So what exactly is Iso E Super? It sounds like something you would find at your local gas station instead of something on a perfumer’s wheel. Recently the ingredient was placed into the spot light by Swedish perfumer Geza Schoen. His brand Escentric Molecules features a fragrance composed entirely of Iso E Super. Even if this was your first conscious experience with Iso E Super, if you have worn fragrance in the past 20 years you will be no stranger to this essential perfumer’s material. Created by International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Iso E Super is one of the patented molecules to come out of their research and development department. The payback for companies like IFF to literally invent a new scented molecule is immeasurable if you consider how many tons of the chemical are produced every year. What makes this molecule so precious is its ability to replicate wood without the density of naturals such as sandalwood or cedar. Described by IFF as woody, floral, ambergris; Iso E Super has a wonderful iris note and works well as a floraliser in iris/wood men’s fragrances such as Christian Dior’s Dior Homme. It also works as an extender for woods. Mixed with sandalwood it creates a spacious woody note or with other amber notes can create a transparent light oriental. Many women’s perfumes use Iso E Super as a base. In Robert Calkin and Stephan Jellinek’s book, Perfumery; Practice and Principals, the authors dissect classics such as Lancome’s Tresor, created by American perfumer Sophia Grojsman. The formula is created from approximately equal amounts of Hedione (jasmine), Iso E Super (wood), Galaxolide (musk) and methyl ionone (violet/iris). Like broad artist’s brush strokes this accord makes up almost 80% of the total formula, a style Grojsman pioneered. Perhaps another value of this super ingredient is its tenacity. A couple of years ago I was on holiday. My days revolved around the pool, a book, the poolside bar and lots of sleep. On this holiday I was wearing Chanel’s Allure Edition Blanche. Between chapters I would put my book down and jump into the pool to cool off. Chlorine and water are not the most fragrance friendly chemicals and usually dissolve any perfume they come in contact with. Edition Blanche, a floral white musk should in theory wash away to just musk. Synthetic musks are robust molecules, which is why they are often used in laundry detergents since they are the only things to survive a wash cycle. But to my surprise as the fragrance slowly dissolved in the water all I was left with was Iso E Super, which had even outlasted the musks. Although extremely important for any perfumer, Iso E Super is more of a support act than a leading role. It works to enhance the ingredients around it. Many of today’s transparent wood fragrances for men utilize this molecule such as the Comme Des Garcons and Terre d’Hermes. Rumours are the IFRA, who regulate the use of aroma chemicals in commercial perfumery may regulate the percentage of Iso E Super permitted in fragrance formulas. An act that has upset many perfume fans in the past as old classics have had to be reformulated in order to adhere to the growing amount of restrictions that have been enforced.
Iso E Super