BPAL The Gatekeeper Review

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BPAL-the-Gatekeeper-2Press Sample

Win the Limited Edition BPAL oil inspired by “The Maze of Games”

Congratulations to our winner, Kate R! We can’t wait to hear what you think…

Fellow high priestesses of all things gothic, please join me at the altar of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. We’ll be anointing ourselves with a limited edition perfume oil: The Gatekeeper. Read on for the review and stay till the end for your chance to win!

The Gatekeeper ($26) is a limited edition scent commemorating the release of The Maze of Games, a “choose your own adventure” puzzle novel written by Mike Selinker and illustrated by Pete Venters. A puzzle novel? This is intriguing, and the book’s synopsis makes it even more enticing:

Colleen and Samuel Quaice are teenagers living in 1897 England. During a visit to the Upper Wolverhampton Bibliotheque, they discover a musty book called The Maze of Games. Opening the book summons the Gatekeeper, a mysterious skeletal guardian who plunges the Quaices into a series of dangerous labyrinths, populated with myriad monsters and perplexing puzzles. Only by solving their way through the Gatekeeper’s mazes will the Quaice children find their way home. Can you help them escape?

An interactive romp through creepy Victoriana, complete with bag of bones guardian and increasingly complex puzzles? Yes, please. Equally complex, of course, is the olfactory mystery of The Gatekeeper.


BPAL describes this oil as “A dry perfume, solemn and riddled with ancient, whispered secrets: brittle bones, the well-worn leather spines of forgotten books, crumbling papyrus, and the warm, strange scent of yellowed, crumbling manuscripts.”

As an unrepentant book-sniffer – seriously, there is some paper that just smells so good – my curiosity was immediately piqued. Upon first sniff, and the initial application, this oil packs a wallop: it’s aggressive, even a bit cloying. There’s a dark and heavy presence, something between patchouli, dying flowers, and yes, old books…the kind with broken spines and dry, mold-spotted, ancient paper. At this point, I was not convinced this was the scent for me.

However, I knew not to judge this book by its cover – and sure enough, The Gatekeeper metamorphosed upon my skin into something quite different from my initial impression. This is one of the things I love about BPAL; each scent undergoes a singular kind of alchemy upon the skin.


Once the oil dried down a bit, it ghosted into something sweeter and lighter: faint notes of sun-warmed leather; a wisp of cloves and bay rum; and, best of all, that delicious old paper smell, minus the mold. The best way I can describe the paper scent is as the ghost of vanilla; delicately clean and sweet and tinged with a cozy warmth.

The reason old books smell so delectable, in fact, is attributed to the chemical breakdown of paper and glue and ink. As all of those compounds age, they emit volatile compounds, creating that one of a kind smell. According to the International League for Antiquarian Booksellers, “Lignin, which is present in all wood-based paper, is closely related to vanillin. As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent.”


This is the sweet note I detect on my skin after BPAL The Gatekeeper dries down, and it turns this oil into something hauntingly complex – familiar and yet mysterious. High priestesses and book-sniffers alike will want to solve the puzzle of this scent over and over again.

Want to win BPAL’s The Gatekeeper? Here’s your chance! Follow the instructions on the rafflecopter form below. There’s lots of ways to enter and you’ve got two weeks to do so. Good luck, fellow high priestesses!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

we heartsters: Confession time – who among you likes the scent of old paper and books?

photos: we heart this

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.
skin tone: NC15
skin type: Combination
favorite beauty product: felt-tipped eyeliners


  • Amity

    Amity teaches rhetoric, composition, and creative writing in Central PA. Her non-fiction has appeared in xojane and Story, as well as on Snap Judgement and This American Life; her fiction has appeared in Hobart. She is the cohost of Bone Palace Ballet, a true crime podcast focusing on murder, mysteries, and the macabre.

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  1. Mary Somerville says:

    I think Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine would smell delicious.

  2. Jen Persinger says:

    Can you imagine a scratch-n-sniff cookbook?

    Melanie Rawn’s Sunrunner series would smell fantastic — deserts, and fire, and sand, and leather, and … each scent would go along with the pattern of colours each Sunrunner possesses as their own aura.

  3. oh you know what would smell delicious? The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy :D Just think of the pangalactic gargle-blaster…!

  4. Steven Erikson’s Deadhouse Gates would be amazing in scent form. Desert winds, exotic spices, skin musk and the iron tinge of blood splashed on the sands.

  5. ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman…i love ocean smells

  6. I have all my old books and all my grandmother’s old books and the reason I love reading them again and again is due to the way they smell almost as much as to the story.

  7. Smilla’s Sense of Snow! Ice, pressed coffee, seal blubber, leather and fur…

    1. Oh, that is SUCH a good book!

  8. As a librarian, I love the smell of old books. I actually have a couple of fragrances that remind me of old books. Thanks for the draw.

    1. Is one of them Demeter’s Paperback?

  9. I love the smell of old books so much! This sounds so amazing!

  10. Book sounds fun and the perfume interesting!

  11. I love BPAL! and who doesn’t love the smell of old books?! hehe

  12. Harry Potter. The feasts, the castle, the potions!

  13. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern would be filled with the most wonderful smells imaginable!

  14. I bet Mists of Avalon would smell divine.

  15. I love the smell of books. I have some old Tanith Lee books that have the perfect old book smell. :D

  16. I’ve been looking everywhere for a candle that smells like old books – but maybe a perfume works too! :P

  17. Any books based in Scotland- I adore the scent of heather and earth and peat smoke etc. Also I think Harry Potter as a scent would be interesting :)

  18. I wanted to try this one but no money :) and thank you for the giveaway

  19. Relish:My Life in the Kitchen

  20. I LOVE this question! I think the perfect answer has to be Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It would be magical, mysterious, silly, sweet, malevolent – a blend of contradictions that should not be possible!

  21. I am always 100% all over book smells. I Can’t believe I haven’t tried this yet.

  22. Used bookstores and old libraries are the best smelling places ever

  23. The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe would smell like snow and ice, with the sweetness of turkish delight, and just a hint of warm, dry earth.

  24. I have always wanted perfumes that smell like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern since I read it. In fact, that is how I found BPAL to begin with, I think she mentions them in a thank you or inspiration.
    Some other people said Harry Potter, and that would be great too!!! Both such magical sensory indulgent books!

  25. I would love to smell ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes.’ Spice, fair food, fire, and death.

  26. The Notebook. I think it would smell soft and sweet.

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