Epiphany on a golf course: HOLY THISTLE by UNION (2012)



The idea is captivating. Locally sourced plant materials native to Scotland are used in the blend: bracken from the Borders, bay from Pembrokeshire, pine sap, and the starring substance, Cnicus Benedictus, or Holy Thistle, picked from the highland estate of Kinra.

With this description, you may be forgiven for expecting a Braveheart green of bitter intensity, as was I. Having experienced Union’s Gothic Bluebell (see my earlier review), I readied myself for another full-blown Brontëan fantasy: something peculiar and diffident – a scent to admire rather than love.

The scent is nothing of the sort. Rather than a rugged, windswept, boreal rush, Holy Thistle is more like the most heavenly green herbal shampoo (found, perhaps in the exclusive bathroom of some expensive Scottish castle resort); an emblem of the easy life. An unambiguously lovely smell, mouthwateringly uplifting and happy, its effect instantaneous: a grassy, kiwi fruit cocktail, natural and leafy, with a slightly bitter underkick, delightfully zinging and fresh. A sense of the cold outdoors; the sharp intake of the morning air that awaits after you make your way downstairs, shower-stoked and clean for a full Scottish breakfast, and a day on the greens of St Andrews.

The holy thistle is traditionally used in therapeutic herbal tonics as an appetite stimulant, and there is something sharp and thirst-quenching about this smell. While it contains none of the edginess of ancient myth and valour you expect from its name, eventually, as the top notes fade into the soapily verdant heart, something darker and bitter does rear its thistled head, stubbornly remaining until the scent – which I can wholeheartedly recommend – gently fades from the skin.


Filed under Green, Herbal, Perfume Reviews

21 responses to “Epiphany on a golf course: HOLY THISTLE by UNION (2012)

  1. Deborah Lauri

    Oh how you put words together Mr. Chapman…to lead us on a journey of sensual delights.

  2. ginzaintherain

    Thank you so much for saying so. While this scent doesn’t break any new boundaries, it doesn’t need to: it just smells so NICE. I might have to get myself a bottle when I go to England. Most of my scent wardrobe is composed of very characterful, powerful and idiosyncratic perfumes that make a statement or ram a specific aura in your nostrils, but for work, and on calm fresh days I sometimes just want something neutral and delicious smelling. This might be it.

  3. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    More ignored greens….

  4. brie

    I think I would very much like this one and given my obsession for all things English I am going to have to look into this perfume line.

    • Brie, definitely. The bottles are crapoidarola, but all the perfumes are VERY good. I drained my big sample of this instantly. This is like an English Pacifica: green, kiwi-ish, delectable. I really loved this one to be honest. Though there IS a bitterness in there – it IS called Holy Thistle after all – so beware.

      • brie

        An English “Pacifica”? Lord!!! That means it is relatively affordable, correct? Next time you are in my favorite country (England) GET ME SOME SAMPLES……pretty please?

      • Expensivo, unfortunately. But quite good I reckon. But not utterly essential: one must not fret.

    • brie

      oh and may I add I like this idea of reblogging…you have so many wonderful posts from the past that should be read and commented on, for sure!

      • I don’t really think so, but some of them remain unread and it irks me so I just plop them up anyway. Glad you don’t despise it as a method though. Arigato. x

  5. Dear Ginza
    Gosh! This does sound tempting.
    Just Friday, The Dandy was at The Isabella Plantation in Richmond park looking at the purple gorse and green thistle beds and wondering ‘is there a scent?’… and here we have it.
    Perfumed telepathy exists.
    Your description of a baronial hall of herbal hair tonic is perfect and perfectly delicious… must hunt this one down and give it a try.
    Thank you, sir.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Oh I adore Scotland. A day on the greens at St Andrews! Yes! Do you play? Has a year has really gone by since the celebrations? 2012 was a whizz. Olympics! Jubilee! Kate and Wills! We were rushed off our feet at work. And this year – the royal baby to look forward to. Boy or girl? What’s your money on? A girl would be lovely. I have never tried this ‘bonny dew’ but I shall. I am not sure about the kiwi though.

    • Girl! But it will cost us too much money one way or another I fear. Cute as the royal sproglet will undoubtedly be, and LORD won’t we see the photos!

      Scotland holds a special place in my heart. Fine review Ginza.

  7. I’m not usually a green scent person, but those wildly dancing kiwis may need to be experienced.

  8. Robin

    ” . . . the most heavenly green herbal shampoo (found, perhaps in the exclusive bathroom of some expensive Scottish castle resort).” Sounds really good. I remember a fragrance from Royal Apothic called Plains of Thistle. It was pretty decent, possibly along the same lines. I’d imagine it was a little bristlier in the thistle department.

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