woodsiness but there’s also a hint of garden gloves and sunbonnets because we want to get all up in the dirt but we want to look cute doing it. Our fans notice these things.
-And now while I’m guilting you about your single-use plastics, let me tell you a bit about our sponsor, Squarespace. *
*I’m not shilling for Squarespace and neither is Haute Macabre or BPAL. I’ve just been watching a lot of YouTube…and man, a lot of YouTubers sure are doing that. Jokes are less funny when you have to explain them, but I felt I should probably make this point very clear!
It Was Just A Cat (a flash of amber fur skittering through shadows of opoponax, red labdanum, and myrrh)
-Old, vaguely antiquarian books and nose-tickling fur, fluffy fur with a pulse and a warmth and a softly rumbling purr
-Warm musk, rich, treacly myrrh, and a dry, powdery amber
An Open Grave Underneath the Heavy Leaves (Sweet hay, dry grasses, and wild herbs)
-Dry leaves on sun-warmed ground on a cloudless day, no decomposing plant matter or off-gassing leaves, here
-Light and clean, just this side of sharp, dry, and cool. Almost lemony, but…a cool weather, frost-tolerant lemon?
-Conjures the scent of air so pure and clear that you can smell winter from a month away
Dead Leaves, Red Currant, and Tuberose
-A a dash of eerie, with the spot-on decaying harvest of those dead leaves
-A spike of edgy with the bright bite of red currant, sort of like a punk in a twilight graveyard
-Like Linnea Quigley stripping in a cemetery, but with the addition of holly, and wintry greenery and Christmas lights?
–Festive, in a naked, brain-eating zombie way?
Dead Leaves and Black Licorice
-An anonymous benefactor (or villainous arch-nemesis) has sent you an unmarked packing crate, the olde-timey kind that cursed objects are stowed away in for overseas travel.
-Inside this box, once you have opened it with your rusty crowbar and/or Wile E. Coyote dynamite, all of a sudden everything goes sepia-tinted and you’re wearing a stiff corset and pointy-toed boots, and you see that swaddled inside is a bundle of fragrant, crackling autumn leaves several layers deep cocooning a mysterious bundle.
-You slowly peel away the autumnal wrapping to reveal that you have been gifted with a thick, glossy, twisting rope of Icelandic black licorice, dank and herbaceous and salty and delicious. Also included is a copy of the Icelandic version of Dracula, but you can go ahead and scrap that with the rest of the packing materials, it’s trash.
-Wow, these boots and corset are tight. But sepia-tinted November afternoons are lovely. And black licorice, as you are late in life to discover, is freaking phenomenal.
The Ghosts of the Year (white musk, lemongrass, neroli, white pepper, lavender, white cedar, oakmoss, dandelion sap, and white amber)
-This does smell deeply of the “April-clear” feeling referenced in the poem this perfume is inspired by; of daisies and dandelions, tremulous in a grassy spring breeze.
-A frank, appraising stare from the ghost of one’s self. Uncomplicated and uncompromising and free of all sentiment. Lemongrass smells like a cross between citronella and geranium to me, and that is the powerful core of this scent, a truth that you must get to the heart of and climb inside and ultimately embody…in order to properly meet the gaze of this other version of yourself.
Please Scream Inside Your Haunted House (funnel cakes entombed in teakwood, cedar, and sawdust)
-French toast from fancy, eggy bread?
– Ultra-luxe crème brûlée bread pudding?
-A floral, cedary thing? A sweet breakfast casserole, plated on a fragrant wooden tray, served with a spray of lilac?
-Tobacco? leather? Eating the above in parlor while your uncle oils his saddle nearby with an unlit pipe clamped between his teeth?
-At the very backside…ivy and green tea? Maybe? There is a lot going on with this one! A lot of loveliness, but still…a lot.
-To sum up, this is a delectable morning meal in a very charming and efficiently run haunted bed and breakfast which also happens to have a stable nearby.
Unsettling Portraits (amber resin, faded turpentine and torn canvas, pulverized frankincense, verdigris, and crushed malachite, lead white sandalwood, smoky umber, and lampblack)
-At first: a decimating wave of nostalgia, something that smells like memories and echoes of hearts long silenced
-Minerals and sooty carbon, oil, and wax and flickering flame
-The taste of oxidized copper and ghostly pigments
-At the last: the portraits have been taken down for a cleaning, dusted and polished, and the heavy curtains drawn to let the sunlight scour away the shadows. A slightly sweet, vaguely citrusy lightness remains.
Figure In The Attic Window (white frankincense, star anise, wormwood, and iridescent bergamot)
-Both translucent and occluded; cloudy visions in a teacup
-The tea was palest green and pleasantly bitter
-The pretense of a facade. A re-veiling of revelations for politeness and appearance’s sake. Embarrassed by what we shared after too many martinis, we pack it all back in, like we never said it in the first place. And now we are all pretending not to know each other’s secret scars, the ones that have seeped into our bones, and which are haunting both our own bodies and undermining our connections with others.
-What has got me thinking of martinis? There’s something about this scent, that, along with conjuring visions of secrecy and uneasy trust and damaged connections… makes me think of how I described my first sip of a martini: “sweet at the sip, savory at the swallow.”
-A trickery of the tongue, conned by aromas that lure you in and then morph and twist and disarmingly: junipery herbal and briny berries, and a bittersweet woodiness.
-This one was quite a journey, but cheaper than therapy.
-(I haven’t called my therapist in ten months.)
-Do you have a moment to talk about the autumnal gustatory goodness that is the Downeast Maine Pumpkin bread recipe from Allrecipes?
-Can you imagine this earthy, spicy bread gyrating alongside the breathtakingly tarted-up Christina Aguilera, Mýa, P!nk, Lil’ Kim, in the 2001 Lady Marmalade video?
-Or maybe I need to pretend I’m not a million years old and divulge that the molasses-moist pumpkin loaf was most recently a guest dancer in this video, because it is without a doubt a certified freak seven days a week.
-Brown sugar caramelized crumbs and boozy pumpkin flesh and musky black satin sheets and you don’t cook, you don’t clean and while we don’t have to guess how you got that ring, I am gonna place bets that you probably ordered that amazing pumpkin bread from Goldbelly.
-Waaaay later. In a twist that no one was expecting, the filthiest Smut yet calms with time and becomes a soft, warm and disturbingly classy thing? But also very, very hot. Look, I don’t know how to talk about sex because I am incredibly repressed but smelling my wrist right now gives my lower bits a jolt that’s both electric and wibbly and it’s as if Mads Mikkelsen is smoldering at me from one side of the room and Tessa Thompson has brazenly caught my eye from the opposite corner and I don’t know where to look or what to do with myself so I just lock myself in the bathroom and cry. But in a good way? I mean I don’t know how your libido works, so I can only speak for me.
-Maybe let Pumpkin Smut do the speaking for you.
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Halloween 2020 collection of perfumes, hair glosses, and atmosphere sprays are currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available for Weenie 2020.
New to the massive, immersive aromatic world of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab? You may want to check out my three-part guide with tips and pointers for getting started on your weird, wild fragrant journey!
Getting started with BPAL: Part One // Part Two // Part Three