The core structure of the iridoid monoterpenes is formed by a unique cyclization reaction. The enzyme that catalyzes this reaction, iridoid synthase, is mechanistically distinct from other terpene cyclases. Here we describe the synthesis of two substrate analogs to probe the mechanism of iridoid synthase. Enzymatic assay of these substrate analogs along with clues from the product profile of the native substrate strongly suggest that iridoid synthase utilizes a Michael reaction to achieve cyclization. This improved mechanistic understanding will facilitate the exploitation of the potential of iridoid synthase to synthesize new cyclic compounds from nonnatural substrates.