I’ve been putting off sitting down to write reviews of The Last Unicorn Collection from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab because I keep thinking to myself, “but I’ve got to find my copy of the book, first!”! I’m not sure why that was such an important prerequisite, it’s not like I was planning on reading it again (I’ve got too many other books I’m promised to!) Maybe I wanted to take a photo of it next to these perfumes for the featured image of this post. That probably would have looked nice.
Well, I took a moment today to search my shelves and as it happens, I don’t own a copy of The Last Unicorn. What I found instead is a paperback copy of Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place. Did I ever own The Last Unicorn? Was it paperback or hardback? Where did it come from? Did I give it away? Was it among the items I lost in a flood in 2011, a month before I moved from New Jersey back to Florida? Does it even matter?
I don’t think it does. If I am being honest, my memories of The Last Unicorn stem from the movie, not the book–which was released in 1982, when I would have been six years old or so. And let me tell you, at that age, it scared the crap out of me. For many years after, if I thought about the film–which I tried not to–my sole recollection was of The Red Bull, a distressingly oppressive, lurid entity which was straight-up nightmare fuel (and to a lesser extent, also that talking skeleton!)
It took me many, many years to rewatch it. I must have been well into my 30s! But now it’s been part of my annual viewing every year since; it’s so beautifully crafted in that pleasurably melancholy way that I was susceptible to even as a child and encompassed fantasy both joyful and sorrowful, with heroes and quests, and there’s redemption and transcendence–all of those storybook things that I love best, have loved forever. My acceptance of and obsession with terrifying and monstrous things like the Red Bull was to come later!
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab initially released their The Last Unicorn collection several years ago back in 2010. I purchased a few of the original bottles, but sadly, these too were things lost in the flood. I was elated to learn that some of these fragrances were released this past June and am so pleased to have the opportunity to revisit and reconnect with them once more. And the more I think of it, the more I do need to hunt down a copy and reread The Last Unicorn, looming TBR stacks be damned!
Mommy Fortuna (Honey, gunpowder, dried herbs and pleonectic, twopenny magics) Cheap carnival tricks and homemade horrors cobbled together with rusty nails and sticky, syrupy dark wildflower honey. The peppery smoke from an ashen pile of herbs at this poppet’s feet provides the wordless spell that animates it; once the vapors dissipate, it sleeps once more.
Schmendrick (sweet, raw tobacco leaves, chamomile, clary sage, meadow sage, Mysore sandalwood, sultana raisins, and caramel). I inhale this scent and my heart instantly hears “I know you. I’d be blind and I’d know what you are.” Schmendrick brings me to tears. An earthy, woodsy, deeply aromatic tobacco leaf, vanilla-y, apple-y chamomile, and a thoughtful, pruney musk.
The Butterfly (fuzzy brown tonka bean, golden amber, bergamot, nutmeg, and petitgrain) The Butterfly is fizzy and effervescent, somehow both airy and earthy, the petitgrain so lemony and peppery, and the amber so honeyed…they’re so sweet and playful together. In the bottle, it’s deeply loamy–that sweet, dark, earthy scent that I love so very much!– but on the skin, the scent lightens in such a strange way that has to do with the absence of shadow more than any direct brightness. It is velvety and opulent but it’s finery worn in jest. P.S. I hate to compare perfumes to other perfumes overmuch, it feels a little lazy, so don’t think of this as a comparison, but rather if you like X, you may dig Y. In the dry-down of The Butterfly, there’s some milky-musky-powderiness of an old, beautiful thing stored behind glass, that reminds me quite a bit of Antique Lace. Do with that information as you will!
The Last Unicorn (frosty lilac petals, iris pallida root, orris, violet leaf, white chocolate, coconut, wild lettuce, white sandalwood, white gardenia and oakmoss). This is a deliriously ethereal, gauzy, gossamer slip of a scent, with that wintry, woody orris and the aqueous verdancy of the lettuce, and the white quartz, snow-melt nip of chilled water with the tiniest bite of bitterness, the last drop in an icy chalice of sorrow. But there’s a carnal quality there, too, of worldly concerns and sensual delights, like…cupcakes. A mild cocoa butter creaminess and a milky nuttiness coalesce to form a tiny mythical gateau, a small frosted treat with a floral crumb, sprinkled with a scattering of star shards– that one might leave out to lure magical creatures… fairies or pixies… or even unicorns.
The Lilac Wood (ageless trees, everblooming flowers, brilliant grass, a flicker of fireflies, and soft shadows) There are so many *perfect* scents in this collection, but every time I sniff the uncanny geography of The Lilac Wood I think, ah, this, THIS is the one! Green sap and misty grass, peaceful, delicate moss, emerald ferns, and the wistful dreams of flowers in a patch of shade underneath the old ash tree with the lightning-riven trunk. This is so, so beautiful. I want to wear it with this dress, all the time.
The perfume blends from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Last Unicorn collection is presented in an amber apothecary glass vial and is live on their site now! Have you tried any from this collection? What are some of your favorites? And did I lend my copy of The Last Unicorn to you? If so, can I please have it back???