Monday, June 20, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream - JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Night Queen

JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Night Queen (Reine de Nuit EdP)

"Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely.

Hey, that's me and I want you only."

Stop number three on our Shakespearean adventures is brought to you courtesy of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes. This is also a meditation on the Queen of Fae, Titania. Given the broad themes of the play, the interesting and various characters, even the play within the play, I have to say I’m surprised how many of the perfumers were drawn to a scented meditation of Titania. I think it speaks to how large she looms in the imagination of those who encounter the work.

The notes for Night Queen are “rhododendron, night queen, peru balsam, rosewood, damask rose oil, neroli, tuberose, vintage jasmine sambac, frankincense, yuzu, clove bud, tulsi, frankinsense noir, champa, vetiver, violet leaf and ylang ylang.”

Image by
Howard David Johnson
The initial impression is mossy but not minty, of pines but not firs, which have a strong presence in the woods here. This feels more like the pines of the Blue Ridge, the Appalachians. The open wears close to the skin, and it isn’t what I’d call aggressively green or earthy. There’s a little bit of a briny quality to it, as well, like a warm, wet ocean lies just beyond the edge of the trees and hangs heavy in the moist air.

About forty-five minutes in, the mossy greens and briny blues fall away and the scent becomes a sweet floral scent. I do get the clove, frankincense, and ylang-ylang strongly, but the interesting center of this seems to be the night queen. I love the idea of the scent for this play being centered on a night blooming flower, something that comes out to bring a sense of romance as day turns to darkness, much like the fae in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The loveliness is even more wonderful because it is so unexpected; I can hardly detect the scent that it will become at the beginning of Night Queen. Having never encountered the flower before, I'd describe it here as a sweet gently edible floral, and reminds me of a rich tea blend with a chamomile center. There’s more sillage here, which is great! I really liked this one came in strong, because it is so, so pretty. The only other scent can think of that this drydown reminds me of even a little bit is INeKE Evening Edged in Gold, but when I put them next to each other, I have to think the resemblance is mostly in my mental landscape.

When one holds the scent under the nose, it smells like one thing, the application is a second, but the majority of the wearable scent comes in as a completely surprising third act. The overall scent reminds me of the bloom of love. It grows from an earthy attraction to the polite engagement of first dates and early courtship until it becomes love affirmed and deeply requited, a lush and sensual emotional experience.

“Show a little faith.
There's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but, hey, you're alright,
Oh and that's alright with me…”

I don’t know that I’d identify this with scent with the Queen of Fae as I envision her. (Incidentally, I don’t know what I’m looking for in a scent for Titania; I can't think of any scent I know of that would fit, but my nose is loving all of these scents made in her image as different potential ways she could be played.) To me, Night Queen instead reminds me of the young, fresh faced lovers who play out their lost, confused love quadrangle throughout the majority of Shakespeare's comedy.

As for Midsummer, if this scent were made into a production of the play, I’d expect it to be set in the 1950s in the Appalachians and focus on the interplay of the teen love and angst the play could contain. Hermia, a pretty young blonde, refuses to have a romance arranged by her parents with Demetrius, who in my version is a star high school athlete and a bit of a player. Demetrius has won approval to date Hermia by working part-time in Hermia's father's garage after school and charming Hermia's mother with his nice family and nice manners.

Hermia, a straight-A student and very popular and pretty girl, prefers instead the love of Lysander, who is a hardworking student bound to inherit his dad's hardware store one day. Lysander has won Hermia's heart over the course of many months of Sundays spent helping out Hermia with the Sunday school class she teaches, where they spent time together in light of Hermia's father's strict rules that did not allow Hermia to date.

Hermia's preference for Lysander is also important to Helena, a pretty but slightly dingy cheerleader. Helena was hot and heavy with Demetrius before he decided Hermia made for a prettier picture come prom time. Helena still pines for Demetrius, and laments her lost love to Hermia over their brown paper lunch bags regularly. As Hermia and Lysander plan to make their escape to Lysander's aunt on the eve of Hermia's eighteenth birthday so they can get married before Hermia's parents can stop them, Helena hopes that by telling Demetrius of their plans, she can finally convince him to give up on his pursuit of Hermia and choose her instead.

Then they all head into the wooded mountains in classic American cars along dark old highways, getting lost and eventually finding themselves bewitched by the fae and the old magicks that have always lived among country folk in the American south, and still do even today.

While Hollywood is all obsessed with remaking everything old new again, someone should get on this. And the screenplay writers should be required to wear "Night Queen" and listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" while they create the retelling. Because when I close my eyes and inhale this rich and wonderful perfume, I hear big engines and poodle skirt swishes and Bruce Springsteen playing as the scent glides through the open windows, playing at the hair of our young lovers, as they roar off into the night.

Well, now, I'm no hero, that's understood.
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood.
With a chance to make it good somehow,
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.
Well the night's bustin' open, these two lanes will take us anywhere.
We got one last chance to make it real
to trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back.
Heaven's waiting down on the tracks…”

To see more visit A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Perfume Event, running June 14-24, 2011.


AbsintheDragonfly said...

Oh Diana!

I can see it all now, *grins* who should we get to play in the movie?

I had to get my little vial of Night Queen after reading your review, and it's just like you wrote, to me too! :D

Thank you for such a lovely review, and for participating!

JoAnne Bassett said...

Thank you Diana for 5 nods. I loved this line you wrote:
Because when I close my eyes and inhale this rich and wonderful perfume,

Your idea for a movie is very cool. I am a 2 hours drive to Hollywood...I know a few screen writers...serendipity... Headlines Night the Woods...

I loved your description of the scent..

I am listing on my etsy site now...

Anonymous said...

Great review, especially using "Thunder Road" after the loss of Clarence Clemons.


Anna in Edinburgh

Diana said...


Casting I think would have to come after some dialogue writing, I think, but at least one of them should look like Jared Leto circa 1996?

Thanks again for the invite.


Diana said...


Thank you so much for making Night Queen. I really enjoyed it, and feel that 5 of 5 was well-earned. I look forward to owning some as soon as my budget allows.


Diana said...


I'm a E Street Band fan, so yes, the reference was both appropriate to the scent and intentional. Thanks for noticing. :)