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 especially its scent, soon expanded beyond religious purposes, as it was not long before ancient perfumers in Asia, branching into the Middle East, and then Arabia, 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 on application, milky, incredibly light, with a rich, creamy and subtle musky finish. Suave and sensual, it is unique from the other woody facets, as any sharpness or mossy nuances are absent from its scent. 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. Perfumers simply can’t get enough of it, due to the depth it creates, and thus it is no surprise why some of the most iconic fragrances have Sandalwood within their perfume recipes. From Coco by Chanel, to Shalimar by Guerlain, Santal Majuscule by Serge Lutens or Tam Dao by Diptique; these scents, undeniably all owe their fame and success to the wonders of Sandalwood!
A LITTLE HISTORY
Deriving from Sanskrit, meaning Chandanam, or Sandanam in Tamil, the knowledge of Sandalwood dates back more than 4,000 years thanks to ancient Sanskrit and Chinese texts. Belonging to the family of aromatic woods, such as Rosewood, Cinnamon tree, and Cedar tree, Santalum album, L., as it is known by its botanical name, is in fact 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. The tree grows 8-12 metres tall, with evergreen, oval-shaped, shiny green leaves, as well as a scattering of little, scentless, straw-coloured flowers, which eventually turn red. The tree also produces fruit after approximately three years.
Dating far back to ancient Egypt, the paste of Sandalwood was used for embalming mummies, as well as in ritual burning to venerate the gods; whilst the population of Muslims in India 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 in the world, India and the Hindu religion have a particular bond. Considered to be holy, a symbol of vitality, and indispensable, it is used in almost every social and religious ritual or ceremonies, including the moments one is born, to their death.
Sandalwood oil and paste have also been fondly used in traditional medicine for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and astringent properties; as well as being used as a diuretic, disinfectant, emollient, expectant, hypotensive, and sedative agent. In addition, Sandalwood is used in skin and beauty treatments, and is even found in numerous industrial products, including mouth fresheners, edibles, and deodorant! The oil itself is not used merely for its fragrance, it has relaxing properties, can benefit the reduction of stress, and promotes restful sleep. And most excitingly, it is even reputed to be an aphrodisiac!
Nevertheless, alongside this, comes a sad story. With India once producing 70% of the world supply 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. With the raw material thus becoming largely expensive and rare, cosmetic companies are trying to find synthetic substitutes to try to imitate the scent and structure. Although there are several synthetic odourants similar to Sandalwood that are used as lower-cost alternatives for perfumes, such as Sandalore and Bacdanol; in order to continue the production of Sandalwood, there are now large man-made plantations in Australia and New Caledonia. The Sandalwood oil harvested there is of high quality, however, carries a harsher odour profile as they are different species to the original sandalwood trees found in India. With the most renowned perfume houses, such as Hermes, Chanel and Guerlain, to originally use the sandalwood oil from India, this oil is still regarded of higher value, as even according to 2012 figures, a ton of Indian sandalwood was priced 7 times more than the Australian variety.
FROM TREE TO OIL
Although the tree of Sandalwood can live up to 100 years, for the extraction for perfumery oils, the 40- to 80-year-old trees are specifically used, with more preference to the older trees, as they produce more odorous oil.
With extremely high limitations on the harvesting of the trees, the Sandalwood oil from New Caledonia, Australia and Indonesia, is extracted mostly by steam distillation used on the roots and wood shavings, which are then reduced to fine powder, as they are passed through superheated 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: Hydro-distillation. This process is not so popular nowadays, yet it equally produces high quality of oil.
OUR RECOMMENDED MIXES:
Our first recommendation can be regarded as a modern reinterpretation of the famous Samsara fragrance by Guerlain, which includes the intoxicating and harmonious blend of SLEEK SANDALWOOD and JAZZY JASMINE. A rich and pleasantly intense scent, with a modern, majestic, and radiant, ultra-chic feminine twist. The warm, woody opening note is tempered with light sweet, white floral notes, creating a bold, sensual yet sharp fragrance that creates a satisfying lingering scent for your everyday!
For a more refreshing fragrance, the elixir of SLEEK SANDALWOOD and BERGAMOT BLAST is for sure your go-to, and yet again, another classic perfume re-interpreted! The warm, woody, dry accords of Sandalwood, complement extremely well with the juicy blend of citruses and freshcut Bergamot to create a light fragrance that will keep you invigorated for the whole day!
Lastly, our final choice of pairing, aims to capture a more young and carefree aesthetic: SLEEK SANDALWOOD and POETIC PEAR. The opening notes of the addictive, energisingly crisp and fruity fresh Pear, introduce the modern and trendy twist. Whilst the deeper, soft, creamy woody notes of Sandalwood evoke a second skin feel to the composition, making it a fun and desirable wear!