When I unwrapped a mysterious package from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, I (along with TMS staffers Keisha, Charline, and Daniella) wasn’t expecting to find 10 small bottles with intricately illustrated labels and evocative titles like “Fuck You, Said The Raven.”
The Alchemists are collaborating with Neil Gaiman (and Hugo Award-winning artist Julie Dillon for the labels) on a whopping 60 separate fragrances inspired by the bestselling novel and soon-to-be TV series. Even better? Proceeds go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. So if you’re in the market for perfume styled after Bast or the Buffalo Man, you’ve come to the right place.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab “specializes in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone.” They’ve created scents that evoke everything from Crimson Peak to Sherlock Holmes, often pairing with creators like Guillermo Del Toro, the Henson Company, and Gaiman. In the last six months, they’ve “raised thousands of dollars for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List with topical fragrances such as “Nasty Woman” and “Fake News.” I never knew that perfumes could be topical or political, but this is Good Company Goals.
The American Gods fragrances benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a fantastic group that fights censorship and is dedicated to protecting the first Amendment Rights of comics professionals.
Just how, you may ask, do you make a perfume that evokes the characters and concepts of American Gods? According to the Lab, “By utilizing our knowledge of homeopathy and aromatherapy, the conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, and the aesthetic artistry of perfumery, we have mastered the art of encapsulating allegorical ideas into singular olfactory experiences.”
That’s a tall order! But we think these perfumes are a nifty idea and they’ll help out a good cause. So your Mary Sue New York Coven put them to the smell test. Each scent came with a passage from the book that inspired it and a description from the perfumers.
My first favorite is “Coin Trick,” which is described thus: “Glittering gold and silver, rolling over knuckles – concealed in palms – and pulled from the sun, the moon, and the stars.” Since that doesn’t exactly tell you how it might smell, we decided on light and citrus-y. Keisha called it “deceptively light … that’s the Loki scent.”
Secondly, I love “Zorya Polunochnaya,” which I’ve been wearing for a few days now. “Pale amber and ambergris, gossamer vanilla, moonflower, and white tobacco petals.” Yum.
Charline’s favorite was “The Blood Must Flow,” which BPAL describes as “Three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find your way back: ash, oak, and elm; vetiver, dragon’s blood resin, and cypress; frankincense, copal, and chamomile.”
“I would douse my body in it,” said Charlene. “That’s how you stay young,” said Daniella. “It takes you back to the Roman Empire,” said Keisha.
“The Black Hats” smelled “masculine” to us, since strong musks are usually assigned to male colognes (yes, it is a kind of wild that even perfumes have weird gendered associations that are hard to shake). “Gunpowder, patent leather, pomade, aftershave.” Well, at least we were right about the traditionally “male” products that were combined to make this scent. A similar one was, well, “The Buffalo Man.”
“Eostre of the Dawn” is on the reverse of that—traditionally “feminine,” that we identified as “super flowery,” which fits with the personification of Easter and fertility.
As for “Bast,” this was our take: “Like licorice.” “Dense.” “An aphrodisiac.” “It smells like feminism—intimidating.” It’s billed as, “A desert wind alight with myrrh and golden amber, cardamom and honey, bourbon vanilla and cacao.”
“Glass Eye” and “Becoming Thunder” were “herby,” which I like quite a bit. Kudos to whoever writes up the perfume descriptions: “This is the scent of the absolute: this is the perfected manifestation of the absolute essence of not who you are, but what you represent to others. This is You as Symbol, your spirit separated and combined, distilled and condensed into one archetype. Skin musk and 20-year aged frankincense, a sprig of asphodel, a splash of soma, a lightning-streak of sharp ozone, a stream of ambrosia.”
Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs is releasing a bunch of new scents on May 30th beyond those that already available, as well as nail polishes and atmosphere sprays to invoke the Gods into your living room. Keep in mind if you’re shopping that scent is a highly personal choice, so chances are you might adore a bottle that’s not to my taste. (But our #1s seemed to be Zorya and Coin Trick.)
It’s fun to scroll through the BPAL American Gods product page and check out the thoughtful descriptions and lovely art. Plus, it’s cool to see fandom-y products combine with charitable ventures.
I must admit I’m curious to try out “Media’s” fragrance: “A news anchor’s cologne, a soap star’s perfume: perfect, pixelated, and glamorous; aglow with cathodes and anodes, coated with phosphor. ‘I offered you the world,’ she said. ‘When you’re dying in a gutter, you remember that.’”
Just try saying “fake news” to the Media that you’ll soon meet on Starz’ American Gods. Gillian Anderson was already a goddess, so the role isn’t much of a leap for her. In the meantime, I’ll be clinging to my favorite tiny bottles, waiting for someone to ask “What’s are you wearing?” to which I’ll respond, “The blood must flow.”