10.03.17

21st Century Fashion Scents
She’s brilliant, brainy and she edits The Gentlewoman, the most discerning fashion magazine on the planet. Penny Martin explains why her latest issue calls Escentric Molecules ‘the scent sensation of the twenty-first century’.

– Can you describe The Gentlewoman?
It’s a personality-centred woman’s fashion magazine that profiles women of note and purpose through quality journalism and beautifully art-directed photography. We’ve won awards for our design and journalism but I think people like it most because it’s upbeat, ambitious and it rarely repeats itself.

– How did Escentric Molecules first cross your path?
Writer Susan Irvine introduced me to Geza before the fragrances launched. I remember Molecule 01 being described to me as a “dark hovering presence” rather than bearing a likeness to a recognisable scent like flowers or amber. That had me intrigued. And then I smelled it. And it felt like the olfactory equivalent of a long drink of red wine. Warm, rich, faintly narcotic.

The uninitiated would invariably ask what on earth was that strange, heavenly smell.

– Did you wear it?
I don’t think I wore anything else for a year – during which practically everyone reeked of Escentric Molecules. True converts could barely recognize that they or anyone else were wearing it but the uninitiated smelt us coming and would invariably ask what on earth was that strange, heavenly smell. The most insistent enquirer I ever had was a Sikh taxi driver in New York – he wasn’t unlocking those doors until we told him what my fragrance was and where to get it. I think we wrote it down for him in a blank receipt.

– Have you ever worn other fragrances?
Yes. The first one I bought was L’Air du Temps, would you believe, when I was 13. My friend and I went halves on it, so we each got to wear it only every other day. The big one for me was Chanel No. 19. Those irises really remind me of being 18 and wayward.

He wasn’t unlocking those doors until we told him what my fragrance was.

– What is the idea behind ‘oral history’ in The Gentlewoman?
‘Oral History’ is a more ambitious form of Q&A. Our company, which publishes BUTT and Fantastic Man as well as The Gentlewoman, is really good at conversational journalism. Those multiple interviewee conversations are also a good way of dealing with a subject that’s in the past while keeping the context and content feeling contemporary in spirit. I really love it as a form.

– What inspired you to do an ‘oral history’ of Escentric Molecules?
The particulars of its launch tell you as much about the fashion industry and culture and those who work in it as the launch of Mitsouko did about the inter-war period. I love the idea of subjecting that recent history to the same scrutiny as one might an event that occurred a hundred years ago.

thegentlewoman.co.uk/home

The Gentlewoman
Spring/summer issue 2017

The Juice
By Richard O’Mahony

Iso E Super was never meant to be a perfume…That was until a novice perfumer, enamoured by this enigmatic ingredient, struck upon the idea to bottle it and sell it as a pair of fragrances in its own right. It would be called Escentric Molecules 01 and it would become the scent sensation of the 21st century.

[Our extract begins in early 2006…]

The Package

Tim Blanks, fashion journalist and partner of Jeff Lounds, EM sales director: A few years earlier I’d met Daniela Rinaldi, the cosmetics queen of Harvey Nichols, at a Jimmy Choo dinner. We both got screaming drunk and had a fantastic time together talking perfume. She said to me that if there’s ever anything I think she ought to know about then to call her. So I set up a meeting for Jeff and Escentric Molecules with her.

Daniela Rinaldi, controller of perfumery and concessions, Harvey Nichols, 1996–2009: I met Tim and Jeff, and to be honest, when they came to present the perfume, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Firstly, it was a stock bottle with no cap. Harvey Nichols sells haute perfumery, so we were used to super luxe, beautifully crafted bottles with etched glass caps. Caps were being engineered so that they had a soft click — you know, like with the doors on luxury cars?

Anna-Marie Solowij, beauty and health director, British Vogue, 2002–8: At the time, it was all about the big-brand fragrance houses, the blockbusters. Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue was one of the biggest-selling fragrances then. Celebrity fragrances were big business: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Sarah Jessica Parker, among countless others, all released perfumes. Gourmand fragrances like Calvin Klein’s Euphoria or Nina Ricci’s Nina… it was all quite fruity and sweet.

Chandler Burr, perfume critic, The New York Times, 2006–10: By contrast, Escentric Molecules is a direct descendant of the minimalist school of Jean-Claude Ellena’s Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert and Jacques Cavallier’s L’Eau d’Issey, both masterpieces of the form.

Frenzy

Daniela Rinaldi: I left the office that night wearing Escentric 01, taking a black cab to Paddington station, and as I get out of the cab, the driver says to me, “You smell gorgeous, love. What is that?” On the train from Paddington to Reading, the very nice gentleman sitting next to me says the same thing. At Reading station, it happens again. We placed an order for 5,000 units of Escentric 01 and Molecule 01 with Jeff the following morning.

Geza Schoen: Tim was wearing the fragrance everywhere he went — fashion shows, parties, openings — sharing it with all his fabulous friends. And Tim pretty much knows everybody.

Tim Blanks: People were captivated by the fragrance. We gave a bottle to Chris Lowe from the Pet Shop Boys before it was launched at Harvey Nichols. He wore it out one night and told us he’d never been hit on so much in his life…

Daniela Rinaldi: The launch toolkit that would normally be used for fragrance didn’t apply. There was no print or outdoor advertising campaign, no splashy displays across the store windows… we decided to approach it subtly, a bit covert, like it was a club — you had to understand it to be in it. We’d grow market share by word of mouth. We had a private dinner in the restaurant at Harvey Nichols on 29 March 2006 to launch Escentric Molecules, and Jeff and Tim did the guest list.

Tim Blanks: We invited a bunch of our friends: Christopher Bailey, Janet Street-Porter, David Furnish… at one point Siouxsie Sioux, Lulu and Sharleen Spiteri were all chatting together, and I thought, Wow, there’s a girl group.

Geza Schoen: It wasn’t the worst way to launch a new fragrance.

[Read the whole story in the s/s 17 issue of The Gentlewoman … out now]

 

20.02.17

Measuring Molecules
Functional it may be, but this secretive sanctuary on top of a sixties apartment block in Berlin is where fragrance alchemy happens

– I’d love to paint you a romantic picture of my lab. But that would be all wrong. It’s practically a cell, with no windows, though I do have a milk glass dome in the ceiling that I open to let in fresh air. There’s a table, a chair, my weighing-scales, and bottles and bottles of ingredients. Also a fridge with a nice glass door. Nothing much to see in the fridge,though, no ice-cream or champagne just lots of lemon and mandarin oil.

– I thought of getting an assistant. But then I realised it’s chaos in the lab. There are bottles on the floor, round the desk, above the desk, and on some old metal USM Haller shelves at the back. There’s no logic to what goes where except the logic of what goes with what in my head. An assistant just wouldn’t work.

Nothing much to see in the fridge, no ice-cream or champagne just lots of lemon and mandarin oil.

– Making a fragrance is a bit like writing a novel. A writer goes through several drafts before he clinches the novel, and a perfumer goes through several bases before he clinches the fragrance. This is why it’s good to do everything myself. It gives me an opportunity to be near the aroma-chemicals that are the words in my book, if you like; to be constantly rethinking them. If I let someone else measure out my formulae, I would lose this connection.

– I might go to the lab at 10 in the morning and work till 2 in the morning. That’s when I’m obsessed by something. Other times, I don’t set foot in there for a week. I guess on average I work in there two or three hours a day. That’s the max I can normally work on a fragrance before I hit a wall.

Hey what would happen if I threw in a gram of mimosa?

– Inspiration is elsewhere. I never sit in the lab and write a formula. An idea will come to me when I’m on the street or in the bath, and I’ll stop and scribble it down. What I do in the room is measure out the materials. Even when I’ve made a new trial, I take it out of the lab into my apartment next door to smell it.

– There are around 1,500 ingredients in my palette. Of these, around 80-100 materials are the bedrock ingredients that go to form the basis of most fragrances I work on. Then there are around 300-400 ingredients I’ll use once or twice a year. And there are some things I’ll only touch once every ten years or so – things that have a very specific effect.

– When you feel the fragrance is 99% right, there’s still 1% to play with. At that point you have to stop yourself saying things like ‘hey what would happen if I threw in a gram of mimosa?’ I used to spend a lot of time on that kind of experiment. Now I stop at 99% and think, ‘Nah, it’s done.’ Though as I close the door to the lab a little part of me whispers: ‘now you’ll never know how it would have smelt with the mimosa.’

18.01.17

Trend Lab
Fragrance trends have less to do with fashion and more to do with cutting edge chemistry than you might think. Geza Schoen gives you the insider view for 2017

– Genuine new trends in fragrance don’t come along very often. And when they do, they are not driven by what’s happening on the catwalk. They are driven by new molecules, just as innovation in say, cars, is driven by new technology.

– Smelling ethyl maltol is like mainlining candyfloss. Maltol is a nature-identical molecule that smells sweet and malty. Chemists tinkered with it and invented ethyl maltol which is way more sugary. The fragrance industry rejected it at first, saying this is not French perfumery, we don’t use stuff like this. Then in 1992 Olivier Cresp used it for Thierry Mugler’s Angel. He combined ethyl maltol with patchouli to get a chocolate-y accord. It was a huge, game-changing success. The gourmand fragrance trend was born and is still going strong.

– The molecule calone was so super-powerful it was only used in things like air-fresheners and soaps. No-one ever imagined it could be in a fine fragrance. The first to break the taboo was Claiborne for Men in ‘89. There is only a trace in there, though, so it’s more of an effect, the fragrance doesn’t actually smell of the sea (calone is the ‘aqueous’ molecule). Aramis’ New West for Her in 1990 was the first fragrance to really project that aqueous note. And then came a huge hit, L’Eau d’Issey in ’92 and we’ve been paddling in aquatic fragrances ever since.

– It’s going to be hard for anyone to find a new natural now. In the last few years we have seen the oudh trend, which is based on a wood that had been completely unknown in the West. Before that there was the introduction of tea notes with Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, but that never became a big trend. There may be more naturals to discover, but it will be a trickle. Even with synthetic ingredients, it’s hard to see where perfumers can turn for the truly new. Every research lab in the world has already looked into every corner of every possible molecule.

With fractionizing, you snip out the bits you don’t like, a bit like snipping genes out of DNA strands.

– With everything already discovered where do we go from here? There is an answer: refine what we already have. Chemists are doing this already by fractionizing essential oils. Most essential oils are made up of hundreds of different molecules, not all of which might be desirable. With fractionizing, you snip out the bits you don’t like. It’s a bit like snipping genes out of DNA strands.

– Once again it’s chemistry that allows us to move forward creatively. Patchouli oil, for example, has an unpleasant top note of borneol and camphor. Until now, you couldn’t use patchouli in a transparent fragrance because this unpleasant top note would be exposed. You had to throw a lot of sweet or spicy ingredients in to mask that. Now, chemists can just snip the borneol and camphor from the patchouli. What we are left with is a clean and beautiful patchouli and the freedom to use it in completely new ways.

 

15.12.16

Seasoned Greetings
With his off-the-wall flavour pairings and leftfield aromas, Berlin’s star chef and Escentric Molecules’ favourite, Tim Raue was never gonna cook Christmas the way your granny does it.

– December is not my favourite time of year. I hate the cold weather and heavy food over-flavoured with deep, dark notes. We aim to teleport you away from the season with flavours and aromas that are light and bright.

– You don’t come to me for a traditional German Christmas dinner. That would be oven-roasted duck served with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings. I’d do it differently. Instead of braising the cabbage I’d serve it raw, shaved fine as a salad, with a purple curry powder dressing. Instead of potato dumplings, I’d do apple dumpling cooked in lime juice and lemongrass. As for the duck, it would be lightly cooked then flamed to give it a touch of winter heat. I’d serve it tataki style – sliced like sashimi.

– Forget Christmas pudding. We don’t serve puddings at Tim Raue, we never use wheat flour and we avoid white sugar. We prefer light, refreshing desserts so you feel energised after you’ve eaten. For Christmas dessert I might focus on tangerines, a traditional fruit at this time of year. I would poach them in green matcha tea, and serve with green matcha sherbet and a ginger meringue, with a little kinome (a citrus-peppery Japanese herb).

– Sometimes we throw out the wine and pair food with a different drink. Take the drink we served with the suckling pig at the Escentric Molecules 10th birthday party. If we had added that hickory smoke and ‘Almdudler’ herbal lemonade to some winery guy’s finest white Bordeaux he would have gone crazy. For him it would be like taking a Picasso and saying ‘I don’t like that blue in the back I’m going to make it a bit darker’. So we used coxorange apple juice as a base. With juices you are free to add aromas and flavours and mix it up.

– The French food I was raised on as a young chef can be blah. Everything changed for me when I went to Singapore in 2003. I dived into a long exploration of Asian flavours. I found I loved Thai and Cantonese – in China, Cantonese food is by far the most elegant – and the Japanese attitude of being absolutely focused on quality of ingredients. I mixed it up with my roots in French cooking and that’s how I came to be a white boy with a bastard Asian kitchen.

– We want to waken all the senses, not just your palate. Take the mandarin orange placed on each plate at the Escentric dinner. You could drink in that pure colour with your eyes, hold it in your hand, smell it. We sprayed each one with mandarin oil to super-charge its aroma. We also added a tiny amount of an Escentric Molecules fragrance. The whole experience should be fun as well as multi-sensory. I hate that over-formal fine dining thing. Eating out should be relaxed, with a bit of humour thrown in.

https://tim-raue.com/en/

Below, one of Tim’s recipes for you to try:

Langoustine from Berlin’s star chef and Escentric Molecules’ favourite, Time Raue

Wasabi Langoustine

Serves 4

Langoustine

4 langoustines
cornstarch

Peel the langoustines and remove the pipe running along the back. Pat the langoustines into cornstarch to coat. Leave aside for 6 hours, then deep fry in oil for 90 seconds.

Wasabi Mayo

60g mayonnaise
2g coriander powder (make this by drying fresh coriander in a microwave then crushing to a fine powder with a pestle and mortar)
2 tbs grated wasabi
1 tsp green tabasco sauce

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate.

Wasabi Marshmallow

100ml apple juice
4g freshly grated wasabi 10g sugar
5g gelatin powder

Mix apple juice with the freshly grated wasabi and the sugar in a saucepan. Bring it to boil and remove from the heat. Add the gelatin powder. Pour the mixture into a stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment and whisk it until it is thick and glossy. Scrape the marshmallow mixture into a rectangular pan and let it cool down. Afterwards cut out maple shaped marshmallows.

Thai Vinaigrette and Mango Aspic

Thai vinaigrette:

40 g mango cubes
40 g raw carrot cubes
2 tbs finely chopped coriander stalks 2 tbs fish sauce, “Prik Nam Pla”
80 ml chicken stock
20 ml rice vinegar
40 ml lime juice

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate. Mango aspic:

40 ml mango puree
1 pinch modified food starch

Mix both ingredients, pass through a fine sieve and refrigerate.

Arrange the dish as in the picture above.

01.12.16

Molecule-maniacal
When rapper Danny Seth first smelt Molecule 01 he knew he had to have it. But what the heck was it? Some bros don’t give up their secrets so easily...

– My friend Jay came to my house smelling amazing. I asked him what it was. He said he couldn’t tell me. I was like “Jay, what is it? Just tell me.” He said it was his secret. At the same time he pitched it like it was some kind of voodoo that made girls lose it. I thought he was bullshitting me. But I have always been very heavily into fragrance. I had to have that smell.

– My mum completely lost it. The day she smelt it on Jay, she became obsessed with it. Every time he came to the house she would work on him like she was some kind of top police interrogator. But he stayed strong. He wouldn’t reveal. For a year. I gave up.

– And then out of the blue someone crossed her path. My mum was on holiday with her best friend when a guy walked across the beach and as he passed her, she smelt IT. She ran after him and he told her. Molecule 01. He said it was hard to find but he told her where to get it.

– I guess I’m a Molecule 01 superfan. I’m hooked. From Day One of me wearing it, people would come up and ask me what it was. The impact it has on people, there’s nothing to beat it. I love Molecule so much I put it in a song, I arise because… from my album, Perception.

I love Molecule 01 so much I put it in my song, I arise because…

– I have my own secret signature Molecule 01 mash-up. I’ve let a couple of friends in on it, like the rapper, G-Eazy, he’s really into it. And now I guess I’m putting it out there. So here it is. I was told never to mix Molecule 01 with anything else. So obviously that was the first thing I did. My secret superpower is… I mash it up with Molecule 02 and it’s awesome. Sexy don’t begin to describe it.

– It works in the coolest and most natural way. I go out wearing it and women come up to me and ask what I’m wearing. That’s all. It’s an ice-breaker. It means I have to do zero work. They come to me and we just start talking.

– I’m a white English boy making US hip hop. For the last five years I’ve lived between London and LA and maybe that’s where I feel most at home – between. I don’t really fit anywhere. It helps me keeps an open mind. Molecule means I feel solid wherever I am. M01 + M02 is unique, it’s home, it’s me. I carry the baby bottles of them everywhere. They are my little oxygen tanks. Couldn’t live without them.

Check out new release Bone Marrow by G-Eazy featuring Danny Seth:
https://soundcloud.com/g-eazy/bone-marrow-ft-danny-seth-full

‘I Arise Because’ – Danny Seth