Breath of God (B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful/LUSH)

There’s a painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art that simultaneously haunts and infuriates a friend of mine. No matter what special exhibit she's bought a ticket to see, she invariably ends up in the permanent collection wing, fuming in front of this one work of art. She loves it. She hates it. She marvels at its audacity. She grits her teeth at its arrogance. She claims she’ll keep going back to look at it until she finally understands it... or rips it off the wall in frustration.

So it is destined to be with me and Breath of God.

My decision to obtain a decanted sample of it was based on two prompts-- Tania Sanchez' enraptured five-star review of it in Perfumes: The A to Z Guide (in which she described it as "a triumph, a walk through an autumnal landscape in shades of pencil gray instead of painterly gold...") and the heads-up that LUSH's B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful division would soon B Going Out of Business*. If Breath of God really was so astounding, I wanted to experience it before it vanished for good. So I ordered a sample sprayer from The Perfumed Court and readied myself for a religious experience.

A trip through a circus funhouse would be more like it.

As soon as the perfume hit my skin, I was struck by the scent of... something burning. Seriously, I thought I had left a dishtowel on the stove. Before I could reach for the extinguisher, this scent suddenly morphed from house fire to fruit salad to Old Spice. I believe I may have actually uttered “Fuck!” out loud.

Muttering and shaking my head, I sat down on the couch and received a whiff of honeydew melon from the region of my bosom. At the same time, the pulse points up under my jaw were radiating mesquite as if I’d marinated myself in Liquid Smoke. So to recap: my wrists smelled like aftershave, my chest smelled like the produce section at the grocery store, and my throat smelled like a Kansas City barbecue. What kind of alchemical funny business was going on here?

Five minutes elapsed, and we suddenly entered upon a bizarre medicinal phase. All the aforementioned disparate odors came together and turned into BenGay on my skin. I stuck my wrist under my husband’s nose, and he expressed a hope that I would feel better—or at least take another shower—soon. Moments after the words left his mouth, the whole shebang geared down into a fresh men's deodorant scent-- woodsy, musky, almost affable; in other words, MILES away from where it had been a moment before.

Now it is evening, and I'm still muttering, "What the...?" I feel exhausted, put-upon, vaguely duped. Yet -- god help me -- I'm interested.

Damn you, Breath of God! In twelve hours, I've gone from planning to offload you onto the first passerby, to vowing to never ever let you go. My rating has veered from top marks to no marks and back again, and still hasn't come to a complete stop. I think I'll wear you the next time I accompany my friend to the art museum. She'll stand in front of her painting, and I'll keep sniffing myself and cursing under my breath, and together we'll create what I secretly suspect you already are: an amazing piece of performance art, alienating, confusing, off-putting, and impossible to deny.

*2012 UPDATE: Though BNTBTBB announced that it was calling it quits in 2009, parent company LUSH absorbed the line and relaunched it in 2011 as the "Exclusives" collection under the new Gorilla Perfumes label. Breath of God remains its familiar, weird and brilliant self, priced affordably and in ready supply. Bless the Constantines, père et fils!

Scent Elements: Neroli, lemon, grapefruit, melon, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, cade, black pepper, amber, musk