Union Perfume calls its smoketastic Celtic Fire an "ode to wode". This is the second instance (after Boudicca Wode) in which a perfume house has tapped the Pictish warpaint for inspiration... and then blithely misspelled it. But I suppose "wode" looks sexier on paper than "woad", a root word so ancient that it has only ever been used to describe two things: a specific flowering weed and the blue dye it produces.
Woad (Isatis tinctoria*) is one-third of a great ancient triumvirate of plants wild-gathered by tribal people to dye their homespun fibers. The highborn enjoyed access to saffron, Tyrian purple, cochineal, and kermes scarlet. But woad, weld (Reseda tinctoria) and madder (Rubia tinctorum) provided the primary blue, yellow, and red pigments with which humble folk proudly identified their tribal lineage.
What would a band of roving Keltoi smell like? Union Perfume posits a blend of peat fire, evergreen boughs and well-worn leather fortified with the yeasty, bittersweet aroma of freshly-poured stout. Fair enough, says I. But this fragrance is really nothing more than a great, smoky vetiver... which sounds rather less British than 'wode', but is still bloody fan-freaking-tastic.
I won't pretend that the rites of Samhain or the Battle of Bannockburn cannot be imagined to exist in Celtic Fire. If I took it down onto the street and conducted a series of vox populi sniff tests, someone would almost certainly propose a round of Guinness or a caber toss in due time. But I get no peat, pine, leather, or Marmite from this thing-- just a ton of delicious, rich, autumnal vetiver. And because I adore vetiver, I don't mind Union's tricksy use of suggestive language to evoke a more mythical vision. Surely someone kissed the Blarney Stone en route to launching Celtic Fire-- but with this marvelously long-lasting fragrance on my wrists, I'll be damned if I complain. Give me glamourie over glamour any day!
*Was Givenchy thinking of woad when it named a perfume Ysatis? It may have nothing to do with that plant's indigo dye, but woad flowers are the purest golden yellow... rather like Givenchy's jus.
Scent Elements: Peat, oak, fir, pine, birch tar, myrtle, Marmite