Shooting from the Lip
My rip-snortin’ jaunt from ballet girl to punkette to pop singer to TV host & all the messy stuff in between
Perfumes: The A-Z Guide
Witty and provocative reviews of 1,800+ perfumes
What the Nose Knows
A fun and quirky romp through everyday smells
A cultural history of smell
The Emperor of Scent
Maverick Luca Turin's entertaining tussles with perfume and science
The Perfect Scent
An insider's look at the creation of two bestselling fragrances
A Natural History of the Senses
An aphrodisiac for all five senses
The Secret of ScentLuca Turin's scientific look at perfume
Essence and AlchemyThe voluptuous history of natural perfume.
Beth Barrial is the coolest nerd you've ever met. The dragon-red dreadlocked proprietress of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab draws on a lifetime of reading -- history, mythology, gothic horror, pagan naughtiness -- to inspire her 600+ perfumes. This teachers' daughter propelled herself all the way from her favorite childhood stories into a narrative straight out of her beloved graphic novels: the steampunk alchemist who captivates kingdoms with her evocative scents. In Beth's case, these “kingdoms” range from flocks of librarians to drag queens -- and anyone else who relishes the power of fantasy to enhance their lives. Lady B is a storyteller in smells, and a master peddler of fantasy. I visited Beth at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's “Full Moon Open House” a few days after Halloween, 2009. The Full Moon event is a monthly open house held at BPAL's North Hollywood headquarters*, where her happily obsessed fans can experience in person the myriad elixirs described on Beth's poetically Byzantine website. The atmosphere at the open house is simultaneously festive and focused -- it's part sniff-and-tell, part shopping frenzy, and all party. Even though most of the Full Moon revelers have never met, they already have a strong connection through their involvement on the BPAL website. The site is a virtual illuminated manuscript of Beth's own dark diversions (witness Carnaval Diabolique, her non-linear tale with perfumes as characters), her collaborations with graphic novelist Neil Gaiman and artist Molly Crabapple, among others, and her allegorical approach to crafting scents that summon ancient demons and angels. Beth is also pretty handy with summoning the affection of BPAL-istas who delight to the creative churnings of her prolific mind. Having already sworn allegiance to her through the power of her synaesthetic storytelling, Beth's followers are clearly dazzled to meet her in person. And no wonder: she's smart, charismatic and accessible -- and just as in thrall to perfume's power to transport as they are. *Note: Future Full Moon open houses will be held at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA.