Sunday, 31 October 2010

This one's for the labbies....

I'm not scared of skeletons, because I have one inside me :-)

Happy Halloween everyone!

It seems appropriate today to pay homage to my favourite company in the world – Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. For the uninitiated, they are an independent perfume company based in LA. How could a mere perfume company invade my life so? Let me explain...

I first came across the website in the year of its birth, 2004, and was overwhelmed by the range of scents (which has now surely quadrupled in volume). It may seem odd – who buys PERFUME on the internet, without sniffing it first? Crazy people, that’s who. But my fellow Bpallers (aka the forumites) have turned out to be the most interesting, intelligent, knowledgeable, quirky bunch I have ever come across in one (virtual) place. We are also very spoilt, in that Elizabeth Barrial, the genius behind the olfactory creations, takes an active part in conversations.

Before discovering BPAL, I barely knew the names of any flowers, and I don't think I'd even heard of ambergris (much less where it came from). I was scent illiterate. Being into perfume seems to “trained” my nose to be more sensitive, which can have its downside, (especially on public transport); unless others around you have some nose skills, your perfume may be underappreciated. It’s a running joke on the forums that the most complex, evocative, and sophisticated scents will inevitably draw compliments likening them to either baby powder or incense.

Of course, everyone’s noses – and chemistries – are different. To me, saffron smells like wee, booze turns rancid and several scents which seem universally popular with other Bpallers smell like nail varnish or old glue on me. Equally there are some scents which I may only indulge in when in the privacy of my own home; I love the delicious, warm, rum-and-lime-cookies scent of Mr Nancy – an oil inspired by the character from Neil Gaiman‘s Anansi Boys. However, being able to pick out the subtleties of the notes is no consolation when you are doomed to smell like curry to the uneducated noses of your colleagues.

The company also exudes a generosity of spirit; ok, so they tempt us with “limited editions” which we will hoard (the alternative is haunting Ebay for that must-have bottle) but they also send a generous amount of freebies out with each order – not only “imps” of the perfume, but pens and postcards too. As a business model, I must admit I admire the “free sample” option as opposed to the tired old “3 for 2” you get at your local department store. It suggests that the proprietor actually has faith in their products – try it once, and you’ll love it forever.

And love them you will... All other perfumes seem chemically and tinny in comparison. There is a massive variety, not only scent-wise (from delightfully dark, gloopy, foody concoctions to the lightest of Carribean breezes) but in terms of the concepts involved. I have learned about lady pirates, the book of Revelation, a million myths and legends, fairy tales I had long forgotten, and literature I had never heard of, thanks to the ever-changing inspirations behind the company. BPAL makes me realise how under-educated I am, while inspiring me to learn more. (Not to mention feeling more intelligent just for knowing that Dana O'Shee isn't a person...) I could browse the site for hours, reading poems, trying to commit every Greek legend to memory and wishing I had read more of Shakespeare.

The current Halloweenie scents are available until late November, and the Yules have just been released – comprising some old favourites as well as those based upon this year's themes; A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. Have moicy! My credit card gently weeps...

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