When Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 launched in 2005, famous fumeheads like Elton John and trend monkeys like Madonna immediately clutched it to their scented breasts. Cool hunters from the fashion and art worlds frothed over this intriguing “non-perfume” perfume.
The scuttlebutt was, Molecule 01 contained pheromones, chemicals that supposedly trigger helpless, dirty moose lust with just a sniff. Never mind that in nature, pheromones exist solely to ensure lemur-on-lemur love, or to keep Mr. and Mrs. Wildebeest courtin’ and sparkin’.
There’s no one all-purpose love potion that you can pop in a perfume, like a schmear on a bagel, that makes critters of all stripes fall under each other’s spell. And proof that humans respond to artificial pheromones is hazy at best.
But in the case of Molecule 01, the pheromone rumor seemed like it might be true. Especially since not much else is going on in this eau de toilette -- what with it being only one molecule and all.
Strictly speaking, Molecule 01 is based on a chemical composition called Iso E Super, a subtle woody accord that warms up and fills out everything from perfumes to shampoos to floor cleaners. When perfumer Geza Schoen first encountered it, he realized it smelled just dandy on its own, and liked the idea of fashioning a perfume from a single raw material.
Thus, Iso E Super became “Molecule 01”, a flat, faintly cedary scent with the warmth of sandalwood -- if not the complexity. It’s a quiet, pleasant smell, on the masculine side of the tracks given the woodiness, though worn by both ladies and gents. Molecule 01 is not as oily smelling as a musk, but it does have the “your skin but better” quality that musk possesses.
As Mr. Shoen says, “It was meant to be for people who wanted a feeling more than an actual fragrance.”
The hallmark of this...uh...feeling is that you can only smell it for a short time before it stops registering on your nasal radar. But everyone you meet will continue to pick up on it, causing an odd disconnect between your experience and theirs.
This is not my idea of a satisfactory relationship with a perfume. I require a tad more loyalty. I want my scent to leave with the fella it came in with, the fella in this particular metaphor being me.
Despite the wishful thinking, Molecule 01 isn’t actually a pheromone, but the hide-and-seek nature of the fragrance does seem to twist people’s melons. Just look at some of the claims folks have been making on the LuckyScent website for its nose-twitching, head-turning, groin-swelling effectiveness:
"I bought it cos the woman of my dreams likes woody fragrances and (you're not going to believe it) we are now an item!"
"The shop assistant explained that this perfume didn't smell when you put it on but was guaranteed to attract the right mate. Then...complete strangers approached me to ask what perfume I was wearing and I caught a man trying to sniff me in a queue at the bank."
"Today, two handsome men walked by me and both of them were wearing it. It immediately made me hot and go back to their hotel with them. The tall one seduced me. We lounged by the pool all day and made love all night."
If you say so, people.
While some experience Molecule 01 as a kind of heat-seeking olfactory missile, all I get is an agreeable ambient presence that plays peek-a-boo with my nose.
My favorite reaction to Molecule 01 came from a lady who was trying it the other day at my local perfume boutique. I watched her as she expectantly brought her Molecule’d wrist to her nose, and waited for her to be transported.
Transportation did not occur. She turned to me with a puzzled expression.
“Maybe it needs a couple more molecules?”
Image via Lemur Kingdom on Animal Planet