Monday, April 27, 2009
What does an elephant smell like?
Sometimes I come across scents that make me wonder.
“Breath of God” is one such fragrance. Anything that gets a five-star review from Tania Sanchez gets my attention; this one did. Even without the five stars it still would have, simply because of the over-the-top-ness of the name.
I got a sample in a swap, eagerly ripped off the tape and sprayed it on the back of my hand. I thought, immediately, WTF? Gasoline and sticky candy? And then I thought, “Breath of Dog.”
It just came to me. The scent smells nothing like the breath of a dog, of course. The opening is actually a nose-tickling vetiver and something really, really sweet, and it’s so volatile that there’s a bitter residue on my lips after sniffing it.
Most of the time, when I smell scents either made for the Japanese market or by companies in Japan, they’re tooth-decaying, diabetes-inducing sweet. Far be it from me to even attempt to analyze modern Japanese culture, but this makes me wonder. I’m thinking that this scent, if it is not already targeted to that culture, really should be.
Tania Sanchez says in the winter ’08 Guide newsletter that Breath of God has the “sweet biological rot of compost below and dry air touched with woodsmoke above.” (Let’s call that one “Breath of Bog.”) Wow. If it smelled like that, I’d probably buy a bottle! “Surreal combinations,” she also says. That’s more like it.
I wonder sometimes if any of us are smelling what the others are.
Remember the legend about the eight blind men and the elephant? One grabs the trunk. “An elephant,” he pronounces, “is like a snake.” Another feels the elephant’s leg and declares, “No, an elephant is like a tree.” And so on.
More than anything, I detect in “Breath of God” a shrill note of God-knows-what.
But if you are patient, and I mean very very patient, you will be rewarded with a lovely dry-down, close to the skin, a little floral, a little musky, a little grassy, like a hundred other scents. Is it worth the wait? IMHO, no. So what do I know? I’m still a noob, it seems.
Sometimes, though, I think we get caught up in the rush toward fragrance-as-art, because, as I’ve mentioned here before, perfume as art doesn’t get a lot of respect, at least not yet. You’ll hear in, say, November that some Lutens or Malle or some niche strangeness is IT, and rush to buy or sample it and two months later see that it’s being written about as “mushroom compost mixed with Vicks Vap-O-Rub.”
So it could easily be that Sanchez is at a level of connoisseurship I haven’t approached yet, not even come near, may never. Or it could be that the elephant is very like a tree.
At any rate, is it that I don’t like “Breath of God,” or don’t understand “Breath of God” yet?
Have any of you had similar experiences? As when an esteemed critic loves something and you’re left scratching your head and wondering, hunh?
Something tells me I’m not the only one.
Tell me by Wednesday, May 6th, Midnight US EDT, and I will do a drawing, and send one of you a 1 ml (roughly) sample of “Breath of God” so you can decide for yourself.
“Breath of God” is made by “B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful.” The perfumer is Simon Constantine.
I have no idea what “Breath of God’s” notes are, other than vetiver. Do you? If so, please tell me in your comment!
An administrative detail: before my old junker laptop crashed a couple of weeks ago, I had a “blind copy” mailing list with the names of a number of other bloggers and perfume people on it. I lost it. If you’d like to be notified by e-mail when there’s a new post on “Olfactarama,” please send me a note at pborow at comcast dot net and I’ll recreate one.