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Do you dare enter BPAL Carnaval Diabolique, “A Pantomime of Deviltry and Debauch in Seven Acts”? A dark wonderland of sinful delights awaits, so step right up and get your tickets—because this olfactory sideshow puts on one hell of a performance.
BPAL fans will no doubt remember the original collection. Carnaval Diabolique first debuted in 2006 and went dark in 2011. Luckily for us, the carnaval is back in town for 2015, featuring gloriously debauched scents with new formulas and lushly beautiful new art. Composed of seven acts (two released so far), these fragrances transport you to a world of alluring danger; you might just lose your soul, but it’ll be worth it.
Each scent represents an intriguingly dangerous facet, from a puppet mistress to a potion slinging “doctor”, within the world of a beautifully sinister carnaval—the trope is irresistible. In fact, this collection is especially intriguing because historical carnivals and sideshows are seriously fascinating. Traveling performers offered magic, hard-bitten glamour and respite from the workaday grind for curious audiences. From geeks (the kind that bit heads off chickens) to fortune tellers, such shows offered glimpses of dark and mysterious otherness. It’s this spirit, equal parts dirt and deliciousness, that BPAL’s Carnaval Diabolique embodies.
We were lucky enough to sample six scents, so grab your show tickets and join me beneath the glowing lights.
From Act I, The Prologue
Carnaval Diabolique: Stef couldn’t let this scent go, declaring it “probably one of my top five favorite BPAL oils!” High praise from someone who has been sniffing the line for over 10 years. With notes of opium smoke, lemon flower, heliotrope, tuberose, black musk, vanilla, coconut and apricot flower, she describes it as a lemony floral with something wicked lurking in the wings.
Midnight on the Midway: This is a scene setting fragrance, meant to evoke the beckoning barkers and flickering lights. With notes of “sugared incense, flickering blue musk, and night-blooming flowers,” MOTM opens the show with a bang. It’s strident and brash, featuring an initial rush of smoked sugar that eventually tempers into a heady musk. After a moment on the skin, the dark allure of jasmine emerges. No shy violets here: this scent captures all the hustle and bustle of the carnaval in a big, bold way, and it will announce your presence.
Candy Butcher: Picture “an exquisite, enigmatic woman” offering you sugar skulls, chocolates, and wait, is that what I think it is? Yep: there’s a shrunken head on that tray. You guys, I’m in love. This is probably my favorite scent in the collection, a gourmand gem that had me huffing my own wrists all day long. Described as “bittersweet chocolate with a heavy cream undertone,” it’s both dark and delectable. The chocolate dominates here—picture a big bar of the good quality stuff, the bitterness of the cacao softened by just enough sugar. Throw in a rich swirl of cream to soften it up and you have olfactory perfection. As the scent dries down, I get a hint of espresso, and just a hint of brightness, almost berry-like.
From Act II, Fiat Nox
Melisande, the Puppet Mistress: Described as “a pale and grinning Professor, the Lady of Chaos,” MTPM is composed of jasmine sambac, dark musk, violet water, vanilla bean and mimosa. This is a trickster scent, to be sure—jasmine sambac is a bit polarizing, as it is high in indoles, a compound with a super strong, almost rank odor. The musk softens the hard edges a bit, and the vanilla pipes up in the background, but that sambac will not be subdued. It’s one of those scents that I can’t stop smelling; there is this fascinating note of something sharp and acrid, almost like rubber. You know how we all have offbeat scents that we love, like skunk or gasoline? MTPM falls in that class—there is something intriguingly “off” about its presence.
Iulia, L’Artiste du Diable: A close personal friend of Mr. Dorian Gray (Dorian is one of my favorite BPAL fragrances), Iulia wants to strike a bargain with you: ““Let me capture your soul on this canvas in oil and blood, and you will be beautiful forever.” Honestly, ILDD smells so good I might just take her up on that! This is another stand out for me: a gorgeous composition of white tea, sugar cane, orange blossom, rockrose, lemon balm, white mint, and honey. It just sparkles on the skin—light, effervescent and sweet, it’s another scent I can’t stop huffing. The individual notes commingle into such a pleasing effect; I love how the mint and lemon balm elevate the sugar cane and honey. This is subtle, but it also lingers pleasingly—utterly delicious.
Theodosius, the Legerdemain: Ah, the cunning wizard of the Carnaval Diabolique. He’s a charmer, to be sure: “…from a swirl of smoke a rakish, devilishly handsome man appears, long black hair falling down halfway to his waist, elegant and sinister in an inky silk tuxedo and a voluminous cape.” Yes, please! TTL is rakish to be sure, with notes of Earl Grey tea leaves, a white fougere, jasmine leaf, pearlescent white musk, and vanilla bean. The Earl Grey shines here, bright and tart, but the vanilla bean and white musk lend it a sweet depth; there’s a slight earthy underpinning, too, something green and fern-like. It’s a more subtle scent, the kind you have to be close to smell. Unlike the wily Theodosius, however, it doesn’t pull a complete vanishing act on the skin.
Clearly, the Carnaval Diabolique collection is a wickedly tempting performance. Smelling any of these fragrances will have you chanting, “One of us! One of us!” —and if that doesn’t ring a bell, go watch Tod Browning’s classic film Freaks, immediately.
we heartsers, which scent is beckoning you to the midway?