Connectivity and accessibility of the world we live in make it easier to experience small indie, artisan or botanical perfume houses from all over the world! What I’ve always found enjoyable is this instant fragrant travel across the globe, learning about people behind those fragrances, different lands, and cultures. New indie and artisan perfume brands are sprouting all over: not all creations can be considered perfumes, but searching for interesting, creative ones is a challenge!
Malaysia is not an exception – you might’ve observed some passionate perfumers coming from this region lately. Perhaps you’ve heard about Penang-born Josh Lee Chun Yee (Josh Lee, launched in 2012) for example, a small niche company inspired by Malaysian Pernakan culture, driven by preserving heritage by scent yet not running away from the aura of modern Malaysia.
Now I would like to introduce you to Malay Perfumery, an artisan fragrance brand aiming to revoke the heritage of ethnic Malays – an ancient population existing for 40.000 years in this archipelago, colonized first by Portuguese 500 years ago, now split by different national borders.
Fazzilah Noordin, owner of the brand and perfumer is descended from the Proto-Malays (Jakun) on her matrilineal side, and from her patrilineal line, she is connected to Acheh and Goa, centers of Islamic studies during the classical Malay civilization period.
I’m writing about this because elements of her family origin define her stories, the presentation of perfumes, and the logo of the brand: you will notice a typical horned roof incorporated in it.
Colors are telling a story as well: bronze gold denotes the royal heritage of fragrances in the Malay archipelago, black is the color of Malay warriors, and white represents purity, birth, and death.
All fragrances come in Songket Tenun Pahang (silk) boxes: custom-made, so they fit the bottle exactly.
The fabrics and boxes are made by local artists.
Fazzilah insists on incorporating natural ingredients in her creations, that are grown, ethically and sustainably sourced from existing plantations, such as Kaffir Lime:
Malay Perfumery launched five fragrances in 2018 and four new ones in 2019, all Eau de Parfum.
Let’s take a closer sniff of these three fragrant stories:
Fleur de Rampai
“Based on the banga-rampai (floral potpourri) tradition. Ubiquitous in Malay weddings, the bunga rampai is often a scent of happiness, family, and togetherness.”
It seems simple: just pandan, jasmine, and patchouli are listed, but on my skin, this smooth, gentle fragrance opens with dense tones of pandan of almost edible, thick gourmand quality.
Like a dish of food, hot steamed rice breathing softly under my nose. I suddenly remembered!
This smells very similar to Nasi Lemak, a Malaysian dish featuring rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf!
Quite different, this pandan – jasmine duo is bright and thick at the same time, with a very unusual facet of jasmine, present but never indolic, gourmand but not heavy, appealing but not erotic. Musky jasmine…I must admit that all through its wearing I was amazed by how different pandan made everything feel, and how patchouli dances between creamy-sweet and bitter-smokey vibes.
I was wearing this perfume for a couple of extremely hot days, with temperatures well over 30C, and it performed subtle, close to the skin, with above-average longevity.
Notes: Screw-pine, jasmine, patchouli
“Inspired by conspiratorial events leading to the unjust death sentence of Mahsuri, the legend of Langkawi. It symbolizes her purity and virtue.”
Mahsuri opens with a whirl of citruses infused with camphor: unusual, bitter-dry, almost mystical, like the muffled sound of a gong hidden somewhere in a palace, behind many curtains.
Slowly and inevitably jasmine finds its path, adding some sweetness. Now, this is a fine example of Jasmine Sambac note, the sort of a component that is less indolic and tends to show off almost orange-blossom and tuberose like character, with soft greenish undertones, like Chinese tea.
Much later, when I’ve enjoyed this serene Jasmine, I felt darker tones rising. And oh! This civet! Soft and furry, but it does show a tooth or two, rolling in a somber accord of incense smelling sandalwood. This is a more complex composition, very unisex and long-lasting!
You can find the complete tragic story about Mahsuri here.
Notes: Citrus, camphor, Jasmin sambac, civet, benzoin, sandalwood.
“Inspired by the strength and integrity of a Malay warrior, Dato Bahaman’s fight in Tanah Melayu against the colonial British in 1892”
Described as aromatic woody floriental, Bahaman leans more on the fruity-Oriental side on my skin.
Again, I wore it during a very sizzling time of the year…What an extraordinary opening! Bitter-sweet ripe lime with honey reflections drenched with golden pineapple juice and coconut dust sprinkled all over my skin!
I’m not exactly a great fan of coconut, to be honest, but in this blend, it gives freshness to this fruit blend, and I found coconut interesting and acceptable in such an environment.
It gets a bit darker and smokier in the drydown, still remaining somehow transparent, creamy and dreamy, almost woody.
Again, very linear, well-composed, using obviously fine raw materials, with medium longevity and soft sillage.
I could wear it all year round, although it does seem to lean a bit more on the masculine side.
Read more about Dato Bahaman here.
Notes: Kaffir lime, pineapple, coconut, sandalwood, smoke, benzoin.
Available online at Malay Perfumery website, 108.74 USD for 30 ml Eau de Parfum bottles or 11.25 USD for a 2ml sample. 90% “naturals”, unmistakably.
Stay cool and don’t forget to wear sunscreen…btw I find perfume oils and attars to function great in temperatures so high as nowadays!
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The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Malay Perfumery
Samples were graciously provided by Malay Perfumery, opinions of my own.