Comparison megathread: Iso-E Super / Timbersilk / Sylvamber / Iso-Gamma Super

santeripe

Basenotes Member
Nov 28, 2021
Time for another Iso-E Super thread! There's so much discussion around this molecule online, yet not a single detailed comparison. I adore this material above most complex fragrances and I have all of its variants. So I thought it could be helpful to do a throrough comparison. Performance, scent profile, combinations, etc. Even some debunking and general clarification. Molecule 01 clones are a thriving business, so this could be especially helpful to someone haha. Keep in mind that this is just my nose's opinion. You may smell things differently.

First off, a little background on variants. Iso-E Super is actually not just one molecule. It's a combination of molecular isomers. The arms that connect atoms in a molecule are rotated differently in different isomers. In the 1990's, we realized that a tiny isomeric impurity in Iso-E Super is massively strong and makes up almost all of the molecule's scent. Thus began the search for a superior version. We still haven't found a way to manufacture these singular isomers. But we have created variants with different scent profiles and strengths. They're all one molecule balanced differently.

Molecule 01 is 15% Iso-Gamma Super in perfumer's alcohol. It's a special captive variant that's only sold to large perfume companies under contract. I've diluted the 3 other variants to match, and let them sit to make the comparison fair. I've also accounted for atomizer size to keep the sprayed amount constant.

Iso-E Super by IFF. This is a very pleasant, clean, round, and friendly variant. I smell slightly damp cedar with a velvety effect. Reminds me of fresh laundry and the man-made concept of cleanliness. The smell is fuzzy and lacks clarity. All the different notes are floating in a hazy cloud of scent. I also get hints of lemon, bleach, new electronics and minerals. Overall an extremely pleasant variant to wear solo IMO. You have to smell this pure to understand its scent. If you're building a complex fragrance, choose this variant to add fullness and richness without significant scent alteration. This can be dosed quite high without overshadowing other materials. You're only going to get fixation, clarity, a velvety effect, and a "complete modern fragrance" feel.

Iso-Gamma Super by IFF, also known as Molecule 01. This smells way closer to Iso-E Super than I expected. I thought this was supposed to be a magical superior variant... But I barely detect any difference on skin, and I'm sure an untrained nose would detect none. The scent isn't any "higher quality" or "more refined". It lasts maybe 20% longer than Iso-E Super, with a touch of incense. I'm not blown away or even impressed. I guess it's an improvement. I like the performance, don't care for the incense. Maybe this works better solo in an artistic sense, as the incense adds some extra character and contrast. More interesting than a round friendly laundry smell alone.

Timbersilk by IFF. This is significantly different from the previous two. I'm reminded of freshly cut pine trees in a surprisingly realistic way. More sharp and HD textured, less round and hazy. Like you're actually sitting by the trees smelling the cut logs. My nose tickles a little smelling this on skin. Sillage smells high-pitched, dry, sharp, snappy and fresh. Like pine needles and a crisp forest morning after felling. Most masculine-leaning variant. Not a personal favorite due nose irritation. Performs great, even better than Molecule 01 in my experience. Would fit woody creations perfectly, helping to extend the radiance of dry woodiness. And of course adding the velvetizing and clarifying effects of regular Iso-E Super.

Sylvamber by DRT. They got the naming right: this does indeed smell ambery! I wouldn't describe the previous variants as smelling "warm" at all. But this one definitely leans warm. Almost dirty in an impure way. Making the overall scent profile less friendly, leaning towards rich winter themes instead. This is a must-have for modern amber accords. But for solo wear, it lands in an awkward spot for my taste. Not deep enough to be an actual amber scent, not bright and clean like the original. A weird in-between territory that's honestly a little offputting. I get a similar reaction smelling Dior Farenheit, which I find nauseating and sickly sweet for its theme. Your experience may vary of course. If you love this variant on its own, you'll be happy that performance is top tier. Molecule 01 seems weak in comparison. This just happens to be my least favorite solo variant due to an impure and unrefined warm scent profile.

Let's recap. All of these variants smell very similar. You probably won't notice a difference in complex blends. But Iso-E Super and Iso-Gamma Super both lean "clean-round-velvety". They're the prim and proper siblings. Timbersilk reminds me of freshly cut sharp pine trees. It accurately represents the woodiness that this family is known for. Sylvamber leans "warm-amber-dirty". It's the brash sibling who'd rather dig a ditch than attend a business meeting. Performance increases in the listed order.

To finish this magnum opus, let's dig deeper into isomers. There isn't just 1 strong isomer. There are 2 with different properties. Arborone (dry) and Gamma (velvety). Check out page 21 of this article:
https://sci-hub.se/10.1002/anie.202005719

VariantArborone (rounded)Gamma (rounded)
Iso-E Super5%12%
Iso-Gamma Super6%15%
Timbersilk9%14%
Sylvamber15%10%

Sylvamber is often said to have "the most Gamma isomer, best matching Molecule 01". This isn't true. It ironically has the least. The above table explains why it smells ambery compared to other variants: it's heavy in Arborone and low in Gamma. This gives it massive projection, but in a pretty unsophisticated and dry way. At least to my nose. Iso-E Super's projection is velvety and smooth from being proportionally high in the refined Gamma variant. Sylvamber comes across more like a "workhorse" material than a molecule to be appreciated solo. People's opinions will vary of course. So I'm very interested to hear your experiences!

Timbersilk contains 0,07% of a superamber called Amber Xtreme. It's very noticeable to me, causes my nose to tickle, and may explain why Timbersilk's character dominates every variant mixture. 90% Iso-E Super with 10% Timbersilk still has Timbersilk's smell all over it. Something about it irritates me over time. I also dislike other superambers when they're noticeable in a fragrance, like Norlimbanol, so it's personal preference. I highly doubt you'd notice a difference using Timbersilk in place of Iso-E Super in a complex blend. The differences just stand out worn solo.

This information and my experiments show that your best bet to clone Molecule 01 is... Iso-E Super. Nothing else. Combining it with Timbersilk makes it too realistically woody. A combination with Sylvamber becomes too warm. The only difference between cheap genuine Iso-E Super and Molecule 01's "magical" captive variant is strength. They honestly smell nearly identical, and the similarity only diminishes if you blend variants. Just up the concentration to 21% (IFRA limit) and use a strong atomizer. Or watch out for skin irritation and go nuts with the concentration for personal use. My favorite for scent and performance is 30%.

Voilà, nearly free Molecule 01! Douse yourself and live your best molecular life.
 

hemmett

Super Member
Nov 28, 2017
Interesting post! I get many of your observations.

However, with Sylvamber I also get a very clear ambergris note. I once made 10ml on 10% strength for my wife and I kept getting wiffs of ambergris, that I almost forgot she was actually wearing Sylvamber instead of (the drydown of) an amber/marine based scent.

Other than that in the opening (of Sylvamber @10%) I get a lot clean freshness, more than Iso E Super and Timbersilk. Almost ‘drinkable’, if that makes sense. On my own skin however, it doesn’t open up. But I have an extremely dry skin that eats fragrances.
 

santeripe

Basenotes Member
Nov 28, 2021
Interesting post! I get many of your observations.

However, with Sylvamber I also get a very clear ambergris note. I once made 10ml on 10% strength for my wife and I kept getting wiffs of ambergris, that I almost forgot she was actually wearing Sylvamber instead of (the drydown of) an amber/marine based scent.

Other than that in the opening (of Sylvamber @10%) I get a lot clean freshness, more than Iso E Super and Timbersilk. Almost ‘drinkable’, if that makes sense. On my own skin however, it doesn’t open up. But I have an extremely dry skin that eats fragrances.
That's interesting! To me, Ambergris smells very musky and animalic-warm-cocooning in a realistic seaside way. Like what the coastline actually smells like with all its seaweed and moss. Not a fantasy perfume recreation of a "seaside smell". But the actual scent of the sea embodied in a living smell. Ambroxan on the other hand, smells cotton candy sweet, metallic, mineralic in an abstract way, and pretty cold. Almost perfectly opposite to each other. "Amber" also smells way different to me than Ambergris or Ambroxan.

I guess I get some Ambroxan connection in that Sylvamber is also the sweetest variant out of these. That sweetness is partly what makes me not like it. It's ill-fitting, like the nauseating sweetness in Dior's Farenheit. I personally can't say that I get a clean freshness out of it more than the other variants. Definitely the least clean and fresh all throughout.
 

santeripe

Basenotes Member
Nov 28, 2021
I find Timbersilk has a lot in common with cedarwood, the dry clean desication and an almost smoky facet. Sylvamber is a more ambery, dirty Timbersilk. Iso E Super for its cleanliness and smooth velvety nature remains the king of the supers, until Georgywood becomes available. I've heard great things about George.
Sounds like you perceive these variants just like I do! Georgywood is special for being a strong singular isomer raw material of the Iso-E Super family. We have found a solo synthesis route for it, unlike for Gamma and Arborone. Those who have experience with it describe it as a thicker Iso-E Super with more body. And of course much better performance.

"Genetic Bliss" by 27 87 uses Georgywood with 5 other woody molecules. I very much love the quality and performance of that fragrance, but the theme is maybe a little too intensely woody. Nothing to lift or bring contrast. Iso-E Super has more elements than just wood to it.
 

Den777

Basenotes Member
Jun 3, 2022
Very nice thread! I think your descriptions are on point.

So when are we going to be able to buy the iso e gamma? 🤔😃
 

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