Thursday, 5 December 2013
Great British Perfumes - Union Fragrances
In the rarefied world of perfumery breaking new ground is difficult to achieve. Ingredients are limited and availability varies: most large companies err on the safe-side, not least in terms of commerciality, by following fashionable fads. I watched, therefore, with keen interest the development of new luxury fragrance brand, Union Fragrances, who had set themselves a near impossible task; a range celebrating the botany of the British Isles using ingredients from our somewhat challenged natural history. Perhaps it was the focussing brief, perhaps it was the skill of the perfumer, Anastasia Brozler, or the foresight of the brand’s creator, John O’Sullivan, but most probably it was the combination of all three; a trinity which has yielded one of the most interesting collections of late.
To my mind the olfactory match-made-in-heaven for The Tweed Pig, would be without doubt; Quince, Mint and Moss. Fruity strands of ripe quince from Somerset speckled with purple-black juniper berries weave through a fabric of cool English garden mint and verdant moss scraped from a countryside churchyard wall.
Equally fresh; Holy Thistle bursts with the eponymous fresh, green accord from the Kinrara Estate in the Highlands. Blended elegantly with cool bay from Pembrokeshire, bracken from the Borders and underscored with rich Highland pine resin, this is a solitary hike through the hills, the wind blowing you along, the fleeting moment when man and nature merges.
Britain has been overwhelmed by Spanish Bluebells, leaving the indigenous variety protected and in very rare supply. Anastasia hand collects the flower heads of protected English variety (under license) to create this most extraordinary of perfumes. Violet leaf from Devon and ivy from Dorset add green-notes to Gothic Bluebell, a scent which is best described as a national treasure. I hesitate to allude to an overgrown folly, for this fragrance is far from that, instead a ruined chapel, mullion windows twisted with foliage, flower heads bursting through tumbledown stones.
Most extraordinary of the original four fragrances is Celtic Fire. Smoky peat from County Derry, fir balm and pine needles from Aberdeenshire, birch tar from Inverness-shire create a rich resinous amongst pagan scent, untamed and unashamed.
Hot on the tail of Celtic Fire, Gunpowder Rose, the newest release, is quite literally a cracker. Hard-to-obtain English Rose, from Lincolnshire and the Stour Valley, combines the lushness of the petals with the greenness of a newly cracked stem. Dramatically the fresh-floral notes are tinged with the flinty thunderstorm notes of gunpowder. Juicy Blackcurrant from Kent, adds to the excitement with a thrilling, energizing bite, whilst oak moss from Dorset and oak bark recall the smell of nature anticipating a storm; the tree beneath which you should not shelter. This is, however, one fragrance you should certainly spray.
Written by Lawrence Roullier White
Lawrence Roullier White is the owner of the Roullier White Perfumery.