A respite from winter’s darkness, with the celebratory twinkles and warm glowing wonders of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s annual Yule collection! See below for my thoughts on some of these lovely, comforting fragrances.
Hildegard’s Cakes of Joy (spelt, nutmeg, clove, and a dollop of honey) I’ve long loved me some Hildie and was super jazzed to see Atlas Obscura post a recipe this past autumn for her “cookies of joy.” I then recalled that I actually own a book of her recipes and remedies and when I peeked inside, sure enough–there’s the recipe! So of course, now that I’ve got the instructions along with an inspirational scent, I think she’s giving me all the signs that I need to make these cookies. The scent itself is that of grainy, honeyed sweetness and it did indeed bring a joyful smile to my face. I’m usually not a fan of nutmeg (I suspect it is harvested from the underside of the devil’s dingleberries) but the spices in this fragrance are so smoothly measured and sifted that I can’t even pick it out. And what began as a rich, baked kitchen scent is eventually suffused with light and radiant warmth, it’s like a stained glass dream of a cookie. As you can see, I did actually make the cookies and quite frankly, they are the best cookies I have ever had in my life.
The Garden of Shut-Eye Town (lavender twined with passionflower, breeze-touched sways of wisteria, lemon balm, cowslip, poppy, and star-sparkles of chamomile) Every time I sniff this I get something different and then everything I thought I smelled begins to go fractured and unfamiliar. At first, it’s a sort of spiced lavender, but not spices, exactly, more like a well-seasoned salty, peppered lavender. But I also get a soft floral coconutty apricot something-something from it? And also a lemony-ozone musk? There’s a lot going on in Shut Eye Town and it’s all so varied and interesting, I wonder if anyone gets any actual shut-eye. A line from a book I just read has been stuck in my mind recently, “the nest of a hummingbird, high in a hemlock.” For some reason this scent conjures that vision for me.
Gingerbread, Vetiver, and Black Tea at first I thought this was a slice of soft ginger cake and lemony black tea, but the more this wears it becomes a gingery-peppery pfeffernusse cookie with an iced lemon glaze.
Violet Fog (orris root and white sandalwood bruised by violet petals, champaca attar, and smoked lavender) So, weird story! In early December I posted a photo on Facebook of a cocktail I had created one evening, consisting of the following recipe that I had just made up to go with a new gin I was trying: “Measure with your heart: gin, orgeat, lime, crème de violette, sparkling water, butterfly pea flower tea.” It was lovely and tasty and I christened it a “Violet Fog”. I had no idea that there was soon to be a Violet Fog in the Yule update! Synchronous serendipity through the psychosphere!
Violet Fog the fragrance smells of crushed candied violets, starry midnight ozone, musky darkness, and going in an entirely different direction, here’s a thought. One of my favorite books of poetry is The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan; I feel like Violet Fog is the base from which many of these poems could be aromatically interpreted. There’s something of late-night longing and loneliness wrapped up in this combination of notes that perfectly evokes the sadness and solitude of these poets’ writings.
Sugar Cookies with Extra Sugar there are no notes listed for this one, only that “this perfume is ridiculous, ” and if by that they mean “this perfume is ridiculously incredible” then, ok, I absolutely believe that. In the bottle, it’s a Royal Dansk Danish butter cookie (a combination of the piped vanilla ring and the heavily sugared pretzel-shaped one) but as it wears, it’s less buttery baked good and more a sublime candied vanilla musk. With sprinkles! Sugar Cookie Satyr is a crumbled tin of those cookies combined with feral, virile, earthy musk and ALL of the aphrodisiac after-dark spicy-spices and formed into inappropriate shapes with highly NSFW cake pop molds.
Scientific, Occult, and Inexplicable (The bronze, brass, iron, glass and polished wood of Victorian scientific instruments obfuscated by a swirl of incense and a spatter of ectoplasm) A sense of detached antiquarian speculation that is somehow minty/mentholated-adjacent without any actual mintiness, cool and frosted, with an unsettling metallic tang and an added undertone of unease. This is a scent that causes a weird, unsettling feeling, almost like the olfactory equivalent of infrasound, frequencies so low that they’re inaudible to humans, and which can cause symptoms of uneasiness, fear, and chills down the spine…and which are sometimes linked to perceived paranormal experiences!
Gingerbread Limoncello Is somehow magically dense and chewy AND fluffy. Moist, light, and cakey old-fashioned gingerbread scented with warm spices and a kick of freshly grated ginger for contemporary palates and topped with both a sweet-tart lemon glaze AND velvety clouds of lemon cream cheese frosting.
Alischereshasa (an imp’s worth of Alice stuffed into a 5ml of Rakshasa plopped into Scheherazade’s mother bottle). In the spirit of turduckens and piecakens, the Blaps labbies have metaphorically stuffed imps into 5mls into motherbottles in order to make a series of absurd combinations. I get a lot of rich, fruity-resinous red musk and honied rose from this one, tempered by a milky sandalwood. A rosy-golden-hued fairytale of a fragrance. Separately, you know that invisible imp of the perverse who sits on your shoulder and tells you to do the thing that you know you shouldn’t do? Midwarkust (an imp’s worth of Darkness stuffed into a 5ml of Midway plopped into Lust‘s mother bottle) is an exuberant scent of candied devilry and jammy-juicy ambrosial wickedness and that’s exactly what this diminutive low-level trickster smells like.
Second Sight (lilac-dappled beeswax, champaca smoke, and agarwood) buttery, tangy ether; spreadable honeyed ectoplasm. Something like coconut oil and sour milk? But also a grassy vanilla. So different than I thought this might smell! I feel like this is some sort of precognitive coconut jam, rich and aromatic, and you want to slather it on warm toast, maybe a thick, sweet slice of Japanese milk bread.
Sugarplum Snow White There is definitely a part one and a part two to this scent. It opens with a deep plummy-fruitiness that’s also somehow a bit aquatic. Sort of a saucer of candied plum compote floating in the clear, blue depths of a fountain. End scene. With no preamble, Snow White’s subtly sweet, creamy iced rice milk is present, just a small, simple glass of it with the tiniest dollop of whipped cream on top. No sign of plums or fruit. This really is like two very separate, scents in one! Sugar Plum Snake Oil is quite the opposite in that there is an immediate melding of the glittering Queen of the Kingdom of Sweets with that heady vanilla musk and it evolves into an enchanting spun-sugar-shard incense.
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Yule collection of midwinter perfumes are currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available for Yule 2022.
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