A Guide for BPAL Newbies

As Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) fragrances get more and more popular, some people might be interested in finding out just what all this hubbub is about. They’ll inevitably discover The Lab’s website address and look for themselves. Upon which they are bombarded by the general catalog fragrances of which there are hundreds of and decide that it is, really, quite too much to sort through.

And the site is intimidating with hundreds in the general catalogue and literally thousands if you include former general catalogue fragrances and limited editions that are no longer available. How is someone new to BPAL supposed to get around and figure out what they want to try? Or what’s supposed to smell good?

While this cursory guide is not an in-depth document meant to school you in every fragrance available from BPAL, it will list a few common, popular, general catalog fragrances that you may want to try out when you’re looking to order your first pack of samples.

How do samples work at BPAL?

BPAL’s sample vials are typically around 1ml and are referred to as imp’s ears. You can buy one imp ear for $4.00 or get a pack of six for $22.00. The prices have been adjusted recently as of this posting which is why on your travels around the internet, you may get conflicting price quotes. The best rule of thumb is to trust what The Lab says on its website. If you discover the secondhand market for BPAL sample vials, you can typically get these for much cheaper, though you may not be able to pick and choose which scents you want to get as a sample seller will usually not carry all the fragrances you are looking for. Imps

What should I include in my sample pack order?

Usually people will think that what you want to include in your sample pack are fragrances they’d like. This is a good safe practice. But I also recommend that people go out of their way to try fragrances they wouldn’t normally think they’d like because all scents can smell different on different people and all scents are composed differently too, this goes for mainstream, niche and BPAL alike. With a catalog of readily available perfumes ranging into the hundreds, why restrict yourself?

Now, let’s get into the meat of this post. You have on the website a few hundred general catalogue scents that can be ordered as samples (pay attention to that page on The Lab’s site about imps and what fragrance lines cannot be ordered as samples too). You have a general idea of what scents you like but don’t want to fiddle around wondering what would work on you since browsing the site could take hours and hours. The following is a handy little list of popular general catalog BPALs that I recommend, ordered to fit a few fragrance types to help you pick and choose:


Citrus:
Cheshire Cat (Mad Tea Party), Whitechapel (Wanderlust), Night Gaunt (Picnic in Arkham).
Clean: Dirty (Sin & Salvation), Lilium Inter Spinas (Ars Amatoria), The Lady of Shalott (Ars Amatoria).
Fresh: Embalming Fluid (Ars Moriendi), Kumiho (Diabolus), Phantom Queen (Diabolus).
Floral:
Glasgow (Wanderlust), The Unicorn (Mad Tea Party), Amsterdam (Wanderlust).
Fruity:
Aglaea (Excolo), Baobhan Sith (Diabolus), Yemaya (Excolo).
Gourmand: Dorian (Sin & Salvation),  Eat Me (Mad Tea Party), Gluttony (Sin & Salvation).
Herbal:
Villain (Diabolus), Lear (Illyria).
Musky: Bien Loin d’Ici (Ars Amatoria), Snake Oil (Ars Amatoria), Penitence (Sin & Salvation).
Smoky:
Anne Bonny (Bewitching Brews), Djinn (Diabolus).
Spicy: Queen of Sheba (Ars Amatoria), Scherezade (Bewitching Brews), Plunder (Bewitching Brews).
Sweet: Aunt Caroline’s Joy Mojo (Bewitching Brews), The Dodo (Mad Tea Party).
Woodsy:
Sri Lanka (Wanderlust), The Coiled Serpent (Bewitching Brews), Arkham (Picnic in Arkham).

It should be noted that these are just recommendations based upon my tastes. What you like or dislike may be different so feel free to look at these as suggestions only. If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please feel free to comment.

Also keep in mind that BPAL may have to discontinue some of the fragrances listed in this post at a later date due to component issues so some of these recommendations may not be available when you go to order your samples. Always double check the site to ensure the fragrance you want is still available before you send in an order. If a fragrance you wanted a sample of is not available or was discontinued, BPAL will substitute it with an available fragrance.


BPAL Miskatonic University

Coffee has become something of an obsession of mine. Not in the drinking of it, but rather the smelling of coffee. That rich, dark, woody fragrance of coffee is the hallmark of a good morning to me. I suppose it helps that I’m not a coffee drinker so all the terrible mornings don’t sour this scent. But in my search for the perfect coffee fragrance, I’ve discovered one thing; The note does not last. Miskatonic University

In Bottle: Beautiful, creamy, rich coffee with a french vanilla twist in it. I smell a slightly fungal scent in this too that can probably be attributed to Black Phoenix’s dust note. It smells a bit like mushroom to me, but in the bottle, the mushroom is a good pairing to the coffee, making it just a little more complex than, “Here you go, your coffee smell” plunked down onto the table without ceremony.

Applied: Coffee, dense and rich and good enough to taste with creaminess and sweetness mixed into one. Miskatonic University is like a really good cup of coffee–for about thirty seconds. The coffee note in this fragrance is really fleeting on me and disappears in less than a minute. I can try layering all I want but it is not going to stick around on my skin. When that elusive coffee does evaporate it takes the vanilla and the sweetness with it. Remember that mushroom note? After¬† the coffee departs, the mushrooms absolutely bloom. Actually, I don’t think it’s mushroom I’m smelling but the leftover cream and the dust note mixing together to form this really bizarre tangent with the woodsy notes in Miskatonic University getting a scent that I can only attribute to mushrooms on wood polish. It’s not particularly interesting or nice. Well–that’s not true, it is interesting.

Extra: Miskatonic University is a fictional post-secondary institute located in Arkham which appears in the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

Design: Miskatonic University is bottled much in the same way all other Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes are. It has a different label to denote its place in the Picnic in Arkham series.

Fragrance Family: Gourmand

Notes: Irish coffee, dust, oak.

As much as I wanted to find that one true coffee scent in this fragrance, Miskatonic University and I were just not meant to be. The coffee note is so fleeting, and I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. It is a top note for me. I just hoped it’d be one of those top notes that defied all logic and reason and hung around a bit.

Reviewed in This Post: Miskatonic University, 2009, 5ml Bottle.