Perfume is more than a nice smell, it’s time travel, one whiff can send us hurtling to times, places and people past. No one understands and can express that more than Vicci Bentley, journalist and poet and matriarch of fragrance writing, whose words never fail to move the reader (usually towards the tissue box).
The tables have turned and Vicci’s words have just been bottled. Vicci’s hauntingly beautiful poem, Breath of Hope, was written with her elderly mother at the heart of it, who was always particularly pleased to see the arrival of the first snowdrop as to her it was a sign she had made it through another winter. Breath of Hope inspired another perfume legend; Angela Flanders to create a beautiful, fragile fresh, green floral with the same name, that captures that feeling of joy you get when you see chink of sunlight beaming through dark clouds, the first snowdrops that push through the ground marking the start of much needed spring (snowdrops are knows as ‘Flowers of Hope’). Lily of the valley and galbanum give freshness and vibrancy; frankincense and myrrh calm and pensiveness; Oakmoss and guaiac wood a grounding earthiness.
If emotions reassurance, compassion and hope had aromas, this is what they would smell like.
Limited edition, £95, 50ml eau de parfum
Breath of Hope
Pale rays barely melt hoary hedgerows, yet
this green-craving month has a new light. Here
in the churchyard, mothered by shushing yews,
February’s flowers. Amongst silent stones
flocked with lichen and lifelines, their brightness
transcends leafmould. Still, a perfumer must
kneel close to catch this fleeting formula.
There should be urgent, sappy galbanum
she notes. Myrrh’s cool stealth. Sweet, carnal lily
(youth’s shameless imperative) and the smooth,
final cradle of dark, resinous woods…
A keen, north-born gust leafs her pocket book;
reminder of ice, this not-yet-spring day.
She stiffens, craves a more forgiving drift
…a breath of hope? A swathe of white heads nod.