Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Perfume Oils

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140 reviews

72% would repurchase

Package Quality: 3.6

Price: $$

Package Quality: 3.6

Price: $$


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Age: 30-35

Skin: Combination, Fair, Neutral

Hair: Red, Wavy, Fine

Eyes: Blue

I love BPAL. This review will be 100% biased by the fact that I adore the perfumes that they make and I like the brand's whole schtick. Naturally, over the years I have had my fair share of duds, but I have also discovered some truly amazing perfumes that speak to me as well as some that are just fun or weird. Does every one of their perfumes smell good? No. They make too much stuff that their entire line would please one person. I have ordered things that, based on the notes, sound perfect for me and I end up hating them; by the same token, I have gotten samples of things that I straight up swore that I would never try that I ended up loving. You could peruse the website for hour and hours thinking that you're choosing things you'd love only to find that 3/4 of them are not for you. Some thoughtfulness and caution is necessary when jumping into BPAL at this point, since their catalog is so huge. I think the reviews that offer criticism are completely valid, and I'd like to share some advice for people who would like to try the brand but are overwhelmed (which is understandable.) Hopefully this will help someone out!

1. Don't buy imps (samples) from their site. There's two reasons for this: a) Shipping from their site takes a while, with turn around time anywhere from a week to several weeks. I've waited over a month for an order from them before, and I live in California so boxes from them usually come in 2-3 days once they're posted. b) In addition to selling the imps, they give at least a couple away in every order, so a lot of people (self included) have a stockpile of these lying around. You can often find lots for sale on eBay and a lot of members of BPAL's forum sell imps at a discount where you can pick and choose which ones you want. If you just want to get a feel for the brand and what they're doing, just buy a lot of random samples and see what kind of stuff you like. They don't do imps of limited edition stuff, but fans make samples of these--however--by the time you sample they're usually gone from the website since they are generally seasonal, so this isn't recommended for newbies at least.

2. Resell what you don't like. BPAL has a thriving second hand market! If you decide to buy full bottles of limited edition or General Catalog (GC) scents, keep in mind that you aren't stuck with it if you hate it. You might not get back exactly what you paid for it, but you also won't lose the entire purchase price. You can sell them on eBay or on BPAL's forum, which itself is a huge repository of BPAL knowledge in addition to having its own sales/swap area.

3. Use the "Directory" tab on the website to break down the selection of perfumes by notes, theme, or mood. This really helps to navigate the HUGE amount of scents that are on the site. This is basically a tag system, and all of the scents that are currently on the website are tagged with notes, collection, category, etc. If you for sure love one kind of note, or one archetype, or one family of fragrances, this will save you a lot of time.

4. Remember that sometimes the descriptions and names are just meant to be evocative and aren't always literal to the perfume itself. Focus on the notes as much as possible.

5. Go to an in-person event if you can. There are a smattering of retail locations across the US that sell some BPAL stuff; they also set up booths at different events like San Diego & New York Comic Con, DragonCon, RuPaul's Drag Con, etc, and you can meet Lab staff there and smell to your heart's content. If you can make it to an in-person event, you can experience the perfume without having to buy anything.

6. Remember, just like most beauty products, perfume is supposed to be fun and make you feel good. If BPAL's weird and nerdy niche isn't for you then that's fine, but if you are interested in falling down a really interesting olfactory rabbit hole you might take some of my above advice to heart.

4 of 7 people found this helpful.

on 5/15/2017 12:03:00 PM

Age: 36-43

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair, Warm

Hair: Black, Wavy, Coarse

Eyes: Brown

I reviewed this company long ago, but I think it needed updating since my opinion about them has evolved over the years. As such I deleted the old review and started over with what I feel is a more complete picture.

Firstly, the point stands that the lady who owns this company is GENIUS at marketing. Serious props for making the product appealing. The descriptions of the product are so wonderful and fanciful and all sound so romantic. However, this also causes a big, big's almost impossible to figure out from the description what the perfume will actually smell like. The words about notes themselves are often just a couple lines. At $ 17.50 USD for 5 ml these are more expensive than similar product from other sellers on say Etsy, so if you have some misses it can really add up. It is possible to order samples, but having to order masses of samples to figure out whether you will like something also costs money and time.

Secondly, the catalogue has become ridiculously huge and daunting over the years. I think it could use some seriously ruthless editing. There are far too many scents based on everything from books to comics and other things that it is really tough to wade through. Scents seem to stay out of stock forever but are not dropped. Limited editions show up practically every month which means you may find something you like, then find it gone. I have trouble believing that the quality isn't suffering when you put out this volume of stuff this often.

Thirdly, this is not really the company itself but be aware that the fandom is really not helpful. I haven't posted on there (only tried looking for info) but the brand's own forums are almost useless because they have such rabid fans that you can't get an unbiased review. They pretty much jump on any hint of dislike for any product. This actually hurts things because being as the descriptions of the product are so fanciful, it is highly likely that you are going to need some guidance figuring out what you may want.

All this said - they do have some awesome perfumes! I have purchased from them many times and there are several scents that are old standbys for me because when they are good, they are VERY good. However, I would give a couple words of advice to anyone thinking of starting out with them: Keep to their standard stock scents. These are tried, tested and you are more likely to find unbiased reviews on various sites for them. This company is definitely worth a try if you are looking for something different. Just be aware that sifting through their product can be unwieldy.

on 2/24/2016 5:56:00 PM

Age: 36-43

Skin: Sensitive, Fair, Cool

Hair: Red, Curly, Fine

Eyes: Blue

BPAL was my first introduction to indie perfumes and I must have tried over 100 of their scents. I have 2 that I liked enough to buy full bottles of. That is not a great hit rate.
While there are always going to be perfumes that aren't to my taste, I've never encountered perfumes that actually made me physically recoil in disgust until I tried BPAL. I have variously tried perfumes of theirs that smelled like fried electric wiring, burnt hair, peanut butter, rancid milk and floor cleaner on my skin.
I have a bottle of Snake Oil, which a lovely dark vanilla spice patchouli scent, and a bottle of Embalming Fluid which is a really refreshing lemon green tea. These are apparently their most popular scents and I can see why, they're very well made and smell great. Unfortunately I agree with another reviewer that I think the quality suffers under the weight of the enormous catalogue. The Valentines day release alone this year had around 150 scents and they do large releases a few times a year. It is impossible to churn out that many scents with the kind of care and attention to quality that you expect for the price. I find most of BPAL'S scents just smell cheap, like if it was being sold in $2 rollerballs in a headshop you'd turn your nose up at it, but because it's marketed so well on the website with the images and poems, people lose their minds over it. I absolutely hate the feeding frenzy mentally that surrounds LE fragrances on some indie websites where items literally disappear from your trolley as you're shopping because the fans get whipped into a froth over stuff selling out or being taken down. Maybe I'm a grumpy old lady, but I have zero time for it and it seems really tacky.
I know a lot of people love BPAL so different strokes for different folks, but for me, it's over priced and just not very good.

11 of 12 people found this helpful.

on 2/16/2016 11:07:00 AM

Age: 36-43

Skin: Dry, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Blond, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

Overall, I have been happy with my BPAL fragrances. The only issue I have is that there is just way too many to choose from and I find it overwhelming that half the time I just buy nothing. Not their fault, but it's personally hard for me to choose. I adore my Snake Oil and will always go back for it. I found a couple other similar companies that offer perfume oils for cheaper ( Siberie Perfumes - these are 3x the size and cheaper) and Berry Sweet Stuff with cute roll-ons. For BPAL...Jack is decent too if you like sweet vanilla.

on 1/26/2015 3:17:00 PM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Dry, Olive, Warm

Hair: Brown, Wavy, Medium

Eyes: Brown

Many of the issues I have with this line have been discussed more in depth by previous reviewers, but let me state them anyway as further information to prospective buyers.

First of all the shipping time is very long. It took eight weeks for an order of 5 samples ("imps") to get to me. I don't have a problem with this inherently and I'm not spoiled enough to expect everything I order over the internet to arrive next day. Still, be warned that the wait will be long.

The prices are very high for the amount of product you're getting. In my opinion, the oils do not have any more lasting power or strength than an EDP. Ounce for ounce, the cost is the same as full-priced designer fragrances. It's actually more expensive than designer fragrances purchased at online discounters. I would be willing to make peace with this if not for the fact that all of the oils smell like they are made of cheap synthetic fragrance oils. I have dabbled in scented candle making and I recognize many of the smells in BPAL from widely available soap and candle scenting oils. Because of this, many of the BPAL perfumes give off a strong Yankee candle vibe to my nose. They're harsh, discordant and off-smelling. It seems like the perfumer is taking oils labeled as individual notes and playing mix-and-match with them according to some half-formed concept and selling them with no regard for the quality of the component scents or the effect of the end product. They do not smell like something I want perfuming my skin. Here are some impressions of individual scents:

Bastet: strong fake cherry in the opening slowly turns to air-freshener vanilla. The longer it is on the skin, the less the harsh, synthetic notes dominate. It ends as thin vanillic musk.
Cathedral: rancid, sawdusty cedar and a confusing foodie smell. More vanilla? This one was a scrubber. It left a musty/sweet smell on my skin for hours. Where is the incense? The cold stone? Poorly blended with insufficient raw materials. It's hard to believe that this costs only slightly less per ounce than CDG Avignon.
Veil: A heady "pastel purple" floral. Not as off-putting as the others, but there is a cloying funeral parlor effect to the heavy florals.
Alice: Like a snickerdoodle scented air freshener. I get no carnation, one of the listed notes, but I do get a lot of cinnamon trying to pass itself off as carnation. I could see how someone might like this as a foodie scent, but it's not to my taste and does not live up to the description

I am extremely disappointed in these oils because the website was so lovely and the descriptions so evocative. They all smell cheap, synthetic and totally out of place on human skin. Overall, they lack the freshness that gives many botanical perfumes their lifelike effect. And why are there so many in the catalog? Quality is suffering for quantity. I really wish that these had fulfilled the promise of well-made, clever indie fragrances but the quality is too poor. I'll take a mass-market perfume blended by a professional over these even if the advertising is more boring and conventional.

15 of 18 people found this helpful.

on 5/18/2014 12:49:00 AM

Age: 30-35

Skin: Normal, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Blond, Other, Other

Eyes: Other

I was briefly into BPAL for about a year, and thats how long it took me to find anything in their line I liked. BPAL is a great lesson in marketing, their website is fascinating and engaging, the practice of LE's, Lunar scents and other marketing ploys work very well. Their actual product? Pretty pedestrian if you ask me. All they have done is created hundreds of scents of a known formula that sells. So they have a large selection of gourmands, large selection of fruity florals and a large selection of spicey orientals. And not one of them is half as nice as a bottle of Body Shop perfume oil.

There are a few things to note before you buy.

1. These are not essential oil blends and therefore natural perfumes. Many notes they list simply do not exist as essential oils and cannot be created by anything except synthetic means. You cannot for example get the scent of a pear or cherry by any means other than using synthetics, there is no mix of essential oils that can ever create that, perfumers for hundreds of years have tried and failed.

2. The sheer number of scents is overwhelming for a reason. Its so you cannot sample their entire line easily and come to the conclusion you do not like what they offer based on the product. It takes the average person months and in some cases a year to find anything in their lineup they enjoy. And in the meantime the website is tempting you ever further into more purchases to find the needle in the haystack. Its actually a fantastic marketing ploy to send you off on a holy grail search through their catalogue and persist even after you've sampled 10,20 maybe even 100 scents you didnt like. The use of psychology there is masterful.

3. When you factor into account that BPAL costs about $4 per ml, it is actually just as expensive to buy as any designer perfume. I did not find these fragrance oils to last any longerr than anything else I may have dabbed on my skin, typically 30mins or so. And when I take into account how much money I wasted testing BPAL products I could have bought 4 designer perfumes for the same money and enjoyed them from the start.

You are probably better off going to a soap supplier and testing bramble berry fragrance oils and buying those. As they will be cheaper to designer perfumes and have a similar characterr to BPAL scents. Better yet, you could buy a synthetic fragrance kit from Perfumers Apprentice and have fun making your own. In all honesty I never found anything in BPALs lineup to suggest the person creating the fragrances had much skill in perfumery. Self taught with a lot of practice? Yes. But a skilled perfumer? No. Most industrial perfumers come up with better scents for shampoos and detergents than what you'll find in BPAL.

27 of 33 people found this helpful.

on 12/26/2013 6:59:00 AM

Age: 19-24

Skin: Very Oily, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

I'm writing this review so that I can look at it in the future and stop myself from purchasing their samples (imps). It's going to be wordy so the future me will be able to discern the present me's immense disappointment AKA $40 wasted.

I'm a big fan of indie perfume oils- I've spent hundreds on other stores, and as a college part-time waitress making minimum wage, that means a lot! I decided to try BPAL based on a recommendation from an online friend who has 300+ bottles and is a huge B&B junkie. I decided to purchase samples. For reference, I am a gourmand lover, although I also appreciate other scents. I ordered 8 imps, which are an overpriced $4 each and received 2 samples. Shipping was fast (2 days, granted, I live in California and am literally a 6 hour drive from Hollywood where BPAL is located) but pricy ($7).

3 of the oils are a pinkish/red color, almost like juice, and leave faint stains of color on my pale skin. Not a huge problem but I'd still watch your clothes. A lot of the scents start off with a strong, synthetic, Tylenol-cherry type scent, which is a huge turn-off for me. They stay this way for a good while (10-20+ min). The lasting power is also very poor, reminiscent of generic perfumes (1-3 hours on me), and some of them have the lasting power of Bath&Body Works body sprays (30-45 min). By definitions, perfume oils should last longer as they aren't alcohol based- my perfume oils from other brands only need to be applied once to last the whole day. Also, the scents are very, very subtle despite my applying huge puddles of them on my skin. Labels come off with the oil.

O: "Amber and honey with a touch of vanilla." ~> This smells quite nice and promising when first applied, soft and subtle. However, it starts to develop a weird sour floral scent and stays that way. Dud.
Dorian: "A Victorian fougere with three pale musks and dark, sugared vanilla tea." I got this because I adore the book and Oscar Wilde lol. This is actually nice, although it has a subtle lemony scent to it. However, the musks wears off quite quickly and it just becomes sweeter and sweeter vanilla. The only thing that makes me like it despite this con is that it's so weak that it's not overbearing. This is one of two I would consider purchasing the full-sized of, although that's mostly due to its name.
Bastet: "Luxuriant amber, warm Egyptian musk, fierce saffron and soft myrrh, almond, cardamom and golden lotus." Where is the gorgeous warmth?! This is one of the oils that starts off crazy cherry before it turns into a sharp, lemony musk. Imagine if someone took mixed up some random fruity floral perfumes with lemon bathroom cleaner. I love amber & Egyptian musk so this was really disappointing.
Vice: "A deep chocolate scent, with black cherry and orange blossom." Pure artificial, overly sweet black cherry. Again, I don't love cherry scents but I assumed it would be a hint of cherry and orange blossom with a strong sexy dark chocolate note... nope! I got this for the chocolate note, but there's no chocolate in it at all. Another disappointment.
Bliss: "A scent that is very, very wicked in its own way: the serotonin-slathered scent of pure milk chocolate." My favorite. Bliss has one of the best lasting power on me, and it just smells like pure milk chocolate- no cherry, yay! Milk chocolate is my favorite type of chocolate so this is great. Unfortunately, rather than smelling like rich, decadent milk chocolate, it smells like milk chocolate that you got for free last Halloween and haven't eaten- a little old and crusty. I'm still debating whether to get a full bottle of this or not cause I keep sniffing myself regardless! :)
Dana O'Shee: "Offerings of milk, honey and sweet grains" This is my third favorite, only because it's not TERRIBLE. Another one that starts cherry and has nonexistent lasting power.
Snake Oil: "A blend of exotic Indonesian oils sugared with vanilla." Idk what exotic Indonesian oils smell like but I'd assume they'd smell generally pleasant and alluring based on the fact this is BPAL's most popular oil! The vanilla here is very, very subtle, as in you have to really try to notice it, although there is a subtle sweet undertone. Instant disappointment. This is the most strong scent of the bunch, which isn't a good thing because it's just so darn pungent and grandma. It lightens up but not by much. If you don't like Chanel no.5, you won't like this.
Ehecatl: "Hibiscus, matcha, white musk, and lime" I got this cause I love matcha and lime but this has neither. Nasty musky floral.
Free samples:
Phobos: "Chilling white musk, lemon verbena, white grapefruit and lemongrass." I was hoping this would be like L'Occitane's Verbena, a fresh citrus that still has a delicacy to it. It smells like lemon bathroom cleaner/those really cheap lemon candies that noone likes.
Scherezade: "Saffron and Middle Eastern spices swirled through sensual red musk." No cherry! To be fair this does smell like spices but there's nothing really sensual about it and it lightens up crazy fast. Can't really give this a fair review because I don't like these types of scents to begin with.

Usually I finish most of my perfume oil samples except the ones I HATE, which I give to friends, but I'm going to throw out all of them except Dorian & Bliss because I can't stand them.

Overall, really disappointed! Am still tempted to buy Dorian (again, for its name) and Bliss, although I think they'e really overpriced for the quality. I think BPAL has amazing product marketing although their site is overwhelming, but their oils are really flat in comparison, not to mention generic, especially when considering their amazing scent descriptions, which a lot of them don't match. I'd say save your $$$ and try out some other shops, or at least if you're like me and still want to try BPAL out, start with the imps.

12 of 16 people found this helpful.

on 12/8/2013 7:31:00 PM

Age: 25-29

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair, Warm

Hair: Brunette, Wavy, Medium

Eyes: Hazel

This perfume company's products are pretty much the worst thing invented for people that have allergies and chemical sensitivity. I have been inadvertently exposed to this stuff over the course of over a year via a coworker with a BPAL obsession, and myself and many other coworkers in this person's airspace complained of strange neurological symptoms and reactions to the scents. For those who enjoy wearing scents, please do us sensitive people a favor and avoid wearing BPAL or any other scents in a space where the folks around you have no choice about the exposure.

Age: 19-24

Skin: Sensitive, Fair, Cool

Hair: Black, Other, Medium

Eyes: Hazel

You either love them or hate them.

Age: 30-35

Skin: Combination, Other, Not Sure

Hair: Brunette, Other, Other

Eyes: Blue

Just because something isn't "mainstream" doesn't make it fake, or less than. It's just different, and there's certainly nothing wrong with different. And to be honest, some of the most interesting and nicest scents that I've found have been found in the oddest of places, whether it's the metaphysical shop or head shop. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is one of those little hidden gems, that diamond in the rough so to speak.

For me personally, I like this company. Of the products that I've gotten a chance to try, I have to say that I genuinely like what I have. I think they smell fantastic, and are very fun and daring to wear. I like everything, from the spicy sweetness of Snake Oil, all the way to the fun fruit n' booze combination of Bordello. To me, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab steps outside of the box, and I think that's worked out rather well for them.

Plus, given the fact they have 600+ scents, you're bound to find something that you like, and at $20.00 I think that's a reasonable price. The fact that these scents last so long is just an extra bonus.

4 of 6 people found this helpful.

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