Vintage Snow Man Blow Mold (a milky plastic shell of frosted blue spruce, illuminated from within by 40 watts of glowing amber) If this scent could be a book cover, it would 100% be an R.L. Stine Goosebumps book. Inside its plastic sarcophagus, a spectral sentinel stands guard, shimmering with the trapped souls of forty dead watts. Enchanted with its kitschy charm, you inhale deeply…and are immediately hit with a damp slap of mildew, the smell of dusty basements and rain-soaked attics. Not pleasant, exactly, but…intriguing, summoning whispers of forgotten winters, of attic dolls weeping silent tears, of cobwebs spun with memories. The scent of time clawing and gnawing at plastic and wood, turning memories into dust. Softly, a chill creeps in. Not the icy bite of winter, but something deeper, more unsettling. Flowers, pale things like ghosts blooming in the snowman’s hollow chest; the sweet decay mingled with the mildew beneath the fake plastic sun of the snowman’s smile. But there is warmth, too, hidden in the depths. Amber, like sunbeams trapped in honey, a counterpoint to the decay, a whisper of life clinging to the skeleton of memory. The snowman’s heart, beating faintly in the plastic ribs.
To A Wreath In The Snow (tobacco flower, white oud, lavender bud, and ambergris accord) Shadows of grief, the ghosts of winter, a sky bled grey by sorrow. A phantom flower blanketed in frost while spiced embers and woods spark and sizzle in a hearth nearby, an anchor of warmth and hope glowing through a glass pane inches away from the frozen bloom. A transparent divide, the bittersweet ache of proximity, a thing so frail can’t help but yearn–
Snow-covered cathedral (ecclesiastical incense wafting behind candlelit stained glass and icicles thrusting from stone archways) A Sanctum Glacialis, a sacred space, where the aroma of lemony resins, frosty breath in the fir-scented air, and the hallowed whispers of a forest prayer beneath a sky of frozen stars converge.
Hearth (sweet pipe tobacco, cherry wood, the warm, worn leather of an easy chair, and a pleasant, subtle waft of fireplace smoke) A velvet-swathed alcove, flickering tongues of gaslight, a crystal decanter, amber liquid catching the light, a molten jewel held captive in glass, swirling with the scent of cherries bruised and black as midnight and the secret incantations of honeybees.
The Poinsettia Gown (rose cream, jasmine cream, mallow, vanilla foam, and sweet amber) Corsets creaked, silk rustled, and whispers slithered like vipers amongst the polished marble. The world of debutantes held secrets far more intoxicating than forbidden schnapps and stolen waltzes. But the elusive beauty in the poinsettia gown floated through the crowd of cutthroat Victorian debutantes untouched by their vicious mutterings, aloft on a coquettish cloud of pillowy, powdery whipped cream floral divinity. “She smells like a beautiful vintage Barbie doll Christmas card,” a blonde in pink taffeta giggled tipsily. Her dark-haired twin in canary crinoline elbowed her and whispered nastily, “Well, that’s an anachronism, dumbass.” The girl in the poinsettia gown shyly glanced their way before gracefully pirouetting from the room, and the sisters blushed all the way up to their hair ribbons.
21 Snowballs (gin-soaked slush) Overheard in the writer’s room:
Writer 1: “..with all due respect, who wants to smell like a melted snow cone dipped in bathtub gin?”
Writer 2: “Oh ho ho…this isn’t your bodega slush, this is high-society slush. Slush for the one-percenters. Slush that glides on the ice rink of life, tiara perched askew, a perfectly chilled martini in paw…”
Writer 1: “Paw? What is this? An ice-skating raccoon? Are you suggesting raccoons wearing tiaras now?”
Writer 2: “Not just any raccoons! We’re talking raccoon royalty! Imagine, Duchess Trashpanda McGillicutty the Third, gliding across the frozen pond of Central Park, diamonds sparkling, fur glistening with the essence of juniper berries and chilled tonic. This fragrance is an ode to her, a symphony of sophistication with a playful wink! Like a posh raccoon’s boudoir after a night of ice skating and high-stakes poker. You get the zesty citrus of her freshly squeezed victory cocktail, the crisp snap of her caraway and rosemary-lined nest, and the faintest whisper of that perfectly aged gin, lingering like a mischievous grin on her furry little face!”
Writer 1: “Ok, ok you had me at Trashpanda McGillicutty!”
Sugar Cookies and Bourbon Why does the experience of wearing this feel like being in a gritty/glittering sepia-tinted Lana del Rey Christmas song?
neon lights, sugared air,
bourbon kisses billionaire–
sippin’ on that amber gold,
vanilla’s got me in a stranglehold–
Ok, I have embarrassed us all enough, and this incredibly gorgeous scent–and my favorite of the bunch–and deserves better than my silliness. BUT. I’m also not wrong.
Snake Oil Hot Toddy (Snake Oil, soaked in whiskey, honey, and a twist of lemon) Spice and honeyed warmth and old friend Snake Oil slithering in, its mossy patchouli cloak warmed by brown-sugared vanilla, the musk a rumble in the chest, with a twisty citrusy sting like a bright yellow lemon dropped in mulled wine. And then! Apples, wonderfully squashy and blushing, stewed long with cinnamon’s fire, cloves sharp spiced pungency, and nutmeg’s gentle hum, chased by a nutty browned butter Manhattan, its rye bite tempered by sweet vermouth. There is a lot going on here, and all of it is lovely.
Gingerbread Snek (gingerbread thickened with molasses and patchouli, spiced with Snake oil, and frosted with sugared vanilla bean) Gingerbread Cabin enters the battlefield tapped unless you control three or more other Forests. And as it happens, you do have in your possession many forests, woodlands, and thickets across the wilds of Eldraine. All redolent with resinous pine snap and earthy blankets of fallen leaves beneath verdant canopies of fir. So untapped it is then, in which case, when Gingerbread Cabin enters the battlefield untapped, a Food Token is created. I have no idea what the Food Token does, I only remember seeing the Grimms fairy tale-inspired commercials for this particular MtG set, but I imagine it smells like this: a warm, cozy gingerbread house drizzled in vanilla bean glaze, its spicy walls mingling with the patchouli’s woody whisper, lying in wait under a sky of cinnamon stars and clove-studded moons.
The Picture of Dorian Sufganiyot (a deep-fried fougere with three pale musks and dark, sugared vanilla tea) A dribble of jelly clung to his lips as he lifted the velvet curtain from the portrait. This angelic young man who looked to be sculpted from ivory and roses stuffed the remainder of the oil-kissed fritter into his mouth, a shower of glittering sugar dusting his cuffs, rendering him that much more celestial in appearance. He gestures vaguely at the monstrosity in the portrait, a study in corruption and decrepitude. “Yeah, yeah, that’s meant to be me then; what of it, mate?” he scoffs, spraying my face with fragrant crumbs and small clots of rich berried jam. “It’s a good thing his guy smells so good,” I mutter disgustedly to myself, taking in his scent of softly sweetened tea and creamy, silken musks as I pick up my brush to paint over this junky canvas of horrors.
Pomegranate Ink To you, A— my sweet-skinned muse, I send poems of love on fragrant winds. For on my island, alone as I am with the sea and the shore, I have unearthed a perfume that echoes the pomegranate’s song, a tale Pausanias dared not speak. It bursts forth in song, a chorus of rubies– the fruit’s jeweled heart exposed to the sky, laughter spills from its crimson chalice, sweet and bright as nectar. But within this mirth, A— a shadow stirs. Inky tendrils, like dark riddles murmured in moonlit caves, coil around the light. It is the scent of ancient papyrus, of leather-bound tales, a smoky inkwell, where myths swim in obsidian depths, their truths veiled in darkness. This is the pomegranate’s paradox, a goddess with twin faces. One wreathed in sunlight, her cheeks blushing with scarlet wine, the other draped in midnight, her eyes holding the shadows of the world. And oh, deepest blood of my heart, oh how my fingers yearn to trace the mysteries etched in this ink! To brush away the shadows and glimpse the stories secreted within. For here, in bright sun and cool midnight, I see our love reflected. Come, A— let us follow the hidden path, hand in hand, and unravel this strange fruit’s music. Let us become the ink and the parchment, the sun and the shadows, and write our own tale—
Midnight Mass Because I don’t have a lot of experience with Midnight Mass as a spiritual practice, what comes to mind is a stirring sermon in Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass Netflix series, where Father Paul describes that faith means “in the darkness, in the absence of light and hope, we sing.” Father Paul, piggybacking on your excellent point, would you allow me a few words?
Close your eyes, and let the thurible swing, a pendulum between heaven and earth. Each arc releases a chorus of secrets – frankincense, that ancient whisper of devotion, the very tears of the sun hardened to gold. Myrrh, heavy with wisdom, echoes the gifts of Magi, a fragrant ode to sacrifice and the mysteries locked within. Benzoin, a bridge of warmth, a holy caress. Wisps of styrax and opoponax, ghosts of forgotten rituals, prayers in tongues long dead. Let them mingle in your lungs, these veiled blessings, and know that the greatest mysteries are not those writ in books, but those breathed on the wind of belief. And oh, brothers and sisters, how they linger, these sacred echoes! Long after the last ember fades, the incense clings to your soul, a benediction etched in smoke. It is a reminder that even in the deepest darkness, in the quiet hours when doubt gnaws at our bones, the song of faith remains. We sing in the absence of light, in the hollow between breaths, for that is where the mystery burns brightest, a fragrant hymn to the unseen.
Midnight Mass becomes a fragrant hymn of spiritual devotion and ceremonial grandeur to something larger than ourselves—a fragrant homage to midnight prayer, sacred intention and a sensory invocation of the profound mysteries, calling us to sing even in the darkest of moments.
Santa Doesn’t Need Your Help (sugar plum lavender marshmallows) is a sweetly herbal fragrance with a soft, fruity tang, the olfactory version of the gentle illustration on the box of a seasonal sleepytime offering from Celestial Seasonings, along with a little poem:
Sugar plum dreams with a lavender sigh,
A marshmallow moonbeam, a twinkling eye.
Santa takes over, a welcoming sight,
and parents, unburdened, can sleep through the night.
Lavender Plum Galette (a mouth-watering mixture of glistening plum wedges and ground almonds, enfolded in flaky crust and drizzled with lavender sea-salted caramel) This is an astonishingly gorgeous scent that, if you looked up the recipe for it on a blog, you would have to read a 20k word cautionary tale and descent into the realm of culinary darkness that begins in the heart of the enchanted forest and hints at a narrative that defies the expected dichotomies of good and evil. I really do feel like there is quite a story with this one! But no one’s got that kind of time, so I will sum it up for you. Picture a cursed orchard, a spectral bakehouse, and a dessert table tainted by the obscure whims of an otherworldly confectioner of unknown intent, a gourmand elegy of the unsettling and delicious.
Lavender Rosemary Baguette (perfectly crusty and yeasty with a pillowy-soft interior, sprinkled with lavender sea salt and brushed with herbed olive oil) From the yeasty tang to the briny sea salt to the herb-infused nuances of the olive oil, this is a perfect bready balance and the baguette-iest fragrance I have ever smelled. I recently read Sara Gran’s The Book of the Most Precious Substance (it is very good, and I highly recommend that you read it if you have not already), and aside from the murders and the mysteries and the rare books and the sex, there is A LOT of food in this book. I’m pretty sure the author detailed every single meal, and weirdly enough, this Lavender Rosemary Baguette perfume is a composition that somehow (?) captures the spirit of the story. It’s a fragrant tableau that mirrors the sensory delights of Sara Gran’s sumptuous literary landscape.
Lavender Earl Grey Cookies (a bitter, tea-stained ache soothed by softly herbaceous sugar cookies) I guess I was expecting a lullaby with this one, but it’s more a playground of sugar gremlins, citrus confetti sunshine and mischief brewed in lavender fields. A vibrant floral astringency, bergamot’s subtle fruitiness, and an effervescent extravagance of sugar crystal carnival energy launches the entire blend into a hyperactive crescendo of joyfully demented, sticky-fingered Muppet Baby chaos.
Vintage Candy Garland Blow Mold (an enticing swirl of multi-hued fruit and mint flavors, illuminated from behind by twinkling amber tree lights) I close my eyes, and I can smell a bobbled milk glass dish of vintage seasonal candies just like this, a kaleidoscope of cellophane dreams: chocolate raspberry spun-sugar swirls, pearlescent limes like sugared gumdrops, the sharp green kiss of peppermint spirals, a gateway to a childhood Candyland where plastic reigned supreme and sugar was the currency of dreams– fantastically melting Technicolor hues forever preserved in the honeyed amber glow of nostalgia. As a matter of fact, as hyperreal as this perfume is, it also has an element of the surreal, like art-witch besties Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo challenged each other to bring their own singular vision of this candy dreamscape to the canvas, hallucinatory worlds of spun sugar and starlight, the delicious chaos that erupts when two magic-wielding artists collaborate
Gingerbread London Fog Captain’s log, stardate 46254.1 Holodeck recreation “Gingerbread London Fog,” simulation running. A bistro bathed in perpetual twilight, the air thick with the scent of rain and pipe smoke. Ah, but what’s this? A fiery sweetness pierces the fog, a whisper of cinnamon and cloves, like an exotic spice trader’s cloak brushing past. Intriguing. Adjust the olfactory interface. Notes of Earl Grey tea, vanilla, sugar, and… whiskey? A peculiar concoction, Captain. Indeed, Number One. Yet, it draws me like unexpected intrigue on Riza. The tea, smooth and familiar, mingles with the sharp nip of whiskey, a touch of mystery in a mug. The vanilla, it’s not the cloying syrup of replicated desserts, but a whisper of warmth reminiscent of a home and a kitchen many years ago. And the ginger… ah, the ginger. It’s the heart of the mystery, a fierce, fevered spice that lingers on the tongue like… a detective’s hunch. Curious, Captain. Would you say this fragrance has… narrative potential? Potentially, Number One. Perhaps a femme fatale named “Sugar” in a silk dress the color of midnight, her lips stained with the same spiced sweetness. Or a gruff inspector with a penchant for Earl Grey and secrets, the aroma of tobacco clinging to his trench coat like a second skin. The bistro fades. Brick walls crawl with shadows, gaslights sputter, casting long, incriminating fingers. The scent of gingerbread transforms, no longer a treat but a clue, a trail of crumbs leading to a darkened alleyway and a whispered confession. Intriguing, Captain. Shall we embark on this olfactory investigation? Indeed, Number One. We’ll follow the whispers of ginger, the ghost of whiskey, and see where this trail leads us. Engage.
It may be a short respite, but between exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before, even a Captain deserves a touch of fantasy and intrigue. And so, we step into the perfumed fog, ready to unravel the mystery that clings to the gingerbread and hangs heavy in the air. The night promises secrets; the scent whispers clues, and the Captain… well, the Captain’s ready for some silly escapades, even if it’s only for a brief, spiced escape from the vast loneliness of space. End log.
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab 2023 Yule collection is currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.
Need more Yule scents? Have a peep at my Yule reviews from 2023 and 2021 and a single review for 2019 though I could swear I have several years’ worth of BPAL Yule reviews floating around that out there. And I know this because…
…PSSSST! Did you know I have collected all of my BPAL reviews into one spot? I’m about a year behind with adding new stuff to the document, but as it stands, there are over 60 PAGES of my thoughts and rambles on various limited-edition scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab over the years: BPAL REVIEWS BY S. ELIZABETH (PDF download)
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