Perfume Pen Pals: Union Fragrances


Have you seen this line Union? Celtic Fire has a Marmite accord!



I've got the lowdown on Union. The big idea is that the perfumes are made from accords found only on the British Isles, materials not usually found in perfumes, like bog myrtle and hops and holy thistle and watercress and heather. And Marmite.

They're all interesting: very fresh and vegetal, not typically "perfumey". Going in order from "blah" to "ahh!" (in my personal preference), there's Holy Thistle, which smells like a black-and-bell-pepper shampoo. Then there's Quince, Mint and Moss, which has an appealing mossy lemon zing -- like a potpourri fashioned from forest underbrush and lemon zest.

You, Burning Man -- you with your love of all scents that smolder and spark -- you who happily pongs of Le Labo Patchouli 24's charred vanilla woods and of CB I Hate Perfumes Burning Leaves' roasted weenies -- you're the one who should be wearing Celtic Fire. I'm wearing it now and am nervous that it's going to set off the smoke detector. This mutha is an bonfire with a capital BON.

When I met the Union perfumer Anastasia Brozler, she was excited to share details on some of Celtic Fire's components, like bog myrtle, which Vikings used to take as a stimulant to amp up for battle. (Apparently with bog myrtle, there's a fine line between "quickening the mind" and roaring into full-tilt grandiosity, but I guess such nuances weren't that important to a Viking going to gory glory.)

Celtic Fire also contains trace elements of Marmite, which registers as a yeasty/hoppy presence at most -- not enough to get your toast excited. Mainly, this thing is ON FIRE, and as the initial power recedes, it smells the way your hair and clothes smell when you've been hanging out by a bonfire on a cold night.

Finally, there's my fave Union, Gothic Bluebell, which smells like something Kate Bush would wear "out on the wiley windy moors" while singing "Wuthering Heights".

It's fashioned from the actual wildflowers handpicked from secret bluebell patches on private estates in the English countryside, along with blue ground ivy, which is billed as hallucinogenic. Gothic Bluebell is vivid and freshly hyacinth-y, and has a big, emphatic throw. It's the smell of a neon blue flower meadow. Katie
Katie, I'd had higher hopes for Quince, Mint and Moss, mostly because its name seems so appealing. But also because I'd imagined it smelling like Washington Tremlett Hampstead Water, which is a weird little bergamot/lavender/mint fragrance that occasionally appeals to me. Is there any mint in the forest? And I'm also nervous about Celtic Fire, not because I believe it will set off any smoke detectors (though that would be keeping with all the silly paranoia in this country right now), but because while I enjoy a few of these smoky scents, others cross a line with me. For example, I have no truck with Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories or Honoré des Prés Chaman's Party or several other of the relentlessly smoky perfumes from small niche companies. They all smell like burning meat to me.
Whereas Patchouli 24 and Burning Leaves have an unsweetened vanilla component that smells sort of like paper, which makes everything seem more civilized, at worst a laboratory fire but certainly no animal on a spit. And I get no wiener roast from Burning Leaves. I was once at an artist retreat in northern Vermont. It was autumn, people would light bonfires at night, and that's exactly what Burning Leaves smells like to me. I'm almost positive no one was cooking anything on those fires. We had free food in the cafeteria, after all. Dan
Dan, Actually, you can recalibrate your hopes for Quince, Mint and Moss, because since I first applied it, it's been smelling better and better. To the point that I now think it's my favorite Union. I can't say I smell any mint in the forest, though. It ends up smelling like lemon flowers growing out of a thin topsoil of powder. It's the adult version of Love's Fresh Lemon, which is fine by me!
Celtic Fire doesn't possess the 4-alarm birch tarry, vetiver-y, black-lung disease facet of Lonestar Memories or Chamen's Party. It's more ashy than meaty. There's no vanilla involved with Celtic Fire's fire, however. It starts with the smoke, and then dries down to "a mist from the smoke of a distant fire", to quote the yacht rock classic from the Sanford-Townsend band. Katie


  1. Sorry - distracted - - Love's Fresh Lemon commercial!!!! Love it. My go to when I was a wee hippie chick, or, truth be told, a hippie chick wanna-be back in the '70s.

    But I have been meaning to ask for awhile, where do you find the illustrative pics you use. They are whimsical at times and yet make the point so well.

    Love it all!


    1. Thanks SoS! Illustrative pics courtesy of tangy word combos plugged into Google. Or distantly-remembered, formative songs and commercials plugged into YouTube. One hardly needs a memory anymore thanks to that collective consciousness called the Internet.

  2. I love Dan's take on Lonestar Memories - it is all those "relentlessly smoky" things he mentioned to my nose too!

    And as a lover of Marmite - which I had on toast with a poached egg only yesterday - Celtic Fire simply has to be tried. And Gothic Bluebell for that matter. Top marks for the name. : - )

    1. No toast required for the wearing of any Union fumes.

  3. I can always count on you and Dan for a bright, witty, repartee even in a smoke filled room. Thanks for the heads up on Union, always happy to explore a new house.

    1. Thanks Lanier! We shoot for wit, so it's good to know our aim is true.

  4. Is there any news about price point or whether these will be available in the U.S.? Gothic Bluebell is calling my name!

    1. Union supposed to be available in US imminently. Appx $200 each for 100 ml.