Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia review
A sugar cube with bitters,
What is love but a taste, a scent, a cocktail?
Bright and ticklish,
A field of lilies;
Or musky and dark,
What is love but a shiver or a sweat?
Nature’s nemeses, muddled;
An elixir for our soul.
It is Lupercalia.
Trying to capture the essence of a timeless emotion such as love is never easy. Poets try to make us feel it. Perfumes promise it, but seldom do they deliver beyond any superficial note. That road of white flowers and bright citrus paved by the popular scents of today rarely leads to a narrative of the complexities of that emotion.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) has picked up that narrative with their new limited edition line of scents, each based on a different love poem. Scent, meet story. The Lupercalia scents are complex blends that open as they breathe, unfolding the story they seek to tell.
BPAL makes Gothic-minded blends with a nod to homeopathy and aromatherapy. These scents aren’t classically beautiful; if they were actresses, they’d be more like Angelica Huston than Grace Kelly. These perfumed oils are deep, like the poets whose words inspired them. Unusual, wicked, dark, promising and sensual, these are conversation starters for soul searchers. I received a number of the scents ($20 each) from this line and had great fun matching the scent to its poem.
The Vine – the poem by Robert Herrick is a fun little bit of 17th Century erotica where the persona’s “vine” enraptures and holds his love in a (wet) dream. In reality he wakes up with a big, hard, um… “Such fleeting pleasures there I took, /That with the fancie I awook;/And found (Ah me!) this flesh of mine/More like a stock, than like a Vine.” The perfume notes here are Pear, Honey and Vanilla Cream that translate to a syrupy sweetness on the nose. ‘Nuf said.
The Face of All the World Is Changed, I Think – by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is of love lost, sweet memories and longing depression. “Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink/Of obvious death, where I who thought to sink/Was caught up into love, and taught the whole/Of life in new rhythm.” The perfume notes include Absinthe Accord, Green Cardamom, Honey, Prickly Juniper and Rockrose. The literal names of these ingredients are themselves representative of EBB’s journey. The translation to perfume is that of very astringent herbaceousness—think hospital room with flowers. Hmm…
Womb Furie – is by that wily ancient Greek, Aretaeus the Cappadocian. Less a poem than an early medical writing, it’s also less about love than, well, a crazy, writhing womb. “It (the womb) delights, also, in fragrant smells, and advances toward them; and it has an aversion to fetid smells, and flees from them; and on the whole the womb is like an animal within an animal.” Deceivingly sweet and slightly spicy, this is a warm scent with no small degree of pungency. The perfume notes listed for this one are Snake Oil and three types of Honey.
On the Death Of His Mistress – by Abu Sahet Alhedhily is a short, longing piece with the persona wishing to join his beloved in death. “If in death I can descry/Where my Leila’s relics lie, /Saher’s dust will flit away, /There to join his Leila’s clay.” This scent reminds me of hippies spelunking. Damp dirt and moss with a hint of patchouli. The perfume notes in this one are Plum Musk, Ambergris Accord, Matcha Tea, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Violet Leaf and Cypress.
The Sorrow of Love – inspired by the work of William Butler Yeats is the last one I tried, and my favorite one. I always was a bit of a romantic. “And then you came with those red mournful lips, /And you came with the whole of the world’s tears.” Sigh. This scent is very floral (rose the most prominent) with a musky underbelly belying the innocence. The perfume notes here are Stargazer lily, White Musk, White Rose, Stephanotis, Delphinium, Orrisroot, White Sandalwood, Bergamot and Magnolia.
The entire Lupercalia collection also includes Smut, not a poem but “three swarthy, smutty musks sweetened with sugar and woozy with dark booze notes.” Additionally, you’ll find even more poetic scents including The Doom of Beauty, The First Encounter, Liason, and The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart.
We heart this testers who purchased Ruff’s Raffle tickets got to try a good number of the Lupercalia scents (which, by the way, is an ancient Roman fertility festival), so I can’t wait to hear how BPAL translated those other words of love with their special blend of magik.
Readers – are you ready to compose a sonnet of love for the Lupercalia collection?
Click here to see the BPAL’s Limited Edition Oils, including the entire Lupercalia line – Hurry the Lupercalias will only be available through March 31, 2012.
Sherri is co-author of What Would You Do With This Room? My 10 Foolproof Commandments to Great Interior Design, and of course, a wht writer!