The Flora and Fauna of the British Isles – Union Holy Thistle, Quince, Mint & Moss, Celtic Fire and Gothic Bluebell Perfume Reviews

Union Fragrance Collection presents the best of British

The Union Fragrance Collection presents the best of British ingredients

I have never felt more proud to be British in my life than I have over the last two weeks. Team GB and everything Olympics related (did you see the opening ceremony? Wasn’t it fabulous?) have gone a long way into strengthening the nation’s sense of pride, making everyone realise that for a small little island we aren’t half bad at all!

Along with the explosion of national pride this year, due mainly to the Olympics and the Queen’s diamond jubilee, is the overwhelming number of British-themed product releases. Of course the world of perfume is no exception and there is a new fragrance brand on the block celebrating the very best of what Britain has to offer in terms of perfume ingredients.

“From the moorlands of Yorkshire to the mountains of Snowdonia, the windswept fens of County Derry and craggy Highland heaths, Union’s creative perfumer, Anastasia Brozler, has scoured the countryside for the most beautiful ingredients, gaining access to some of the country’s oldest private estates in her relentless search for the finest single notes that Britain has to offer”

The name of the brand is Union and rather than just cashing-in on the current high in national spirit they have spent a significant amount of time sourcing ingredients from the four corners of the British Isles to successfully showcase the flora and fauna that makes the country so beautiful (not that I’m biased or anything). The result is four unique compositions that feature such incredibly British ingredients as thistle, quince bluebell and Marmite…

Holy Thistle

Holy Thistle

The Notes

Scottish Highlands Holy Thistle, Pembrokeshire Bay, Borders Bracken and Highland Pine Resin

How Does it Smell?

Holy Thistle, as the name suggests, is centred around holy thistle sourced from the Scottish highlands. My main memory of thistles as a kid is that they are very prickly and trying to recall the smell left me drawing a big olfactory blank, that was until I uncapped the sample bottle of Holy Thistle.

As you would expect, Holy Thistle is a very green scent but it manages to so with just the right amount of spiky edges for it to be evocative of the plant from which it takes its name. It also has a strong herbal quality that tempers the sweeter facets of the thistle by adding a sprinkle of something slightly savoury.

The base is woody with strong hints of pine and that prickly thistle really does last, and last. I have to admit that Holy Thistle is perhaps the least interesting of the Union collection, but that’s not to say it isn’t well done, it is a nicely composed bitter green fragrance that is worth trying. It is just very rare for me to feel inspired by all that is green!

Quince Mint & Moss

Quince, Mint & Moss

The Notes

Garden Mint, Caledonian Juniper Berries, Lime Leaves, Somerset Quinces, Snowdonian Thyme, Gloucestershire Sage, Sterling Mountain Ash and Irish Moss

How Does it Smell?

Quince, Mint & Moss is one of those fragrances that is nothing like your expectations. I find it to be the most curious of the Union quartet and even now I’m still making my mind up as to whether it is something I would wear or not.

It opens with an intensely herbal mint, and if you’re idea of mint in perfume is along the lines of Gorilla Perfume’s Dirty, Heeley’s Menthe Fraiche or Malle’s Geranium Pour Monsieur then you are completely on the wrong track with this one. This mint comes straight from the garden and it smells almost herbal, oily and almost earthy.

The blend of Somerset quince, lime and Caledonian juniper berries smells like something you would find in a men’s grooming kit. It has an almost barbershop quality to it thanks to the herbs, strong lime leaves, fuzzy quince and gin-like juniper. This is what I really enjoy about Quince, Mint & Moss, it has a clean, soapy texture that conjures images of shaving, grooming and general masculine preening.

As billed in the name, the “Moss” part comes in the base and whilst it isn’t a dark or bitter moss, it does ground the lighter more effervescent nature of the fragrance with a good degree of green dank-ness.

Quince, Mint & Moss has remarkable tenacity and is fresh/sparkling enough to be worn in the heat without wimping out after 30 minutes. I’m still on the fence as to whether it is for me but it is absolutely worth trying, I honestly cannot think of any fragrance that smells like it.

Celtic Fire

Celtic Fire

The Notes

Peat, Oak, Fir Balsam, Aberdeenshire Pine Needles, Marmite, Birch Tar and Fife Bog Myrtle

How Does it Smell?

I get a feeling that Celtic Fire is going to be the one that everybody talks about, and rightfully so, it is a brave fragrance that features a melange of big, strong, smoky notes such as; peat, birch tar and Marmite. Yes that’s right, Marmite. As in the yeast based spread made in Burton-on-Trent that very much divides opinion.

Marmite-haters need fear not. The use of the most love-it-or-hate-it toast accessory is relatively subtle, whether you like Celtic Fire will instead depend on your opinion of birch tar. It is a wonderfully smoky composition that doesn’t quite push the birch tar envelope to the extreme levels of Tauer’s Lonestar Memories or Amouage’s Interlude Man, but the emphasis remains firmly on tar and peat. Still, the fact that it is refined and not so harsh really makes it so good.

As I mentioned before the Marmite is on the subtle side, but it is noticeable. It adds a salty, savoury hue to the tar that makes the smoke so delicious that you either can’t stop smelling  your arm or nibbling at it (it’s worth noting that it is delicious in a completely different way to Interlude Man, which is also rather yummy but in an sweeter ‘edible vanilla bonfire’ kind of way).

In the base Celtic Fire settles to a subtle wisps of smoke and tar. The Marmite is all but gone, just leaving a touch of salt that weaves in and out of the smoke. I find it to be a novel composition, but it isn’t a novelty, it’s very wearable and I can see it being absolutely wonderful in autumn and winter. I’m certainly tempted by a bottle…

Gothic Bluebell

Gothic Bluebell

The Notes 

English Bluebell, Narcissus Absolute, Hyacinth, Devonian Violet Leaf and Dorset Ground Ivy

How Does it Smell?

Gothic Bluebell is one of the only bluebell fragrances that actually uses real English bluebell as an ingredient. It is also my absolute favourite of the Union collection (with Celtic Fire coming a close, well-deserved second)

I’m not sure whether I would describe this bluebell as “Gothic”, to me it feels more “vintage”. It has a beautiful old-timey powdery feel to it that makes me think of classic Caron fragrances such as Narcisse Noir and Narcisse Blanc. In my warped mind I see it as a bluebell found in Miss Havisham’s mansion, perfectly preserved yet draped in dust, cobwebs and sorrow.

The bluebell is paired with narcissus and hyacinth, both of which, along with a good slug of violet leaf in the base, amp up the general impression of sweet, powdery flowers. With time it does take seem to take on a fresh, green quality, akin to that of a ripe lily opening in the sun.

The smell of peppery buds and stems comes as a lovely surprise but it isn’t so strong that it takes away from the overall sepia impression of Gothic Bluebell, in fact it gives it just the right amount of contrast needed to remind you of the solemn air that the fragrance creates.

As you can tell I am pretty enamoured with Gothic Bluebell, it manages to smell vintage without being prim, proper or dated. It successfully incorporates the signature of many a classic powdery floral with that unusual kick of freshness that makes it new and exciting.


All four fragrances in the Union fragrance collection are available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £125. They are currently exclusive to Selfridges in the UK.


PR sample. Images, quotes and notes via press release.


63 thoughts on “The Flora and Fauna of the British Isles – Union Holy Thistle, Quince, Mint & Moss, Celtic Fire and Gothic Bluebell Perfume Reviews

  1. I’m so glad you brought this to everyone’s notice. I love the description of Gothic Bluebell and I know that since my tastes run along side yours, that I might like it. Miss Haversham! Wonderful! I’ll be looking to try, I think!

  2. I like the “british flag” design for these bottles and their simple name. Union sounds like a nice new brand by the words you wrote about it. I wonder if they’ll ba available in other countries as Poland some time later

  3. Hmm, bluebell stands out as a possible like for me, recoiled in horror at the marmite one. It is a clever idea and sounds like it is well executed, they just didn’t sing to me but then I have been proved wrong on so many occasions. Love the bottles though.:-)

  4. Wow, we are seriously “in tune” these past couple o’ weeks – I was just about to ask u about these yesterday. And here u are with reviews on them all … 🙂

    And for the double wowzer, (& not a word of a lie) … the very first thought thru my mind on sniffing Gothic Bluebell was : “A perfect scent for Miss Havisham if ever there was one !” 🙂

    Celtic Fire & Gothic Bluebell are also my top two – (tho’ reversed in favouritism.)

    ~ I luv what they’re all about & are doin’. … A perfume house to be proud of for sure !

    • You scare me sometimes! We are so in tune that is incredibly freaky!

      I do love the idea behind the brand too, and what I really like is that they’re not just cashing in on the Olympics/Jubilee, they really have been putting these together for a while and sourcing true British ingredients.

  5. Very strange. Marmite is one of those things I was always curious about. Yesterday I saw some at the grocery store and bought it. Never thought I’d see it in a fragrance review this morning. So, what does one do with Marmite?
    I have a friend at the Olympics right now and I’d love her to get me something exclusively London but these would be a little pricey for a blind buy. They sound interesting, especially Celtic Fire and the Gothic Bluebell. That’s a great name too, Gothic Bluebell.

    • What a coincidence!

      Best thing to do with Marmite is butter some toast and spread a relatively thin amount on top. Not too much though because it is very strong.

      I found these to be so much more interesting than I thought I would. They’re really wonderful, especially Cetic Fire and Gothic Bluebell (which is a good name, so many bluebells are prim and pretty).

    • To the uninitiated, Marmite is… oh, I’ll be polite… *strange.* As if someone left a pot of beer simmering on the back of the stove for three weeks, and that blackish yeasty oily stuff is what was left when all the liquid evaporated.

      • I know it’s yeasty but I like to try things that are “strange” sometimes. I tried it today and that description is spot on. I can see how it might be an acquired taste but I do like it. I don’t see myself eating it at every meal but it was pretty much how I thought it would be. I can see how some people would run in the other direction too. I’d love to smell that fragrance now just to see how it works as a note.

  6. First, I would like to congratulate you on an excellent Olympics so far 🙂 I actually was wondering how the OC would compare to Beijing, and I have to say that it was awesome! Ballsy to have live animals in Olympic Stadium! And I think the cauldron is just the coolest idea. Very, very well-done!

    Secondly, I have to admit that in excitement of the games, I busted out my sample of Penhaligon’s Bluebell for the first day of competition. Can you guess what my reaction was? In any case, it made me realize that I don’t have any idea what an actual bluebell smells like — so I was super excited when I heard about Gothic Bluebell. Thanks for the review! Relief to hear that it doesn’t seem to resemble Penhaligon’s at all!

  7. I’m really intrigued by the Holy Thistle. It’s where my FIL harks from, and The Engineer loves green fragrances. I’m not sure how I feel about Celtic Fire, because of a traumatic incident involving Marmite spread *very* thickly on toast and given to unsuspecting me.

  8. I had forgotten that although we share adoration of BWFs, I like greenies and you don’t. I’m intrigued by the thistle one, though I admit it’s probably due in part to the fact that we’ve named our house Thistle Knoll, in honor of what was growing in the pasture as well as grass, before we built the house on it! But the bluebell one sounds lovely too. Narcissus, you say? Sigh of pleasure…

    These sound fairly pricey. Is it justified, you think?

    • Thistle Knoll sounds like a very apt name for your house!

      The bluebell is simply to die for, honestly.

      Re the price. It’s difficult because £125 is cheap, but they are 100ml. I think I’d definitely consider shelling out for Gothic Bluebell.

  9. I saw these in Selfridges the other day but didn’t try them – they do sound quite interesting – far better than the terrible Bex lineup.
    The prices are steeeeeeeeeeep for a startup line! Holy hell. Gothic Bluebell does sound interesting though 🙂
    Thanks for reviewing theseee.

      • Very steep side 😐 You’re talking Mona Di Orio prices there! Haha, and the presentation isn’t half as nice!
        As for BEX – some of the openings are great, but they all tumble into nothingness within 10 minutes 😦

      • It’s all relative I guess. They feel good value when compared to a 50ml Tom Ford Private Blend at £135 😛

        I remember reading your review and seeing that you weren’t to pleased with the BEX line. You have me intrigued now!

      • Yeh that write up got me a telling off :’)
        But yes, I love a couple of the openings, if they only persisted, they may have got some of my money!
        But yes, don’t get me started on the Tom Fords hahaha. Unreallll. Mind you, I just splurged on an Aftelier today D:

      • I haven’t tried Santal Blush. And yes Tobacco Vanille is pretty much a classic in the line. I haven’t tried Oud Wood – although I heard it has fungal notes which has intrigued me..
        To be fair, I’m looking forward to trying the new four florals that are released in September – an interesting lily and a hyacinth I think 😀
        And, I chose Secret Garden 😀 Have you tried it? I think you’d reallllllly like it

      • Oud Wood is good, I find it to be very sexy. I’m not entirely sure that you would find it fungal enough for your tastes, but it does have a wonderful, rubbery texture that is definitely interesting.

        The new florals sound good, I’ll be intrigued to try those too (I mean c’mon, they ARE florals).

        You’re going to hate me here, but I have never tried any Aftelier scents. I know, I know this is dreadful, especially as Cepes et Tubereuse gets such a good wrap. I’m a bad fumenerd, I know.

      • I’ll try it next time I’m at the Tom Ford counter 😀 rubbery texture is always sexy! Hahahha.
        Judas! Lol. Well, Cepes & Tubereuse is the weakest out of all that I have tried – bizarrely it reminds me of Jeux De Peau – extremelllllllyyy subtle though, the mushroom and tuberose is extremely subdued, to a point where for ages I thought I had the wrong sample.
        Secret Garden on the other hand – indolic jasmine, turkish rose, transparent gardenia, blood orange, tangy raspberry and natural civet, castoreum and patchouli – it’s insanely lovely 😀

      • Oh and she is currently re-working Oud Luban from a solid into an EDP – I have a sample on it’s way – I think it’s going to be mindddddbloooowwwwinnnnnnngly lovely 😀

      • That’s what we do! Create lemmings haha.
        Oh and you created a lemming for me with Lys Soleia (which I bought the other day!) – it’s my first kind of – department store fragrance in my collection haha, but for the price, it’s so darn good! 😀

      • I know, I should know that by now 😛 But yes, Lys Soleia’s light tuberose and spicy lily and all that vanilla – oh godddd it’s so yummy – the suntan lotion vibe I had been craving too. Perfect summer scent!
        So when are we gonna go for a sniff round town?! 😛

      • Mmm-hmm, these are the exact same reasons why I love it.

        I definitely want to sniff around town, it all depends on work things as to when I can do it. I shall keep you posted.

      • 😀
        Well, I’m off to bed haha. Hard day tomorrow D:
        Sorry for hijacking your post dude – speak soon 🙂

  10. Really?! You needed Olympics to feel proud for the country with a multy-century history and great cultural heritage?

    I enjoyed watching the opening ceremony and I’m really glad that UK athletes show great results but I’m a little tired of the sham modesty I keep coming across recently: you are NOT a “small little island”. You are one of the greatest economies in the World. You are a developed country with big population (fifth in Europe, twenty fifth in the World). It doesn’t make sports achievements any smaller so you do not need to repeat that “not bad for a small country” mantra.

    As to the perfumes… These bottles are too masculine for my taste. At that price they should rather be really good: it’s not enough to proclaim yourself a niche perfume brand to warrant those prices.

    Ok, rant is over 😉

    • Everything you have said is absolutely 100% true, I guess that us self deprecating Brits just have a tendency to forget our achievements 😀

      It may be a sad state of affairs that it has taken the Olympics for us to realise the positives of our country (I blame the 24 hour news cycle and the media for making us forget) but it’s just great to see national pride so high at the moment.

      It sounds like a cliché but the Olympics really has brought everyone together. It has been amazing.

      As for the perfumes I can’t help but feel that a 50ml would have been a better size and cheaper too!

    • Undina – the current state of our country is gross – we need something like this to feel proud of it! The opening ceremony made me feel proud, and then I hit the town centre the next day and felt sick at the sight of the place again 🙂

      • You haven’t lived in a country with actually “gross” state of affairs 😉 (I have) But I’m glad that Olympic Games helped people somehow to feel better.

      • Yes I wouldn’t quite go that far. We enjoy many wonderful freedoms and happinesses.

        I think that we are just constantly reminded of the bad things and the Olympics has allowed us all to focus on the good. That was my initial point anyway 😀

      • Ok so we’re not in the economical crisis of Greece, or always under attack like Syria, but you can’t always compare things to the worst state of affairs – I’m on about Britain alone, and it is rapidly becoming a piss poor country.

  11. I have to say I was surprised at how good these sound. Celtic Fire and Gothic Bluebell sound the most appealing to me too. Oh and I LOVE marmite!

    I agree that they should have been half the size and half the price. It would be much more tempting to pick one up that way. It’s also true that vintage style scents that don’t smell fuddy duddy are tricky to do so they’ve done a good job with the bluebell. Une Rose Chypree is another example.

    Thanks for the interesting round-up of the brand!

  12. Pingback: Celtic Fire by Anastasia Brozler for Union 2012 « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

  13. Pingback: The Candy Perfume Boy’s Summer Special V2 | The Candy Perfume Boy

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