Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

I have run in to references to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab several times, in a strange variety of contexts, and every time I run across it, I spend a startling amount of time lost in their website, reading the descriptions and trying to wrap my brain around what they could smell like. I finally gave in and ordered a bunch of samples, and they arrived today!

Now, the site has a distinctly dreamy feel to it - there are pages upon pages of descriptions, and some of these are poems, others list ingredients like "opium" and "blood" (theoretical, thankfully). There are hundreds of fragrances, grouped into collections with titles like "Ars Moriendi," "Pharmacopoeia" and "A Picnic in Arkham." It may be best to simply paste their own description.

We specialize in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone. Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of magickal, pagan and mythological blends, Renaissance, Medieval and Victorian formulas, and horror / Gothic-themed scents. By utilizing our knowledge of homeopathy and aromatherapy, the conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, and the aesthetic artistry of perfumery, we have mastered the art of encapsulating allegorical ideas into singular olfactory experiences. We are the first of our kind, and have over fifteen years of practical experience in the field. Our expertise shows.

They are 100% correct. These scents are unlike anything else I have ever found, and while not all of the samples I picked were exactly to my taste, they were all wonderfully complex, intricate fragrances that truly captured the feeling of their inspirations. After all, this was an experiment...I don't still wear Love's Baby Soft, and I don't like every perfume I smell. I'll give you a little run down of the ones I tried, and then leave you to spend your own time paging through their catalog and selecting your own to try. I highly, highly recommend giving it a try.

  • Belle Epoque (Bewitching Brews)..."The Pretty Era”, France’s Golden Time: an age of beauty, innovation and peace in France that lasted from the 19th Century through the first World War and gave birth to the cabaret, the cancan, and the cinema as well as the Impressionist and Art Nouveau movements. Sweet opium, Lily of the Valley, vanilla, mandarin and red sandalwood." I really like this one. It's very bright smelling, and the darker notes that can sometimes make vanilla and sandalwood cloying and somewhat claustrophobic fall back to let the sparkly lighter notes come through and dominate the scent.

  • Black Dahlia (Sin & Salvation)..."Voluptuous magnolias strewn over orchid, star jasmine, black amber and smoky rose." This one was a bit of a miss for me, even though it still was...olfactorially accurate. I just didn't really account for the darker tones that the Black Dahlia mystique would call for, and they are quite strong for me personally. I like it, I just don't know that I would wear it. Maybe in the latter half of winter, when it's gloomy outside and everyone's getting sick of winter because the snow on the side of the road is all gunged up with dirt and sand. I should also confess a vague hostility towards rose perfumes in general, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.

  • Jazz Funeral (Ars Moriendi)..."Considered a great honor, this is one of the most distinguished aspects of New Orleans culture. Its roots lie in the customs of the Dahomeans and Yoruba people, and is a celebration of both the person’s life and the beauty and solemnity of their death. The procession is lead by the Grand Marshal, resplendent in his black tuxedo, white gloves and black hat in hand; almost a vision of the great Baron Samedi himself. The music begins with solemn, tolling dirges, moves into hymns of sorrow, loss and redemption. When the burial site is reached, a two-note preparatory riff is sounded, and the drummers start the second-line beat, heralding the switch in music to joyous, upbeat songs, dancing, and the unfurling of richly decorated umbrellas by the “second line”: friends, family, loved ones and stray celebrants. Strutting, bouncing, and festive dance accompanies the upbeat ragtime music that sends the departed soul onto its next journey. Bittersweet bay rum, bourbon, and a host of funeral flowers with a touch of graveyard dirt, magnolia and Spanish Moss." I like this one, too, and weirdly enough, it's the earthiness of the dirt and moss that really seals the deal for me. I can't express clearly or often enough the astounding accuracy of the scent's match to the concept it's named after, but this one smells exactly like its description (pre-ingredients) feels. I have never smelt anything like this, and it's intriguing and exciting.

  • Kubla Khan (Bewitching Brews)..."[Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge] Through sunlit caves of ice, roses unfurl amidst dancing waves of serpentine opium smoke and amber tobacco, golden sandalwood, champaca, tea leaf, sugared lily, ginger, rich hay absolute, leather, dark vanilla, mandarin, peru balsam, and Moroccan jasmine." This one is very complex...were I still in the dating market, I would hit this up for a first date in a dark room. All of these elements combine to make a perfume that's somewhat dark on the whole, but has a certain airiness that keeps it from being too musky or heavy.

  • Les Bijoux (Ars Amatoria)..."[Les Bijoux, by Charles Baudelaire] Skin musk and honey, blood-red rose, orange blossom, white peach, red apple, frankincense and myrrh." I was telling Celia about this one, and I described it as smelling the way it feels to bite into a tart apple when you're out in an orchard in fall, when it's crisp but not freezing cold. I absolutely love this one, and I'm wearing it today. Unfortunately, this means I have been surreptitiously sniffing my wrists like a complete weirdo at work. Zut alors, c'est la vie.

  • Tavern of Hell (Bewitching Brews)... "[Description of the Moulin Rouge in Paris, exerpted from a letter from Andrey Bely to Alexander Blok in 1906] White gardenia, ambergris bouquet, lavender fougere, orange blossom, melissa, tobacco flower, coriander, ebony wood, ylang ylang, absinthe and aged whiskey." This is another one that I like a lot but do not really want to wear. The alcohols are quite prominent, not in a boozy smelling way, but rather in an liquors-frequently-smell-really-goddamn-strong kind of way. It's just a little too brawny for me, if that makes any sense. For my personal chemistry, it's the odorific equivalent of being "a lot of look," Tim Gunn style. Very cool, though, and again, very complex and reminiscent of name.

I also got two little freebies, which was very exciting. I am awash in perfume samples these days, thanks to this order and to holiday shopping at Sephora. One sample is called Lust, from the Sin & Salvation section, and it's comprised of red musk, patchouli, ylang ylang and myrrh, all of which combine to make the second most complex perfume in the bunch (preceded only by Les Bijoux). It will be a good going out perfume, but is quite powerful for everyday. I smelled the second sample, called Uruk, and was immediately reminded of the way Cairo felt when I was there in high school. I then read the description: "A city of mystery, wonder and majesty, said to have been built by order of Gilgamesh. Thick bitter almond and heady night-blooming jasmine with saffron, cinnamon leaf, red patchouli, river lilies, bergamot, fig leaf and the sacred incense of Inanna." So apparently, I was at least regionally correct. You see what I mean about the concept-to-scent thing? Amazing! I am still trying to decide whether I would wear Uruk on a regular basis. It's lovely and has a real air of mystery to it, but it's another one I don't know if I could pull off every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment