The most fascinating aspect of perfumery is the building blocks – the familiar (and often unfamiliar) materials that come together to create something entirely new. For me, I am endlessly beguiled by the way in which a singular material can, not only be so versatile in its use, but also add nuances to a fragrance that are so far removed from the material when experienced in isolation. One could call this magic, but it’s not, it’s chemistry, and perfumery is a fusion between art and science, where the latter is used to convey meaning and emotion from the medium of smell.
For me it’s always been the synthetics that hold more interest than the naturals. Without synthetic materials (incl. isolates, captives and aroma chemicals) modern perfumery would smell a heck of a lot different. We just wouldn’t have the perfumes that we’ve had for the last 100 years or so – what we’d have is inconsistent naturals that, due to their own density and complexity, often lead to an opaque soup when blended together. Synthetics give the space and definition to these materials allowing them to compliment, contrast and extend each other. They pull the naturals apart and bring new dimensions into play.
One of my favourite synthetic materials is Ambroxan. OK, so it’s not a fancy material, nor is it a particularly expensive one. It doesn’t take 3,000 years to mature under moonlight on an exotic island. No, it doesn’t have to be expressed from the anal glands of unicorns (perfumery has always had a weird fascination with the contents of animal butts, tell me I’m wrong) by golden-locked virgins in the dead of night. But it is an incredibly useful and popular material, and it finds way into many modern fragrances in both prominent, and stealthy ways. I see it as a bit of a ninja – it swoops in quietly, bringing dimension and space to dense compositions allowing them to expand, giving them tremendous lift but also a fascinating mineral facet. To put it simply, Ambroxan is ‘the nuts’.
I’m new to the world of Escentric Molecules. With so much noise in the world of perfumery, it’s understandable that many scents and in some cases, entire brands, will pass me by. Escentric Molecules is one such brand and whilst I’d always been aware of its existence I’d never spent much time exploring what it had to offer. Luckily for me, I now get to discover what all of the fuss is about for the first time as I sniff the latest pair of scents from Escentric Molecules: Molecule 04 & Escentric 04.
Escentric Molecules is the brainchild of German perfumer Geza Schoen. Now, you’ll know Geza from his work with Ormonde Jayne, Clive Christian and 4711, just to name a few of the illustrious houses he has lent his nose to. The idea behind his Escentric Molecules is simple (and really cool if you ask me). Fragrances are launched in pairs, with one Molecule scent and one Escentric. The Molecule is simply an aroma-chemical diluted in alcohol, whilst the Escentric boasts the material in a high concentration amongst other notes to create a more traditional composition. The idea is to pair chemistry with and personally, I think it goes a long way to demystify how fragrances are actually made as well as to showcase the beauty of the perfumer’s materials in isolation.
Following the brand’s famed use of molecules such as Iso E Super, Ambroxan and Vetiveryl Acetate, the latest duo to launch is an essay in Javanol, a sheer sandalwood molecule that is known for its intense freshness. “Imagine a sandalwood stripped of its heaviness to reveal a soft and sheer wood radiating silvery freshness” says Escentric Molecules “that’s Javanol”. In their latest binary pair, Escentric Molecules explore this unusual freshness by presenting Javanol in isolation as well as at the heart of a composition. The results are fascinating.
“What I love about Javanol is its almost psychedelic freshness. It smells as if liquid metal grapefruit peel were poured over a bed of velvety cream-coloured roses.”