Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Uncommon Scents

What does a lothario or a femme fatale smell like? Would you say gluttony smells thick, sugared and bloated with sweetness — maybe a blend of dark chocolate, vanilla, butter cream and hops with pralines, hazelnut, toffee and caramel? What about places? Do you imagine that Dublin smells of misty forests, damp alder leaves and the gentlest touch of white rose?

Beth Moriarty does. At the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab that she runs with her partner, Brian Constantine, Moriarty sets out to solve scent puzzles triggered by memories of emotions, desires, the mood of a specific place or even literary characters.

Moriarty’s curiosity and insatiable need to find answers to her many scent riddles have led to more than 300 Black Phoenix perfume-oil blends, inspired, she says, by magickal (more mystical than magic), pagan, mythological, Renaissance, medieval and Victorian formulas. When Moriarty was 12, she met the master perfumer and master Freemason Hiram Derby, who had learned his trade in the 1940s, in part from New Orleans’ Madame Marie Guischard, a perfumer and voodooienne. Moriarty completed a six-year apprenticeship with Derby and a year with Madame Guischard. She studied Afro-Caribbean root work, perfumery, natural magick, homeopathy, aromatherapy and conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, all of which she uses to create her historic, artistic and possibly magical fragrances.

Perfumery was maligned during the early days of Christianity because it was associated with pagan cultures that used it for homeopathic remedies and spells, but by the 16th century, perfumery had reached art-form status in Italy. Full Story

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