Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Chat with Penang's Own Perfume Master, Josh Lee

When we first stumbled upon "Georgetown", we were swooned. Naturally we are attracted to all things Penang being Penangites through and true. Having the scent of "home" packed in a bottle to go, how cool is that? This reminded us of the quote (from this article), "You can take a Penangite out of her home state but you can never take Penang away from her heart". Imagine smelling all homely while strolling down Rue Saint-Honoré. The creator behind this interesting scent is Josh Lee of Josh Lee Fragrances founded in 2012. We had a chat with him recently on his story of being Penang's perfume master.

RIVET: We would love to hear about your inspiration for your fragrance line.

JOSH LEE: I'm a dreamer who is passionate about scent and will always pick up scents and aroma surrounding me from flowers to food and wherever I go or travel to.  All my fragrances are reflections from my life's story, the places I have been and the cultures I have immersed in. I believe that we need to preserve our heritage in order to move forward into the new century and I am doing my part by preserving our heritage through scents. Hence, Josh Lee brand’s tagline is Heritage through Scent.
RIVET: We are really curious. Perfumer is not a conventional career choice in Malaysia. What inspired you to pursue this path?

JOSH LEE: When I was three, my father used to spray some of his cologne on me before I left the house. Since then, I have been always been intrigued by different scents that came through my nose. Moreover, I grew up in a family who operates a shop that sells cake-ingredients. It was always filled with aroma of comfort flavours such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberries as well as spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. My family shop, Hong Yap in George Town was indeed the perfect environment for the making of a perfumer. 

RIVET: Where can someone learn to be a perfumer? Is there any formal perfumery program available locally?

JOSH LEE: Unfortunately, there is no local program dedicated for fragrance or perfume study. Yet, there are a few perfumery schools in France, Switzerland and UK. After completing my first degree in Chemistry at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), I went to ISIPCA (Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l'Aromatique Alimentaire) which is the top perfumery school in Versailles, France founded by GUERLAIN and joined the European Fragrance and Cosmetic Master (EFCM) course. EFCM is a wonderful learning experience as I have learnt how to create and formulate perfumes, colour cosmetics and skin care. We have many people such as perfumers, marketing experts and even fragrance historians that came to share their knowledge with us.

RIVET: How do you differentiate your fragrance line from the international brands that we are all familiar with?

JOSH LEE: All fragrances are personally conceptualized, designed and created with my heart and soul. The uniqueness comes from the almost obsessive love for scents of exotic indigenous ingredients such as hibiscus, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove), sandalwood, patchouli, magnolia champaca (bunga cempaka), jasmine, lemongrass, etc. All of our fragrances conform to the International Quality standard set by International Fragrance Association (IFRA).

We are one of the first premium brands to be certified HALAL by Jakim Malaysia. This is a great milestone and we are very proud of it. This quality certification encompasses strict quality checking on the ingredients and the environment of the production. For Muslims, they can be rest assured that ingredients that are deemed 'Haram' or harmful and unhygienic, are not being used in the fragrance and hence they can wear the fragrances to prayers without washing it off. The alcohol used in the fragrances is denatured alcohol derived from plant-base which is non-drinkable and hence it will not cause intoxication. This Halal quality certification is not only for the Muslims, the non-Muslims can also be confident that the fragrances are produced in a safe and hygienic environment with highest quality control.

RIVET: Last but not least, how much does being a Penangite influences the essence of your fragrances? 
JOSH LEE: The creative centre of Josh Lee Fragrances is based on Penang Island, as she is rich in culture, arts, food and nature. The sea and hills provide a variety of different scents and aromas. Definitely, it’s a place for creative thoughts and inspiration compared to bustling cities.

Josh Lee fragrances "Georgetown" and "OUD" are available in RIVET Store located at Penang on 6 #L6.07b, Gurney Paragon Mall. RIVET is a homegrown lifestyle store and fully support all independent brands especially local brands. Write to us hello@rivetloft.com if you know of any interesting local brands that we can feature in our website or store.

In the next post, we will be sharing more about the perfume selections from Josh Lee Fragrances and how he concocted each perfume scent.

“Perfume is magic. It’s mystery. We recreate the smell of a flower. Of wood. Of grass. We capture the essence of life. Liquefy it. We store memories. We make dreams,” he told her once. “What we do is a wonder, an art, and we have a responsibility to do it well.” ::M.J. RoseSeduction::

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