Josh Lee puts perfume on the map in Malaysia with bespoke formulations

By Michelle Yeomans contact

- Last updated on GMT

Josh Lee puts perfume on the map in Malaysia with bespoke formulations

Related tags: Perfume

Perfumer Josh Lee had put Malaysia on the map with his ability to create bespoke formulations, the latest being eau de toilette “Georgetown”, a scent said to replicate the Pearl of the Orient.

The fragrance named after Penang island's state capital features marine notes, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom to denote its history as a colonial trading port.

"Latent heartnotes include florals (hibiscus and rose) for the city’s association with the two flowers, while sandalwood and patchouli evoke the memory of old pre-independence houses with their wooden floors as well as temple incense.​"

According to Lee, the fragrance itself is made in Malaysia, although the essential oils are distilled in Europe and imported over. Other substances are then added at Lee’s lab in Penang, including denatured alcohol, blue colouring and benzophenone-3, an organic compound, to protect the scent from degrading in sunlight.

“Georgetown is a unisex fragrance, although it starts off with masculine notes, as the fragrance warms from body heat, the floral notes slowly come out and are more feminine​,” Lee explains.

The entrepreneur founded his self-titled company back in 2012 after studies at ISIPCA, a French institute for post-graduate studies in perfumery, cosmetics and food flavouring to obtain his master’s in perfumery.

Lee has placed the fragrance in the niche premium category as he says it allows him to target specific market segments such as tourists that have visited Penang and are looking for an authentic memoir of the island and the city to bring back.

It took weeks, or even months of persistence before the management for two of the duty-free shops at Penang International Airport gave me space to display Georgetown and the brand’s other cosmetic items​,” the young entrepreneur reveals of the current competitive cosmetic market in Malaysia.

Malaysian halal cosmetics industry

The global halal market is a major growth area and is expanding at a rate of 20 per cent per year. According to market research firm Organic Monitor, it has a total value of between US$5bn and US$14bn and is especially strong in the Middle East.

The sharia-compliant cosmetics market is Malaysia is controlled by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, or JAKIM.

The government body claims to have issued a total of 395 halal certificates for cosmetics companies up until this year.

HDC particularly highlights nine companies as exporters to destinations outside Malaysia: Clara International Beauty Group, Consucare Inc, Jetaine Corporation, Natural Wellness, Sendayu Tinggi Holdings, Simplysiti, Vanity Cosmeceuticals, Ginvera and Alliance Cosmetics.

Not just for Muslims

According to HDC, halal products are increasingly being adopted by none-Muslim consumers. The organization attributes this to “purity”, “safety” ​and “quality.”

Halal cosmetics have a number of advantages over more conventional beauty items, including being alcohol-free and therefore less likely to irritate sensitive skin.

Many are also animal-product free due to Islam forbidding the use of any organism not slaughtered according to sharia law, making them popular among vegetarians.

Brands such as Colgate-Palmolive are amongst those to have recently developed halal products.

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