Friday, June 24, 2016

Issara by Parfums Dusita

Parfums Dusita debuted three fragrances this spring to seemingly universal acclaim. Pissara Umavijani, the young Thai creator of the line now living in Paris, was inspired to make perfumes that would express the passion and ideas found in her father's poetry. Umavijani's father was the esteemed Thai poet Montri Umavijani, considered one of Thailand's leading modern poets. The perfumes are Melodie de l'Amour (reviewed here ), Oudh Infini, and Issara. Each is meant to illustrate a different facet of life. Issara was the first perfume created by Umavijani, and perhaps the closest to her heart.

"The story behind Issara happened right after the funeral of my father," says Umavijani. "My mother was in a sad state after the loss so I decided to take my family to the islands in the southern part of Thailand. We were staying in a simple place, next to the beach. We had a chance to connect to each other again, and in that moment I felt the presence of my father. Actually he was not far from us. He was only in another form of being." Umavijani channeled her love for her father and her strong wish that his words and works would not die with him, combining his gift for poetry with her blooming desire to express herself through perfumery.
"Issara: The joy of freedom and tranquility."
 Tagline on the Parfums Dusita site for Issara

For her first perfume Umavijani created a fougere, a traditional French perfume but perhaps an unusual choice for a young woman of Asian background. "It is true that fougere is not something common in Asia," says Pissara. "I created Issara out of my love of freedom and nature. Since my childhood I love the smell of the forest; there is always the mystical element in it. I would stand still in the forest and breathe in deeply. Pine tree forests also fascinated me because of the aromatic element. I believe that humans need to connect to nature, it is our root, no matter how civilization has evolved."

I strongly identify with this statement. I have moved numerous times in my adult life, several times living in big, crowded cities. My one request when looking for a place to live was that I had to see some green outside the window. I have always managed to do that, other than in Saudi Arabia where I literally thought my spirit was going to shrivel and die due to the monotone beige landscape. Issara, which I admit is my favorite of the three perfumes, takes my heart to a happy place of forests and seas, blue skies, and breezes perfumed with nature's offerings. When Pissara described the notes of Issara  I thought it would remind me of a recent trip to Turkey, and indeed when I sprayed it I did get a flashback to that wonderful country. Hiking the coastline with it's growth of pines, olive trees, and rosemary bushes, turquoise blue water, and a landscape casually dotted with ancient antiquities, Turkey was the most heady, fascinating place and my heart was full. I get that same feeling of happiness and contentment wearing Issara as the scent evolves on my skin.

Umavijani wanted Issara to convey freedom, a concept that played an important role in her development in discovering what she wanted to do with her life.  In her early travels she carried with her a book called Freedom From the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti. "The book did not give solutions, in fact, it made me question everything. It encouraged me to explore further about life, what it meant to live a meaningful one, what it really meant to love someone, and eventually finding oneself and one's on passion. It was a new perspective, therefore, I felt an urge to travel, to discover more about life. I want to find out what is the true meaning of happiness."

I asked Umavijani if the places she traveled were an inspiration for the perfumes and she answered, "The perfume creation is every inspiration harmonized together. It all started with a blank canvas that is ready to be painted any color. There are people, places, our interactions with them, our memories, emotions: the movement of life. Freedom of the mind is when we are in the pure, meditative state. When creating the perfumes sometimes I did not think, I just "listened" to each ingredient resonating to each other.

The name Issara comes from the Thai word for freedom. Umivajani's father took this word to name Pissara, which means "above freedom", so she says she feels a real connection to the word freedom as a concept in her life.

So how does Issara smell?  I smell the freshness of the outdoors. It is the sensation of taking a hike and each bend in the path brings new and fleeting scents on the breeze. Issara replicates this experience with its flitting, lively notes, rather than just encountering a wall of scent on first spray. The freshness is followed by pleasant aromatics. I smell a slight wisp of smoke, I believe created by the vetiver bourbon which can add dry, woody, smokey effects to perfumes. This is not a campfire, it's just a trail of scent. This is the beauty of Issara, notes dance in and out as if carried by fragrant breezes. I smell flashes of fragrant pine, which I have always found to be a comfort scent.  I smell something like the merest trace of lavender carried on the wind, but Pissara assures me that although lavender is a common element in fougeres, Issara contains none. This magic is created through the combination of clary sage, pine tree, and ambergris. Courmarin is a common component in fougeres and here it imparts the sweetness of freshly mown hay to give the scent a pleasing richness. A rare, rich natural ambergris gives a resinous grounding to the perfume, along with oakmoss and musk notes. Again, these notes are lightly done, as in nature. As I wear the perfume it smells of earth where it meets the water at shoreline, the resinous forest, the aromatic plants; this feeling of being in the grandness of the outdoors and the magnificence of nature. The next morning when I wake up the scent still lingers with a slight smell of resins, grass, along with lavender-tinged aromatics. If you've ever camped and woken with the sunrise with that feeling of peace, well being, and rightness with the world, this is Issara! 

What is interesting to me is that even though I sprayed my right and left wrist at the same time, the perfume performs differently on each. While the left is wafting herbs, the right is laced with a trail of smoke. It's like the perfume is a living organic thing, coming to life on my skin as it wishes. Issara and the other perfumes in the Dusita line are not inexpensive, but I believe this is what leads to such a lively, beautiful perfume. I found a quote from Luca Turin in his book Perfumes: The A to Z Guide, in a section where he is speaking of ferns and fougeres. He says, "There are very few pristine fougeres around and those that exist tend to smell cheap. Once again, simplicity works best when the raw materials are luxurious." Issara is the perfect illustration of the thesis that luxury ingredients equal evocative perfumes.

Light fell on us,
a discreet light,
making its paved way
through the chill and dusty air,
as I was reading your love.
Montri Umavijani

"This poem is so beautiful," says Pissara of the above words by her father. "It made me think of an impressionist painting.As a daughter, I could not imagine my father being such a romantic person but I reckoned that the way he sees the world is like an artist. After his death, I promised I would do something so that people could read his poetry more. (I did not know what at that moment). The aspect of his life that inspried me is the fact that he truly dared to live out of passion, his courage to overcome all the obstacles because the life of the poet was never easy, yet he has created his own path."

Umavijani also mentioned her mother who works as a philosophy professor. "She is a very dynamic and honest person. I am truly impressed by her independence, how well she takes care of herself, how insightful she is, and most importantly, the fact that she gave me the freedom to follow my dream. That is the best gift that a mother could give."

Pissara Umivijani is obviously an old soul in a youthful body! Her passion and thoughtfulness is evident in the care she has taken with introducing fine perfumes to the market and her generous availability in communicating with the perfume community at large. I believe she is a perfumer to watch and that Issara is a beautiful expression of her love and respect for her father's poetry, nature, and the scent world. I can't wait to see what she does next.

For a great review on the entire line by Kafkaesque go here.

My samples were provided by Parfums Dusita.  Top photo from Other photos from Parfums Dusita site.

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