Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Product Review: The Smell of Crimson Peak

This post originally appeared on The Mary Sue.

Crimson Peak: How wonderful you arehow very much your marketing campaign screwed you over. I was quite excited to get the opportunity to review some of the new Crimson Peak line from nerd perfumery Mecca Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. As pleased as Tumblr watching this scene …

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… that is how pleased I was.

Below, you will find my completely professional and knowledgeable-about-perfumes (“Afterscent? Is that a thing? I think it’s called something French-sounding, though.”) reviews of Edith Cushing, Sir Thomas Sharpe, Lady Lucille Sharpe, Dr. Alan McMichael, Black Moths, Crimson Peak, and The Manuscript, ranked by how much I like them, from least to most. All the perfumes, including A Shadow in the Elevator, which features a tinge of “spectral musk” (!!), are available for purchase here.

Black Moths

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Official description: “A flutter in the darkness: wild plum and blackcurrant with aged black patchouli, vetiver, red rose petal, tonka absolute, and opoponax.”

“Tonka absolute.” ARE THERE TOY TRUCKS IN THIS PERFUME? This smells evil, which, kudos to you for being on-brand, Black Moths. It’s musty but at the same time acidic; it legitimately made my eyes sting a little bit. This is not an every day perfume. You wear Black Moths on special occasions, the special occasion being that you’re about to go on a murder spree.

Crimson Peak

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“Snow marbled with blood-red clay, frozen over the scent of decayed wood.”

This is where I start to doubt my nose powers, because I’m not getting blood-red clay and decayed wood here so much as I’m getting something vaguely patchouli-ish. But, like, tart pachouli. Like a hippie who’s been made bitter by the vagaries of the world. Or maybe by the fact that their husband and sister-in-law tried to kill them for their inheritance, whoops. Regardless, I am not much of a patchouli, incense-y sort of person, but if you are, this is a neat take on it.

Sir Thomas Sharpe

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“Black amber darkens a pale fougere.”

AKA THE SCENT OF HIDDLESTON. I have no clue what black amber is, but I can absolutely believe that this perfume is it. “Pale fougere”… yeah, still no clue there. This one shares some of Crimson Peak’s earthiness, but it’s less heavy and intense, more tangy. I’d still classify it as a brooding scent, though, because it’s based off the male lead in a Gothic romance, come on.

Dr. Golden Retriever Alan McMichael

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“Bay rum and sandalwood.”

This is the one that stands out the most from the others in the set, which makes sense given Dr. Alan McMichael’s (Charlie Hunnam) role in the story: The one normal guy standing outside all the Gothic supernatural shenanigans going what the fuck is wrong with you people, multiple marriages and weirdly co-dependent siblings, DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE HOW VERY WEIRD THIS ALL IS?

Actually, all the perfumes that I got to play with did a really good job of accurately representing the characters or elements they’re based on. You can tell the BPAL team puts a lot of thought into this. Anyway, Alan McMichael’s sent is indeed very sandalwood-y, with a nice spicy kick thanks to the rum. It’s more cologne-y than the rest. It’s what you’d wear to go out lumberjacking, if you’re a sweet, mellow lumberjack who’s not super-intense about cutting down trees and likes to work in breaks for naps in sun-dappled meadows throughout the day.

The Manuscript

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“A leather-bound manuscript, ink barely dry. A Gothic ghost tale, personified. The pages are permeated with a preternatural, otherworldly quality – but only slightly, as the ghost is a counterpoint; leather and paper and splotches of ink, with a hint of ghostly chill.”

Paper, ink … it’s the nerd scent! I tend to think of leather-based odors as being overpowering, smell-wise, but The Manuscript isn’t. It’s lighter and more subtle … quite nice, really, and you can definitely smell that ghostly chill. I don’t know what it is, but I smell it, and it really brings the whole thing home. Hopefully not to a home where a bunch of murders have taken place, but whatever.

Lady Lucille Sharpe

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Faded red roses and a glimmer of garnet with black lily, ylang ylang, smoky plum musk, and black amber.”

Again with BPAL being really good matching characters to scents. This one has similarities to the scent of Lucille Sharpe’s brother, AKA the Hiddlescent—they’re both dark and musky—but with key differences, as well. This one has floral overtones that make it less broody (and Thomas is the broodier of the siblings) and more … romantic, I guess? Like, you’re sitting in front of the fire in a decrepit old mansion ruminating over lost chances and possible future murders, but not in a depressing way. This was neck-and-neck with The Manuscript, but Lucille pulled ahead thanks to that “smoky plum musk,” which provides a subtle yet noticeable kick after the other scents have already hit you. It’s a nice treat. Perfume design: It’s an art and a science.

Edith Cushing

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Pearlescent vanilla musk with white sandalwood, grey amber, white patchouli, ambrette seed, and oudh.”

This. This is it. Gothic-era Velma Dinkley (for that is what Edith Cushing is) gave me a scent that I want to bathe in. It has a sweetness to it, and it’s neither too delicate nor too overpowering. This is something you dab on before settling down in front of the fire with your reading glasses, a voluminous, intricate gown that still somehow manages to be comfortable (“Oh this old thing? I just threw this on.”), and a stack of good books. It’s a TREAT YO SELF perfume. I don’t even want to leave the apartment wearing it. The olfactory rankness of New York City in autumn does not deserve this smell.

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