Comme des Garçons 2 Man, 2004

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(image source Voices from Russia)

Perfumer Mark Buxton

Iso E-Super has gotten a bad rap. What started out as a simple aromachemical in the early 1970s has become the monster responsible for a monotonous (monolfactive?) genre of perfumes that has brought shame to the word woody. Drama, huh?Don’t blame the chemical, though. Blame the system.

There is an era specific (late 1980s – mid-1990s) group of perfumes, perfumers and houses that used iso-E Super as a panacea for problems of longevity and richness in perfume composition. Perfumers wound up not simply using Iso-E Super as an adjective in their compositions, they began to envision compositions that were answers to the question, “What would Iso-E Super be just perfect for?!” They sought to create the ideal radiant, spicy woody perfume and the aromachemical became the goal. Not surprisingly, this era produced quite a few perfumes that just smelled of Iso-E Super and in hindsight, these perfumes have a bull-in-the-china-shop tendency to clear the way of any other scent around them.

When you read the following words or phrases in perfume marketing or criticism, beware. They often serve as code for iso-style. Radiant, sheer, tenacious, velvety, woody, plush, atmospheric. When you see notes of cedar, incense, pepper and the classic “rare woods”, think twice.

CDG Man 2 is one of the better iterations of Iso-Style. It’s a riff on incense and other balsams. Woody, but managing to be waxy and oily as well, suggesting essential oils and balms. It captures the acrid sear of smoking incense but also has the pine-like woody cleanliness of olibanum essential oil.  2 Man gets at a number of incense’s facets simultaneously in a way that neither burned incense nor incense oil could on their own. The drydown, much softer than the opening, is soothing.

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