In the Perfume Kitchen with Geza Schoen on Escentric Molecules M+ Collection

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.”

Mark Behnke

Olfactory Chemistry: Iso E Super- Size Matters

One of the most widely used aroma chemicals in perfumery is Iso E Super. Iso E Super was synthesized by International Flavor & Fragrances (IFF) chemists John B. Hall and James M. Sanders in 1973. In the book “Scent and Chemistry, The Molecular World of Odors” by Philip Kraft and Gunther Orloff they write that it had one of the most pronounced effect on fragrance development since Edmond Roudnitska introduced Hedione in Dior Eau Sauvage in 1966. What makes this such an influential molecule? One of the reasons that I will explore today is its size. If you look below at the structure of Iso E Super next to Limonene you can see they are closely structurally related but they have very different effects when used in perfume.

iso e super limonene

Limonene is one of the chemicals extracted from lemon rind. As is common citrus notes tend not to last very long on skin when used in a perfume and Limonene is no exception to that. Iso E Super has a very different effect. It is one of the great fixatives and base notes in all of perfumery. It is more well-known for its use in high percentages in some particularly seminal perfumes like Lancome Tresor, Hermes Terre D’Hermes, Perles de Lalique and of course Geza Schoen’s Molecule 01 which is 100% Iso E Super. In high percentages it does have a unique odor profile. Iso E Super has the influence cited my Kraft and Orloff for the effect it adds when used in small quantities.

Perfumer Andy Tauer has the best description of Iso E Super in small quantities in his blog entry of October 9, 2012. In that post he likens it to a layer in graphics program Photoshop. He says, “It adds lift, and it soften all notes, and it brings out contrasts and optimizes a fragrance in quite a spectacular way. In a sense it is present by its effect, and less by its scent. It is not by chance that you find Iso E Super in so many scents these days. Actually, the analogy to a photoshop layer is not so bad.” It is that lift and the ability to add to the longevity of the perfume which makes it so influential. That property is also related to its size.

One of the more unique features of Iso E Super is that some people can’t smell it easily, called anosmia. Just as people show anosmia for the large macrocyclic musks which are at similar molecular weight they do the same for Iso E Super.

When it comes to aromachemicals size does matter and Iso E Super is one of the larger molecules in regular use, and influence.

Mark Behnke

Title Picture: Bloom County by Berkley Breathed– “Size Matters”