A new perfume house called ‘Union’ is set to launch a line of fragrances next month, using entirely British grown plants as their basis. These include a perfume named ‘Gothic Bluebell’, which is made from real British bluebells rather than synthetic aroma chemicals.
‘Every natural note has been tracked down and made for this perfume line,’ says Michael Donovan, who has acted as a consultant for the Union brand and is also handling the company’s PR.
Four perfumes are to be released in July, exclusively at Selfridges in London.
The perfumer was Vienna-born Anastasia Brozler from Creative Perfumers, who normally makes bespoke creations for an exclusive clientele.
“My speciality is to extract natural materials” says Brozler “I’ve been to jungles, deserts and parts of South America. This was an equally exciting project” she says.
The company is owned by a group of investors who are said to be ‘perfume fanatics’. Their mission was to create perfumes which reflect and have been grown in the British countryside.
“What I’ve loved about working with Anastasia” says Donovan, “is that she doesn’t understand the hurdles. She’s not a ‘no’ person, she’s a ‘yes’ person.”
Real bluebell extract has not been used in commercial perfumery before – it has either been too difficult to extract or too costly. Perfumes that smell of bluebell are a mixture of aroma chemicals that mimic the natural smell. For the Union perfumes the company approached various private estates around the country and had to obtain a license to pick certain plants. “I spent every weekend on a bus, in all weathers gathering plants” says Brozler, “at one point I even had a Duchess who owned the land give me a hand to pick the bluebells – we had to do it in special white gloves and pick only two flowers from each stalk in order not to weaken the plant.”
Amongst the many familiar British smells, the most unexpected comes from Marmite, derived from yeast extract. The brown gooey substance is normally applied to hot buttered toast rather than skin. When someone suggested in jest that the perfume should contain marmite because it was so British, Brozler began to investigate the possibility and had a special tincture made from the foodstuff (the safety checks on the tincture alone took 6 months). The marmite note lends a meaty, leathery quality to the base notes in ‘Celtic Fire’.
The perfumes are not 100% natural, but contain a high proportion of naturals since it was felt by Brozler that small amounts of aroma chemicals would ‘lift’ the natural botanicals and ‘bring out what is best’.
‘Quince, Mint & Moss’ contains botanical materials not commonly used perfume eg. leaves from lime trees, Irish moss and watercress for ‘a bitter/ green feel’ as well as rhubarb leaf. Brozler admits she spent a lot of time in vegetable gardens smelling everything possible. Also included in the fragrance: juniper berries, wild thyme, sage and extract from the ash tree.
‘Gothic Bluebell’ has blue ground ivy (which is hallucinogenic) to give ‘a heady, dizzy feeling’. It also contains moss, willow bark, oak bark at the base, musk, hyacinth absolute and narcissus absolute as well as violet leaf, all from the UK.
‘Celtic Fire’ contains peat, fir balsam and pine needles, oak extract, Marmite, bog myrtle and birch tar.
‘Holy Thistle’ uses Cnicus benedictus or St Benedict’s thistle, which is native to the Mediterranean but grows well in Scotland. It contains notes of heather and the sap of Scots pine.
The Union perfume line will be available to buy at Selfridges and on-line. Prices are £125 for a 100 ml bottle. The range will be available later in the year in the US at Henri Bendel's.