ALL THE IMPS. Lessons learned from Black Phoenix Alchemy lab.

I’d known about Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, or BPAL as it’s known amongst its connoisseurs, for many years. One day I had a bit of spare cash and decided to give their offerings a try.

Lately I had begun using aromas as a calming stim; a form of autistic self-management to allay the stress caused by the sensory overload of being out in public.

Lavender regent is a motherly, patient, hardy, forgiving and persistent plant (yes, I intend to use my spirit classification system to refer to plants as well). People who have seen me in person will notice I often have a fresh lavender flower tucked behind an ear (aesthetic). When facing unfamiliar situations I’ll sometimes put a single drop of lavender oil on the lapel of my jacket. When I feel particularly overwhelmed it’s not too innocuous to bury my face in that and breathe it in. The sensation is like being hugged by a beloved grandmother or aunt.

I have a very keen sense of smell, so I’ve never been overly fond of wearing perfumes. Even the hair product I use is beeswax based and largely unscented. BPAL has a reputation for being unconventional however, and when presented with offerings with names like ‘Graveyard dirt’, I was intrigued.


I ordered a bunch of imps (ok…I went a little overboard) and when they arrived I settled down with a jar of coffee as a palate cleanser, to test my impressions.

What do the words ‘graveyard dirt’ conjure in my mind? That fecund, deep smell of moist earth under a cool canopy of dappled shade. Being the tragically literal-minded autistic I am, what I want is a perfume that smells like actual literal dirt.

BPAL’s ‘Graveyard dirt’ smells like perfume. I can’t deny I was a little bit disappointed.

I foisted the ones I truly hated off onto friends as gifts and kept the rest-quickly learning to appreciate that the properties of a scent change when applied to the skin, and then over time as it’s worn. I’m still not overly fond of them however, as to my senses they seem distractingly artificial.

This led me to do some research on the nature of essential oils. One of the joys of working with wood is the smell. I’d recently completed a project using an incredible soft wood (which I have forgotten the name of and will edit in later). I quickly discovered that its oil is in fact poisonous. Oops.

Being highly concentrated chemicals, most essential oils are Serious Business, a business I’m not particularly knowledgeable about. I don’t think the tiny amount of lavender I use is of much consequence other than leaving an unfortunate stain on one of my jackets, and other than that I restrict my use of them to an old fashioned cold and flu congestion remedy.

This journey taught me that not being able to bottle the smell of rain on grass, the salt of the sea, old books or leather makes these experiences all the more precious.

Like taste, scent is fleeting, but unlike cake, scents won’t make my blood sugar skyrocket, so there’s that.



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