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Why You Should Love Sandalwood Scent
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May 17, 2020

All You Need to Know About Sandalwood Perfume

When you say Sandalwood, our thoughts transport us into a Hindu or Buddhist temple in Asia, where the scent meanders and reaches each and every corner of the room. Used as incense and burned on the altars as a form of communication with the gods, the use of the wood and its scent, soon expanded beyond religious purposes. It was not long before Ancient perfumers in Asia, branching into the Middle East, and then the Arabia’s were all captivated and intrigued by this irresistible scent of sophistication!

An ingredient that is evocative of the orient and has an intensity that can be both exotic and comforting; the complex aroma of Sandalwood reveals a profile that is admired by all.

Smooth, suave, and sensual upon application; milky, incredibly light, with a rich, creamy and subtle musky finish. It is unique from other woody facets, as any sharpness or mossy nuances are absent. Very popular in fine perfumery, it works well as a carrier for other aromas, enhancing and providing great diffusion for them, as well as being used for its excellent versatile base.

From Coco by Chanel to Shalimar by Guerlain, Santal Majuscule by Serge Lutens, or Tam Dao by Diptique; perfumers simply can't get enough of the deep aroma of this ingredient!

A Little History

Sandalwood forest at Marayoor, near Munnar, Kerala, India.

Deriving from Sanskrit meaning Chandanam, or Sandanam in Tamil, the knowledge of Sandalwood dates back to more than 4,000 years. Belonging to the family of aromatic woods, including Rosewood, Cinnamon tree, and Cedar tree; Santalum album, L., as it is known by its botanical name, is a parasitic plant, as it derives its nutritional requirements from the roots of other trees.

It originates from the tropical areas of Asia, particularly Southern India where it is also native to eastern Timor. 8-12 meters tall, with evergreen, oval-shaped, shiny green leaves, the tree also has scatterings of petit, scentless, straw-coloured flowers, which eventually turn red. The tree also produces fruit after approximately three years.

Sandalwood nuts hanging on a tree in Australia

In ancient Egypt, the Sandalwood paste was used for embalming mummies, as well as in ritual burning to venerate the gods. Whereas, in India, Muslims burned the wood as an incense at the feet of the deceased person to elevate the soul. Although the wood is respectfully significant to many civilisations and religions, for India and the Hindu religion there is a deeper significance. Considered to be holy, a symbol of vitality, and indispensable, it is used in almost every social and religious ritual or ceremony, from birth to death.

Moreover, the essential oil and paste have also been fondly used in traditional Chinese medicine for their antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties; whilst also being used as a disinfectant, emollient, hypotensive, and sedative agent. Additionally, Sandalwood is used in skin and beauty treatments, and can be found in numerous industrial products, such as mouth fresheners, edibles, and even deodorant! Lastly, the fragrant oil is used in aromatherapy, as it can benefit the reduction of stress, and enhance restful sleep.

The Wood-Tragedy

Sandalwood on a wooden spoon.

With India once producing 70% of the world production of Sandalwood, the over demand for specifically perfume and incense has resulted in endless trees being cut down, making it endangered, and unfortunately, leading to illegal harvesting. As a result, the raw material has become expensive and rare. At this point, cosmetic companies are trying to find synthetics substitutes to try to imitate the scent and structure.

Although there are several synthetic odorants, that are used as lower-cost alternatives, such as Sandalore and Bacdanol; in order to continue the production of Sandalwood, there are now large man-made plantations in Australia and New Caledonian. Whilst the oil harvested here is of high quality, they do carry a harsher odour profile, considering they are from different tree species, and thus differ from the original oil.

With most renowned perfume houses originally using Indian Sandalwood oil, it undeniably is still regarded of higher value, and figures in 2012 showed that a ton of Indian Sandalwood was priced 7 times more than the Australian variety.

From Tree to Oil

Abstract shot of a naturally grown red sandalwood tree in the Kodanad forest.

Although the tree can live up to 100 years, for the extraction of the perfumery oils, the 40 to 80-year-old trees are more eagerly picked, leaning more to the older trees, as they produce more odorous oil.

With extremely high limitations on harvesting trees, the Sandalwood oil from New Caledonia, Australia, and Indonesia, is extracted mostly by steam distillation. The process uses roots and wood shavings, which are then reduced to fine powder, as they are passed through super-heated steam. The steam then carries the oil locked inside the cellular structure of the wood, and once cooled, we obtain the Sandalwood hydrosol and Sandalwood oil.

Alternatively, there is a more traditional method of extraction called Hydro-distillation. This process is not as popular nowadays, yet it equally produces high-quality oil.

Our Recommended Mixes

Our first recommendation can be regarded as a modern reinterpretation of the famous Samsara by Guerlain, which includes the intoxicating and harmonious blend of our SLEEK SANDALWOOD perfume and the scent of JAZZY JASMINE. Rich and pleasantly intense, with a modern, majestic, and radiant, ultra-chic feminine twist. The warm, woody opening note is tempered with sweet white floral notes, creating a bold, sensual yet sharp fragrance that creates a satisfying linger for your everyday!

For something more refreshing, try the elixir of SLEEK SANDALWOOD and our BERGAMOT BLAST fragrance. Warm, woody, dry accords of Sandalwood, compliment extremely well with the juicy blend of citruses and freshly-cut Bergamot to create a light custom perfume for you, keeping you invigorated for the whole day!

Our final choice of pairing aims to capture a more young and carefree aesthetic: SLEEK SANDALWOOD and the POETIC PEAR perfume. The opening notes of the addictive, energizingly crisp, and fruity fresh Pear, introduces a modern and trendy twist, with the deeper, soft, creamy woody notes of Sandalwood as it evokes a second-skin feel to the composition, making it a fun and desirable wear!

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