Perfume as an Art Form-Escentric Molecules

As you may have realized I do prefer natural things where possible, but at the same time its only fair to keep an open mind to new creative developments. Many Perfumers have struggled with the IFRA (The International Fragrance Association) which has banned many common ingredients in perfumery. Which has brought new challenges to the industry when a material is forbidden or restricted, sometimes for good reasons like health issues. Unfortunately, the most interesting ones are being cut out, so alternatives are having to be found and often this means developing a replacement in a laboratory.

One of the most creative Perfumers around is Gaza Scohen, his company, Escentric Molecules celebrates perfumery as the art of chemistry. It was in London, in 2006, that he launched Escentric Molecules, often described as the ‘anti-fragrance fragrance brand’. He started this as a niche brand never really thinking that this revolutionary fragrance would become so successful. Confounding his expectations to become a huge success.

What is it exactly? An aroma- molecule is something that does not exist in nature. Unknown outside the world of perfumery, (until the launch of Escentric Molecules) Iso E Super was created in a laboratory at IFF in 1973. It had been used in relatively low concentrations in the background of many fragrances for both men and women. Among perfumers, it is prized for its velvety, cocooning effect.

I realised that the common denominator in all the fragrances I liked was that they contained a large dose of it. Iso E Super is highly unusual. You can never get enough of it, it’s like a drug – Geza Schoen

After perfumer Geza Schoen first smelt Iso E Super, he began to experiment, creating fragrances that contained Iso E Super in unheard-of proportions even spraying nothing but the aroma-molecule itself. The molecules hover close to the skin so perfumes bond with the receptors in the olfactory system. The effects were immediate and he decided to create two fragrances which were radically minimalist. The fragrances are presented in binary pairs. Each pair explores one aroma-molecule in two different ways. One fragrance would contain an unprecedented 65% of the molecule. The rest of the formula would consist of ingredients designed to underscore its low-lit mood. This was a brave move; the second fragrance was totally non-conformist. It would contain only the molecule Iso E Super.

“I thought, this one will appeal only to the artists, the freaks, the outsiders.”

From its launch in 2006, Escentric Molecules was a phenomenon hit. Schoen followed the first pair of fragrances, 01, with 02, 03, 04, and in 2020, a fifth pair, Escentric Molecules 05. Each pair focuses on those rare aroma-molecules that have the radiance and depth of character to stand alone. The Escentric and Molecule fragrances in each series are sold separately. These don’t come cheap. But the fragrance smells different on every wearer, so it is cheaper than a bespoke scent.

Throughout his career Schoen has collaborated on conceptual projects such as Paper Passion, a fragrance with Steidl, Wallpaper and Karl Lagerfeld and worked with artists such as Wolfgang Georgsdorf, for whom he made 64 odours for Smeller, an olfactory organ that spectators can play like a piano to make aromascapes. Artist Wolfgang Georgsdorf wants us to think about smell as an artistic experience. (I will feature this in a separate post)

Geza Schoen, appears to be a reserved, modest man. He thinks a woman ‘s mind is sexier than her looks, values the dying art of face to face communication, has a deep-rooted love of natural ingredients and thinks most new “niche” perfumes are silly. I couldn’t agree more. He has brought something very different to an industry over-filled with much of the same. Not everyone wants to smell the same as everyone else. What he is creating is futuristic perfumery. It will be interesting to see if other companies follow his lead and how the coming decades with the rising costs and scarcity of natural ingredients will force more perfume houses into laboratories. As a perfumer he is both an artist and skilled craftsman. It would appear that perfumery is a combination of both skill and intuition. I am curious to see what he does next…..

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