Top 10 Releases from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab in 2022

Perfume oil collecting is one of the positive habits I nurtured during Covid times. The olfactory exploration helped abate my wanderlust at a time when venturing out was potentially dangerous. Now that things have opened back up, I continue to use scent, now also for self-expression or motivation, to enhance or encourage a particular mood. I have gone deep on one perfume oil house, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, though there are many others. I like their aesthetic and the sharing and caring community that has grown up around them. In fact, looking back at my favorites from 2022, many of them doubled as fundraisers for war-plagued countries abroad, benefits for those suffering poverty and discrimination at home, and campaigns against devastating legislative moves that were made this year.

When asked to write a Top Ten List for anything I’m passionate about, perfume oil is definitely at the top of my passionate-about list. This list is not sponsored content; this gushing is completely unprovoked. It is a personal obsession that may spark scent creativity in others. As you may notice, some of my loves include vanilla, oud, hazelnut, patchouli, musk, hay, and frankincense. If any of those smells stir your senses, here’s a list of my favorites this year, roughly in order of their release, with apologies to Yules—we’re still just getting acquainted!

1. Vanilla Husk, Nutmeg and Hay Absolute

no additional notes

In high school, I pretty much exclusively wore The Body Shop’s vanilla perfume oil. It smelled like cupcakes, marshmallows, Lucky Charms cereal—all manner of deliciousness. I have been chasing that vanilla dragon ever since and found a winner this year. It reminds me of another love, They Shut Me Up In Prose, but darker, muskier and nuttier. The nutmeg makes it even more delectable while avoiding the baking spice vibes.

2. Sunyashniki

This is a scent as bright as the vibrant petals of the sunflower, and as warm and joyous as the sun: flaxen amber, golden musk, neroli, lemon leaf and rind, frankincense, and sweet cedar

This scent was released as a fundraiser for Ukraine in the form of an homage to the sunflower. Just reading the notes makes me long for the return to the sunflower’s season. It feels like a field of wild blooms basking in sunlight, summery with an organic sweetness. There’s a hint of spice to it, though carnation is not listed in the notes. I wear this one to bring a calm, sunny disposition to work and to bring a soothing vibe to bedtime.

3. Wild Nights – Wild Nights!

A storm-tossed tempest of red-streaked black musk, vanilla absolute, smoked patchouli, night-blooming jasmine, vetiver, and cardamom sugar

Lupercalia releases are meant to be sultry, seductive, and a little bit obscene. They often suit my tastes with their heady florals and delectable dessert notes, and this is a fine example. It starts out syrupy sweet, rank with overripe flowers, and wafting minty herbal thanks to the vetiver. Once that dies down, the red musk comes in hot. Patchouli adds a distinct scratchiness that I adore. Smells like a moonless sweaty night outside.

4. The Red Ribbon

Red silken musk, sweet patchouli, ho wood, amber velvet, parchment, bourbon vanilla, and goat’s milk accord

I love a good morpher. This starts out like butterscotch—rich and creamy-sweet, but dries down to a powerful cologne feel. It’s the opposite of their Golden Priapus, which starts cold and severe and sweetens into an inviting vanilla. The Red Ribbon was another of my Lupercalia favorites this year, warm and glowing with great throw. As part of the annual Shunga collection of Lupers, the NSFW label featuring “interpretations of Edo-era Japanese erotic art” is icing on the cake. Seriously, not something you want to bring up on your oversized computer monitor on a lunch break. May you learn from my mistakes.  

5. I Am As Lyght As Byrde in Bowe

A hawk in flight: white sage, tonka bean, orris root, cinnamon bark, patchouli root, feather-light vanilla absolute, russet benzoin, myrrh, champaca, and incense smoke

This scent comes from the Labors of the Month series, with this particular release benefitting the Trans Lifeline. I have learned over time that sage is a big winner for me. It’s warm, woody, and sophisticated while maintaining an earthy grounding. The orris root-cinnamon combination adds floral spice, so that the final dry down has a mature vibe. My husband said I smelled like a sexy hippie, and I am here for it.

6. Mary Magdalene

Oman frankincense, balsam ointment, ambrette seed, red oud, and golden sandalwood

For me, this one is all about the tobacco—rich and damp to the point of smelling boozy. It reminds me of one of my favorite tobacco blends ever, the Yule release, To a Wreath of Snow. Where this departs is the red oud, giving it a little red wine tannin feel, and the throw full of glowing frankincense. It’s cozy and bold at the same time, so I wear this one out with friends when I expect lots of hugs.

7. Soft May the Worms About Her Creep

Worm-pink, gentle, and somnambulant: star jasmine, pink strawberry cream, coconut husk, blackcurrant, and red oud

Another gorgeous red oud, this one reminds me a lot of my beloved Butterfly Dancer. It baits you with a fruity, almost strawberry-like playfulness and the innocence of super-sweet bubblegum. Then it switches to a more predatory musk, in a Venus fly trap sense, where the alluring tannins are even funkier, like a delicious Flanders red ale, sour and aged. The final, slightly indolic funk of white flowers carries on for hours, and I just can’t stop sniffing myself.

8. Pleasure Abundant

Orange blossom, sweet amber, red honey, pink peppercorn, and frankincense smoke

Orange blossom is one of those notes that never goes unnoticed. You either love or hate it. For me, the bitter and creamy floral is a sure-shot winner. This scent embodies that perfect balance of herbal and sweet. The honey brings a slight powdery vibe, which I usually shy away from, but this one was the perfect complement to a gritty camping music festival I attended over Labor Day weekend. It’s bright and sunny with a natural sweetness that feels appropriate in sweaty summer months. This scent was part of the Sorores Genita Nocte, Aigles Kharities series released in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s dismantling, which raises money for the National Network of Abortion Funds.

9. Skeleton Hands

Bourbon cream, bony sandalwood, oak bark, frankincense resin, hazelnut, myrrh smoke, and tattoo ink

Some scent collectors go deep rather than wide, stockpiling backup bottles of their favorites before the limited release is gone forever. This was the first time I seriously entertained the thought. The tart, fruity cocoa reminds me of the dangerously delicious chocolate-covered açai berries that my friends never should have introduced me to. Where many foodie smells register as burnt plastic in my nose (it is a cruel curse), this one was a victory for me. It’s snuggly and somehow reminds me of an oatmeal cookie. There are various guesses as to what the “tattoo ink” note could be, but I think the black currant theory is coming close. I wear this one on big-hearted, warm fuzzy days—and who doesn’t want to foster more of that?

10. And Here I Sawe My Whete So Rede

Fragrant rice milk and sandalwood cream with Italian bergamot, and palo santo

Squeezing in just before the end-of-year bell is this revelation of rich-turned-smoky-incense. Much like orange blossom, bergamot is another note that draws my attention every time. I was intrigued by the combination of opposites here—creamy rice milk and tart orange—and my bet paid off big time in the scent of a buttered rum cocktail with orange bitters. My nose was glued to my wrist as the smell transformed from adult beverage to prayer time, ending on the woody sandalwood and palo alto notes. This scent feels confident and self-assured. I will enjoy wearing this out for an evening when I don’t want to blend in with the crowd, which is to say, often. As the Labors of the Month scent for October, proceeds from this scent benefit Cradles to Crayons, which provides everyday essentials to children living in poverty in Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs’ new home of Philadelphia. | Courtney Dowdall


  1. Hello fellow STL BPALer! I started collecting BPAL in a big way during covid times as well. I’ve been trying to pull together my top ten for the year as well, so it’s really fun to see yours. Appreciate the writeup!

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