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The Interview

Meet The Man Who Wants You To Smell Better

MR PORTER gets an audience with the fragrance expert behind the game-changing brand Escentric Molecules

Back in 2006, a German perfumer by the name of Mr Geza Schoen came up with a revolutionary concept that would change not just the fragrance industry, but how we think about frangrance itself. His Escentric Molecules formula, he claimed, wouldn’t clobber your natural pheromones, rather, it would amplify them. In short, you would become your own fragrance. Just more so. The perfume eschewed oud and frankincense and all the other EDT usual suspects and instead used only synthetic materials, namely the trademarked aroma chemical Iso E Super, which adapt to the wearer.

The fragrance quickly became an industry behemoth, and according to The New York Times, one of the top-selling niche fragrances of all time. We went to meet Mr Schoen, the man behind the brand, to discover the secret to (and sweet smell of) his success.

What’s the story behind Escentric Molecules?

I was working at a perfume company in 1990 and I happened to smell an artificial perfume ingredient called the Iso E Super molecule. I realised that the fragrances I liked all had a big chunk of Iso E Super in them, and so I had the idea to use it on its own. I gave it to a friend of mine before we went to a bar, and we put a few drops on our necks to see if it worked. It didn’t take 10 minutes before a woman told us how great we smelled. In 2005, I finally found the right people to translate the idea of a singular molecule to be worn together with a fragrance (which we called the Escentrics) that complements it.

What does Iso E Super smell like?

It’s hard to explain, but it’s definitely a woody ingredient. It’s similar to cedarwood, but with what’s often described as a velvety quality that’s somehow both dry and creamy.

Why is it revolutionary to use this molecule on its own?

I gave Iso E Super to one of the best researchers we have, a cell physiology doctor, and he decided to see what happens when a singular cell is confronted with an aroma chemical or anything which has a smell. He found that with Iso E super, the cell started to “dance”, and stimulates receptors in the vomeronasal organ (cells in the nose) where pheromones are triggered.

Why does it smell different on different people?

We’re all different and eat different things, we exercise or we don’t, it depends on what we eat and drink. So in combination with Iso E Super, it brings different things out, because we add our natural body odour to it. Because it’s a singular fragrance – rather than a complex one which covers up your body smell – it’s a subtle thing that has the capacity to enhance and intermingle with your natural smell, rather than cover it up.

Which fragrance do you wear?

It’s something new I’m working on. I’ve called it Gingerman after this fantastic new ginger oil I’ve found. You can’t buy it yet, but you will be able to in due course.

Has our relationship with fragrance changed with the modern world?

Smell is the most emotional sense we have and it’s also the one that’s been most suppressed by the way we’ve been living over the past few decades. We are surrounded by things made of concrete and glass that don’t smell of anything, and everything is controlled, visualised and rationalised. Our opportunities to get in touch with our sense of smell are decreasing.

So what’s the future for fragrance?

It’s tricky because we’ve almost come to an end of what can be done; every fragrance has likely already been made. I could write 10 formulas and create 10 fragrances instantly because there are so many wild combinations possible, but the likelihood is that it wouldn’t smell very pleasant. To make something good you need to look at the culture of fragrance and find out what people like. The goal is always to come up with something completely new that at the same time evokes the past, so to speak.

Compare notes

  • Escentric Molecules Escentric 01 - Iso E Super, Pink Pepper, 30ml

  • Escentric Molecules Molecule 02 - Ambroxan, 30ml

  • Escentric Molecules Escentric 02 - Ambroxan, Orris and Hedione, 30ml

  • Escentric Molecules Molecule 03 - Vetiveryl Acetate, 30ml

  • Escentric Molecules Escentric 03 - Vetiver, Mexican Lime and Ginger, 30ml

  • Escentric Molecules Escentric 04 Eau De Toilette - Javanol, Orris & Polysantol, 30ml