” I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine…”






I would have liked to have sprinkled this review of the new release by Roja Dove, ‘A Midsummer Dream’ ,with spritely allusions to the plays of William Shakespeare, all flowers and woodland groves, cleverly enmeshed, wrapped up with perfumed inspirations and evocations of a beautiful, English fairy tale. A veritable literary scent critique, if you will. But something, I must say, doth prevent me. Firstly, I am no way near as familiar with the plays of the Great Bard as I would like to be. And secondly, this perfume is, I am afraid to say, almost wholly uninspiring.




I know! How disappointing to begin such a promising piece in such a negative fashion. Well, blame Roja Dove. It would be have been lovely if this perfume had been some gossamer, romance-laden, Anglophilic, June bride masterpiece. A scent, indeed, to make one dream (as the finest perfumes often do), with that ever elusive aspect of the eternal and the indefinable.  The promise was certainly there. When I saw the name on the white box, my olfactory curiosity was very much piqued . Would it be a powdered, Elizabethan rose, dusted with English lavender, sweet leaves o’ marjoram, and secret, undernote alchemies? Would it be Puck-like, mischievous and magical, a feast of the undergrowth, all green leaves, garlands, and bucolic whimsy?







Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 by William Blake 1757-1827













I grew up in a town called Solihull, about half an hour or so from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s place of birth, a charming little place with thatched cottages and rose-filled English gardens, where thousands of visitors go every year to walk through the Birth House or watch plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company, to traipse through the town in search of all things William; and I have great memories of lounging by the reedy river getting drunk in high summertime with my high school friends, sitting contentedly on the terrace at the Dirty Duck pub just across from the Swan Theatre, or looking wistfully at the tree by the water that was planted there by Laurence Olivier for the beautiful, and by that point probably  mad, Vivien Leigh.












The last time I went to Stratford was quite a while ago. It was just my mother and myself, off on a spontaneously decided day trip. We had a nice day, seeing the sights, having lunch at a riverside cafe, just relaxing in the light and talking. Typically for me, though, I was much less interested in the historical facts and realities of Shakespeare’s life ( I was never one for those ‘interactive installations: relive how life was in Shakespeare’s time!! types), as they, to me, while useful for school kids’ education, are just too ugly.  I remember, though, on that day, we went to the beautiful Trinity church where the poet was buried and walked through several of the famous houses connected to his life that still exist in the town; all perfectly and lovingly preserved by English heritage groups, as quaint and Shakespearian as you would hope they would be – though as I say I  was far more absorbed by the atmosphere of the gardens and the feelings of the rooms than the historical facts and figures provided. In particular, there was an artfully arranged vase of black and dark red dahlias that utterly captured my imagination, placed against the wall in the black and white timbered room, bathed, against the thick panes of glass, in the motes of the afternoon  summer light; flowers that were like a silent, still, portal into another time and place. At that particular moment, away from the crowds and the noise with the sound of birds coming in from the trees in the garden, for just a few moments, I felt it.













At school we read a few Shakespeare plays, I remember, and I quite enjoyed them. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing, among others, and in high school, where I focused on just three subjects –  English Literature, French, and German language, we read a couple of his plays in very great and exhaustive detail:  Richard II (a bit boring: I couldn’t care less about armies, avarice, and the politics of the past), but also, far more fascinatingly for me, The Tempest, whose windswept and watery world I delved into with great relish. The language, the imagery, the strange ethereal beauty, this was probably the closest I ever got to really ‘getting’ Shakespeare, and that play is now part of my cultural bloodstream.




Aside a couple of nights at the theatre, though, I have never got as inside the great man’s brain as I would like to (please, if you are reading this, tell me your own greatest Shakespeare experiences), and just writing this is making me really want to start reading him again and find out what I have been missing.  I once did see Othello at a theatre here in Tokyo, a few years ago, Japanese literary snobs and English professors ‘laughing’ along to the in-jokes and little, in built witticisms to show their literary prowess and deep understanding of the language), but despite my minor irritations  – I never could abide brittle academia – I have to say that that performance of Othello was a heavy and intense night of passion and murder and intrigue. Everyone there certainly got swept up in its furious brilliance.
















But, to perfume.



















How do you capture the genius of Shakespeare in a perfume?





I don’t know, but I do know that, unfortunately, A Midsummer Dream is certainly not it.







” There is a willow grows aslant a brook, That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; There with fantastic garlands did she come Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them: There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke; When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook.” 





This is ideally how I would have liked this perfume to smell (which just shows you how much I dwell in reality).  Upon the first spray of the scent, rather than magic I smell instead something completely familiar and quotidian (and very twenty first century); not dull, exactly, but certainly not without platitudes. Something almost Paloma Picasso Minotaure-like (this definitely veers more to the traditionally masculine than the feminine), a fresh (but very confused) bouquet of grapefruit, elemi, cardamom, bergamot and pink pepper (why?), over more powdery – as we might expect – ‘moss’, orange blossoms, vetiver, cedar, and benzoin, with some wisps of orris butter and carrot seeds. If the list of ingredients makes the perfume difficult to imagine exactly, it is also hard to distinguish what it is trying to say to you when it is on the skin. It doesn’t fuse properly or have any discernible theme. I just get a vaguely sports-like fragrance with strong intimations of cheap washing detergent; nothing poetic, or English, or stimulating to my own febrile imagination, which I have to say is very disappointing.





Roja Dove perfumes are usually very thick with eiderdowny perfume love :  all unguents and flower oils and pressed together top-to-bottom strata. They might not have the angularity and immediacy of more consummate creations by Guerlain and their like but they are often intimatingly secretive with compacted, concealing emotions and unreleased sexual tensions. I expect complexity and slow concealments in fragrances from this house, and a concept of a perfume that is based on a play of intrigue and gradual revelations would also surely have been the perfect opportunity to demonstrate further this sensual prowess.




Instead, though I might just be a fool, mad as Puck, misreading the perfume and not understanding its intentionally lighthearted, spritz love-poem theme, and could also  probably do with possibly smelling it properly on another person (because “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” – to quote from the play), at the price they are asking for this perfume, if I am absolutely honest, I think you would really have to have your head in the clouds, or the head of an ass









to fork out the money for this wan, unrealized little trifle.









“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”




(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)














Filed under Flowers


  1. Haha, you are the best! I love your sense of humor along with your sense of smell. I enjoyed the entire post, but most especially your quote at the end: “What Fools These Mortals Be”! I cannot say that I especially enjoy Shakespearean plays (although I have seen many of them due to an ex-family member who acted locally in more of Shakespeare’s plays than I needed to see). However, I do find myself quoting the Bard in apt moments when no other words or quotes fit the situation. Even if I found his plays a little overbearing, most of the famous quotes in them are still timely after all these centuries. That being said…I am glad that for some reason (probably price) I never got into Roja Dove perfumes, which could be a good thing for my already threadbare wallet due to my perfume addiction. But all’s well that ends well, and at least I always smell good.

    • If perfume be the food of love…

    • But actually you know in truth, I have always hated the theatre (even that Othello night it took me a very long time to get into it). The whole earnest, thespy thing really makes me cringe the majority of the time, the sheer desperation of it all. That’s why I have always preferred films. I like a hermetically finished and polished piece of art more than a live one, for some reason, though there are, of course, always exceptions. The idea of a slightly annoying and overbearing relative thus making you go to countless Shakespeare plays and you rolling your eyes in the dark, makes me chuckle out loud. I can understand that reaction completely!

  2. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I share your love of the Tempest. I adore the ending when Prospero casts off off his magic and sets the spirit (Ariel) free .. There was a celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th dying day this year on the BBC, that I watched spellbound. A hilarious Hamlet To be or not to be, with all the Great Actors putting in their own emphasis on this famous phrase .. And a fantastic Japanese version of the three witches in Macbeth shaking brooms and brushing away cherry blossom leaves and shouting Japanse curses …And Helen Mirren doing the Prospero speech at the end. Our revels are now ended and our little life is rounded with a sleep, so comforting …Somehow I never associate scent with Shakespeare’s words and plays, maybe because my senses and my brain get an overload of words, acts and images. There is so much to take in. I can get drunk or high on words and songs and rythms though. But the Booknose also denies politely any assault on his olfactory capacities by mr S,, who, after all is dead 4 centuries ago. Ever heard of a perfume, even from Egypt, that had that much sillage?

  3. I adored this post and I also am not a huge fan of Shakespeare. But I am familiar enough with his works, especially A Misummer Night’s Dream. If one were to create a scent that would play on this name, that scent would have to be otherworldly, magical, different, beguiling and of course mossy. What you described, so eloquently, is none of those things. It sounds like a typically wan little thing, produced just to feed Monsieur Dove’s coffers. I am not enchanted with his scents, but having met him once found him to be genial enough; during my tenure for Guerlain he was doing an event, that was why I purchased Djedi, on his suggestion. I am still unconvinced of his position as a nose, he should have just stuck to selling others’ creations at his Haute Parfumerie. I do not think his scents merit the ehorbitant amount asked for them, even if they are produced well enough, from decent ingredients. All in all, I just feel it is such a disappointment for this scent to not be a magical elixir, especially given the sheer quality of ingredients he has to work with. But, I am sure it will sell well enough, plenty of people desire that level of luxe to part with their money. We should create a fragrance called Titania and have it be brimming with otherworldly essences and magical notes.

  4. This is yet another superb piece!

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