For this final day of October and in wrapping up our 31 Days of Horror here at Unquiet Things, we are going out in style! With reviews of twenty fragrances from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Autumn/Halloween collection!
…and also a giveaway! For one bottle of their Junji Ito-inspired Tomie perfume! If you want to read my full review of the fragrance, you can find that here.
If you would like the opportunity to win this perfume AND you live in the US, leave a comment on this blog post to be entered into the giveaway! Tell me about your favorite Halloween tradition, favorite scary movie, favorite autumnal scent–whatever you like! One winner —please note, you must be in the US to win— will be selected on Tuesday November 7th! [GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! CONGRATS JILLIAN!]
I am sorry, but shipping outside the US is too onerous, so please, please note this giveaway is for folks who live in the US only! (I’m sorry I have to sound so desperate about it, but why does no one ever read that part? Please read it!)
Anyway, let’s get to the reviews!
A Timid Twinkling Golden Star (tuberose and sweet amber) A dusty, honeyed wistful, sepia-tinted floral; the olfactory representation of the concept of “dés-vu”, or the awareness that this moment will become a memory.
A Little Silver Scimitar (foamy orris and ambergris accord pierced by a sliver of white fir needle, moonflower, and cypress) This smells …”incisive” is the word that comes to mind. It knows something, visions of silver, fruit, blood. I picture less a scimitar and more a little letter opener, sharp-edged glinting, used to liberate clever missives, mince sour slivers of plum, impale inconstant hearts.
Witch’s Currant Cake (red currant and rosewater gooseberry cake with a sugar-dusted gingerbread crumble topping) Whenever I see the word “gooseberry” I think of the time I spent listening to Eddie Izzard’s memoir and how his British pronunciation (“guuzbury”) always makes me smile. As a matter of fact, this sweet/sour, tart/tangy scent blanketed with a molassey-gingery cozy streusel, could even be the cake he’s talking about in his “Cake or death?” clip from his Dressed To Kill special. Let’s just make it canon. Our beloved, wicked Eddie Izzard circa 1999 smells like a guuzbury gâteau, a witch’s currant cake.
Ghost Milk (goat’s milk, marshmallow, vanilla cashmere, honey dust, and white chocolate) There’s nothing fruity listed in here but this perfume is fruity, cereal-miky, and fuzzy, like slurping a bowl of Frankenberries from the pocket of your softest, pinkest, plushest hoodie. A hoodie that definitely hoodies. I watch too much TikTok.
Mummy Milk (condensed milk wrapped in coconut shavings and tea-stained linen with a hint of bitumen, myrrh, and embalming resins) Wild grains and rustic incense, something roasting over a fire until it pops and frills, and carried over the fields on the dry wind of a warm September daydream.
Snooty Bat (sugared patchouli, nag champa, black leather, and clove) and Snootier Bat (all the sugared incense you can shake a wing at with double the leather and a dollop of thick, inky black musk) These two fragrances initially reminds me of how my sisters and I might gaze at each other in abject befuddlement and say something like “That is such a bizarre thing to do–how are we even related??” Snooty with a leather that’s almost midnight-stormy sky-ozonic at the onset, and Snootier opens all gloomy musk and plummy treacle. After a moment though, it becomes apparent that they are siblings, an iron-rich vein of incense connecting them. As they wear, they grow apart and drift away from each other, Snooty becoming darker and more unrepentantly patchoulified by the hour, and Snootier, half sick of shadows, transforms into a soft, cozy creamy thing.
Batty Lace (dry flowers, aged linens, and the faint breath of long-faded perfumes with well-worn leather and caramel musk) “A leathered up, musky interpretation of BPAL’s Antique Lace.” The caramel aspect of this blend is what I notice most, a buttery-milky brown sugar caramel that wants to ooze over vanilla ice cream rather than firm up into fudgy squares. Shifting beneath the caramel are those faint, faded attic-trunk florals and creamy cobwebby linens I recall from Antique Lace and a cracked leather buckle so ghostly and elusive I’m not sure if it was actually ever there at all.
Batty Cathedral (leathery wings flapping through billows of incense smoke) I was writing this review and Ývan walked into the room, saw the label art up on the screen, and exclaimed, “Say, that bat’s wearing a fez!” So it is! Anyway. The leather in this blend is an airy, floral leather, conjuring visions of a little bat snoot dootling deep in trellis vining, moon-luminous night-blooming flowers. The incense is cool and crystalline, frost on stone, smoky winter mists high on a mountain while a witch sits in silence, tracing runes in the snow. Like a Wardruna video. With more bats and flowers and witches.
Dead Leaves, Paper, and Smoke This one has a spectral and musty quality, like shed snake skins and brittle, broken bird’s nests, but also oddly evokes spring leaves, damp and dewy and almost jittery green, teeming with chlorophyll. It culminates in a fragrance that you might attribute to an altar deep kept in the wood, obeisance to a thing so old it doesn’t even have a name, with offerings of shoots and stems, bones and claws, trinkets both living and dead.
Dead Leaves, Balsam, and Green Musk The greenest stickiest resins, tree gum, and sap, tingly with a frisson of spearminty-pennyroyal cool-electric-crispness.
Dead Leaves, Shortbread, and Crystallized Ginger The softly decaying dead leaves component of this perfume is so fleeting, almost as if leaf litter and loam were used as padding for a parcel of treats, but the parcel was delivered and the packaging was tossed willy nilly, and what we are left with is the sugar-crusted delight of candied ginger-flecked buttery shortbread with crisp, caramelized edges.
Skelemingo (pink grapefruit and black licorice) it’s the most bonederful time of the year! Wherein even things that do not have bony skeletons inside their skins get treated to cheap plastic skeletons and sold for $5.99 at Michaels and Party City. Worm, you get a skeleton! Octopus, you get a skeleton! And so on! The flamingo does in fact have a skeleton and as scientists know, its aroma is that of the most delicious bitter grapefruit Haribo candy cross-bred with salty Icelandic lakkrís, spliced with white chocolate.When I talk about my profound love for things that inspire a sense of demented glee, a fragrance like this is exactly what I am thinking of.
Hand-Knitted Witch Gloves (raw wool, sweet oakmoss, and cranberry brandy) I don’t talk about fragrances in terms of whether they are masculine or feminine–that’s dumb and limiting!–but I will say that this scent is initially, and surprisingly, quite “handsome.” An aroma that at first evokes some sort of rare, centuries-old cognac and things being aged in French oak barrels, but then because you have no use for stodgy tradition, you eschew drinking it neat and instead concoct a cranberry Manhattan with bitters and vermouth, garnished with a wooly frizzle of earthen moss because you are actually just three gnomes in a trench coat.
Things Are Fine (white sandalwood smoke, hinoki, white tea, and falling leaves) Washing your hair with a fragrant aromatherapeutic “spa-like” shampoo and then immediately running outdoors on a crisp October afternoon and rolling around in a pile of loamy leaves and moss, like a great shaggy golden retriever after a bath. This is stunning. STUNNING.
A Melancholy of Goths (clove smoke, champaca incense, plum velvet, and hairspray) Can you think of anything more goth than a marble gargoyle in a mourning veil perched atop a crumbling gravestone wearing perfume of honeyed funereal florals & infernal incense ash? That is exactly what this smells like. It also smells like what I imagine Anna Falchi in Cemetery Man smells like.
Pumpkin Spice Dark-n-Stormy (extra spicy rum fizzed up with ginger beer and garnished with a lime) Utterly incandescent. Crystalline radium glass lime, the sticky bite of ginger syrup + a dry dram of allspice’s mince pie charm.
Make A Face (yellow bergamot, white pomegranate rind, lemon peel, and white musk) This smells like a thick, nourishing lemon salve that you aren’t supposed to eat but holy jeez you are definitely tempted to eat it. Ývan says he thinks it smells like luxurious lemon peel soap, to which I countered “But do you want to eat it?” And he was like like “Well, I mean yes.” This is one of those simple scents that somehow doesn’t seem like there’s much to it, and yet is more than the sum of its parts and is weirdly definitely habit-forming.
Halloween Cat (cacao and coconut husk dusted on shining black fur, illuminated by electric green mandarin and raw amber) I wouldn’t typically use the words “chocolatey” and “fresh” together in the same sentence and I don’t know that’s what I am doing here either–but I don’t know that I am not? Halloween cat smells a bit like huffing dry brownie mix; absent the sweetness and gooeyness, there’s a bracing, savory aspect to the cocoa. A pale nimbus of citrus hovers, a timorous, shimmering aurora haloing the arid chocolate.
Witch in the Woods (blackthorn, mandrake root, and myrrh scratching through cypress boughs, blackberry resin, and incense smoke) A tangled orchard, a forest-jam tart, a sharpened blade kissed-thrice, batwings circling an autumn moonrise–all of these trapped in a waxen candy wrapper curse.
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab 2023 Halloween collection is currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.
And PSSSST! Did you know I have collected all of my BPAL reviews into one spot? Here you will find 88 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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