My first experience with “gatekeeping” happened way back in the mid 2000s, when a very cool, rich-girl friend (or, in retrospect, frenemy) refused to tell me what her signature scent was. It was alluring, mysterious, and honestly, it’s probably what Rihanna smells like. But being the budding investigative journalist (greedy little teen) I was, I made it my mission to find out. All she would disclose was that it was from Fred Segal, because of course it was, and I made my mom drive me there to sleuth it out.
If you’re an olfactory fanboy or -girl, you might’ve guessed that the intoxicating scent is Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, but if this is your first time hearing about it, don’t be embarrassed. It’s a niche fragrance that, in my memory, is the first perfume to have a serious word-of-mouth cult following, leading the way for notorious scents like Le Labo’s Santal 33 and Byredo’s Gypsy Water becoming “what all the cool kids smell like.”
But what does it smell like, you ask? The reason Molecule 01 is so popular—and makes such an excellent gift—is that it adapts to each individual wearer, mixing with their body’s chemistry to create a scent that’s unique to each person, and it’s totally unisex. When perfumer Geza Schoen, the scent’s creator, first smelled the Iso E Super aroma molecule, everything clicked. He realized that this singular molecule was the thread that wove together all of his favorite fragrances. It’s actually a molecule that isn’t found in nature; it was created in a lab at International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. (IFF) in 1973, but didn’t reach cult stardom until Schoen spritzed the isolated molecule on a pal before heading out to the bar—and the scent creating an almost magnetic draw from a woman nearby.
To describe it, in words, can be challenging since it’s ephemeral, personalized, and ever-changing. My best description would be a clean, soapy musk. It feels pheromonal and sultry.
Fragrance is extremely personal, which can make it hard to gift, unless you know the receiver intimately. Molecule 01 is my pinch-hitter present. When I’m struggling with what to get a friend, or loved one, Molecule 01 never fails. It feels like joining a secret club—like there’s a line around the block and you glide right in.The best part about it is that the wearer often can’t smell it on themselves, which is great for people who can’t tolerate heavy perfumes. Give it to your best friend that’s re-emerging in the dating scene, your cousin graduating college, or even your partner. It’s the unexpected, super-thoughtful gift that has a 99% success rate (1% for people with bad taste).
Stop being stumped on what present to buy for your giftee; a signature fragrance is priceless. Go out there and win holiday gifting season this year.
Molecule 01 is available at Escentric Molecules.
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