Scent of Siam: Fourth-generation Thai perfumer aims to introduce family legacy to a global audience

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutt Wesshasartar is a fourth-generation perfumer whose family founded a traditional Thai perfume with a royal history. [Siam 1928]
Nutt Wesshasartar is a fourth-generation perfumer whose family founded a traditional Thai perfume with a royal history. [Siam 1928]

Related tags: Fragrance, Thailand

A fourth-generation perfumer with global ambitions has made it his life mission to introduce the modern consumer to his family’s legacy of traditional Thai perfumery through his contemporary brand.

Siam 1928 was founded by Nutt Wesshasartar, a fourth-generation perfumer whose family founded Nam-Ob Prung Chaokhun, a traditional Thai perfume with a royal history.

According to Wesshasartar, Nam-Ob Prung Chaokhun was created by his great-great-grandmother, who worked in the royal household of King Rama IV. After leaving the service, she eventually created and started selling the scent, which is made from borneol camphor, Thai scented water as well as local herbs and flowers.

The fragrance found favour with Thailand’s royal and aristocratic members because of its cooling properties, courtesy of borneol camphor.

It is also often used in temples as Thai Buddhists believe that along with a pleasant aroma, their wishes will go to heaven and bring them good luck, health and happiness.

After over 90 years, Nam-Ob Prung Chaokhun still uses the same formula and is sold across Thailand, mainly in Buddhist shops.

A unique twist on tradition

Wesshasartar told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that he believes Nam-Ob Prung Chaokhun to be a very unique fragrance and could be worn as an everyday perfume and not just for religious rites.

“I find this traditional Thai fragrance to be so unique, so why should people only wear it when they visit the temple when they can wear it like other perfume?"

In 2018, he struck out on his own to develop Siam 1928 to reintroduce the traditional fragrance to modern consumers.

His creations take inspiration from Thai folk tales and use some of the same ingredients used by his great-great-grandmother, such as borneol camphor, as well as familiar ingredients like bergamot, yuzu and mimosa.

“My perfume has its own unique brand of Thai as well as foreign cultures. I use local stories from Thailand for inspiration and write poems for each scent. To me, my perfumes are like a movie in one spray,”​ said Wesshasartar.

Today, Siam 1928 has launched boutiques in IconSiam and Siam Discovery, two premiere shopping destinations in Bangkok popular with locals and tourists alike.

Ultimately, Wesshasartar said his goal is to expand the brand overseas, something he intends to focus on from this year forward.

"I'm trying to make Thai perfume known to the world, so I'm very interested in taking the brand overseas. We are already shipping internationally and have customers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Bahrain, Russia, the US and some European countries."

A new classic

While the perfumes are a modern interpretation of a traditional fragrance, Wesshasartar emphasised that he does not think of Siam 1928 as a modern, or even traditional brand, but a new classic.

He added that it was extremely important for the packaging to be as unique as its scents. Unable to find the right bottle among conventional suppliers, the company turned to another Thai family-owned company that produces ceramics.

The companies worked closely together to create Siam 1928's signature ceramic bottles, which resemble antique Chinese snuff bottles.

Aside from evoking an old-world feel, ceramic also has the benefit of protecting the perfume from sunlight and prevent it from deteriorating rapidly.

The delicate ceramic bottles contrast with its outer box packaging, which features bold illustrations and contemporary typefaces.

Last year, the brand bagged a 2020 National Design Excellence Award, a national award given out by the Royal Thai Government.

New scent stories

One of the biggest challenges the brand faces is gaining brand awareness. While this has been a slow process, Wesshasartar said the brand's presence locally and overseas has been growing thanks to Facebook and Instagram.

Additionally, the brand has benefitted from the growing popularity of niche perfume brands.

“There have been a number of new perfumers have emerged in Thailand in the last couple of years. The media is also giving them more attention. Also, more people are studying and learning about perfume. So, they no longer care about the brand and the logo, they are looking for a unique perfume and story,” ​said Wesshasartar.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the growing demand.

“Niche perfume in Thailand is growing, especially because of COVID-19, but I'm not very sure why! I guess it's because people are not travelling or going out, they are looking for new experiences and are more open to trying new brands and scents.”

The brand is in the midst of developing new scents for Siam 1928, which will be launched next year.

Additionally, it is also working on expanding the business with a new perfume brand, Voyager, which will focus on scents inspired by Wesshasartar's travels.

He hopes that the new collection, which will be launched in May, can provide people with an escape as travel restrictions continue to persist amid the ongoing pandemic.

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