BPAL Yule 2010 review – it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!

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photos: we heart this

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a box of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Yule oils to get you in the spirit. Every year, BPAL; the most imaginative perfume house on the planet, releases limited edition holiday oils that conjure the scents of the season. In 2010, they have absolutely outdone themselves.

This year’s Yule collection features 58 oils in all (seriously, do they ever sleep?), broken up into 3 sections; The Nutcracker (19 oils), A Christmas Carol (21 oils) and Yuletime 2010 (18 oils). They will be on sale till January 22, 2011, so you’ve got a bit of time to scoop some up. But not a lot- so let’s get right into it, shall we?

The Nutcracker

Is there anything more magical than The Nutcracker? I had the joy of seeing it a few years ago, and I felt like I was going to combust from holiday happiness! This section of the Yule releases had a similar effect on me.

In act one, during a grand party you are introduced to a young girl, KlaraHoney dusting powder, mandarin, iris, ylang ylang, tea rose, and carnation, and a toymaker, Herr Drosselmeyer Pipe smoke, sweet leather, woods and linen, whose special toys come to life to dance for the party goers. The most special toy of all is given to Klara; The Nutcrackerfrankincense, black mission fig, and galbanum.

In act two, The Nutcracker comes to life after being broken by Klara’s brother Fritz in a rage of jealousy (way to go, Fritz). But as the Nutcracker comes to life, so do the other toys around the tree, including The Rat KingDust, wood and feral musk with a fang-sharp undertone, and a fierce battle ensues. But the Rat and his mice are no match for the Nutcracker, love prevails and here’s where it gets really good…

Act three is the stuff that dreams are made of! The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and leads Klara into The Kingdom of Sweetsjellybeans, rock candy, sours, lollipops, gumdrops, peppermint sticks, held together by taffy mortar, where they are met by the Sugar Plum Fairysugar plums, vanilla-infused sugar, tiare, amber musk, apricot peel, and a light dusting of cacao. She rewards them for their brave battle with six dances before ultimately dancing the finale herself.

But as all dreams come to an end, Klara awakes underneath the Christmas tree with The Nutcracker in her arms. But for you, the dream doesn’t have to end! These oils are pure magic and spin a tale as beautiful and intricate as the actual ballet does. It’s the smell of wooden toys, candy and pure happiness.

I got to try two Nutcracker scents. First up, The Solider from act one. Described as Red musk, vanilla cream, black tea, black pepper, leather, and pie. Oh, how I love this! It’s everything I like rolled into one. There’s a rich, dark side; first from the musk and then a hint of leather. Then comes the spiciness from the pepper. Finally this underneath layer of creamy, foodie sweetness that lightens everything up. I read a lot of people on the BPAL forums are smelling anise in this. Thankfully, I am not. If you are a fan of woodsy scents and gourmands, this is the love child of the two.

I also tried Mother Ginger, from act three, which has the most delightful description: from beneath her skirts emerge eight gingerbread children: gingerbread, French vanilla, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and marshmallow cream. Hello ginger! To me, this smells like the ingredients of a ginger cookie in a mixing bowl, but not baked. Which I love, because bakery scents are way too sugary for me. This is fresh versus overly sweet, yet still warm and delicious. Yum, yum, yum.

Our testers will be by in the comments to review two other Nutcracker scents:
Sugar Plum Fairylisted above
The Spanish DanceChocolate, orange blossom honey, and pomegranate

A Christmas Carol

Next up is A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic. What a dark and really quite scary tale this is. It is a ghost story, after all. Perfect for BPAL!

The tale takes place on Christmas Eve, where we meet the world’s most famous miser, Ebenezer ScroogeA dry, dusty, soulless scent, flinty with greed, sour with ill-temper: neglected leather, oakmoss, tonka bean, black pepper, cumin, and vetiver. Scrooge is visited by three spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

The First of the Three SpiritsShimmering white amber, voluminous vanilla, white musk, zdravetz, and summer flowers, reminds Scrooge what he once was and the happiness he felt as a boy. The Second of the Three SpiritsPine boughs, plum pudding, spiced pears, sugared chestnuts, punch floated with oranges, boughs of holly and myrica berries, shows Scrooge closer glimpses of the world he currently lives in, but chooses to ignore. The Last of the Three SpiritsBlackcurrant, myrrh, and vetiver, shows a dire tomorrow, should he not change. And his ultimate demise, all alone in death.

Versus the other two collections, this one is a bit harder for me to embrace, mainly because even though it ends happily (Scrooge, of course, changes), it’s ultimately not a very happy tale. It’s a cold tale. Cold, as in damp, foggy Victorian England and cold as in sadness and despair. The notes in the oils mimic this. But when there are moments of warmth (in the story, so therefore in the oils) they are marvelous. I really do believe it’s with collections like this that BPAL really shows it’s imagination (along with its dark side for which it’s known and loved).

The testers will reveal whether they say “Bah Humbug”, or “God bless us, every one!” about the following oils:
A Golden IdolGlittering gold and loss beyond understanding: antiqued amber, English lavender, vetiver, and tea rose
Christmas Eve on the MoorWindswept moor grass, grey moss, mud, and stone warmed by a small, comfortable fire
WhoopGolden sunlight and sweet fresh air brightening a Heavenly sky on Christmas Day: crisp winter air, shimmering amber, sweet honey, with a touch of pumpkin pie, pine cone, cranberry, and bayberry

Yuletime 2010

The next collection is Yuletime 2010. Here you get the holidays gone wild. You also get the largest concentration of repeat performances; scents that were released in previous years, but with slight variances that BPAL addicts notice (even if the descriptions don’t change). Anything labeled 2010 is something that has been released in previous years. There are seasons, sweets, midnight mass, even a figure in icelandic folklore, Jólasveinar. And big props to BPAL for acknowledging that other religions exist!

I got to try Snow White 2010A chilly, bright perfume: flurries of virgin snow, crisp winter wind and the faintest breath of night-blooming flowers. This oil was also previously released in 2003, 2005 and 2007. This was a departure for me, as I’m usually not drawn to florals, and anything that has any sort of water description usually gives me a headache (thinking snow is essentially water, right?) But something about this really works for me. To me it smells exactly like a cold day, with the smell of snow floating in the ozone. Bright and chilly is a perfect description. I also get a hint of an almond-marzipan undertone to it. Almond-y snow? Count me in. It’s really pretty.

Our testers will be letting you know their thoughts on the following oils:
Lick It VigorouslyThis is a candy cane perfume, minty, sweet and sugared
Rose Red 2010 The perfected winter rose, dew covered and freshly cut
Woods in WinterWild hemlock and juniper berries scattered in the snow beneath leafless trees bedecked with glittering icicles

Review team, are you smelling the holiday spirit thanks to BPAL? we heartsters, have you tried any of the Yules? Let us know your favorites!

Disclosure: This review includes products that were provided by the manufacturer/PR firm for our consideration. For more info, or any questions, please see our disclosure policy.


  • Stef Andrews

    Stef is a plethora of things. Amongst them: co-founder of we heart this, photographer, condiment connoisseur, Philly girl in the California desert, borderline hoarder and a hardcore beauty junkie. She also has a touch of wanderlust and, arguably, the cutest dog in the whole world... skin tone: NC 25/30 skin type: oily with a fear of rosacea favorite beauty product: high end skincare and lip products


  1. I think you can gather from my post that this a 5 star collection in my eyes. Delicious, imaginative, absolutely full of holiday spirit (with nary a Santa in sight!) Love.

  2. What can I say, I am completely enchanted! I’m sad to say I wasn’t very familiar with BPAL, but after testing “Woods in Winter” I made sure I GOT to know them. The poetry, the imagination, the scents, are so perfectly charming and pure genius. I was completely impressed. Woods in Winter reminds me of just that, it truly feels like the holidays, and takes me back to childhood memories with each smell. WIth hints of what I thought was pine, and fresh wintery scents, it smells cool and mysterious. It’s the perfect scent to also use around the house on the holidays and is one I’m sure I will reach to every year, to evoke the winter spirit. I was so intrigued by everything on their site. Right now I’m seriously eyeballing the scent lockets they have, to wear around your neck… the “white rabbit” one is adorable! All in all, I give this my FULL 5 star rating, they are quite simply DEVINE!

  3. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Yule
    ROSE RED 2010

    I don’t think I’m alone here, whenever I receive a fragrance from BPAL to test, I find myself giddy with anticipating of something that I kinda already know will be of much greatness. You know that feeling when you are ready for that special treat! It’s all that in a little bottle! I have sampled many and they always are new and always unique. It has happened again, my senses wound up being thrilled to no end when I had my first whiff of “Yule 2010 – Rose Red”.. I love roses and often am miffed that the flowers in arrangements, though they are gorgeous to the eye rarely even have a hint of a rose fragrance. You may remember the smell of rose gardens that are full of the aroma like me and wonder where have all the flowers gone? They seem to be non existent! I’m making a point here, you will love as I do BPAL’s wonderful winter rose- just like they say it will be, “dew covered and freshly cut”. Five fricken stars from me. Klara sounds amazing to me too..

  4. I was beyond thrilled when I received not one but two BPAL fragrances to test!! What a Christmas Treat!!!!!!!!

    I received one of the A Christmas Carol scents-Christmas Eve on The Moor. It is a very moody, earthy, and almost smoky scent. It is not what you typically associate with Christmas. But that is what I love about it. It is unexpected and understated. It actually fits the story of A Christmas Carol perfectly as it reminds me of ghosts. I love it and give it 5 stars!

    I also received Lick It Vigorously. This scent is Christmas all the way! It is a sweet and yet sultry peppermint treat. You smell a giant candy cane-but I promise not in an obnoxious way. I do find that this oil gives me a lot of tingling. But it does not break me out and it eventually subsides. I find it invigorating! Another 5 stars here.

    BPAL oils are just so creative, fun, and beautiful! They make wonderful gifts for yourself and loved ones year round!!

  5. wow! I’ve never tried BPAL before but I’ve been wanting to for a while now. this post reminded me to check them out once again. And with your awesome holiday review @stef, I’m extra interested :)

  6. Never tried Bpal either, but these descriptions are making me want to. These scents sound so unique. Especially like the sounds of Mother Ginger…yum!

  7. Regarding Roses.. “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses” – Abraham Lincoln
    I think Abe ruled and would love all the YULE!

  8. Ohhh, ladies. OHHHH, the jealousy in my heart! It burns!!

    Those of you who haven’t tried BPAL, PLEASE DO. They are one of the most creative and inventive companies I can think of when it comes to perfume oil blending. It’s like a little bit of art in each bottle.
    SO excited about this collection. Yay for BPAL!

  9. Me too Alyssa!! Meeee toooo…. I’m green and not in an eco way! ;)
    I can’t wait to get one of these – this collection in particular sounds absolutely amazing. What a creative and inspiring brand. I’m on the BPAL bandwagon!

  10. I’m with the other envious ladies here! :)
    I’ve been dying to try BPAL for ever and these sound amaaaaaazing!!

  11. I am the very lucky tester of The Spanish Dance, and I am doing the happy flamenco all over this one! I’ve tried hundreds of BPAL imp ears (tester sizes), and this is one of the best oils for staying power with my skin out of all of them. How well they stay with you does depend on your body chemistry of course, so either the cocoa, orange blossom honey, or pomegranate agrees with me. When I first smelled this I wasn’t that drawn to it. I didn’t even put it on my skin, actually. Then I saw the review went up and knew I had to do some experimenting pronto! So I first checked the BPAL forums to see if others were feeling the same way as me about it, and learned something that’s not obvious on first glance at the bottle: There’s a globule of chocolate that settles to the bottom of the container and you have to shake it up to get the full effect of the oil! The bottle is very dark so it’s hard to see, but sure enough the cocoa glob was there! I first put it on my wrist without mixing then mixed and applied a little higher up. This mix is better on my skin than in the bottle without a doubt. I put it on 14 hours ago and my wrist has just within the last hour lost the scent but the inner arm (where the cocoa was mixed in too) is still going pretty strong! I would not normally be a fan of wearing a chocolate scent, but this is incredible mixed with the orange blossom honey and pomegranate. It’s warm and rich and just the right amount of fruity, too. It definitely smells like Christmas. I like it better before it was mixed with the chocolate because it smells a little fruitier than floral. When you mix the chocolate in, it of course brings that out more along with the florals – and I’d just rather have more of the fresh fruits. This is a home run to me and taught me that I always have to apply my oils rather than just selling them on ebay after sniffing the bottle and assuming they’ll never work for me! 5 very happy stars!

  12. I was away in the Caribbean last week, but when I got home (after a rather harrowing flight, but that’s another story) I was pleasantly surprise to have a package waiting for me. I received “A Golden Idol” and “Sugar Plum Fairy” and I’m beyond thrilled!
    A Golden Idol is a lovely, almost unisex scent. It’s decidedly adult and at first rather masculine due to the amber scent, but as it settles down the rose starts to come out and the scent becomes warmer. I wouldn’t recommend it for very young girly girls, but young men and more masculine women would love this scent! As an adult woman, I love it for it’s flexibility and completely unique notes. It’s something that I can imagine my grandmother wearing as well as my husband and father, if they can pry it out of my hands.
    On the other end of the spectrum, Sugar Plum Fairy completes the side of me that desires the candy sweet scents of childhood but wants to remain age appropriate. (Lets face it, after a certain age that Cotton Candy body spray just doesn’t work anymore.) The scent is beautifully sweet but with enough depth to be appropriate for adult women. It’s like comparing the taste of pudding (cotton candy spray) to creme brulee (BPAL’s Sugar Plum Fairy). I keep smelling myself when wearing it, and it’s gotten me more questions and compliments while out than any other scent I’ve ever owned.

    In the end, you can never go wrong with BPAL. 5 easy peasy stars, all the way!

  13. My apologies ladies, as I am super late on this post! I received it quite late (yes, because of you, Mr. Mailman!) and was waiting for a review titled ‘Whoop’ and not BPAL…my fault there! Again- I apologize!
    I received Whoop and I hate to disagree with everyone, but was not a fan. The scent was very strong as often is the case with oils, and smelled of cloves and deep pine. It was Christmas on steroids! I put a drop on my wreath and it permiated the entire house (which would have been great if my husband and I enjoyed the fragrance.) I usually prefer light citrus-y scents and this was the other end of the spectrum- just a personal preferance. I would give BPAL another try as the reviews above sound lovely, but Whoop only gets 2 stars from me for longevity and staying power. I hope I did not offend anyone, but I prefered to be honest…:0)

  14. @glamazon56 – always best to be honest! Fragrance is super personal, isn’t it? One person’s love of florals may be another’s hatred of florals! It’s very subjective. To me, Whoop was a strong, masculine kind of scent (I sniffed it). It wouldn’t have worked for me either. But hopefully your next intro to BPAL will be more to your liking!

  15. Fragrance is super personal! I worked for a time for fine fragrances at Nordstrom and I think it strengthened my likes and dislikes. Some give me an instant migraine, so I have to watch out. I am sure BPAL has some wonderful scents and it seems the brand is loved by many.

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