You shiver in your delicate nightgown, the ruffles fluttering. A draft makes the flames of the candles gutter and snap, your fist so tightly clenched around the silver candleabra that your knuckles ache. What was that sound you heard?
If you’ve recently caught sight of me on my assorted social media accounts, then you’ve seen seen me shrieking and flailing in delight about Guillermo del Toro’s movie, Crimson Peak. It’s a darkly lush gothic romance, full of terror, ghosts, and every gothic romance trope that Guillermo del Toro could layer into it. To say that I loved this movie (and the novelization by Nancy Holder, and the art book Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness) is to only faintly portray my enthusiasm for it.
When I learned that my beloved olfactory geniuses at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Black Phoenix Trading Post had created a line of perfume oils and atmosphere sprays, my flailing glee reached new levels.
They very kindly sent me some of these dark treats for review, and I’m thrilled to be sharing my impressions of the scents with you.
(All text in italics is from the Lab’s descriptions.)
Black Moths: A flutter in the darkness: wild plum and blackcurrant with aged black patchouli, vetiver, red rose petal, tonka absolute, and opoponax. Enticing and shimmering, but there’s no warmth here. The scent of flowers gives way to dark earth and dusty velvet, with something faintly medicinal.
Crimson Peak: Snow marbled with blood-red clay, frozen over the scent of decayed wood. Dark earth and damp wood, with an iron wire binding icy white flowers. On my skin, over time, the wood and the iron became more pronounced, with the barest breath of something floral to sweeten it.
The Manuscript: A leather-bound manuscript, ink barely dry. A Gothic ghost tale, personified. The pages are permeated with a preternatural, otherworldly quality – but only slightly, as “the ghost is a counterpoint”; leather and paper and splotches of ink, with a hint of ghostly chill. This is the scent of freshly-cut flower stems, wrapped in old newsprint and tied with a strong leather cord.
Alan McMichael: Bay rum and sandalwood. The smell of an old-fashioned gentlemen’s barber shop. The bay rum is sharp and bracing, but the sandalwood softens it and makes it sweeter and less aggressive.
Edith Cushing: Pearlescent vanilla musk with white sandalwood, grey amber, white patchouli, ambrette seed, and oudh. A delicate, golden scent, with the grey amber and white patchouli lending it a glimmer like dust in a sunbeam. Over time, as the scent enters the drydown stage, the vanilla musk and the oudh become stronger, smelling like the best library you could imagine.
Lady Lucille Sharpe: Faded red roses and a glimmer of garnet with black lily, ylang ylang, smoky plum musk, and black amber. Again, a faded velvet feel to this scent, but with more flowers than I was expecting for poor Lucille. Flowers covered with dust, or sealed behind glass. The plum musk comes through as time wears on, adding an appropriately feral note.
Sir Thomas Sharpe: Black amber darkens a pale fougere. The sweetness and warmth of amber, overgrown with moss, ferns, creeping vines, and every other wildly-growing green thing. As time goes on, this becomes more and more enticing.
Crimson Peak Atmosphere Sprays from Black Phoenix Trading Post, $35 per 4oz. spray.
Lucille’s Bedroom: Lilac water, fossilized black amber, lily of the valley, violet leaf, and oakmoss. More dusty florals, as is appropriate for Lucille’s bedroom. The lily of the valley is the most noticeable, but gives way to the green of the violet leaf and the depth of the oakmoss. The fossilized black amber adds a touch of warmth.
The Cemetery, Many Years Ago: A solemn, pale child standing amongst snow-laden tombs as wet flakes descend from a leaden sky. The smell of snow, fresh-turned earth, and the bitter seasoning of salt tears.
The Workshop: Machinery made magic; the final manifestation of dissolving hopes and clockwork dreams: sawdust and gear lubricant, metal rods shining in golden afternoon light. There’s something golden and amber in this, grounded by the smell of wood shavings and machine oil. Over time, something chilly creeps in, weaving around the amber.
Allerdale Hall: A grand house brooding against the horizon, a silhouette of jutting chimneys and sharp angles silhouetted against the grey sky. Damp wood, earthy clay, and the scent of rain. Exactly what you’d expect a haunted manor house to smell like, actually.
The Sharpe Library: A vast double-height room, crowded with books and glass cabinets. Oil portraits stare down from the walls, and a grand piano plays the ghost of a lullaby. Dry cinnamon, with the barest whisper of vanilla, and everything grounded with a dark wood.
Young Edith’s Bedroom: Beeswax, leather-bound paper, and white gardenias; porcelain and wood, lace and shadow. My absolute favorite of all the atmosphere sprays. The beeswax and white gardenia are sweet and comforting, while the wood and paper smell like a library you want to stay in for hours.
The Black Phoenix Trading Post also has produced Crimson Peak-themed nail polishes, memento boxes, and jewelry. To say that I covet all of these items is, again, to only faintly portray my enthusiasm and longing for these treasures.
If you haven’t had the chance to indulge in lush, terrifying gothic romance that is Crimson Peak — quick! Find a local theatre that’s showing it, and go.