Recently I was browsing in a bookstore -- remember bookstores, everyone? -- when I had one of those intense scent-memory experiences, brought on by the perfume of someone walking by.
What was that? It was reminding me of something. I should be smelling it mixed with cloves and sweat and musty-damp thriftstore dresses from Dollar-A-Pound while listening to Sisters of Mercy. I should be smelling it after a couple drinks too many and it should be making me a bit nauseous, but also strangely comforted. I trolled the shop, sniffing the air, trying to locate the smell’s human origin, but I failed.
It was a full week later when I was cleaning my shower that I suddenly remembered -- Auric Blends.
I dropped the Tilex and ran to the computer, because that is what I do when I remember some product I’d forgotten for years -- I immediately go and see if I can buy it again.
Auric Blends has been around since 1993, a year or so before I started attending goth clubs in earnest. Their Northern-California-hippie-made perfume oils are still around, and still available, as is the scent I preferred in the days when I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside:
Egyptian Goddess is still their biggest seller, and when I got my new bottle in the mail, I can kinda see why. If you want to smell like a sexy lady, this is probably not the scent for you. If you want to smell like Miss Havisham, then Auric Blends has you covered.
I was talking about these oils recently, and how much I missed them, and how happy I was to find them again, when one of the people I was talking to remarked, “Oh yeah. They sell those at the gas station near my house.” OK, so it’s $7 perfume oil. Cheap things don’t have to be bad!
But maybe, as much as you want to smell like Ophelia post-drowning, you don’t want to buy your perfume at a gas station. I feel you. A more sophisticated alternative, which you won’t find at the local Mobil grab-n-go, can be found at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.
BPAL (bee-pal) to its disciples, this company tends to inspire a cultlike devotion, with fans who are collectors as much as they are consumers. Luckily BPAL uses its power for good, and among its overwhelming offerings are collaborations with such smartypants literary luminaries as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
You want to smell like the butterfly from childhood classic "The Last Unicorn"? BPAL has a scent for that. You want a perfume inspired by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, “A creeping, wet, slithering scent, dripping with seaweed, oceanic plants and dark, unfathomable waters”? Climb aboard the BPAL train. You want to smell like a freshly dug grave? BPAL is on it.
The most impressive thing about BPAL’s perfume oils is that for the most part, they smell really wonderful, even the ones meant to evoke decay (there are ... memorable exceptions, however). They don’t smell like everyday perfume, but if you wanted that, you’d go buy a bottle of Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue and call it a day.
Fortunately, BPAL will happily send you as many tiny sample vials -- known as Imp’s Ears -- as you can handle, to get a sense of what you like. And I am bound to warn you: some of BPAL’s unusual scents have weird effects. Years ago, I had to give away my bottle of “Jezebel” because every time I wore it in public, strange hetero men would follow me around and aggressively demand to know what perfume I was wearing so they could buy it for their girlfriends/wives. That was a little weird.
I’m sticking to my gas-station crunchy-hippie Egyptian Goddess for now, as the only question it’s likely to elicit from strangers is “Where’s the nearest head shop?” I don’t know, man. I’m not stoned, just nostalgic.