My Iso E Super Irritation Chart.

There was a recent thread on Basenotes. net about the aroma chemical, Iso E Super (IES), and I thought it would make sense to point out some of my observations.  First, though, I’ll mention others have noted the IES amounts in scents that contain the most of it (though it’s more “restricted” these days and hence the same scent may now have a different amount than when it was originally released; Terre d’Hermes seems to be a good example of this).  I’ll quote the Wikipedia page on IES:

The fragrance Eternity by Calvin Klein (1988) contained 11.7% Iso E Super in the fragrance portion of the formula…

The male fragrance Fahrenheit (Dior, 1988) is 25% Iso E Super. (of the fragrance compound)…

The men’s fragrance Encre Noire (Lalique, 2006) is 45% of the fragrance compound, Iso E Super…

The very popular Terre D’Hermes (Hermes, 2006) contains 55% Iso E Super (of the perfume compound)…

The men’s fragrance Fierce Cologne (Abercrombie & Fitch, 2002) is 48% Iso E Super…

Creed’s Aventus (2010) contains 18% Iso E Super in its fragrance compound.

I included these because I have tried them all, though I don’t remember Aventus that well.  I do have the “clone,” Club de Nuit Intense for Men, and that one does have a quality I associate with IES, but when I’m in the mood it is bearable.  However, Fierce, vintage Fahrenheit, Encre Noire, and TdH all have been overbearing, though a 2011 TdH batch seemed just a bit less irritating than the one I sampled in 2008 (IES seems to bother me as much now as it did back then, despite changes in sensitivity to other things or overall).  On that BN thread, I was criticized for pointing this out, since (obviously) Fierce was never 48% IES.  Instead, this refers to the fragrance portion of the liquid content of the bottle.  I didn’t think I had to point that out because it has been pointed out many times before, on several fragrance sites and blogs.  Do I have to mention that these are all alcohol-based scents too?  Note that it doesn’t really matter in terms of a chart, that is, if one has the percentages and can correlate those to personal irritation, that’s all that matters in this context!

In any case, Eternity for Men is an interesting example, because I have found that while it doesn’t have the overbearing quality that the “IES heavy hitters” do, there’s something about it I really don’t like that seems to go beyond the notes, as if there was a kind of fume-like element.  On the other hand, Aventus wasn’t especially irritating in that way, so it may have been a combination of aroma chemicals in Eternity, such as calone, dihydromyrcenol, a woody/amber, and/or some sort of “white musk.”  Clearly, there’s no way to know for sure without proper testing, and even so, that would only be useful for a particular individual.  What I can say with confidence is that the fume-like quality I detect in the IES heavy hitters is IES, because they are a rather diverse group of fragrances, and I don’t have a problem with the major components of those in other compositions that are similar.

For example, I have more than a few scents where vetiver is obvious, such as Guerlain’s, Vetiver de Puig, Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver, and vintage Carven Vetiver, yet none of these have anything remotely like that fume-ish quality in the IES heavy hitters.  I remember a very strong fume-ish quality in a bottle of Le Roi Soleil Homme (Dali) around 2008, and since it is similar to Eternity, my guess is that there is more IES in that one.  Of course, until someone tests it with MS/GC, only a few people probably know (and there may have been significant reformulations since that time).  In the meantime, one might want to consider the list of scents with lesser amounts of IES, which you can find on the Perfume Shrine blog:

http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2009/03/iso-e-super-its-merits-its-faults-geza.html

Eau Duelle by Diptyque is listed, and I wore that not long ago.  I was surprised by how long it lasted without becoming too heavy, syrupy, or outright vanillic, and so I’d guess IES was used here in a subtle way.  And this is where I’d like to tie things in with my recent post about “niche Guerlainade.”  That is, there are quite a few scents that are dominated by a kind of fume-like, dry wood.  The Perfume Shrine blog lists Kyoto (55%) and Jaisalmer (51%), for example, and I don’t remember liking any of that series due to the dryness mainly.  However, I had dab samples and only dabbed a tiny amount on my wrists, which is a mistake I made as a newbie.  In any case, since then, a number of niche companies seem to think it’s a great idea to use this as a kind of base and add a little of this or that to the composition.  I think Stash is a good example of this, and since it should be widely available (if it isn’t already) you might be able to sample it a local stores.

NOTE:  The word “chart” in the title was used loosely.  The point I want to make is that it seems like it’s not just the amount of IES but how it’s handled, though my guess is that somewhere in the 10-20% range is where I begin to encounter irritation, and by 40% or so it’s unbearable.  Also, whenever there is a thread on this subject on BN it seems like one or more people mention scents that may not contain much if any IES (but may contain a lot of other aroma chemicals, such as calone or dihyromyrcenol).  This has led to some “doubters” claiming that one can’t smell IES or that it’s pleasant, as if there would be something major wrong with them if anyone found it irritating.  Apparently, they have never heard of chemical sensitivity syndromes!  On the other hand, some of us may still retain an ability to detect unhealthy substances – until more research is done, the picture might not be clear (at least to my reading of the existing evidence).  My grandparents, for instance, would never admit to being irritated by an odor.  When my grandmother burned something in the kitchen, it was “she’s got the fan on now, there’s ‘no problem.”  And when we drove in their car and it was sucking in fumes from a truck in front of us, they would say they couldn’t smell anything at all.

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