Sometimes, when I wear La Douceur de Siam, I’m reminded of the famous Forrest Gump line about life being like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to receive.” In the case of the Dusita fragrance, it’s not chocolates with different fillings but, rather, a tropical fruit salad. Like Gump’s box of chocolates, it sometimes opens up to reveal unexpected surprises, though, at its core, its fundamental essence is always the same: fruity, tangy, tart, and zingy sweetness with a profoundly exotic character. Pissara Umavijani takes this fruity core, layers it with frothy, luminous, tropical florals and creamy vanilla mousse, anchors the bouquet on a base of Mysore sandalwood, then envelops everything in airy clouds of soft benzoin amber and spices for a scent that is always fun, bright, and exuberantly happy. The end result often reminds me of another fragrance, Neela Vermeire‘s Bombay Bling which several bloggers used to characterize as “Prozac in a fragrance bottle.” I think La Douceur de Siam has a similar tropicality, character, and effect.
La Douceur de Siam (hereinafter sometimes simply called “La Douceur” for reasons of convenience) is an eau de parfum which was officially released earlier this year, although it had a pre-debut at the Pitti fragrance fair in September 2016. It was created by Pissara (or “Ploi”) Umavijani, the founder and nose of Parfums Dusita. The Dusita website describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:
The opening, a heart-stopping blend of fabulous flowers – Rose de Mai, Frangipani, Champaka. Uplifting green Carnation balanced by balsamic sweetness from Ylang Ylang Extra and Violet Leaf.
At the heart, the unique and heavenly notes of soft, warm Cinnamon with an exceptional Thai Chalood Bark – a sensual, woody, vanillic accord from old Siam.
Base notes, an exclusive blend of Vanilla Absolute and Sandalwood Mysore, with the aphrodisiac scent of rare Amber and a seductive hint of Ambergris. Lasting harmony through a long dry down.
La Douceur de Siam opens on my skin with the most tropical of fruity floral cocktails. There is an initial hit of sparkling, crisp citrus followed by green mangos that are tart, juicy, bright, and zingy, then richly slathered over a very jammy, almost beefy red rose. Following suit in rapid succession are a slew of other notes, beginning with a surprising lychee-like note bearing an exotic liquidy sweetness, then champaca. The latter has a profoundly liqueured fruitiness that resembles a mix of apricots and davana macerated in booze. After that, there is the tropical lushness of frangipani and ylang-ylang, their petals coated with layers of creamy vanilla. As a finishing touch, similar to the way a chef decorates an artistic plate, the entire floral-fruity cocktail is adorned with a few well-placed green leaves of citrusy violet leaf.
The cumulative effect is not only a visual explosion of bright colours, skewing vivid shades of orange, red, green, and yellow, but also a scent explosion that feels, simultaneously: sparkling, frothy, richly creamy but airy mousseline, zesty, tangy, tart, sweet, and even, dare I say it, rather succulent.
One of the many things that I like about it is how perfectly balanced the notes are and how well they work together. Sweetness is offset by tangy tartness that has enough subtle acidity to ensure that nothing ever feels gourmand. By the same token, the ylang’s custard facet and the vanilla’s creaminess are given a surprising mousse-like airiness, so they never feel cloying. It’s the same for the roses. I’m not usually a fan of roses that are profoundly jammy in feel, but nothing about the fruity redness here feels like goopy molasses, perhaps because there is so much tartness from the green mangoes.
But perhaps one of my favourite things is how La Douceur de Siam manages to make a fruity floral feel so chic and so sophisticated. To be frank, I rarely think of the genre that way; fruity-florals are just … well, fruity and floral, usually simple and usually with so much cloying sweetness that the cumulative effect never screams “chic” to me. True, La Douceur de Siam is a floral oriental just as much as it is a fruity floral, and true, it’s a tropical variation on both themes but, even so, something about it always reads as ultra sophisticated and effortless to me. It feels like a very Parisian twist on the tropics, much like the photo to the left. In that sense, the fragrance is much like its creator, the beautiful Pissara Umavijani, an incredibly chic, sophisticated woman who embodies the best of Paris and Thailand.
The Gump-ian “box of chocolates” surprise in La Douceur de Siam stems from the way its notes combine together to form unexpected aromas. Apart from the constant lychee-like note, the fruit salad of the opening sometimes wafts tart kiwis, sometimes zingy tart passion fruit, sometimes sweet pineapples. Once in a blue moon, the fruited greenness has a Granny Smith apple quality to its tartness. The roses waft red raspberries in the middle phase but, sometimes, in a few tests, there were undercurrents of strawberries and peonies, perhaps from ionones, damascones, or some combination thereof with the violet leaf. The other non-fruit elements form their own unexpected combination, mainly, a strong undercurrent of either green jasmine tea or black tea. I’ve never smelled Thai Chalood bark, so I don’t know if that’s the underlying cause, but “tea” of some kind appeared in several tests and I thought it was a lovely touch next to the humid, sweet, tropical lushness.
La Douceur’s base is an equally pretty counterpart, even if it’s merely a whisper in the first 30 minutes and takes time to emerge fully. At first, there is only a quiet ripple of spicy, warm sandalwood but it gradually coalesces into a rich melange of Mysore, clove, cinnamon, and balsamic, ambered resins.
At its core, La Douceur de Siam’s nutshell essence for most of its development can be summed up as: a fruity-floral vanilla parfait made from layers of mango, lychee, exotic fruits, lushly tropical flowers, jammy roses, spicy ylang custard, and silky vanilla mousse, all served up in an Mysore sandalwood cup in a tropical setting under a bright blue sky filled with golden clouds of amber and cinnamon-scented benzoin with a touch of carnation clove.
That’s the nutshell essence of La Douceur for hours and hours on my skin, and the only changes which occur as the fragrance develops involve the prominence, order, and nuances of its various notes. For example, for the first few hours, there is a lot of jammy rose, fruity frangipani, and boozy, fruity, liqueured champaca. During that time, the ylang ylang is mostly just an underlying textural quality, lending a spiced, floral custardy creaminess to the flowers. In the middle of the 2nd hour, the sandalwood, clove, and benzoin base notes begin to seep up. They arrive fully in the third hour, lending a greater orientalism and woodiness to the notes on center stage.
The third hour is also when La Douceur de Siam’s second stage begins. The bouquet’s floral focal point ceases to be a co-equal mix and is now heavily dominated by the increasingly jammy, berry-scented red roses. The champaca remains close by, wafting its davana-like liqueured booziness but the other flowers retreat to the sidelines. At the same time, the greenness surrounding the fruity florals not only grows much stronger but changes in aroma from smelling mostly of green mangoes to smelling of mangoes heavily laced with crisp, citrusy violet leaf. At this point, there is also something a little synthetic which appears in the base, a quietly rasping wooded smokiness that feels out of place with the naturalness of the other notes but it’s a minor thing. Vanilla, soft woods, a touch of clove-ish spice, and an occasional whisper of something tea-like weave around the rose’s edges, but there isn’t a powerful orientalism to La Douceur de Siam at this stage. On my skin, it’s primarily a fruity floral in genre. It’s not even all that tropical in nature, despite the mango’s strong presence. With the frangipani and ylang lurking on the sidelines, the humid, exotic, and hothouse qualities they lent to the fragrance have receded, overwhelmed by the more conventional aspects of the jammy rose.
What’s interesting is that, in one test, La Douceur de Siam’s facets in the middle stage varied from one arm to the arm. On my left arm, the fragrance was dominated by roses that were powerfully berried and jammy, bracketed by slightly shrill green violet leaves, placed atop a quietly smoky woody base, and drizzled with a surprisingly rum-cognac like booziness. On my right arm, however, La Douceur de Siam had different flowers, significantly less fruitiness, and a more vanillic, woody, and ambered bouquet. It was basically a vanilla mousse with alternating layers of lushly humid frangipani, sweet-spicy ylang, green mangoes, clove-ish carnation, and sandalwood, all of which were then enveloped in a soft cloud of cinnamon-scented benzoin.
In all cases, however, La Douceur de Siam always returns to its fruited roots in its fourth and final stage which typically begins late in the 6th hour. The fragrance has dissolved into a simple but bright and exotic fruity-floral creaminess. There are quiet ripples of tart green mango, sweet red berried jam, custardy ylang, lush frangipani, and tea, but they’re growing increasingly difficult to pick out. There is no discernible floralcy, violet leaf, sandalwood, benzoin, amber, or spice on my skin. By the end of the 7th hour, the individual notes are a total blur, and La Douceur is merely a warm, sweet, faintly tart, vanilla-fruity mousse. It remains that way for a long time. Eventually, in its final hours, all that’s left is fruitiness.
La Douceur de Siam had good projection, strong sillage, and very good longevity. With several spritzes from the small Dusita atomizer equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 4-5 inches of projection and about 8-9 inches of sillage. It takes a while for the numbers to drop. At the 3.5 hour mark, the projection is between 1 and 1.5 inches and the scent trail extends about 4-5 inches. La Douceur de Siam turned into a skin scent on me 7.25 hours into its development, but it was easy to detect up close without any effort until the 9th hour. In total, it lasted just under 14.5 hours.
There is a nice paradox to La Douceur’s performance on my skin. For the first 6 or 7 hours, the scent was strong in aroma and definitely noticeable in its long, lingering scent trail, but it was also surprisingly airy in feel and weight, even a little diaphanous at times. “Potent airiness” might be one way to describe it. On top of that, there is a luminosity to the florals in the first stage. When the dark, jammy roses kick in the 3rd hour, they turn the scent heavier in feel and weight, comparatively speaking, but it’s purely relative to the airiness of that sunny, bright, zingy, and zesty opening. And, yet, despite its airiness, this is one strong fragrance on my skin and it makes its presence known.
I have the feeling that La Douceur de Siam is one of those fragrances which might be easy to dismiss as yet another fruity floral because, on the surface, it seems to be a simple, largely linear scent. It definitely appears that way on my skin if I don’t bother to sniff it up close and pay attention to all the finer points or details. When smelt from afar, it often comes across as hours and hours of a flowered fruit cocktail layered with vanilla cream and amber. I have a bottle of La Douceur, so I’ve worn it a number of times and, if I’m not paying any attention, the scent appears to move largely in a straight line, with only a few occasional squiggles up or down but without any significant change or twists until the drydown when it finally turns into simple vanilla mousse fruitiness.
There are layers, nuances, and details, however. They’ve simply been presented with such pitch-perfect precision and carefulness that they’re easy to overlook if one is merely taking the broad approach or enjoying the cumulative effect from a distance. Yet, even if one did view the scent in the broadest or nutshell fashion, there is nothing wrong with simplicity if it’s done well. And this has been done well, in my opinion. Everything is integrated in seamless fashion, each note singing off the next on my skin but also working together in joyful harmony.
I admire how Ms. Umavijani has managed to give the fruity-floral genre such a chic, sophisticated sensibility, but what makes me smile is the fragrance’s bubbly exuberance. It’s cheerful fun to wear. And none of it is impeded by the annoyingly intrusive, excessively clean, laundry white musk which overtook Melodie de L’Amour and Issara and which Luca Turin described as “grey fog.” Instead, there is golden warmth which accentuates the sunny and tropical notes.
As you may have gathered by now, La Douceur de Siam’s real nutshell essence for me is ultimately not about anything olfactory but about its overall character. Like Bombay Bling, its Indian mango-fruity-floral-sandalwood-amber cousin, La Douceur is just a fun, feel-good, easy to wear, happy, bubbly, sunny fragrance. It’s why I singled it out at the end of last year in my brief year-end review, even though the fragrance had not officially been released at that time. 2016 was a year filled with far too much mediocrity for my tastes as well as a surprising number of stink bombs so, sometimes, after testing a particularly unpleasant new release or yet another over-priced yawn, I would turn to La Douceur to counter my increasingly cynical and negative view of industry trends or to cheer myself up. People call Bombay Bling “Prozac in a fragrance bottle,” and I think that would describe La Douceur de Siam as well.
Will it be that way for everyone? Probably not, because perfume is, by its very nature, so subjective, and emotional responses even more so. Having said that, “happy” was used quite often to describe La Douceur de Siam on Fragrantica, so it’s not just me. A fair number of the reviews there are raves and remark on the fragrance’s happy, sunny character or its lush tropicality which one person summed up as a “stunning tropical paradise” and another compared to a “tropical garden in bloom here in Bangkok.” Other commentators call La Douceur de Siam “magical, “beautiful,” “delicious,” or “nothing short of brilliant and very masterfully done.” Some people provided lengthy descriptions of the variety of notes and nuances that they detected, indicating that the fragrance was hardly simple on some people’s skin.
That wasn’t always the case, however. For some, La Douceur was too linear, simple, and flat. For others, the fragrance was too quiet and airy, although the sillage votes show that only 7 people voted for the quietest category while 20 people, in total, opted for the three stronger/bigger sillage categories. I’ll let you read the reviews on your own to get a full sense of people’s different experiences with the fragrance.
Some men may be curious about how feminine La Douceur de Siam is or where it falls on the gender spectrum. Personally, I don’t believe in gender characterizations for scent and think it all depends on the individual’s taste, style, and comfort zone, but this one is particularly tricky to try to see through other people’s eyes. On the one hand, I know a number of men who love La Douceur, just as they do its Indian cousin, Bombay Bling. Roses and vanilla appeal to people of both sexes, while the prominent champaca note here is boozy enough to suit a number of men. Plus, there are so many exotic fruits, thereby undercutting or countering the floral femininity of the scent, and the base is composed of completely unisex oriental notes. On the other hand, there are a lot of florals. In short, I don’t know. I think it’s going to strongly depend on individual style and comfort zones. There’s a good chance that you’ll find La Douceur to be genderless if you’re comfortable wearing: Bombay Bling; champaca floral orientals like Tom Ford‘s Champaca Absolute; tropical-skewing florientals like Areej‘s Flux de Fleur; or semi-gourmand fruity-florals which contain a lot of vanilla, caramel, and/or benzoin.
Regardless of gender, if you’re looking for a tropical scent that is fun, bright, happy, lush, heady, creamy, sweet, and exuberant, then I recommend giving La Douceur de Siam a sniff.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of the company. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.