When I first started getting into the beauty scene, of course I found Makeup Alley, the quintessential resource for makeup junkies - and a great place to chat. Unfortunately, I don't spend enough time there now, but that's another subject all together (when I'm there, my screen name is vivaglamorous). When I was able to be there more, I talked on the makeup boards (I never did understand what was happening on the fragrance board - they have their own language!). From time to time someone would mention these perfume oils from a place called "BPAL" -- and whenever it came up it was clear this was a fragrance line that was quite beloved. Being the Dutchess of Google (my "bff" is the Queen), I naturally searched out info.
At the time, I was bit intimidated by what I found. I'd only been exposed to traditional-style perfumes, mostly those found at department stores. I didn't know what a niche fragrance* was, I didn't know a top note from a heart note from a bottom note**, and I couldn't tell you what sillage*** or throw**** was.
Not only did I not know those things (and don't worry - you don't need to know them to enjoy BPAL!), I didn't even realize perfumes came as oils. I thought all perfumes were alcohol-based and in fancy bottles... and that they all smelled fairly similar.
The fact that BPAL products are oils and came in mysterious little vials wasn't the only thing that I found intimidating. The BPAL site is actually a huge one - quite broad in scope and somewhat challenging to navigate if you're a newbie. The home page gives a lot of info in tiny print, and there's these odd categories running down the left-hand side that mean nothing to someone unfamiliar with the brand.
Delve into one of those - for example Wanderlust - and you're faced with long list of items, some just a description of the scent (Danube), and others with a bit of prose, too (The Hanging Garden). Usually scents accompanied by prose (or poetry) (or pictures, in the case of The Salon) include a description of the scent--- but not always. Sometimes what the oil will smell like can be gleaned from the story --- or sometimes not.
And the language - the types of poetry, prose... the imagery... at times the subject matter: well, those aren't always what one would consider "mainstream". Those fancying a bit of the darkside may automatically take to the site; for others it may take a little cajoling.
And so it was with me. I don't hedge from the occult or the mysterious, but I still found the site to be incredibly complex and intimidating.
I admit it: I browsed a bit, felt overwhelmed, and left.
Months later, I thought BPAL would be something cool to write up on my blog and decided to man up and figure it out. It has such a cult following, I just had to figure out why! I spent some time on the site (like three nights straight) and really warmed up to the idea. Actually, I was hooked!
Bottles and Imps courtesy of LaceAndStars
I tried the scent considered to be the "signature" of the brand by some: Snake Oil. I tried some Limited Edition items (these usually quickly become collector's items and are heavily valued by swap). I tried other popular favorites from the "General Catalog" like Mdme. Moriarty, Misfortune Teller. I tried some scents from themed collections, like Alice, from The Mad Hatter section. Seasonal scents are heavily coveted, especially those released for Yule (winter holiday) and Halloween, and I tried a few of those. (They change from year-to-year, by the way, so just because you have Gingerbread Poppet from one year doesn't mean this year's Gingerbread Poppet smells exactly the same... nor does it even guarantee it will be offered this year!)
And one of the first scents I tried was the one that really made my relationship with BPAL true love: Morocco. I wrote about it here, and my love hasn't waned. This perfume oil is, to me, the best scent I've ever smelled. It's heaven in a bottle. It's sex, packaged! Part of the Wanderlust collection, Morocco is described as "The intoxicating perfume of exotic incenses wafting on warm desert breezes. Arabian spices wind through a blend of warm musk, carnation, red sandalwood and cassia."
To make a long story, well... still very long... I am completely and utterly in love with BPAL. The scents are all natural - no chemically created nonsense. You may notice when you first sniff your oils that the smells are richer... deeper... more full than you're used to if you've only used mainstream perfumes. This ain't your Britney Spears celebrity perfume chemical soup! BPAL layers usually blossom and develop. They morph from one thing to another, and if you're of an open mind they take you on a journey with them. You'll notice that BPAL has a uncanny knack for physically representing esoteric concepts, for making poetic imagery become a concrete experience, and even for nailing down such things as the scent of candy corn.
I hope that if you've never BPAL'd before you enjoy this trip into the line this week, and if you're already a fan please contact us and let us know what you'd like covered, what your favorite scents are, why you love the brand --- anything you'd like to contribute!
BPAL Founder/perfumer/"Nose"/genius, Beth MoriartyMore about BPAL:
- Scents are handmade in the USA. Scents are crafted by extreme perfumer Beth Moriarty. She's a genius. Seriously.
- When you order a bottle of BPAL, it's made for you. Like: FOR YOU. It's not pulled of of a shelf in a warehouse; it's made specifically for you. Brewed up by Lab elves after you order, then put in a package and sent on its way. This means you wait a little while for the postman to deliver it, but trust me: it's worth it.
- Not sure how a scent is going to work for you? Check with the experts, the BPAL fanatics. Simply click on Search at the bottom of the sidebar, then type in the name of the scent into the search engine. When results are returned, click on the name of the scent and VOILA!: off you go to the magic that is BPAL.org, a fan site that houses, among other things, reviews of the scents. Yes, you can lose hours there! Here's the review section that covers Morocco, to give you the idea. Look for me there - I'm claresauntie. :)
- The BPAL team is connected quite tightly with writer/artist/comic-creator/Jack-of-all-creative-trades Neil Gaiman*****, who has not just one but four (FOUR!) categories in his honor. Scents created based on works by Gaiman are cataloged in: Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens, and Stardust. (I'd like to see Coraline scents, but no one has asked for my opinion!) Proceeds from all Gaiman-affiliated books go to charity, primarily the Comic Book Defense Legal Fund (though those under the Good Omens heading split proceeds between the CBLDF and The Orangutan Foundation UK).
*****You can check out the works of Neil Gaiman here.
- Scents seem to run $15 and up, and for many of us that's a big commitment to make for a scent we're not so sure we understand! It's more than likely not clear to the newcomer that there's a generous sampling system, called Imp's Ears (you can find it almost all the way to the bottom of the navigation side bar). Aside from the exceptions listed on the Imp's Ears page, you can get a little vial of oil to try for $3.50 (get more bang for your buck and get 6 for $19.50).
- If you're not completely hooked on a scent, try letting it hibernate for awhile. BPAL oils change as time goes by - a completely natural phenomenon. Some scents start out blah and get better, while others start out amazing but hit the stratosphere when aged!
- To further get you hooked, I'll let you in on a secret: I've never receive a package from BPAL that didn't have some extra, unordered Imps (referred to lovingly by fans as Frimps -free imps).
BPAL APPRECIATION WEEK POSTS:
- BPAL at Vampire Con
- Gris Grimly, Dark Delicacies Event
- Sachs and Violens
- BPAL jargon exposed: Amp
- BPAL Review: Black Phoenix
- Black Phoenix Trading Post
- BPAL jargon exposed: Inquisition
- A peek at my stash
- BPAL Review: Dragon's Milk
- BPAL jargon exposed: Decant vs. Imp
- BPAL Appreciation Week extended!
- BPAL jargon exposed: Sniffie
Here are all of our other posts about BPAL. Please enjoy!