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Breath of God - Yes, it is

Photo -Wikipedia - Mangjia Longshan Temple in Taiwan - Bernard Gagnon

I’m pretty good at recognizing perfumes on other people, but a few days ago I caught a whiff of something on a friend that was so unusually beautiful, it stopped me in my tracks. She was wearing, she said, Breath of God.

I’d read the Perfumes The A-Z Guide review several times – T & L rate it as a 5-star. The perfume was created by the father and son team, Mark and Simon Constantine, as part of the B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful line, which is now sold through their LUSH stores as Gorilla Perfumes. “We are an antidote to boring mass-market scents and a movement to get people excited about good quality perfume.” If you don’t know about LUSH, check out their website – the company has a laser-focused operating philosophy, and it must be working well because, when I walked in the store in the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto on a Thursday afternoon, it was packed.

LUSH was founded in England in 1996 by Mark and his wife Mo (and a few other people), and is a vertical company – it sources all ingredients and materials, manufactures, and sells its own proprietary freshly hand-made bath, skin, and hair products through its own retail outlets, products made with minimal preservatives which are 100% vegetarian, ethically-sourced, minimally-packaged, and not-tested-on-animals. With no packaging on the scented products, the soaps and bath bombs are stacked in tiered piles à la European green-grocer shops, so LUSH stores unmistakedly and notoriously scent the surrounding air wherever they’re located.

It’s a love-it or hate-it kind of floral/fruity/spicy smell and I, of course, love it.  When I stepped off the train onto the subway platform at Dundas station, I could smell the LUSH store which is in the mall -  through 2 sets of glass doors – so I just followed my nose, right into the store to the Gorilla Perfumes on the back display shelves. Twenty minutes later, after testing Karma, Dirty, Smell of Freedom, Lust, and Tuca Tuca, I left with my bottle of Breath of God, which smells like it cost 5X more than actually did.

Here’s Simon Constantine talking about his creative process for this amazing fragrance in a post on the Gorilla Perfume Blog ...

“For those who haven’t heard of it before, I first developed the idea of Breath of God when reading up on pheromones. I discovered that many attractive scents actually contain pheromones similar to our own. For example, the composition of incense materials are actually similar to that of human breath. So, when incense is burning in a church, temple or wherever else, it’s like a sweet, ethereal breath flowing through the congregation. I found this fascinating and on my subsequent travels through China and Tibet, I was inspired by the heavy use of incense. From yak butter candles and sandalwood incense in the temples to the juniper branches burned on the hillsides.

When I returned from travelling, I began making two fragrances. One was rich in wood-smoke, heavy with amber and sandalwood inside the temples. The other fresh, clean like the air whistling across the nomadic grasslands. When both of these fragrances were finished I realized that the first was heavily masculine, woody and resinous [named Exhale]; the other took crisp cucumber notes mixed with neroli and bergamot and was altogether more feminine [named Inhale]. I decided to chance mixing the two to see if they blended and the result was Breath of God, a balance of masculine and feminine.”

So the fragrance is based on opposites – yin and yang.The notes are neroli, lemon, melon, jasmine, rose, vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood, amber, musk – nothing new or unusual from the perfumer’s arsenal. BUT, it’s the way these notes merge into light/dark accords, in successive waves through the dry-down, that make Breath of God so glorious and special.

Don’t let the opening put you off – it’s strange, odd and weird. Some people can’t get past it, but if you do, the rewards are huge. Intensely smoky, with a green note like fresh cut flower stems (the vetiver), the opening has a medicinal rubbery smell, which reminds me of Comme des Garçons Tar. Almost right away the lemon and cucumbery melon sweep in, forming an accord which starts to soften the green bitterness, drawing you in as the smoky bonfire damps down a little. Smoke and acidic fruit notes are a strange combo, to say the least, but I’m fascinated because this is a totally new accord that I can’t remember ever smelling in a fragrance. I like it.

As Breath of God dries down the lemon/melon subsides, the smoke is constant but more in the background, and the scent starts to sweeten  - aromatic sandalwood, resinous cedar, and sweet amber form the next heavenly wave which smells like burning incense, with the earthy nuance of oudh and leather. But it never gets too sweet, and finally, the musk note transforms Breath of God into a skin scent, not sensuous, but calming and spiritual, which stays soft and quiet on the skin for hours.

If you’ve travelled in Asia, and visited Buddhist temples, you’ll understand the “weird factor” in this fragrance, and why it’s called Breath of God. Twenty years ago, a Chinese friend took me to visit an old, old temple near a village in the mountains near Taipei (the name is long gone from my memory) and smelling this perfume reminded me of walking through that ancient site – old wood, damp stone, smoking incense, flowers in brass pots, aromatic woods from the hillsides, cooking smells from the village, rain (it's always raining there), the monks in their saffron and burgundy robes, the chirps of birds - it had a quiet but forceful energy. It was definitely a holy place, and to my Western nose it smelled so foreign, so other-worldly, and yet so familiar. I actually did feel close to God there, so maybe there really was a "breath" in the air giving me that feeling I remember so vividly.

Breath of God from Lush is definitely NOT mainstream – not happy or playful, floral or fruity. It’s serene, meditative, and so incredibly exceptional. I think it’s an superb example of what happens when an artist is given full creative license, when the focus is on the quality of the juice, and not the "bottom line" profit on the product.

And there are several more fragrances from LUSH which qualify for the “exceptional” category, but I’ll get to those another day. Right now, I’m going to breathe in a little more Breath of God before I merge with the subway masses.

Breath of God is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.