An Ode to the Scents of BPAL Lupercalia (Manifestation of Love)

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Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia review

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia

O, the crux of love!
A sugar cube with bitters,
Champagne corrupted,
Or enhanced.
What is love but a taste, a scent, a cocktail?
Bright and ticklish,
A field of lilies;
Or musky and dark,
A cellar.
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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia photos: we heart this

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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia

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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia

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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia

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.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Limited Edition Lupercalia

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.

we heartsters – 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!


  • sherrishera

    Sherri is a writer, dog lover, old movie fanatic, history detective, political junkie, fashion pundit and social media consumer advocate. “A fancy dinner and expensive champagne are better than writing a rent check any day of the week.” skin tone: NC 25 skin type: oily/sensitive favorite beauty product: anti-aging anything

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  1. BLACK PHOENIX ALCHEMY LAB better known as BPAL has yet to disappoint me. I squealed when I got Elizabeth of Bohemia in my raffle bag! And as I peeked in to see what was in there I really was happy to see the little brown bottle looking up at me! Could I wait even a minute to see what else was in there before opening this bottle? NO!! I loved this one as much as some of the others I have had over the years.. I very lovely rose to set the mood indeed

  2. I’ve been reading about BPAL for years without ever experiencing the magic, so I was so happy to see the little bottle of Womb Furie in my raffle bag! When I read that the notes were Snake Oil and three types of Honey, I had to go to the BPAL website to look up Snake Oil: a blend of exotic Indonesian oils sugared with vanilla. Yes! Womb Furie is sexy, mysterious, dark… I love it, and I understand what all the BPAL buzz is about now!

    1. @turboterp, Womb Furie was my least favorite based on that misleading first whiff. Again, these are highly concentrated and a little overwhelming nose-to-bottle. I added a few drops of Womb Furie to my bath water and was quickly swayed. Firstly, a few drops scented me, my bath water and the whole bathroom for the day. The power of this stuff is amazing! Secondly, the really soothing scent of sandalwood was very apparent in this form, as was the sweetness of the honey and vanilla. I also own the Snake Oil soap and could really sense the amped up sweetness of this almost masculine signature scent. I never, ever would have purchased this by whiffing the vial: it was almost like a smelling salt to me. I’m so glad to have given it (and these all) a chance. Ladies, if you’re not used scented oils as complex and reduced as these, practice your diffusing techniques and you may find a new love.

  3. If you like unusual, dark and mysterious fragrances, look no further than BPAL. I was really excited by the new love-poem based Lupercalia collection, and was especially excited I received Sorrow of Love to test out, since stargazer lilies are one of my favorite flowers. However, I’m not terribly good at picking out fragrance notes, and I’m not even sure what most of the other ingredients smell like. It smells a bit like baby powder, which I was disappointed by. And I do wish the packaging were more conducive to dispensing smaller amounts of product. They never test on animals, and most of their scents are vegan. The price is alright–$20 might seem expensive for a little bottle, a little goes a LOONNNNNNNNGGGGG way. If you can find a scent you like, then it’s a bargain. Overall, I’d give this product four stars. I love the concepts, and the quality. But I wasn’t in love with the scent of Sorrow of Love. I’m picky about my scents, and really need to try them in person before ordering (next time I’m in Seattle, I’m totally going to “knows perfume,” where they sell BPAL in a brick and mortar store. BPAL’s website does have 1/32 oz sample vials that run $4/piece, but that’s more than I’d like to pay for samples.

    1. @lipglossandspandex, I must say that upon initial sniff, I wasn’t ready to write any poems. These super-duper concentrated scents can be a little misleading on the nose. That, along with unusual combinations, aren’t likely to sway a more traditional scent-loving crowd (I include myself in there). However, these are worth experimenting with because I found that I really loved the more diffused scent. I liked Sorrow of Love the best, and I do think this is the “prettiest” most overtly floral scent. I used a cotton swab as an applicator: one little dip will suffice for behind the ears, knees, wrists and décolletage will last all day.

  4. First Encounter was in my delightful raffle bag and it is one of my favs I’ve tested! Candied apricot, orange blossom honey and grandiflorum jasmine make this smell positively enchanting. Yes, they are very concentrated so they will last a long time and BPAL has once again won my heart. Five stars of course for me!

    1. Jasmine is one of my favorite floral scents…I imagine this with apricot would be glorious!

  5. I received Womb Fury in my raffle bag as well and I’m really excited about it. It’s a sweet musk that is truly unique! While the name makes me feel a little weird, like it’s some angry feminist movement or something, I think it’s awesome. I love BPAL!!

  6. I sniffed each and ever one of these while stuffing gift bags. What a delightful chore! With BPAL, what you smell isn’t always what you get. Their oils tend to smell so much different on the skin then they do in the bottle, then sometimes morph into something complete different when they dry down (certain notes fade, others come to the front). Perfume does this too, but not to this extent. Their scents are really quite magical!

    I thought I was going to love Womb Furie, I’m a big snake oil fan. And what could be bad about adding 3 types of honey? But on me, this turns a bit baby powdery. It’s pretty, but doesn’t trump Snake Oil on it’s own (their most popular scent).

    The Vine is divine: Bradford pear, honey and vanilla cream. It smells like some delicious, expensive pear dessert; sweet and a bit tart. I seriously can’t stop sniffing myself with it on.

    And I have to agree with @spitfire77 – The First Encounter is beautiful. The notes are Candied apricot and orange blossom honey with grandiflorum jasmine, orris C02, tonka, patchouli, quince and skin musk. It’s got a vintage perfume smell to it, but lighter. And the patchouli and skin musk keep it from smelling too floral.

    With this collection BPAL shows their girly side, leaving graveyard dirt and notes of the like out of the mix. But it’s just as inventive as some of their other launches.

    God, I love this company!

  7. I have Womb Furie and I LOVE IT. I came to Snake Oil late; I’d been a BPAL addict for years before I tried it, but now it’s one of my favorites. The honey adds a depth to the vanilla and musk that is sweet but not candy sweet; more like deep syrupy sweet. It’s potent and @sherrishera has the perfect idea—a little diffusion can go a long way. And can I just say, I remember the old school BPAl labels and I ADORE the new ones. They add so much character to their LE scents that it makes me proud to display them!
    And I’m totally in agreement with @stef, BPAL scents change so its best to try them on skin and NOT just in the bottle. My absolute favorites, Black Pearl and Glasgow, I hated in the bottle but smell lovely on me.

    BPAL just makes me swoon…

  8. Hooray for the BPAL love – and can I just say how impressed I am with your poem @sherrishera – awesome! I too had a chance to sniff ALL the bottles and each one was more delightful and mysterious than the one before! I always admired BPAL for weaving their literary influences into their incredible scents – so this collection slayed me. I mean how great is it to have a bottle labeled “The Face of All the World Is Changed, I Think” on your vanity?!

    I tested The Vine – and I think @stef had nice description with a bright, sweet pear. At first it’s a little sweet-sweet (kind of like fruit loops) but like many a BPAL it dries down to a more subtle, clearer scent. Love it!

    I also tested The Sorrow of Love – and their is nothing sorry about this scent! For me, it’s the perfect combination of floral and musk – sort of sweet, sort of sexy and totally unique. Honestly I do not know what a Stargazer Lily smells like, but if anything like the note in the bottle I need to go out and smell some (and than bring some home).

    1. Ha! Glad you like the poem…a little silly whimsy. I envy how most of you are so good at sensing the fabulosity of these scents right off the bat. I don’t know why I have such difficulty imagining/pulling fragrance notes from tight, complexly woven perfumes like this; they all overwhelm me. I recognize those glorious notes after I’ve dilluted them or wear them down. It really is quite like wine tasting (something I know a little about in my line of work) where the most complex blends can smell like dirt and alcohol on the nose but open to a wondrous play of tastes and scents that are more discoverable with every aerating swirl and every swish about all your taste buds. How exciting it was to play with these; I’m enjoying these more and more every day! Perhaps BPAL should offer scent discovery classes…like wine seminars? The world of perfumery gets much more exciting with a brand like BPAL.

    2. I didn’t realize @sherrishera wrote the poem– thanks for pointing that out! It’s absolutely perfect!

  9. I received Womb Furie and I’m in looooooooooove! At first application it turns a little baby-power-ish on me (as Snake Oil does for myself and many others I hear) but within a few minutes the scent really matures and settles with my body chemistry. Bonus? It’s officially my husband’s favorite out of all my perfumes! When I have it on he can’t stop smelling me. A little cleavage and behind the ear application? Mission accomplished, Lupercalia!
    BPAL, as always, gets 5 stars from me!

  10. I’ve been collecting BPAL scents for the past year and purchased two of the Lupercalias – The Vine and Body, Remember. Sometimes it’s hard to know which scent to pick based on the notes listed, but I’ve liked every one I’ve gotten with one exception. My absolute favorite was one of the LE scents released in October called Loi Krathong. I wish I would have known how much I’d love it so I could have gotten multiple bottles!

    1. I have The Vine and love it too @Lulubelle! And you’re right – it can be a little intimidating navigating the BPAL site and picking the perfect scent – but it’s sort of mysterious and fun too! You never know just what the little brown bottle will contain! BPAL is known to bring back fan favorites, so fingers crossed you’ll see Loi Krathong again!

  11. The Vine was included in my raffle bag and smells amazing. It’s sweet with an edge and comes across as delicious without being a straight up “food” scent like a candle might. To me it’s the perfect spring scent.

  12. I received On The Death Of His Mistress. Excellent description of this one I must say. It is all about the hippie vibe. Which is cool. But it is not an every day scent for me. But it is fun! I am always so excited to receive a BPAL scent. They are so exotic and special! And you can’t lose with staying power. They last and last. I highly recommend giving them a try. But this scent is not for those who can only handle the mild. This is more in your face, but in that natural hippish way.

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