Iso E Super, or 7-acetyl, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydro-1,1,6,7-tetramethyl naphthalene for you chemists out there, is a widely used aroma chemical patented by the International Fragrances and Flavors.
Although you may have never heard of this aroma chemical, it is found in varying concentrations in many iconic fragrances including in Eternity by Calvin Klein, Fahrenheit by Dior, Terre D’Hermes by Hermes, Fierce by Abercrombie and Fitch, and it is even among the ingredients of the legendary Aventus by Creed. Iso E Super has become a staple ingredient in modern perfumery, which is relying more and more on synthetic compounds rather than natural essential oils. In fact, around 3,000 tonnes of Iso E Super are produced every year. That’s 3 million kilograms per year!
So, what does Iso E Super smell like? According to IFF, it smells of “smooth, woody, amber” and is often used to add fullness and strength to fragrances. Apparently, it is also a “superb floralizer found in the majority of newer fine fragrances.” But Iso E Super has also some interesting qualities due to its chemical make up.
Our sense of smell, like our vision, can only detect a certain range of the full spectrum. For example, our eyes can only detect light with wavelengths from just under 400 nanometers to just above 700 nanometers. With smell, the olfactory receptors in most of our noses only respond to molecules that weigh under 350 Da (Daltons).
Iso E Super is a heavy molecule that weighs close to our olfactory thresholds, which gives it some interesting effects on how people perceive it. Because it lies so close to our olfactory thresholds, some people are simply not able to detect Iso E Super. But many others who are able to detect Iso E Super perceive it more as a fuzzy “aura” than a definite scent.
When worn as a fragrance, Iso E Super volatilizes with heat from the skin, and seems to disappear completely at times but reappear in intervals from time to time. Because of this almost illusory property of Iso E Super, people tend to perceive it more as the natural aura of a person rather than a perfume, and many people have claimed Iso E Super to be a powerful attractant that mimics human pheromones. Come to think of it, the properties of Iso E Super remind me of subliminal messages sometimes embedded in videos; effectively imperceptible but influential those who are exposed. Perhaps Iso E Super is “felt” more than it is smelled.
By this point, you are probably wondering where you could get yourself some Iso E Super so that you can subliminally attract your secret crush (I know what you’re thinking)… Well, the best place to start would be a fragrance called Molecule 01 by the niche house Escentric Molecules, as the fragrance is composed of 100% Iso E Super-the highest concentration found in any commercial fragrance!
(post by Remy Castella. Remy is currently studying neuroscience at the University of Vermont and is passionate of fine perfumery, like his father Laurent)