Even I need to be reminded of things which have fallen off my radar screen. When I was speaking with perfumer Geza Schoen about his recent Escentric Molecules M+ Collection I took the opportunity to ask about a different project, The Beautiful Mind Series. In 2010 and five years later Hr. Schoen worked with the creative direction of precocious non-perfume intellects. I was thinking we were overdue for a third volume. He told me that he is just waiting for the right muse. Which sent me to find the earlier releases. When I found The Beautiful Mind Series Intelligence & Beauty Vol.1 there was a gorgeous spring floral waiting.
The beautiful mind he collaborated with was Grandmaster of Memory, Christiane Stenger. She achieved that status at age 12. The brief they came up for the perfume is, “an ode to summer and its memories”. The structure was a floral built around magnolia and tiare. I remember remarking at the time that it was only the second time I had encountered tiare in a perfume. What a difference a decade makes. Even then there is a sparkling presence to this South Pacific gardenia. By pairing it with a creamy woody magnolia it is a study in contrasts They are provided depth through osmanthus and rose. I know they want summer, but this feels very spring-like to me. The tiare is the crown on top of the floral heart. A soft woody base accord around sandalwood and cedar adds in the final flourish
Intelligence & Beauty Vol. 1 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Hr. Schoen would release Vol.2 with ballet dancer Polina Semionova. They produce one of the more interesting fruity florals I own which ends on an animalic accord. Both perfumes are unlike much of what Hr. Schoen has made for other brands. They celebrate the beauty of intelligence which is as good as perfume gets.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
In my introduction yesterday I mentioned this quote from perfumer Geza Schoen on why he would use Iso E Super. He said, “it is the perfect basic kind of soup stock to cook the best soup with ever.” It is the reason Molecule 01 which is nothing but Iso E Super is as popular as it is. This is one of those ingredients in perfumery which opens new pathways for anyone designing fragrances. For Hr. Schoen to return to it and add in a single other keynote ends up displaying why that is so. I’m going to review these three new items on Chef Schoen’s menu.
Molecule 01 + Mandarin
All three of these are simple binary perfumes. There are other things in support, but they are there to enhance the two main pieces. 01 + Mandarin is the only one of the three which has two very distinct phases. It opens with the brilliance of citrus radiating through the inherent transparency of Iso E Super. This is part of the flexibility of it. It allows other ingredients to shine like a beam of light through its prism. In this case the mandarin begins to lose the bright wavelengths at the core while keeping the bitter ones as the Iso E Super takes over. This is that dusty dried earth effects the aromachemical is known for. As the dregs of the mandarin add in an appealing bite it all feels as if that early sun is now setting.
Molecule 01 + Iris
This is the perfume which launched this idea when Hr. Schoen created it for his partner. He uses Iris Pallida as the source of that ingredient. This is where he shows the elegance that Iso E Super can display. If 01 + Mandarin was the street food on this menu, 01 + Iris is the vichyssoise. It reminds me of the velvety texture of the best iterations I have had of the creamy soup. The iris is also passed through the prism of its perfume partner. In this case it opens it up. This is where the lift and expansiveness of Iso E Super takes a luxurious ingredient like iris and creates a surface for it to spread out over. There is a chic sophistication in the way the ionones find their way to stay pleasantly on top of it all for the entire time.
Molecule 01 + Patchouli
This is my kind of soup. This is the Asian type full of aromatic ingredients pulsing off the broth in enveloping waves. As Chef Schoen told me in our conversation patchouli is usually propelled through musks and other deeper ingredients. When he uses this prism of Iso E Super it also gives it permission to not be as dark. It asks it to be opaquer. This is the least transparent of the three yet is way lighter than a typical perfume featuring patchouli. The Iso E Super picks it up and then both ingredients keep rotating into different ways of interacting. This is the most dynamic of the three as each keeps the other looking its best.
If you want to understand why Iso E Super is such a critical piece of modern perfumery Hr. Schoen has provided all the pieces you need to learn. These three new menu items round out the story begun in 2005 with Molecule 01 and Escentric 01.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of each perfume provided by Escentric Molecules.
Now that we have 20 years into the new century there is the opportunity for some perspective when looking back. The independent and niche perfume areas really exploded into growth just after we crossed Y2K. The first five years of this new era were where the rules were being written. Brands weren’t trying to find their way to the mall. They were trying to find their way to the aficionado. The ones who wanted more than function from perfume. This was a good description of myself at this time. I was eagerly absorbing as much information as I could.
One part of that was trying to understand the ingredients which went into these perfumes. Like most my classroom was experiential. Through the forums I was collating my experience with others. One of the best ways I was able to learn came through one of those audacious gambles being taken then. Perfumer Geza Schoen would release Molecule 01 in 2005. It was just a single ingredient, the synthetic aromachemical Iso E Super. It was paired with another perfume where that synthetic ingredient was featured in a more traditional perfume called Escentric 01. This has been repeated with four other Molecules and led to four Escentrics to go with them.
Of all of them Molecule 01 has been the breakout star. It has been a perennial bestseller wherever it is sold. The reason is by itself it has a unique scent profile. It is one of those ingredients which creates a different scent profile and effect depending on its concentration. At 100% it is a wearable perfume all by itself.
Now sixteen years later Hr. Schoen is releasing a new set of perfumes called Escentric Molecules M+. The idea is to add another keynote to see how Iso E Super interacts with it. I had the pleasure a couple weeks ago of speaking with Hr. Schoen about these new fragrances.
Because he is also a trained organic chemist like me, I have always jokingly called him Herr Professor Doktor when he is teaching us through the Molecule and Escentric releases. About halfway through our conversation he said something which really encapsulated why Iso E Super has been so influential.
We were talking about the other Molecules and if any of those would be a candidate for this kind of effort. This was when he hit on something which resonated with me so strongly. He said, “It is the perfect basic kind of soup stock to cook the best soup with ever.”
Before we got to that he described how this all came about. It started with his partner Sophie asking him to make her a nice perfume from her favorite ingredient, iris. He thought it would go nice with Iso E Super and made that up for her to wear. She started getting asked what she was wearing. Even Hr. Schoen was able to know when she was nearby through the sillage she trailed behind her. It started with a lovely home meal made for a loved one by Chef Schoen.
He would come to realize there might be some other confections to be realized. He headed back into the kitchen to see what he would find. He told me he tried around a dozen different ingredients looking for the same synergy he found with iris. He mentioned that vanilla was “horrible”. That cake fell flat.
Over the time in the test kitchen he would find there were two ingredients which made the best recipes. They are mandarin and patchouli. The difference between all three of these perfumes Molecule 01 + Iris, or Mandarin, or Patchouli is they are a binary creation of Iso E Super and the plus. These aren’t as complex as Escentric 01. That seems like the entrée in retrospect. The three plus ones are more the courses leading up to it.
All three of these new fragrances are remarkably wearable. There is something compelling about the way Iso E Super acts within a perfume. I am going to review all three of Chef Schoen’s perfumes tomorrow. Each of them will illustrate why Molecule 01 produces “the best soup ever.”
I am lucky to have so much opportunity to experience the chemistry side of perfume. As a chemist and perfume lover it is one of the reasons I enjoy it. Thankfully for the public at large there is an opportunity for them to share my experience. For the last fifteen years perfumer, and chemist, Geza Schoen has released pairs of perfumes. Molecule where he features a single aromachemical paired with Escentric where he uses that aromachemical in overdose as part of a composition. He has featured some of the biggest synthetic molecules in all of perfumery. Starting with Iso E Super as 01, Ambroxan as 02, Vetiveryl Acetate as 03 and Javanol as 04. It is a fantastic concept which has been executed ideally. Now we are up to Molecule 05 and Escentric 05.
For 05 the choice is Cashmeran. It has featured in numerous fragrances because of its dual nature of woods and musk. What has always been a signature of this series is the chosen molecule has to be multi-faceted. Cashmeran was designed to be that. Along with the woods and musk what appears when you spray on Molecule 05 is a noticeable pine. I had always chalked that up to another ingredient in other perfumes which feature Cashmeran. That discovery made wearing Molecule 05 a more pleasant experience than I had anticipated.
Hr. Schoen has also wanted to enhance that pine thread as he turned to designing Escentric 05. His idea was to evoke a late-summer Mediterranean style without the usual aquatic components. He wanted to focus on the green of that time of year with herbal and terpenic notes. It is what primarily interacts with the high concentration of Cashmeran.
Escentric 05 opens on citrusy brightness banking off the woodiness of the Cashmeran. This is the smell of an orange tree, trunk and fruit. It is then placed in the middle of an herb garden growing rosemary, juniper, and basil. This set of green notes locate the pine amidst the woods and musk. It is given lift using Hedione to provide a jasmine veil. The pine really gets amplified by labdanum and mastic resins. These have a similar terpenic quality which harmonizes with the synthetic version in the Cashmeran. The musky part finally gets its chance to shine as molecules 01 and 02, Iso E super and Ambroxan join in for the base accord.
Molecule 05 and Escentric 05 have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Even when I think I know a perfume ingredient well Hr. Schoen has something to show me. The pine character in the Cashmeran took me by surprise. As part of a non-aquatic Mediterranean perfume in Escentric 05 it feels like the apotheosis of modern perfumery as abstraction of nature. A summer synthetic Mediterranean.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples supplied by Escentric Molecules.
As I spend my days trying new perfume there are typical parameters the great majority of them fall within. Only rarely do I come across a perfume which gleefully colors outside the lines. It will never be a fragrance which imparts comfort or prettiness. It is a perfume meant to confront the wearer’s idea of what perfume is meant to do. If it succeeds at doing this it almost by definition is going to be Under the Radar; this month’s choice Kinski is an example of that.
Kinski was released by perfumer Geza Schoen in 2011. He timed it to coincide with the 20th anniversary of actor Klaus Kinski’s death. Klaus Kinski was a towering personality which transferred to his acting where he portrayed larger-than-life characters. He was loved by the media because he enjoyed displaying an engaging kind of oddness. His most famous quote is a good indication, “One should judge a man mainly from his depravities. Virtues can be faked. Depravities are real.” When it came to be designing a fragrance to represent that personality Hr. Schoen came up with a larger-than-life enchantingly odd celebration of fragrance depravity.
Kinski is one of Hr. Schoen’s most densely constructed fragrances of his career. It starts with deep accords and spends the next few hours diving deeper. Any perfume which opens with castoreum in the top accord should give you a sense of that.
Besides castoreum there is schinus molle, juniper berry, and blackcurrant bud. Each of these pungent pieces are balanced into a fantastic top accord. The near urinous aspect of blackcurrant buds the gin-like aspect of juniperberry and the herbal-ness of schinus molle combine into a swaggering effect. As it moves to a heart of familiar florals a marijuana accord finds Kinski toking in the flower garden. By the time the base of costus, patchouli, benzoin, and styrax over woods arrive we are knee-deep in something depraved.
Kinski has 24-hour longevity and average sillage.
Kinski is a perfume of strong emotions. It is probably why it isn’t mentioned more often. It is one of the most unique creations in Hr. Schoen’s career. So much that I wonder whether this is him telling us some truth about what is “real”.
If you are a fan of bold perfume Kinski should be on your radar.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
I’ve asked over and over for the best niche brands to find their way to a wider audience. My belief has been consumers will see a difference when they can directly compare. One of those brands which has the kind of quality I would like to see given more exposure is Ormonde Jayne.
Ormonde Jayne is the brand owned and creatively directed by Linda Pilkington. She has created one of the longest running success stories in niche perfume. when I first tried Ormonde Man many years ago I knew this was a brand which was a cut above. That belief has been confirmed over the years as Mme Pilkington has produced some of my favorite perfumes. Most of her sales come from her London boutique although she has spread out to smaller boutiques over the years. At the end of 2018 she made a bigger splash by releasing an exclusive perfume with American luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue called Ormonde Jayne Prive.
Mme Pilkington continues her collaboration with perfumer Geza Schoen on Prive. Over 35 perfumes they have created a distinctive collection. How do you take that history and distill it down into something which will entice a fragrance lover who has never heard of you? Their choice was to take some of the best accords from previous perfumes while adding in some unique ingredients around them.
Their opening message is to lead with one of the great examples of an ingredient not seen in any of the other perfumes in the Saks fragrance department; basmati rice. If you are a fan of Ormonde Jayne Champaca you know this. In Prive it is used with a citrus flair. What is great about this is by using it on top it will grab someone’s attention. It then leads to what Ormonde Jayne is known for, luxurious florals. Usually it is one, in Prive it is a combination of magnolia and gardenia. Both florals rise out of the basmati rice filling the frame. Through this floral heart green undercurrents from clary sage and blackcurrant bud support the overall effect. It heads to a woody base accord of sandalwood, ambrox, and tonka. It adds a sweet creamy finish.
Prive has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think Mme Pilkington and Hr. Schoen have done an excellent job of creating a perfume which displays a lot of what makes the brand special. I think when a shopper runs across Prive while browsing in Saks they will see and, more importantly, appreciate the difference.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Saks Fifth Avenue.
Within the spectrum of leather fragrances there is an accord I adore. When a perfumer uses a certain amount of birch tar as a piece of their leather accord it can sometimes smell like an automobile mechanic’s garage. It is one of those natural scents of tire rubber and motor oil which is what makes my motor rev. I most regularly experience it I when the leather accord is of the Cuir de Russie variety. Ormonde Jayne Cuir Imperial starts off in the garage but it ends up someplace more elegant.
Creative director-owner Linda Pilkington and her regular partner in perfumery, Geza Schoen, consider what a modern Cuir de Russie style leather would consist of. Hr. Schoen uses a couple of his favorite ingredients to tint the central leather accord refining it as it lasts on the skin.
Cuir Imperial opens with a large concentration of green cardamom. This has the characteristic zestiness of the herb what it also has is a sticky green effect, too. The rawer leather accord arises as the scent of the garage which the cardamom pushes back against. Clary sage amplifies the green followed by an ingredient Hr. Schoen is becoming a maestro with; baie rose/schinus molle. At first, he titrates its herbal nature like a thin filament running through things. It begins to wrap itself around the leather forcing it to wash some of the garage off itself. Then it reaches for a snifter of cognac. This is a striking shift in tone from rough to refined. It is brilliant as it has an airy booziness which inserts itself through the top accord. The heart further softens the leather with rose and iris giving it a floral polish. It settles into a sophisticated suede effect. The base is sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli. It is the most typical thing about this perfume.
Cuir Imperial has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Cuir Imperial is one of the most elegant leather perfumes I have tried in a long time. What I relish about it is that it gets there by taking a trip through the garage. Once it strips off its coveralls it reveals a tuxedo underneath.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Ormonde Jayne.
I have long been a fan of Ormonde Jayne but I had feared their best days had passed them by. In 2014 with the release of Black Gold that hypothesis was shattered by one of the best perfumes in the entire collection. It was followed up in 2016 with Rose Gold which was a luxurious rose bridging Arabic and European aesthetics. When I received the press materials for the final release in the Gold Trilogy I thought the new one, White Gold, would be hard pressed to be as good as the other two. It isn’t; it’s better.
Creative Director Linda Pilkington has really outdone herself overseeing her longtime collaborator Geza Schoen on White Gold. Now that there are three releases it is easier to see the central axis upon which all three were constructed upon. The top accord was citrus combined with clary sage. The heart accord was a carnation, jasmine, and orchid triad which would be accentuated with other florals. The bases all contain ambrette seeds and their botanical musk. As I’ve now had the opportunity to compare them side-by-side it shows the precision of Hr. Schoen to take that spine and choosing different support and keynotes make it very different on a macro level while remaining the same on a micro level. Once I recognized the commonality it was hard not to notice it upon subsequent wearings of all three.
For White Gold, we begin with mandarin as the citrus source for the herbal clary sage to wrap around. The herbal quality will be enhanced using baie rose and a green leafy aromachemical. The effect is of trying to find a ripe fruit among the leaves. What makes it fun is as you search through those leaves what appears is jasmine. For White Gold jasmine is a keynote; more than just a component of the central spine. This is a gorgeous source of jasmine fully fleshed out with all its many facets on display. Hr. Schoen brings a bit of orris in to refine the effect. The base is a fabulous duet of botanical and synthetic musks as the ambrette seeds are met by some of the white musks from the laboratory. They rapidly find some common ground which cedar, vetiver, and tonka provide a sweet woody finishing flourish.
White Gold has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The jasmine in White Gold is so beautiful that there are times it seems like it is a soliflore but that is an olfactory illusion. It is more that it is the most compelling ingredient in the room and it is difficult to remove your attention from it. You should because what surrounds it is every bit as good. The three perfumes which make up the Gold Trilogy are among the very best Ormonde Jayne has to offer and the best of those three is White Gold which finishes the effort strongly.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There are a few perfumers who are also trained chemists. Obviously when I am with them we geek out about molecules that smell good. What has always occurred to me during those discussions is we are able to take them a level deeper because we understand the chemistry as well as the perfumery of it all. It seems like there should be a way for those of you who are not chemists to have a way to enter the discussion too. Enter chemist and perfumer Geza Schoen and his Escentric Molecules brand.
“Herr Professor Doktor” Schoen
In 2005 Hr. Schoen introduced the perfume world to an interesting concept in releasing a pair of perfumes. Molecule 01 would feature one aromachemical only diluted in alcohol; for the first one it was Iso E Super. Escentric 01 would be a perfume in which the featured aromachemical was present in high concentrations. It has turned out to be a winning combination allowing consumers to experience a single building block and then see it as part of a structure. It has been followed up by 02 which featured Ambroxan and 03 which featured Vetiveryl Acetate. Now we have arrived at a new pair of Molecule 04 and Escentric 04 around the aromachemical Javanol.
As with all the previous pairs Javanol is being used because it has become used in many new releases. It is a cost effective sandalwood replacement. Focused more on the creamy sweetly woody nature of real sandalwood while removing some of the drier more astringent character. It is that kind of crowd-pleasing ingredient which goes a long way and lasts a long time. Things consumers seem to conflate with quality. When you smell Molecule 04 that creamy woody quality is front and center. Hr. Schoen in the press materials mentions he detects a grapefruit aspect. I’ve smelled Javanol many times and I must say I have never experienced it and don’t when I wear Molecule 04. Another thing about a fragrance like Molecule 04 if you choose to use it as a perfume you wear often you will likely stop smelling it on yourself but almost everyone else around you will still be able to. It is because Molecule 04 as a single ingredient leads to you filtering it out because you become habituated to the smell. It’s like working in a garage and not smelling the motor oil because it is just part of your environment. Same concept with Molecule 04 you won’t notice it but it isn’t gone.
While the Molecule half of the equation is of interest it is always the Escentric side which generally puts a smile on my face. In Escentric 04 Hr. Schoen puts a really big grin on my face.
What has made the Escentric series stand out is Hr. Schoen takes these materials which are base notes and moves them up the pyramid so that they aren’t the finish line they are there right from the start. In Escentric 04 he uses grapefruit in the early going. Presumably to accentuate the grapefruit character I miss in Javanol itself. What does stand out is Hr. Schoen’s use of baie rose. I know he spent a lot of time with this ingredient recently and in Escentric 04 he uses it in a very kinetic manner adding fresh herbal counterpoints to the grapefruit while underneath the Javanol lifts it all up. Orris and rose provide an almost traditional woody floral accord in the heart. The biggest difference is that Hr. Schoen has doubled down on his sandalwood aromachemicals adding Polysantol. This other sandalwood aromachemical amplifies the sweet woodiness and the creaminess. I am guessing just upping the Javanol level didn’t create the effect Hr. Schoen wanted as well as combining the two molecules. Whatever the structural reason is the aesthetic result is like a detonation of sandalwood with orris, grapefruit, and rose shrapnel flung in all directions. In the base, he brings back his original two molecules Iso E Super and Ambroxan to form a molecular quartet of synthetic woods which last for well over 24 hours on my skin.
Molecule 01 and Escentric 04 have overnight longevity and average sillage but remember once they settle into the synthetic ingredients it alters your perception of this.
When Hr. Schoen releases these pairs of perfume I call him Herr Professor Doktor as he seeks to educate and delight at the same time. With his fourth lecture, he has outdone himself. Escentric 04 is one of the best perfumes he has ever produced.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Escentric Molecules.
Geza Schoen is one of my favorite perfumers because he shares my perspective of seeing the molecules behind perfumery. Where we differ is I couldn’t put those molecules together into anything resembling a finished perfume; Hr. Schoen has proven over and over that he thrives at this. Hr. Schoen is so technically proficient with using his molecules that when he works on his own it can come off as austere. Because I enjoy that style, especially from a perfumer like Hr. Schoen, I find it gives me insight into the places where he sees these building blocks fitting in a larger scheme. When he is working under the creative direction of a brand owner there is, by necessity, a shaping of that austerity into something which represents the brand. In Hr. Schoen’s latest release Boris Bidjan Saberi 11 there is a feeling that a middle ground has been reached between the two styles.
Boris Bidjan Saberi
Boris Bidjan Saberi is a Barcelona-based fashion designer born in Germany. His fashion is heavily influenced by skate culture and street wear. His ready-to-wear line is called “11” which is what this perfume is meant to be part of. Hr. Saberi is known for his leather work which he tans using all vegetal sourced materials. The fragrance is meant to capture Hr. Saberi after he has been about his workday.
What drew Hr. Saberi to Hr. Schoen is Escentric Molecule 01. The perfume which was pure Iso E Super had become Hr. Saberi’s signature scent. After making contact he found Hr. Schoen was interested in collaborating on the debut perfume. Because this perfume is meant to capture the smell of Hr. Saberi they already knew the base was going to be Iso E Super. Then the idea was to add ten other ingredients to bring it to a total of eleven. It took two years of work to finally agree on a finished product.
What is so interesting about 11 is that when you hear leather you expect something dense and animalic. Surprisingly that is not what they produced. Instead 11 is more green and woody than leathery. It makes it one of lighter leather-focused fragrances out there.
11 opens on a freshly cut grass note which I suspect is cis-3-hexenol. This provides that slightly moist green thread that Hr. Schoen will use throughout. I think about half of the 11 ingredients must be there in the leather accord. That accord also has several green vegetal effects to evoke Hr. Saberi’s tanning process. The last part of the heart is beeswax to give a kind of industrial glue aspect. The final note is the promised Iso E Super.
Boris Bidjani Saberi 11 has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
These two artists have created a unique leather perfume. The use of the green contrast throughout along with the choice to go for a lighter leather accord is what makes this stand out. I think Boris Bidjani Saberi 11 is an example of where the technician and the artist are on display in equal parts.
Disclosure: My sample was provided by the New York City Boris Bidjan Saberi store.