Is The Market For Perfumes Containing Significant Quantities of Iso E Super "Fabricated"?

Over at Wordpress our friend published an article about an artisanal perfumer who is apparently defying IFRA regulations via Etsy. An interesting exchange took place in the comments section, where a blogger who goes by "Bibi Maizoon" wrote:
"Why so many niche companies want to market 'iso e super overload' or 'cashmeran overload' scents is an interesting question. Ya’think maybe it’s because people like those sorts of scents? And then because people like those sorts of scents they’ll buy them. And niche companies are companies like any other company & want to sell product & make $$$? So if they make products that people like then people will buy them and lo & behold the cash will come rolling in!"

The article's author responded:
"No, I think that was a largely fabricated market, for those who want to feel 'special.' There is no way to demonstrate that cashmeran or iso e super (in 'overloaded' formulations) is better, superior, special, etc. compared to calone or dihydromyrcenol heavy scents, but you can say that this or that scent smells like or doesn’t smell like laundry detergent, scented deodorant, etc."

Is this true? Where is the evidence that perfumers and design houses have fabricated the market for specific aroma chemicals? To my knowledge, iso e super is a material that has been used to great commercial success, perhaps most notably in the original Fahrenheit, which contains 25% iso e super in its compound. One can read more about its practical applications here.

It's interesting to note that iso e super is used as an additive in cigarette tobacco, where few market fabrications are necessary due to the addictive nature of the product. Again, is the market for cigarettes that contain iso e super fabricated? And what about the incredible success of Terre d'Hermes, Encre Noire (which has 45% in its compound), and Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch? Are these not enormous sellers? Or was the market fabricated? Have we been "faked out" by the use of iso e super?

Creed Aventus has 18% iso e super in its formula, Halston Z-14 has, according to Frederic Malle, "probably 10-15 percent" in its formula, CK Eternity for Men from 1988 had almost 12%, and Lancome's Trésor also made good use of the stuff. One can wonder if those odd earlier batches of Aventus that were criticized for smelling too "ashy", like a burnt cigarette, utilized iso e super in a way too similar to how cigarette makers use it in their formulas.

Is the market for Aventus among Creed fanatics and niche-heads fabricated? And what about the idea that people buy fragrances with iso e super to feel "special"? In what way does the aroma chemical confer "special" qualities to the wearer? By all educated accounts, this is a material with very little aroma on its own, and it is used as a sort of "texturizer" for perfumes, creating a very blended woody quality. This is why it features so prominently in woody classics like Fahrenheit, Eternity, and Terre d'Hermes.

As for cashmeran, it's also one of those atmospheric chemicals that simply creates a deeper warmth to fragrances, and to my knowledge nobody is exclusively seeking cashmeran for the purpose of "standing out" in the crowd. Fragrances that use cashmeran use it because it works in their compositions, and obviously it smells good enough to move merchandise!

I wish the blogger who dismissed Bibi's comment would elaborate on what he meant in his response to her. As things stand now, his remarks are unfounded. How can a market be "fabricated" based on aroma chemicals? Are people distorting the popularity of things that prominently use iso e super and cashmeran? If so, how?

At this point I doubt that anyone can view popular fragrances containing significant quantities of iso e super as products of a commercial lie, and I'm willing to bet that anyone familiar with how these materials smell in isolation would prefer them blended in what are otherwise successful compositions.


  1. I can't wait to show that FB link to the next Creed rep at a Neiman Marcus who tries to get my attention when I walk past the counter, claiming some bullshit short of the Creed brothers frolicking through a forest to pick out the ingredients in their frags.

    1. You know while you're at it, tell them that Viking is getting compared to Old Spice. Like, seriously compared to Old Spice. I've seen two vloggers now claim that they get a "resemblance" to the stuff you can get at the drugstore for $8.

    2. I saw that too and thought it was pretty funny. Old Spice isn't exactly a bad scent to reference though, and I guess that's not so much worse than Tom Ford releasing Z-14, Grey Flannel, and 4711.

      Though it's weird that people are complaining about the price of Viking, when if Creed is really deserving of getting shat on, it's for releasing a baby's fragrance which supposedly smells like one of Dole fruit cocktail cups.

    3. Hey now, those Dole fruit cups smell amazing.

  2. You forgot the niche company built on fragrances based on aroma chemicals like iso super e - Escentric Molecules!
    And don't forget the other niche hit Juliette Has A Gun's Not a Perfume!
    How did these tiny niche companies fabricate the market for their minimalistic fragrances?

    1. Yeah apparently people who bought Escentric Molecules are all part of the fabrication. Their enjoyment of a fragrance that is 100% iso e super is fake.

  3. Well... At the boarding school I teach at, one smells a great deal of cologne, especially in the morning. The scents I catch most often are Terre d'Hermes (or its flankers), Bleu de Chanel and varied other designer-tier things like Paco Rabanne XS... So, yeas, lots of ISO and certainly some ambroxan as well. These fragrances are being purchased by young men with some money to spend responding to marketing campaigns aimed at mass taste... by and large I think they like how they smell (especially the Hermes wearers, who seem to lay it on most thickly.) I personally think that young people get attracted to something that smells just synthetic enough to seem like it represents the aura of an upscale shopping mall, the visual equivalent of watching one of those youtube videos of someone 'unboxing' an Apple product. I'm kind of being ridiculous, but here's my point: markets aren't fabricated, but taste is manipulated, and that's just how culture works in the present... I expect that ISO smells 'woody' both in terms of 'warmth' and 'texture' as separate attributes that hover side by side. The discrete (and discreet) presentation of these characteristics makes the overall impression seem clean (digital 0's and 1's to a more natural wood note's analogue), and, in our postmodern age of critical pleasure-taking, smart. This underwrites both the minimalist-chic of niche uses like Escentric Molecules and the mainstream safety of (insert your ISO-laden crowd-pleaser of choice here.) IMHO, this is hardly a fabricated phenomenon: one need only look at other areas of art and culture to see that conspicuous criticality, mainstream hygiene and safety in numbers have been in bed together for years.

    1. There's no doubt that subliminally, overtly, artistically, brands are influencing the public's perception of what they should want to buy. Their power stops short of actually getting them to buy what they're selling. I remember when Prada Luna Rossa came out, everyone was pushing it, the marketing campaign was slick, the bottle was attractive, the notes list was luxurious, and they even took out magazine ads with strips, old school. I was acutely aware that I should want to be a Luna Rossa guy, and I wanted to be a Luna Rossa guy. I tried that frag several times. I fucking hated it. I won't even come near it, even today.

      Granted, some masochistically bend to the will of corporate advertising and succumb to wearing and "loving" everything they think they should. They're fans of a certain brand and there's sometimes a question of whether they're on the payroll. Al from Street Scents is like that with Creed. I watch him and think, Really? Are you really trying to tell a woman you randomly stopped on a corner that $350 for 50 ml is "a little hefty?"

      The usage of certain chemicals pertains to their attractiveness to focus groups. Today it's all focus groups, analytical demographic testing, bean counting (how expensive is this shit?), and whatever other technical approach to maximizing profits a designer and/or niche brand can conjure. If a larger group likes the version of Sauvage with Ambroxan vs. the Sauvage without, then obviously Ambroxan will be in the formula. This isn't a fabrication, it's merely business.

      I think the blogger in question objects to how people in the fragcomm react to criticisms of what are unofficially "popular" releases. Aventus, Bleu, Sauvage, now Viking, all were released to mixed reviews. The positive reviews were encouraging, the negative reviews were protracted and often just as exhausting. But often fans try to bully people into liking something. Creed fans must "defend" the brand. So they get into spats on basenotes, and this creates the feeling that this need to wear Ambroxan or iso e super-heavy compositions is driven along chemical lines, more so than party lines. It's not that they want to be in the "in" crowd, it's that they want everyone to love fragrances loaded with certain chemicals as much as they do.

      That would hold water if it didn't sound just as batshit crazy as everything else I've read about Sauvage and Viking in the past few months. But suggesting that people are attempting to "fabricate" a collective commercial need for things utilizing texturizing aroma chemicals is simply absurd.


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