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.