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.’


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.



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.


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


4 langoustines

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.


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:

‘I Arise Because’ – Danny Seth



Escentric Molecules is ten!
How do you celebrate a decade of maverick art and singular chemistry? With a monster great party in Berlin, of course.

Last month we invited a few hundred friends and collaborators to celebrate our big birthday in Geza Schoen’s hometown of Berlin. The idea was to create a synesthetic experience that brought together scent, taste, colour, light and sound in one spectacular night of revelry at the Musikbrauerei.

As guests arrived at the vast semi-ruined factory, they were met with kinetic light installations that riffed on Escentric Molecule 01’s visual language. Lighting designer Tomek Ness created the installations to synchronise with a ‘deconstructed techno’ soundscape by Orlando Roberton of Pixelphonics. For the light installation at the entrance to the building Orlando hooked up the music to a dark pool that mirrored the light piece “so that a high impact in the music triggered ripples across the liquid floor” while further inside, he used the architecture to play with the acoustics, creating skeins of sound that wrapped and echoed.

In a cavernous space in the depths of the building, a five course flavour adventure was served by Tim Raue, Berlin’s most exciting young chef. Lauded by The New York Times for his “electric currents of flavour” and ‘moments of crazy delight’, Tim’s Escentric menu was an audacious tastebud workout, intensified by the drinks chosen to harmonise or contrast with each course.

Som-tam-o (green papaya) and langoustine were served with a delicate and lukewarm osmanthus tea. Scallops with elderflower and sage were complemented by an iced 2014 Botani tinged with elderflower and a kick of lime. But the prize for ‘moment of crazy delight’ went to the suckling pig roasted with fried white pepper and parsley, to be eaten while sipping a glass of coxorange apple juice infused with smoked hickory wood and a shot of almdudler and tonic. This extraordinary drink was smoky, sweet, tart and refreshing all at once, the Almdudler a nod to Escentric 02 which features the aroma of the Austrian lemonade. Subtle accents of fragrance accompanied each course, whether it was bowls of sage in dry ice placed on the tables, or flowers sprayed with otherworldy aroma-molecules from the Escentric palette that had never been near a bloom in nature.

With tastebuds hyper-stimulated and olfactory neurons tingling, it was time to kick off the party … plunging into a sonic cavern of mind-warping beats curated by mega-DJ Marusha, together with Richard Davis, Marco Ash and ending at 4 a.m. with a minimalist techno wind-down from Hobta.

And thus ended a birthday party to the power of ten.

PS Catch our limited edition bottles of Escentric 01 and Molecule 01, specially made to celebrate our first decade with designs that riff on the mathematical concept of the power of ten. The bottles are presented in aluminium sheaths in purple [Escentric 01] and gunmetal [Molecule 01] that make sleek keeper travel cases for the full-sized EM eaux de toilettes.



Is this fragrance witchcraft?
Bibi Lynch was the first journalist ever to try out Escentric Molecules – as we celebrate our first decade, she recalls what happened when she spritzed on Molecule 01 ten years ago.

– Grazia rang and asked if I’d like to write a piece about this perfume that was supposed to be irresistible. Something to do with pheromones they said. I assumed it was all marketing hype, but I said, ‘sure, send it over’.”

– I was going out to a gig that night… I sat at my dressing-table getting ready and picked up the fragrance. The packaging was the first thing – space-age. I’d never seen anything quite like it. I took out the bottle and sprayed some on. There was this joyous moment when the scent filled the air. It smelt purple somehow. I thought ‘I bet Prince wears Molecule 01, it’s so sexy’. Then it vanished.

– I remember a handsome guy shouting ‘bonjour’ at me outside the venue, and inside, my friends complimented me on my fragrance. I realized then that it was still there, though I couldn’t smell it. As the gig got underway a good-looking muso kept looking over in my direction. Unfortunately ‘my direction’ turned out to be where three genetically superior teenage girls were also standing. But the scent was working its magic on someone – my best friend, Siobhan. She couldn’t stop nuzzling into me murmuring that I smelt amazing. Not exactly the result I was hoping for.

– Normally the most attention I got watching football in my local was from men resting their pints on my head. So I wasn’t expecting Molecule 01 to have much effect when I headed to the pub the next night. And I wasn’t far wrong. One guy seemed to be looking my way but then his eyes wandered to the barmaid’s cleavage. I sauntered up to another bloke who said ‘you smell nice’ before his attention was riveted once again by Thierry Henry.

– It was while I was waiting for a bus that something happened. A guy walking past stopped, turned, and said ‘Hello’. I said ‘do I know you?’ and he smiled and told me I was beautiful. Then he asked if I’d like to go for a drink. I remember thinking ‘Is he mad? Talking to a stranger on a street in London?’ And then I thought, ‘hold on, is this Molecule 01 witchcraft?’

– The maddest thing was when I went in to the shop below my flat. The man in there had a thing against me. Some complaint I’d made in the past. But now he said ‘you look well’ and winked at me. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend.

– I don’t know how Molecule 01 works – whether it’s down to the gorgeous smell or the ‘good underwear’ syndrome, where you act differently, more confidently, because you know that underneath your clothes you are wearing amazing underwear. All I know is, it works.



Olfactory Organ
Geza Schoen on collaborating with artist Wolfgang Georgsdorf for ‘Smeller’, an olfactory machine that plays scent symphonies.

– The Smeller is an electronic olfactory organ. It looks like an alien from behind, huge, with 64 writhing metal tubes. Each tube leads to a source- chamber with a single smell in it. You could put anything that has a smell in the source-chambers: an aroma-chemical, a flower, a dead fish. Wolfgang ‘plays’ these smells like someone playing the piano.

– The machine can be used to add a whole other dimension to a movie. I went along to a showing of a film by Edgar Reitz with input from the Smeller. At a certain point a sledge appeared onscreen drawn by four horses and in came the smell of horse. It was spectacular. People in the audience were hyper-ventilating.

– This new art form is like an olfactory theatre. Wolfgang uses the organ to compose ‘synosmies’ – sequences of smells that tell a story, an ‘osmodrama’ that’s quite wild and abstract.

– My role is to formulate the smells for the source-chambers. Some have worked out better than others. ‘Earth’ unfolds beautifully in the air. ‘Cheese’ is pretty effective – it doesn’t just knock your socks off, it takes your toenails with it. ‘Burnt-out Cable’ is pretty good too. I took this from a smell I made for Lufthansa. They use it in training sessions, so pilots learn to recognise if any electric wiring has burnt out in the cockpit.

– One day Wolfgang turned up at my lab with two preserving jars like the ones your granny uses. I opened them. One contained cowshit, the other was sheep shit. He was really excited: “Hey, can we replicate these shit smells?” I hesitated. Hanging my nose over sheep shit trying to sniff out its finer points is not my idea of fun. Plastic, rubber, copy machine, human sweat? Sure, no problem. Sheep shit? I handed the jars back to Wolfgang. ‘I’d love to, but you know, it’s just way too complex a smell’.


The Osmodrama festival continues until 18th September



What makes Iso E Super so super?
Geza Schoen analyses the sensual superpowers of the mysterious Molecule 01.

– Iso E Super is like a drug. When you smell it you want more instantly. The more you are given the more you want. You can never have enough.

– It’s brought alive by the warmth of the body. It blossoms on the skin, adding a velvety radiance to your own individual scent signature. You want to nestle into it, it’s sensual, cocooning.

– It has a strange almost mystical aspect. When you are wearing Molecule 01 you have an aura that everyone around you detects, but you yourself can’t smell it. Every couple of hours it re-surfaces and you can smell it again. Then it vanishes once more, tantalising you. This gives it a mysterious quality, though it’s simply down to the physical structure of the molecule.

– The attraction of Iso E Super is universal. The appeal of most aromas is culturally determined. So while in one part of the world people like fruity scents, in another part of the world they don’t. But we’ve never found any culture anywhere that is not attracted to Iso E Super. That’s one of the cool things about this molecule.

– In cooking there is no magic ingredient, but in perfumery there is Iso E Super. Nothing else is needed. It’s as if basil were enough to make a bowl of pasta perfect on its own. But when you add basil to pasta you also need to add salt and pepper and olive oil to make it all come together. The sufficiency of Iso E Super is really surprising and rare in perfumery. There are very few molecule out there that smell so great on their own.

– It doesn’t have to be solo. Yes it is great on its own but it has an incredible effect on other aromatics when blended in a formula. It lifts them on its wings and carries them into the air.

– It just smells so unbelievably good. It has the sophistication of an aromatic wood, but then it also has an animalic note, something feral yet pure – like a touch of fresh sexy sweat exuding from clean skin and immediately evaporating into the air. There is nothing like it.



Maximum Minimalism
With Escentric Molecules, Geza Schoen has taken minimalism to the max. He explains how his love affair with less led to a whole new niche fragrance trend.

– Minimalism has been a huge influence on me. My father was into Bauhaus and I grew up in a house that was grey, white and black with classic Le Corbusier furniture. It was totally different from the houses of my friends’ parents. Sometimes I wonder what Escentric Molecules would be like if I’d grown up in a pink and gold Baroque environment.

– It’s important not be carried along by conventions. When I discovered Iso E Super, it was only ever used in combination with other ingredients. It was considered to be a fragrance material, not a fragrance. It wasn’t a big step to turn that convention on its head, it was just that no-one had stopped to think about it. Luckily, my paradigm allowed me to say, “this smells great on it’s own, so why not reduce a fragrance to this one molecule?”

– Alongside Molecule 01, we brought out Escentric 01, which is the same molecule plus eighteen other ingredients that amplify its effect. Nineteen is a lot more ingredients than just one, but that’s still a short formula in perfumery. The average fragrance formula is 25 to about 50 ingredients. And some are four times as long, or even longer.

– Minimalism’s time has come. We are bombarded with technology and information; it has become an addiction, something that was once seductive but is now controlling us. The result is that we are starting to appreciate things that detangle the complexities of our lives. We are starting to value minimalism in a new, deeper way.

– Things that used to be so normal feel like luxuries now. Last weekend my girlfriend and I went to a little house we have out on an island. There’s nothing there. No technology, no wifi. We sat outside looking at flowers instead of a computer screen. To choose everyday things that make you happy, that’s modern luxury.