An Italian friend of mine regularly insists that the superiority of Italian cuisine is attributable to a mastery of simplicity. Instead of producing intense flavors by cramming together a host of spices and other elements from across the globe, Italian cooking requires a talent for producing a symphony of flavors from a deceptively small number of complementary ingredients. For some in the Italian culinary tradition, drawing out the complex gamut of flavors from a single tomato is a skill that in itself could take years to master. In this tradition, one might say that when it comes to ingredients, less is more.
In the fragrance world, there are some brands which have embraced a similar philosophy. For example, Escentric Molecules produces fragrances in pairs, each pair based around an aromachemical. One of the two fragrances in each pair (the “Molecule”) will always include only one note—a single aromachemical—while the paired “Escentric” fragrance is a composition designed around that same aromachemical.
In my review of Molecule 01, obviously the first in the Escentric series, I described the fragrance as a “minimalist skin enhancer”. The fragrance is a production of ISO-E Super, which is a tremendously controversial fragrance ingredient. To me this rendition smells of metal, something wet, and a musky element that somehow is reminiscent of freshly showered skin. Molecule 01 is composed entirely of one ingredient, but as in the case of Italian cuisine, it manages to draw great complexity out of its simple composition, smelling different from person to person and from time to time.
The paired entry in the ISO-E Super duo, Escentric 01, takes the opposite approach, including ISO-E Super alongside other elements such as citruses, pink pepper, and iris. These elements were ostensibly included to highlight the ISO-E Super note and to produce a composition based around the unique aromachemical. To some extent, it succeeded, quickly becoming a bestseller and a fragrance that is also associated with ISO-E Super amongst casual enthusiasts.
Escentric 01 is a good fragrance, though it smells a bit weird on my skin, reminding me of a lemon pepper blend that can be easily found at the local supermarket. Still, many will find it to be clean, attractive, and quite wearable. On the other hand, in my days of testing, Escentric 01 reminded me of the argument made by my Italian friend, as its complexity proved detrimental. Rather than highlighting the many facets of ISO-E Super, the included notes obscured them, drowning them under common, boring ingredients that could be found in many department store fragrances. To me, Molecule 01 has proved to be infinitely more interesting, and oddly, infinitely more complex.
While it is true that Molecule 01 is inarguably a more simple composition than Escentric 01, this is yet another example of how—sometimes—less is more.