Sunday, November 22, 2020

Parfums Dusita Moonlight In Chiangmai: A Little Night Magic


"How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"

lyric from Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Parfums Dusita's newest release, Moonlight In Chiangmai, is an olfactory impression of standing on a hill in Northern Thailand, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, the velvet darkness of the night partially illuminated by a luminous moon, and the sky dotted with floating golden lanterns floating toward the heavens. This was the scene envisioned by Parfums Dusita founder Pissara Umivijani when she began to create Moonlight In Chiangmai. Once a year during Yee Peng festival, rice paper lanterns are released in mass, with the hope of sending away bad fortune and ushering in good luck. There couldn't be a more fitting year to have such a ceremony, making Moonlight In Chiangmai a felicitous choice for the closing days of 2020.

Pissara Umivijani always chooses a poem of her late father, Montri Umivijani, to both inspire and illustrate her perfumed creations. The poem she choose to represent Moonlight In Chiangmai also seems very fitting for the year we have experienced, worldwide.

From the website.

I have worn Moonlight In Chiangmai several times and it behaves differently on my skin according to the time of day; sometimes following the scent pyramid with a bitter and tart yuzu opening, and other times rushing straight to the base, a gorgeous teakwood elixir that Pissara brewed in her studio and which is the backbone of the scent. In all honesty I found this a difficult review to write, because the perfume was like a living thing on my skin, emphasizing various aspects and different notes each time I wore it. 

When I experienced the yuzu opening (which for some strange reason happened when I applied the perfume at night), the use of yuzu gives a different aura to the fragrance than the more traditional citrus notes. When bergamot or neroli are utilized as citrus notes in a perfume it can make one picture Mediterranean seashores; this citrus, yuzu, feels more exotic and rare. I am reminded of hotel breakfast buffets in Asia with their platters of colorful and unusual fruits whose flavors veered more toward tangy and pungent, rather than sweet and familiar.

The yuzu, to me, is a more solemn citrus, less bright than orange or bergamot, and rendering the pucker of grapefruit. In addition to yuzu there is jasmine in the opening and again, I get various reactions on my skin. The first time I tried Moonlight In Chiangmai, the notes unfolded rather dramatically, and I caught a whiff of a fresh green jasmine emitting from my skin, as if lightly carried on the breeze. It was not hard to visualize golden lantern gliding silently into the dark night sky, just as delicately as the jasmine lifted off my skin. On other occasions when the scent opened with the teakwood elixir, the jasmine was more subtle in its entry, but even more highly illustrative of the idea of a brilliant lantern burning bright in a midnight sky.

The base notes of the fragrance (which I sometimes smell right from the first spray) are Somalian Myrrh, Patchouli, Haitian Vetiver, and the special Teakwood base. Moonlight In Chiangmai has elements of a traditional men's scent in the vintage style, but for me it illuminates Pissara's special ability to imbue  a Thai or Asian strand of cohesion throughout her scents, a personal fingerprint. I particularly appreciate the vetiver in the teakwood base. It amps up the dryness of the woods, and adds a touch of both smoke and leather to the scent.

I spent the majority of my adult life in Asia, more Singapore than Thailand, but I was lucky enough to be there in the early 1990s before mass development fully took hold. There were many little Mom and Pop shops selling various paraphernalia geared towards tourists. Eventually the real estate became too valuable and two story shop houses made way for high rise skyscrapers. However the teakwood accord took me again to the back streets of Singapore in 1990, coming across a shop filled with beautifully ornate wooden cabinets featuring intricate carving and metal butterfly shaped clasps. I remember opening one of the cabinets and a scent of dry wood, smoky leather, and spice filling my senses, almost as if I had opened the door to Narnia. I didn't know at the time, but this scent was imprinted on my memory and will forever take me back to that moment, that shop, that time in Singapore.

This Asian sensibility is what I perceive in Pissara's Teakwood accord. I also got a strong sense of tobacco when I first sprayed the scent, and I sent Pissara a message: "I love Moonlight In Chiangmai, it's so beautiful. I have one question. I smell a gentle sweet tobacco scent, but tobacco is not listed. Can you tell me where I'm getting this note?"

She answered, "I don't have any tobacco in it. I have a teak wood accord and that can be interpreted in different ways. I blend patchouli from Indonesia, sandalwood, cedarwood, and vetiver. Vetiver can be interpreted to be like tobacco leaf. I also have a little bit of benzoin from Siam, a little bit of labdanum, so you see the kind of ambery woody ingredient with a hint of smoky wood."

I get a strong sense of leathery tobacco leaf, and I was reminded of  cherry tobacco from a pipe. This could be from the myrrh, as it can throw fruity aspects, usually plum or fig. Fig or other subtle dried fruit were other possible interpretations I thought of, along with the cherry tobacco impression. I believe it may be the myrrh which gives that certain fragrance that I interpret as "Asian woods", an oily, slightly medicinal tinge as well as a dryness and slight spiciness. 

Now back to the words with which I started this review. I sprayed the sample Pissara generously sent me (after the first package she sent disappeared--there is a package thief somewhere out there that smells very good ). That first time it was wood note forward, so I had this beautiful teakwood elixir with elements that so strongly reminded me of Asia, but also tobacco, leather, light resins, and then came this shaft of light (yuzu) and a gossamer trail of the lightest most delicate jasmine. The whole thing was magic, and that is when the words to the old song from the movie The Sound of Music popped into my head -- "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?". With Moonlight In Chiangmai, Pissara harnesses a bit of the magic that takes place over the inky black skies over Chiangmai once every year during Yee Peng, when thousands of lanterns silently illuminate the skies.

I recommend you go to this link and see the wonderful presentation and short (24 second) film that team Dusita has prepared for the launch of Moonlight In Chiangmai. It shows a little of the beauty of this city that inspired Pissara to create the scent and it is illustrated with some of her lovely hand drawn images. I am a big believer in intention and purpose. There are some perfumers who use crystals to infuse their scents with positivity and certain power. Pissara is such a lovely and positive person, and I truly feel she is able to blend that serene quality and beauty into the fragrances she creates.

Moonlight In Chiangmai was made with the intention of having another scent in the Parfums Dusita lineup geared for the male buyer, but it is truly unisex and can be happily worn by anyone. Pissara told me to be sure and try the scent on male skin, but my husband is away and not here for two more days. If I notice many differences when he tries it I will update here later.  

THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY OF PARFUMS DUSITA, I HAVE TWO SAMPLES TO GIVE AWAY TO USA-BASED READERS. Apologies that I can't afford to send internationally but if you are a USA reader either leave a comment in the comment section here (it won't immediately show up as I have to allow comments) or comment on The Fragrant Journey facebook page. If you comment here could you check back to see if you are a winner or message me your Facebook profile link or email so I can reach out? I WILL SELECT WINNERS ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 29, A WEEK FROM TODAY.

The top photo is from the Chiang Rai Times, and is actually a picture of Chiang Rai, not Chiang Mai, used for artistic purposes! Thank you to Parfums Dusita for the sample of  Moonlight In Chiang Mai.