31 Scents of October: #1, BPAL, The Black Rider

Just under a year ago, I broke my back falling down my own stairs. Stupid, really.*

The strangest part about this whole incident, however, is not the period I spent in hospital in the same ward as a lot of old people with broken hips. Nor the time I spent feeling like Iron Man in an orthotic frame. Nor the fact that I walked, for a while, with a stick, nor indeed the fact that I can still walk at all. The strangest and most unexpected part about this was that it alerted me to something I have always known, but never pursued in any real depth: that scent, good, bad and ambiguously odd, is crucial to human experience. I couldn’t shower properly for about three months, and I became painfully aware of being…well, stinky. Consequently, I grew obsessed with experimenting with perfume and, through YouTube, became aware of a company called Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL), who specialize in creating esoteric, oil based scents, which, unlike most conventional perfumes which are contained within a carrier (usually alcohol), and so smell the same on everyone, react with the skin chemistry of each individual wearer. I. Was. Smitten.

This is my BPAL collection, on a very messy desk. Yes, I store my imps in an icecream tub.

This is my BPAL collection, on a very messy desk. Yes, I store my imps in an icecream tub.

BPAL do seasonal collections, one of their most popular being their Halloweenies. These were released to sale on Thursday night/Friday morning, and within three hours of seeing this, I’d bought an obscene number of their scents. I thought that it would be good to have a prelude and countdown to the arrival of these new, autumnal smells. So I thought I would do a 31 smells in 31 days: one for every day of October. So, here goes.

Disclaimer: I am not a perfume expert, nor am I sponsored by BPAL or, indeed, anyone.

The Black Rider

black-riderBlack leather, oppoponax, tobacco, and black amber.

This was one of the first BPALs I wore, having been sent a collection of about 5 bottles and innumerable Imps by a Finnish friend. It’s a general catalogue scent, based on the Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga (it’s great, she lives in a chicken-foot house…). My version is aged – I don’t know how many years – and it is sweet and mellow with the black amber dominant. The edges of this scent are rimed with cigarette smoke – the musty edges of my Dad’s old tobacco jar, heady and addictive, sultry, dark, and implacable. It lingers in the nose and memory, but sinks, defiantly, into the night.


*By the way, I’m more or less OK now, aside from the occasional occurrence of a bad back which I like to call ‘Thunderbirding’.