Perfume and scents are one of those lovely grown-up things that I’ve never been into that much. And then, in 2009, my husband and I went to a perfume factory in Egypt and learned about natural oil perfume. It didn’t irritate my skin like the cheap products I was using, and there was this exotic layering of scents that transported me to other places and times. I got myself a beautiful glass bottle shaped like a camel (of course) filled with a scent called Jewel of the Nile, and I was hooked.
I love the ability of scent to create an entire world, and it’s something I try to embrace in my books because obviously, I don’t recognise people by their faces. I often browse online scent catelogues like the ones below for the chosen scents for my characters. It would be a dream come true to one day have a scent collaboration.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a new scent to match your dark mood, here are seven of my favourite moody and gothic perfume companies.
1. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Purveyors of fine esoteric goods, perfumes and potions.
The classic, the one, the only … BPAL has been around since I was a baby bat goth back in the early 200s. This was the first company formulating scents with a dark, romantic, gothic tone, and they’ve basically been rocking their thing ever since. Every scent comes in a beautiful dark glass poison bottle with artistically-designed labels and a poetic description, and every scent is a new heavenly experience. BPAL has media tie-ins with movies and series like Crimson Peak (my first BPAL purchase was from this collection), and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and they’ve also collaborated with my favourite blog Haute Macabre.
Favourite scents: How to choose? Sherlock Holmes (A fastidiously clean scent, with a dash of pipe and cigarette tobacco. Faintly beneath, you catch the fragrance of a smear of greasepaint, a stray horsehair, and a whisper of Moroccan leather and rosin.), Bram Stoker (Bourbon vetiver with opoponax, Italian bergamot, and hay absolute.), or Bordello (The scent evokes images of velvet-lined Old West cathouses, tightly laced corsets, rustling petticoats and coquettish snarls of pleasure. Bawdy plum with amaretto, burgundy wine and black currant.).
Other notes: All oils (except those containing beeswax, honey and butter extract) are vegan. No animal testing and all ingredients ethically sourced. BPAL also regularly release exclusive scents to raise funds for causes they believe in, including a Good Omens collection from the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett that raised funds for the Orangutan Foundation UK.
2. Seance Perfumes
Hauntingly beautiful scents for those who want to be remembered.
I stumbled across Seance Perfumes randomly a couple of months ago and were completely sucked in by their stunning branding and intoxicating descriptions. I mean, “Hauntingly beautiful scents for those who want to be remembered” – how perfect is that? Answer: SO perfect. I am now wearing Man of Letters all the time. Seance also offers “tear-catchers” (totally a myth, actually Victorian perfume bottle jewellery) to store and wear your perfumes, and I waaaaant one.
Other notes: all ingredients are vegan-friendly.
3. For Strange Women
Small-batch artisan perfume with avant-garde concepts and a timeless handmade aesthetic.
This artisan perfume store has been operating since 2009. One of their most popular lines is the Lunar perfume series, a perfume subscription with a new scent to celebrate every new moon. They also stock beautiful perfume lockets and amulets. Many of their scents carry ritual and alchemical significance. Their aesthetic and their scents are pared back, natural, botanical, and wispy. Anyone who creates a scent called ‘Winter Kitty’ is a damn fine human.
Favourite scents: Rain (recreates the delicate aromatics that fill the air after a storm. Sweet traces of ozone, damp ground, and mushrooms fill the freshly cleaned air. The scent of Eucalyptus and Douglas Fir are released from the branches of a northern landscape. Cool petrichor evaporates quietly from your skin into the atmosphere), Winter Kitty (a blanket of snow and evolves to a comforting base of vetiver, woods, and frankincense. A sweet musk of amber, rose and vanilla complete the scent of a house cat as he returns from a winter walk, with chimney smoke and brisk air lingering in his fur), or French Oakmoss (a tree lichen with a dark green, powerfully grounding aroma. A light anointing can pull the wearer deep into meditation and restore a sense of balance. Lavender and violet leaf lend brighter green overtones while the tenacious mossy base remains for a long drydown.)
Other notes: 100% all natural ingredients, many vegan.
4. Whisper Sisters
Purveyors of unique hand-blended perfume oils.
Whisper Sisters have been creating and selling unique perfume oils for more than 20 years. They specialise in resinous, earthy, patchouli, woodsy, and balsamic based blends. You can choose from a long list of scents, then decide if you want screw-top or roll-on bottles, and you’re golden.
Favourite scents: Bad Witch (nag champa, frankincense, sandalwood, dragon’s blood, aged patchouli), Balefire (sugar, nutmeg, snoke, lemon, Egyptian musk, patchouli), or Wood sprite (red rose, oud, black spruce, birch, honey absolute, oak moss, Spanish moss, patchouli, blood cedar).
Other notes: Prices are inexpensive compared to other houses. They might be a great place to start if you want to try indie perfumes for the first time. Vegan-friendly: no animal testing and no animal products unless explicitly noted.
5. Solstice Scents
An array of unique and intriguing fragrances for both men and women.
Ignoring the strange 90s website format, Solstice Scents offer a vast range of unique perfume oils and other bath and beauty products. Many products also have ritual and alchemical purposes.
Favourite scents: Basilica (labdanum, vanilla, frankincense, rosewood, myrrh, sandalwood, galbanum), Conjure Dark (amber, frankincense, sweet incense smoke, dried rose petals, sandalwood, vetiver, woods, oud, vanilla), Victorian tea room (palmarosa, kumquat-orange marmalade, chamomile, rose, lemon, black tea, oriental base).
Other notes: All perfume oils are vegan unless otherwise noted (some contain a honey extract). No products are tested on animals.
Hexannacht is so sexy, and I’m not just saying that because I love anything the evokes German witches. I love everything about this brand, from the hand-drawn labels and classic poison-bottle shapes to the dark, almost heavy metal scents. Get into your satanic groove with these unique scents.
Favourite scents: Black Philip (black amber, dragon’s blood, black musk, tonka, black oak, firewood embers, blackcurrent, soft woods, black pepper), Blood moon (dragon’s blood, smoked vanilla, pipe tobacco, beeswax, sanguine mask), or the bell witch (blood musk, ebon musk, feral musk, nag champa, sandalwood, incense, guaiac wood, vanilla, bergamot, aged dark patchouli, woodsmoke, amber.)
7. Strange Fire and Fumery
Candles, incense and perfume that’s a little different.
The perfumer behind this unique brand has been working with fragrance for over 10 years and brings principles of aromatherapy and perfume design to incenses and candles. I love the illustrations, dark labels with Death’s Head Hawkmoth logo, and of course all the luxurious and delicious scents.
Favourite scents: Witch wife (Pine trees that scrape the sky, rich sandalwood, teak, an old cottage, a trail of forget-me-nots to find your way home), Rook (Wet leaves, musky black feathers, slow vetiver, a stiff branch, the slow death-creep of Autumn, a fussy Underworld messenger), or Cara Mia (a trip to a midnight rose garden, backed with the decadent brooding sweetness of blackcurrant).
There you go – seven purveyors of dark and delicious scents, for all your perfume needs. And if you want to read something dark and awesome while you smell good, check out my book The Castle of Earth and Embers.