7 Scents of Bonfire Night

I am so sorry about how long it has taken me to write this post. Partly it is because I have been busy and exhausted since Halloween. But partly, it is because the scents I got from the Weenies collection are all very complicated and hard to explain. And they are all, without exception, lovely. Though there are a few I regret not buying, I lucked out, I really did.

I haven’t decided if I have a favourite yet. They are all very different, and I love them for different reasons, so it seems unfair and illogical to compare them directly. So the order below is meaningless, really, though I have kept categories of scents together. I will start with the Single Notes, then the All Souls, then the Halloweenies themselves.

Hag Musk

This is as other people have noted, a bedtime scent. There’s a sweet lavender quality to this. It’s feminine, appealing, and delicate in tone, but with a huge amount of throw and power. It’s a lilac kind of smell, the good, purple kind of florals.

And boy does it last, and in lasting develops into something really gorgeous. What remains on my wrist twelve hours after I put it on has turned into something baked and beautiful. Buttery shortbread infused with lavender buds and Earl Grey tea. Sweet, thick, carby and chewable. This is beautiful.

Tomb Moss

This starts off very green and vegetal, and that remains but lessens in its strength. I’ve found before with certain scents of a vegetal nature, they end up smelling like flaccid courgette. But this, this comes into its own in a musky, yet cold way. It’s almost watery, though not an oceanic scent. It’s a very gender neutral scent; clean, in a good way.

I’m thrust back to forests in Finland, washing my hands with moss in a cool clear stream. But there’s something darker there – something of stone. You know when stone freezes, and you can almost taste it in the air – taste the metallic ores and elements which make the stone up – there’s that in here too, just in the background.

It lasts, too, and by the end of it’s life is giving off something like a good, aged green tea.

Now That They Rise and Walk in the Cold

This is both sweet and cold. It smells violet, to me; not a rich purple, but something faded and sorrowful. When I was deciding which to buy, this kept going in and out of my basket, because whilst I adore violet fragrances (rare for me to like florals), I am terrified of”bathroom” scents like eucalyptus. I amp them to heck, usually, and the last thing I like is to smell soapy-clean. It feels like hospitals.

But that doesn’t happen with this. In fact, I cannot smell the eucalyptus at all. To me this is pure Parma Violets, perhaps with just an undertow of something less friable which I imagine is the tar. Somehow, the tar makes it even colder and less sugary – this is not a sweetmeat you would give to a child.

A Kneeling Child Watching a Ghost, Devil and Puppet Making Mayhem in a Room

This is a strange and complex scent. The licorice is strong in this, but it develops into something with a bitter, almost smokey edge, and it’s so, so sexy on. The licorice is dominant at first, with that sweet, tarry blackness which you either love or hate. The teak comes in later – that I think is the smokey edge.

This is not a feminine scent. Nor is it masculine, though. I don’t know who would wear it…it doesn’t have a typical appeal. Personally, I adore it. It’s dark and it’s weird and it throws like the blue blazes. I’d wear this on a night out to a club or a gig, when I wanted to be both alluring and off-putting. It’s armoury perfume. Aggressive. Sweet. Bitter. And so, so sexy.

Her Strong Enchantments Failing

This scent worried me at first. On initial application it gave off a distinct odour of cat pee. No clue why. Fortunately, that departs in seconds, leaving behind it a smell which is sinisterly and smokily purple. This is not the same form of purple that I smell in Isidore’s Phoenix – that is a warm and winey aroma and this…this is cold. This is the first scent I have tried from BPAL which isn’t refreshed on the skin through warmth. I wore it on a frosty November night, and in the heated pub it stayed still. But when I walked out, I was haloed in a cloud of incense. It dries down to something slightly, but not unpleasantly, powdery

I should note that the following two were the hardest to write about. I think perhaps it is because they are the most complex to my nose. Whilst not as clashing as Kneeling Child, there’s a serious quantity of stuff going on here. They’re clearly sister scents but there are distinct differences. 

Samhain

This scent changes so markedly depending on the state of your skin and other environmental/personal conditions. Changes in your skin chemistry really affect it. The first time I wore this, its sweetness was instant, pie and red apple. I thought I couldn’t wear apple scents – they turn to dishwasher tablets on me – but the red apple in this, when it comes out, is gorgeous. It is comforting, calming and beautiful.

At the moment, though, it’s preceded by a heavy and slightly bitter musk. There’s an acrid quality I am not sure I like; quite a lot of ash, here. But eventually that dies away and we are left with some apple-pie-custard-crust goodness. I wouldn’t call this a foodie scent, really: despite the apple and nutmeg, the damp forest and pine is ever present, and balances out any excessive sweetness.

Samhainophobia

This, too begins with something acrid. But it rapidly turns to firesmoke, and is softened by something sweet behind it. I can smell soul-cakes, briefly. The geranium, oakmoss and leaves dominate the middle drying phase, and when dry this is sweet sweet vetiver and patchouli.

This is a storyteller scent. It tells of an autumn night, a blazing fire, and dancing in a clearing surrounded by trees. Overhead, stars swirl, and there is in this scent a memory of that coldness you feel, looking up at the sky and realising how tiny you are, in the grand scheme of things.

Scent is one of our most primal senses, and so sadly underused as a learning and interpretative tool. What I love about BPAL is that, even in it’s more bizarre scents, it tells. It interprets the world, reflects it back on itself through the nose, and so through the mind. Through scent, you apprehend the world in an entirely new way.

And, of course, you smell bloody gorgeous.

Freewrite #2: On Smell

Museums and heritage institutions, for so long dominated by sight – at least, for much of the twentieth century – are beginning to return to the multisensory nature which they appear to have had prior to the late eighteen hundreds. Tactility and aurality dominate in the museum and gallery experience, but at heritage sites such as Warwick Castle, smell and taste (they host historically themed dinners and have Tussuad’s recreations of the medieval period) also play a part.

Scent, for many people, is crucial to life experience. Personally, I have always had a relatively strong sense of smell – I am first made aware of any impending sickness bug, for instance, by an increasing sense of a metallic, irony tang to the air, and its blood-like taste on my tongue. Scent follows and leads – alerts us to danger or some localised trauma, and attracts us to food. Chemical differences in consumable goods can be detected through smell – anyone experienced in tasting or making coffee, tea or whiskey will tell you as much.

I love scent. Scent is another way of telling – a psychological, emotional and physical form of expression, beyond words, which taps into a very old, animalistic part of the brain. Scent speaks – of the environment, of experience, of the body, of the object. Can it be embraced as part of the museum and gallery experience, beyond recreating the manure of the Middle Ages? I hope so.