November 7, 2010
For most of us, as we take an interest in the components of our favorite fragrances we will at some point enter an essential oils store and sniff each note on its own so that when we meet again we will recognize it. If the perfumer’s palette was limited to only those naturally occurring essential oils then that would be all that one would need to experience to know what materials a perfumer will use. The advent of synthetic molecules, which impart a similar quality to their natural counterpart, have opened a whole new array of olfactory tones and nuances to those perfumers who are willing to use synthetic molecules in their compositions. A truly important new molecule will launch a whole array of new fragrances. Hedione, which Edmond Roudnitska used brilliantly in Christian Dior Eau Suavage, would be seen again and again in the 70’s. Calone in the 80’s is the culprit behind the aquatic genre of fragrance which lasts until today. Unless you were a perfumer or a chemist it was unlikely that you ever would encounter hedione or calone by themselves. Enter Herr “Professor” Geza Schoen and his Escentric molecules line of fragrance wherein he allows perfumistas the opportunity to try the molecule on its own and as part of a composition. These pairs of fragrances allow for one to truly understand the chorus that makes up a perfume. By allowing the featured molecule the opportunity for a solo in the Moelcule bottle and then as part of a composition in the Escentric bottle.
The previous lessons have been almost prescient in their ability to pick the aromachemical which will come to dominate in the years after. Molecule01/ Escentric01, in 2005, focused on Iso E Super. Molecule02/ Escentric02, three years later, featured Ambrox. Both of these molecules are, by their nature, mainly basenotes as they have a slow diffusion to them they have an almost unnatural tenacity on one’s skin.
The current lesson Molecule03/ Escentric03 focuses on the synthetic equivalent to one of the most used notes in all of perfumery, vetiver. The synthetic equivalent is called Vetiveryle Acetate and is the star of the current Escentric pair of fragrances.
Vetiveryle Acetate is about as simple a chemical transformation as exists as it is an addition of a small acetyl group to vetiverol, the chemical name for natural vetiver oil. In essence the chemist has done nothing but added two carbons and an oxygen in place of a hydrogen and in its place has changed the olfactive profile of the original molecule. Vetiver, in the presence of vetiverol, has a strong significantly grassy, slightly woody bouquet. Vetiveryle Acetate sands off the familiar edges and when you spray on Molecule03 you get an enhancement of the woody character and the grassier character is now in the background. There have been many perfumes which have taken wood notes like cedar and in conjunction with natural vetiver accentuated the woodiness of vetiver. In Molecule03 you can see the chemist can do the same thing by adding an acetyl group to vetiverol. Obviously Molecule03 is a linear fragrance but it is interesting nonetheless. If you are someone who likes your vetiver straight with no chaser, Molecule03 will be for you. I’m the person that Herr “Professor” Schoen creates Escentric03 for as I like my vetiver with some playmates.
In Hr. Schoen’s excellent interview with Michelyn Camen he spoke about the nature of Vetiveryle Acetate as, “Thru a chemical process the smokier and darker shades (of vetiverol) are being erased and what is left is that smooth and elegant woody impression of dried vetiver roots. Another result of this specific reaction process is an added olfactoric note which reminds you a little bit of the pith of grapefruit, so we kind of gain a top note.”
When I smell Molecule03 I don’t notice the grapefruit character Hr. Schoen mentions but in Escentric03 when he takes the vetiveryle acetate and adds it to top notes of lime and ginger the grapefruit character is coaxed to the forefront and with the woody quality of the vetiveryle acetate lurking it really becomes apparent. Hr. Schoen chooses a sprightly orris tempered with jasmine to go with that woody vetiver as Escentric03 develops. This makes for a floral woody heart which eventually turns fully woody as cedar and sandalwood amplify the woody quality of the aromachemical into the base. As the wood begins to fade a lovely musk takes over for the last moments of Escentric03 on my skin. Escentric03 is a delightful fresh woody fragrance which effectively shows off the versatility of vetiveryle acetate. I expect if vetiverol was used in its place the edgier aspects of that ingredient would have clashed with the orris in the heart and made for an unbalanced fragrance. As it is Escentric03 is my favorite of the three Escentric scents to date and another addition to my vetiver rotation.
The first Escentric fragrance heralded the Iso E Super wave. The second was a bellwether to the Ambrox overload we are currently experiencing. I am looking forward to what perfumers will choose to create with this softer, less edgy, more woody vetiver source. For now class is dismissed until Herr “Professor” Schoen gathers us all again for Molecule04/Escentric04.
Disclosure: This review was based on preview bottles supplied by Escentric Molecules.
-Mark Behnke, Managing Editor