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BPAL Madness!


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About starbrow

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  1. starbrow


    Arlecchina has aged beautifully, kind of a vampy Bewitched sort of scent that has the dark juice of blackberry and the dark, dry quality of black currant, combined with a deep darkness from the smoky cade, earthy leather, and a musk that's underlying everything. For me, it's a similar leather to the one in Artist's Entrance, but much less prominent, taking a backseat to the dark fruits in Arlecchina, whereas Artist featured the finished woods and canvas leathers pretty prominently amidst the sparkly amber. For all that Arlecchina is fruity, it is not terribly sweet. I'd describe it like a good smoky cabernet with notes of black currant and blackberry. Not that this smells like wine, but it has that dry, earthy quality that cab does, without a lot of juiciness or tartness. I'd wear this when I want to feel the sexiness of plum without actually wearing plum, or a blackberry that is more sophisticated and elevated. I think a ton of people would like this, especially if Bewitched or Artist's Entrance was your thing. Love my bottle!
  2. starbrow

    Velvet Void

    Plum is my very favorite note in the whole world! I have a burning need to try every plum blend out there. With that disclaimer, the Lab's 2021 plum note is totally different than past ones. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Velvet Void. Immediately upon smelling, this is entirely about the tart, dare I say sour plum that showed up in the Raucous Games Inside a Bathhouse (2021 Shunga) and Asleep in the Deep (2021 Anniversary Sea Shanties). It is a plum that is so bright, juicy, and puckery that my brain translates it as grapefruit. Yes, I said it! I don't enjoy that avenue of fruit, so I just have to conclude that this type of plum is not for me. In the case of Velvet Void, that note is definitely holding hands with the elderberries, which I recognize from taking elderberry syrup during cold season. It's a comforting kind of scent, but isn't doing anything to hold back the grapefruity plum. Nor am I getting any of the darker notes - two types of anise, where are you?? opoponax, you rubbery dark resin, where are you hiding? and my beloved frankincense, that shimmer of a resin, is really covered up by that insane plum top note that lasts for hours. I can detect a bit of the powdery lotus-esque myrrh effect here, although I wouldn't necessarily have guessed myrrh from smelling it blindly. Maybe a hint of white tea? A buzz of cypress, which is always just short of fizzy to my nose? Bottom line: this is a bright, tart, insistent kind of plum that is even MORE extra than those other two 2021 plum blends! If you enjoyed those, I can recommend Velvet Void to you. If you like the deep, dark, velvety plum that BPAL is known for, or want a dark resinous murkfest of a scent, look elsewhere.
  3. starbrow

    Lord of the Heavens

    Wow, this one is a surprise. I was very sus, because sars. 😅 You see, sarsaparilla is typically a very fizzy, cola-spicy note in my nose and I tend to banish it from my presence at all costs. Here, though, the herbal elements lead the way, sage and juniper giving a quiet outdoorsy burr of greens right out of the gate, and hyssop and cedarwood lending kind of a darker, more somber presence to the brighter edge of frankincense. That back end of the scent is where the sarsaparilla does its fizzy thing, and it does conspire in my nose to go not cola but actually soapy? I'm feeling the buzz of suds right at the tip of my nose from some fierce bar-soap. Eventually, the sarsaparilla does win and this is a really woodsy, gnarly surfactant. It's not a bottle upgrade for me, because I tend to not like those kind of scents, but nobody would bat an eyelash if you walked around smelling like this, because everybody would assume you were very freshly washed and then maybe took a roll in the woods. (I mean, maybe that last part would get some batted lashes, but the rest is all very normal.) (Many hours later, when all the fizz has worn off, this is a gorgeous foresty close-to-the-skin scent. I can get that with other blends that I enjoy the journey more for, it's just worth observing that this is a very lovely morpher.)
  4. starbrow

    Pontifex Pontificum

    Oh, hey there orange blossom from Balancing the Sake Cup. I blamed the combination of other notes with you for the crazy cooking spices that turned up there. Turns out, this is just a pretty spicy neroli/orange blossom - like skin-staining yellow-orange-tinted kind of spice - and it's not a spice I enjoy. It's just too savory to belong in a perfume, for me. The verbena isn't helping either, it's really powerful and lemony, so I'm totally getting cooking vibes from Pontifex Pontificum. I don't usually picture the Pope cooking, but when in Rome...? I can tell there's a lovely frankincense beneath, and I'm guessing there's also some champaca. This is another really smug blend. Rose doesn't stand a chance, for once. I would say it's pretty far down into the blend, although it lends that touch of sweeter floral beneath the spicier, headier orange blossom and champaca, and the balance here is actually welcome! The drydown is quite nice, as the top notes start to let the whole thing breathe, with resins finally emerging. Pontifex is for anyone who enjoyed Balancing the Sake Cup and wants to take that into a slightly churchier realm.
  5. starbrow

    The Crossed Keys

    Stony, but in a totally different way than the Lab's usual stone notes. Where those tend to have a coldness, a grime to them, this is exceptionally spotless concrete, poured out for a heavenly path of sanctified feet to walk. That's what I keep thinking as I smell The Crossed Keys: concrete. It's fascinating, how perfectly that sun-warmed stone comes through. It is so pure white and sparkling, I am almost sure there is some champaca too, rendering this path holier-than-though, a kind of heavenly incense bleach. I won't lie, myrrh in the company of three other resins scared me. But I can't smell any of the typical powdery-syrupy presence of scary myrrh. Of the four notes, the pale sandalwood is the most recognizable in The Crossed Keys. The soft nuttiness of gum acacia is probably the second most prominent. I get very little frankincense, alas, for I am a frank fan. I would not have guessed myrrh from the bright white of whatever resin is left; it's so champaca to me! Concrete is not one of my weird-but-I-love-it scents, so this one won't be upgraded to a bottle, yet there is surely some experiment waiting to happen of layering this with SN Dandelion to see how close one could come to recreating Dandelions and Concrete.
  6. starbrow

    The Initiator

    A beautiful, quiet prayer of a scent...pierced by the occasional smack of chewing gum in the form of styrax aka liquidambar/sweet gum. Otherwise, the murmur of holy incense from the frankincense and onycha (another note used in traditional temple incense) is very calm and grounding, with a touch of spice and earth from the galangal and cinnamon bark but nothing very spicy.For those afraid of spice, this is not a spice bomb whatsoever. The zestier elements are balanced, even muted, in the shadow of the holy incense. Even the cinnamon is in an earthier form, almost something that could itself be incense. Overall, the Initiator is a simple, almost pure kind of blend. The throw is intimate, as far as a whispered prayer in a quiet cathedral. The moment I smelled this, I was sure I needed a full bottle. But when I started looking up the notes, that's when I realized the styrax really does have a disconcerting smack of gum here! It's not quite bubble gum - it's not that sweet - but maybe once bubble gum has lost its lotus-y flavor and is just flavorless gum? I am hoping eventually it settles down and melds into the other notes. I will continue to wear and age my decant to see if I need to upgrade as the resins coalesce. For me, this blend is very unique in my collection of churchy incenses, and I really hope I need a bottle!
  7. starbrow


    Oh this is gorgeous. I love a good bay leaf, and it is the star of Hierophantes. Of course, it is used in a perfumed way, for a fragrant waft of spice that permeates each stage of the blend, but it makes my head swim how beautifully it's featured here. I feel like it's perfectly supported by the oakmoss (which can be a punchy note for me but not in this case) and balsam (traditionally a prickly note, but again, not here, where everything is silky smooth). The effect is a smoky, dreamy bay that is refined and so, so wearable. Bay lovers should run, not walk. You may be used to pomegranate being sweet in BPAL's blends, and in fact when I sniff my Black Pomegranate single note, that one is incredibly sweet. However, Hierophantes is far more smoky than sweet. In spite of SWEET fig, HONEY, and the ever-tooth-achingly sweet POM being listed here, these elements stay dark and muted, any sweetness heavily shadowed. This makes Hierophantes even more wearable as a unisex blend, I feel like. If you told me this was part of the recent Hellboy Movie release, I would not bat an eyelash. The vibe is exactly right. Hierophantes is a perfect cross-section of Nimue (dark fruits), Vengeance Eternal HG (smoky wood-spice), and The Crown HG (something posh and elegant in how all the blood notes and spices and woods come together). I am so happy I blind-bottled and will be wearing the heck out of it heading into autumn.
  8. starbrow

    The Disciples

    Why hello, Elephant is Slow to Mate's virginal cousin! I've been wearing The Disciples all yesterday, having blind-bottled it thanks to Elephant breaking me of my rose aversion, and yet I didn't make the connection between the two smelling similar until just today. Duh! But it's true. If you enjoyed the plummy rosy aspect of Elephant and wanted a softer, less vampy version of her with a lovely infusion of vanilla bean, The Disciples is for you. Let's make no mistake here. This is a rose perfume. But the vanilla and prune (plum lol) conspire to add a generous spritz of Sugar Plum & Vanilla Bean atmo to the rose fest. These are quite lush, creamy rose petals, like I can smell the velvety burr of the petals' surface, and it's really magical. Not a spicy rose by any means, so if that's something you enjoy, this is on the sweeter side of the rose spectrum. I am a big fan of both red sandalwood and BPAL's past orange blossoms, but they are not the stars here. I wouldn't have guessed that either of them was in this scent, but inside I know that they are helping to balance out the rose with that faint touch of wood and citrus, and I give them the credit that they well-deserve. They lend a calmness to the blend, not letting rose do her ampy thing. A welcome restraining hand, but an unobtrusive one. You know what this is reminding me of, strangely? Lady Amalthea. Blind, I would have guessed this had white chocolate and rose and vanilla in it. I guess because The Disciples is *so* sweet and girly, a blushing pink of a perfume, that it gave me the same feeling as Amalthea. I think someone who enjoys either that sweet floral/gourmand musk, or someone who liked Elephant and could picture a sweeter, more innocent version of her, will find The Disciples rather delightful.
  9. starbrow

    The Triple Crown

    WOW there are a whole lot of resins listed here, along with some traditionally sweeter notes that really called to me. I gleefully blind bottled. Fresh on the skin, I'm scared. This is all cardamom. The greenest cardamom that ever got carded. I want off this ride. It's making the crushed greenery extra greeny, although this is not screaming oakmoss at me. Behind it, the amber doesn't have much of a chance, because it is a very soft glow in the razzle-dazzle of green cardamom and mosses. I think I can pick up a fuzzy element that is probably the brown musk/rice milk/vanilla bean kind of swirling with the amber to be a little sweet, but still. GREEN. The resins don't really pop for me at all for the first hour or two. Later, this dries down to the PRETTIEST vetiver that has me swooning. It takes a good few hours for the cardamom to burn off. I'm dying, but I survive, and I want this vetiver stage so much earlier. It's gorgeous. The elemi with all the sweeter notes is reminding me a little bit of Please Scream Inside Your Heart, so in case that one was a winner for you, maybe try The Triple Crown. I think this will morph hard in the next few weeks of aging, so for now, I'm keeping my bottle to see what it turns into. It's an exciting ride for sure.
  10. starbrow

    Cherry Blossom Vulva

    Yep this is what I thought. Pure gardenia and honeysuckle, which is a nightmare for me. I get no cherry blossoms or plum blossoms, and the cream seems to amp up the florals I don't like, just the way they did in The Poinsettia Gown. I am jealous of those who get cherry blossom and plum blossom from this blend! I think if honeysuckle tends to work on your skin, this blend of florals will sing. I do wish the cherry blossom didn't have to compete with all the other florals, but Right Atrium is definitely more my thing!
  11. starbrow

    Travelers Under a Tree Observed by Foxes

    Okay, this one is unfortunate for me - it's the same coconut that gave me such problems in Leave Her Johnny - but it's very fortunate for those who enjoyed the Coconut, Smoked Vanilla, and Fig trio and want something in the same vein. Travelers has the same smoky vanilla mood from the rice milk, with a faint white tea clarity in the background, but really what is the most striking here - for me - is the coconut, which is that big poofy ampy coconut from the trio. Quite sweet and full-bodied, and a total disaster on my skin, but perfect if you do enjoy those two that I mentioned and want a Shunga that has those same vibes, with a little more twist of Shunga rice milk/white tea mood.
  12. starbrow

    Cascading Silks

    Smelling this blindly, I wouldn't have begun to guess at the notes. It's sheer, slinky, but a little pickly. Like there's a twinge that resembles the ink note that can go pickle/cucumber to my nose, just like in Shadow Pictures. This infuses the buttery quality of the orris with something that I don't really enjoy much. Reading the notes, I can see that the florals are very gentle but also have an odd quality to them combined. I think I smell violet/wisteria most prominently, with no lavender or carnation to my nose. I think this is the same amber as in Kimi Ga Dai Wa, because in my blind test I kept getting flashes of Kimi mood from Cascading Silks, but then pickles. Sigh. I also can't pick up the red currant, and that's usually a pretty distinctive note. I'd recommend this one to fans of Shadow Pictures or Kimi who also enjoy soft, buttery florals. I am probably the only one who has this problem with ink, but that was ultimately what made this otherwise pretty perfume a no go for me.
  13. starbrow

    Bloody Corridor

    You turn down an endless corridor shadowed with black panels and splattered with red, venturing deeper...only to find an aged Bard playing at the end of it, his ridiculously charismatic tune jangling over all-too-familiar notes. What. the. actual. I expected lots of beeswax like Endless Corridors, plus a splash of something red - red musk, cherry, dragon's blood, the fun was in the guessing. What I did not expect was to find my beloved, elusive AGED BARD up in the mix. For those who know me well, you know that I am a sucker for a good thicc aged imp/bottle of Bard, and had always chalked the yumminess up to saffron. I am now rethinking my assessment. Well, to the task at hand. The bloodied Corridor ends up smelling QUITE different than its Endless counterpart. The red musk goes in spicy, almost metallic directions that are MARVELOUS. Think Scherezade, layered over a deeply sinister beeswax and vetiver, kissed by smoke, with the twang of harpstrings and the ominous glint of brass. It's like a symphony of sensual horror, alluring and sexy while hinting at the darker depths beneath. When compared with Bard, the difference in mood is apparent there. Bard plays in sunshine; Bloody susurrates in shadows. The vetiver and smoke curl like seductive tendrils through the Bloody Corridor, reaching out to pull you in to its thick mass of red musk. Bard's bay rum and white musk, by comparison, are impish and innocent and charming, a veritable Jaskier of a scent. What's wild to me is that I can smell the vetiver WAY MORE in Bloody vs. Endless. It really comes out to play here and I am living for that. The beeswax is much more in check, twining into the masses of red musk for that singing quality that aged Bard has. I love it so much more than Endless, and Endless is REALLY GOOD but has a sharp quality to it that I didn't always enjoy. Bloody has no such sharpness. It's just sus af and I love it that way. Scherezade fans, take note. This is Good Shit. Vetiver fans should also run, not walk, to their nearest second-hand forum. Even beeswax fans need this as a very different, wonderful take on a familiar note. This might be my favorite thing from 2021 so far.
  14. starbrow

    Magic, Do As You Will

    I was so surprised when I first smelled Magic, Do As You Will and realized there was PLUM in it! My alltime favorite note! SCORE! Those deep purple fruits most certainly include plum, grape, and perhaps blackberry, and they stay wafting and swirling throughout the duration of this scent's wear. Almost the way a plum musk or plum oudh would. However, Magic stands out in my plum collection for a few reasons. Firstly, there is a spicy floral here. The way carnation has spice to it, amidst the creaminess of the floral. I am not sure if it's exactly carnation, or a sassy orchid, or a very very delicately blended dragon's blood or even rose, but the spices are of a gently flowery nature and not (to my nose at least) of a savory variety. The other thing that's so interesting here is a layer of resins that reads to me like opoponax: a little rubbery, like a slight whiff of a fresh tire store, and a little woody, and sweetly smoky. As it dries, and lingers for 6-12 hours, it manifests as a true plum oudh, sweet and creamy-woody and beautifully fragrant. It keeps the tinge of carnation-spice to it throughout, but it lingers in the realm of Shadow Lace, Euterpe's Ukelele, and other plum oudhs. From reviews, this scent was a gamble for me, but once I tried it, it was a total win. I think if plum works well on your skin, it's worth a try at least, and esp. if you know you like rubbery resins or something a little carnationy. I've been singing the praises of my bottle and hope it works well for others too!
  15. starbrow

    Injured Dickchest Alchemy Lab

    This is kind of ridiculously charming. It is so high on the perfumey scale, you might as well have walked into a perfume store, and of course that's thanks to the wafty champaca doing its bright, high-pitched thing. I always see champaca as a very "shining" note. Sometimes so shining, it is smug and full of itself for being so shiny and pretty. Here, though, it has a real sense of humor. The pink pepper/tea give it a breezy, cheerful, sprightly kind of attitude, the way Tweedledee does. I would actually highly recommend it for fans of that blend, because it has the same kind of charm. Surprisingly, Injured Dickchest is quite sweet and not just in a floral way. While I don't pick up specifically vanilla, there's a richly sweet undercurrent beneath the shining white of the champaca, sprinkled with the spicier notes of pink pepper (a "cute" kind of pepper, to my nose) and a cool, mellow green tea. It's a lovely combination, nearly three years later, and I'm digging it. VERY strong, like a little goes a long way, and it stays very noticeable for a long time. You'd have to be in a Mood to wear this one, but fortunately, it's a good mood for me. Keeping my bottle!