SCENTS were an important part of Josh Lee's life from the beginning, as his family operated a business supplying baking ingredients and scents. The different flavour extracts ended up having a major influence on the young Lee's olfactory senses.
"My father would also douse me in different fragrances when taking me out, and he also experimented in the shop with the different extracts to come out with new flavours."
"All those different flavours and scents intrigued me from a young age," said Lee, who then went on to found the eponymous company Josh Lee Fragrances in 2012.
The Penangite says he was lucky he had the support of his family and suppliers when striking out, as he saw fragrances and perfumery in Malaysia as a field with great potential.
After completing his first degree in chemistry at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Lee continued his studies with ISIPCA, a French institute for post-graduate studies in perfumery, cosmetics and food flavouring to obtain his master's in perfumery.
As part of the post-graduate course, Lee spent a period of time on exchange with the University of Plymouth to learn the business side of the perfumery industry.
"I was pretty lucky, as ISIPCA was starting a large, international student intake, so 70 per cent of the course was in English," said Lee, who nevertheless had begun taking French lessons at Alliance Francaise during his time in UPM.
Currently, Josh Lee Fragrances boasts tone perfume, "Georgetown", an eau de toilette, in its line, although Lee says he has finished designing another perfume with a third being conceptualised.
Georgetown EDT, named after Penang's state capital, came about after Lee had overseas friends looking for something to remind them of their visit to the Pearl of the Orient.
"Conceptualising the scent took over a year, partly because I was working a full-time job, but I also wanted to do research and find out what would be recognisably 'Georgetown'," said Lee.
The concept is reflected in the types of scents used, from marine notes since Penang is an island, to spices like 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.