What a crazy-wonderful thing is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, an online emporium with a real-world address in that Paris of the Southland, North Hollywood, California.
I entered through a back alley, as it were, but you may as well start with the home page:
I love the "trading post" part. So folksy.
Now click on the menu at random—how about Ars Moriendi, a perfume page? Ah, yes, a description of Danse Macabre:
An allegorical expression of the ineffable, indisputable triumph of death, generally expressed in medieval artwork as a violin or flute-wielding skeleton leading a procession of dancers to their graves. Black cypress with oakmoss, frankincense, oude, and a sliver of toasted hazelnut.
Who wouldn't want some of that?
A fragrance called Darkness is described as "bottled gloom." Embalming Fluid? "A light, pure scent: white musk, green tea, aloe and lemon."
Any of them would make the perfect belated Valentine's Day gift for the Goth gal who knows that Saint Valentine was no cheery cherub but rather a martyr who was beaten with clubs, stoned, and finally beheaded.
How, you are wondering, did I discover BPAL? It wasn't through morbid meanderings or an interest in fae artwork. (I'm not even entirely certain what "fae" means, although one source I consulted referred to "a tribe of winged creatures," which sounds about right.) Nay, it was from a link to this page, titled Novel Ideas for Secret Amusements II, from which one can buy 5ml vials of perfume. To be precise, fragrances from "a limited edition Salon
series celebrating the joy, humor, playfulness, and thrill of sexual
intercourse through scent interpretations of Edo era Japanese erotic
That's very titillating, but not half as titillating as the potions' names. Let other, more conventional marketers name their perfumes Obsession or Eternity or No. 5. BPAL is more ... descriptive in its nomenclature.
Here we have, for instance, Lovers with Rutting Cats (vanilla, red ginger, oakmoss, palm date, and oud)—just the thing to arouse Monsieur's flagging interest, peut-être. No? Then maybe Man with Phallus Head (smoky musk, ambergris, tonka bean, brown sandalwood, daemonorops, black currant, and honey) is the appropriate tonic.
You say he's still torpid with ennui? We have the perfect remedy: an elixir of skin musk, sugar cane, honey, beeswax, vanilla flower, and copal. What's it called? Why, Giant Vulva. Naturellement.
I couldn't help imagining the classic perfume slogans of yore repurposed to sell this intoxicating essence:
"Promise her anything, but give her Giant Vulva."
"He can't get you out of his mind ... when Giant Vulva whispers your message."
And of course, "The 'forbidden' fragrance."
A tip of the chapeau to Apocalypstick Now, who helpfully adds that copal is "a cedary resin."
P.S. If kinky olfactory enigmas turn you on, check out "Whole Lot of Non-Scents," Chandler Burr's column in last Sunday's New York Times's spring fashion magazine, in which he reports on "If Ever There Was: An Exhibit of Extinct and Impossible Smells" at the Reg Vardy Gallery in Sunderland, England. One of the featured displays is described as "the body odor of of political suspects in East Germany, carefully stored in jars by the Stasi in order to track them someday with dogs."