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Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: Magdalene

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In the bottle, what first strikes my nose is Magdalene's wonderful rose scent, one of my favorite notes. BPAL roses are really unpredictable, though- they can range from absurdly stuffy to hysterically shrill to utterly deranged. This is an unexpected BPAL rose, with a pleasant, rather "normal" floral roundness, a reasonable, refreshing greenness, and an unusual depth.

On first application, Magdalene has a sharp burnt note that reminds me of the off top notes of my vintage Le Galion Snob. There is something about these burnt chemicals hovering over an otherwise pleasant floral that I really love. It's like a synthetic rebelliousness, a shabby chic dress, the chaotic beauty of imperfection.

Magdalene then settles down into one of my favorite BPAL rose scents. Everything about the description is true: roses, orchids, labdanum; stirring yet gentle; love and devotion mingled with heart wrenching sorrow. The order of words is important here- it is first, love and devotion, then sorrow. The sweet, gorgeous floral notes are grounded by the labdanum, and it is the conflict between them that makes the emotion of this perfume so expansive.

It reminds me of Guerlain's Après L'ondée, which also has that expansive conflict. Après L'ondée is a play between wet, tearful florals: rose, iris, and heliotrope; and the grounding bouquet de Provence: thyme, rosemary, and sage. The result is revelatory: it is the shift from rain to sunlight, from tears to a smile.

Whereas Après L'ondée has a holy, transcendent quality to it, what I love about Magdalene is its shift, not to clarity, but to darkness. Après L'ondée's play between sorrow and hope seems to beg, to insist, to pray that hope will conquer. Magdalene, on the other hand, lets the darkness in, and the play between love and sorrow suggests that sorrow will win. The scent passively, but seductively, accepts this idea, and dries to a dark, rosy labdanum. The entire experience is sexy, complicated, emotional and beautiful.


  1. MonkeyBars's Avatar
    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree about this house. It's really all over the place. Only a few are balanced and elegant, that's for sure.


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