What We Do Is Secret Monoscent G, 2015

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Image by Methane Studios

I’m of two minds on the single-material scents.

On the one hand, they focus on the beauty of fragrance chemistry. If a material is pleasing, who needs composition? There is an honesty to saying that smelling good is satisfying and that an aromachemical fits the bill. Save Mitsouko and compositional artistry for later in the week, today I’m wearing 1, 3, 4, 7, 8-hexahydro-4, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8-hexamethylcyclopenta-gamma-2-benzopyran. Single-material compositions put the lie to the fiction of the the perfume industry’s wizard behind the curtain cranking out masterpieces. It also makes the discussion of notes more interesting. Rather than using notes as stand-ins for materials they are used to describe olfactory qualities. (International Flavors and Fragrances’–IFF– descriptors for Galaxolide include: contrasted, nature, mystical, tasty, intimate and, a personal favorite, “none.”)

On the other hand, the effort behind placing one single material on your wrist seems out of whack. To wit:

IFF makes Galaxolide Super and supplies it to product manufacturers. The Shaping Room (aka What We Do Is Secret) is the parent company of A Lab on Fire (who incidentally make a perfume called What We Do In Paris Is Secret) as well as S-Perfume. Intertrade Group is an “international platform for contemporary perfume research” (per the company’s website) that works with the S-Perfume and What We Do Is Secret lines.

What?  Is this a money-laundering scheme?

The Shaping Room have launched a line called Monoscent which consists of one fragrance, made of one material, namely the isochroman musk Galaxolide Super. Escentric Molecules precedes Monoscent by about a decade. It is a line of three perfumes by perfumer Geza Schoen, each of which is a dilution of one aromachemical bottled for use as a perfume. Their perfumes, provocatively named 01, 02 and 03, use Iso-E Super, Ambroxan and Vetiveryle Acetate, respectively. Monoscent G employs the identical concept and is made with Galaxolide Super.

If your product is a dilution of a chemical made by a large industrial firm, you must be prepared for more than the critique of a composition. The response to such an aroma will justifiably take the form of like/dislike. I’ve ignored the Escentric Molecule fragrances as 02 and 03 as they simply don’t capture my interest. 01? I would pay to have a percentage of Iso-E Super removed from many perfumes I’ve tried. As for Monoscent, I am a member of the unfortunate one-third. After a whiff of evaporating alcohol, Monoscent G becomes nonscent/nonsense. I suppose it has value for me as a performance piece or as an altruistic gift to those around me but I don’t need a perfume that answers the if-a-tree-falls koan.

The marketing of Monoscent takes three tacks: it smells great (pleasure), it’s a deconstruction of the expected (smart and self-congratulatory) and a third of the world is anosmic to it (irony). If the above makes it seem custom built for marketing to 20-somethings, please note that you can purchase it from Urban Outfitters.

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