Imagine yourself in an Indian temple, enveloped by the warm scent of a burning incense stick. This is the image that Sandalwood evokes. Used for over 4000 years, Sandalwood is one of the oldest fragrance ingredients still in use today. Its precious essence, extracted from its bark, has charmed noses for centuries.
Its warm and velvety scent enriches compositions and brings a woody trace to fragrances.
A true olfactory “must-have”, which is becoming increasingly rare. From India to the Australian forests, let’s discover this jewel of perfumery.
A tree with a thousand secrets
Sandalwood belongs to the family of trees called Sandalwood. Besides its botanical name Santalum album, Sandalwood was also known in colonial times as “East Indian Sandalwood“. Like cedar, cinnamon (whose bark is cinnamon) and rosewood, Sandalwood belongs to the category of aromatic woods, or perfume trees.
It is a tree which measures about ten meters high, with oval leaves always green and small yellow flowers with purple nuances. However, it is neither its leaves nor its flowers that make it so majestic, but rather its brown and reddish bark that protects a pale green or white heart, with a velvety smell.
From mystical ritual to perfumery
Known for thousands of years, Sandalwood was first used by the Egyptians to embalm their mummies. It was also used by the Muslims of India during funeral ceremonies. They would place a censer containing Sandalwood at the feet of the deceased, to allow his soul to rise.
This dense and solid wood was also adopted in the construction of temples in Tibet, Nepal and China. Sandalwood did not appear in Europe until later.
It was introduced by the Arabs who used it to perfume leather in Cordoba, Spain. Sandalwood was also present in pharmacies in the Middle Ages, once again introduced by Arab doctors who used it to concoct ointments and plasters.
It is finally only with the appearance of modern perfumery in the 19th century, that Sandalwood will become a raw material of choice and will be invited in many male compositions.
The lands of Sandalwood
This sacred wood is native to Asia, and more precisely to India and Indonesia. It is in the south of India, in the state of Karnataka, that we find one of its most famous and coveted varieties: the Mysore Sandalwood. This Indian city is surrounded by sandalwood and rosewood forests, a dream for all perfumers.
Very popular, the Mysore Sandalwood has long suffered from overexploitation and is now cultivated under the auspices of the Indian government.
Sandalwood is also cultivated in other countries, notably in Australia and New Caledonia, in the Vanuatu archipelago. This variety is quite similar olfactory to Indian Sandalwood.
In Australia, the famous Santalum album is cultivated on a large scale, to compensate for the scarcity of Sandalwood from India. Australia also produces another variety of Sandalwood, whose smell is more resinous and smoky.
Sandalwood in perfumery : From the tree to the essential oil
As the tree grows, the fragrance of sandalwood develops. It is necessary to wait until the tree reaches its maturity, between 25 and 30 years, to make Sandalwood essence. At this point, the tree is cut down and uprooted, to be chipped and distilled. In the past, the trees were felled and the branches and roots were cut off.
The trunks were then left on the ground and fed to termites. Today, faced with the scarcity of sandalwood, we use all the parts of the tree, without leaving a crumb to the greedy insects! The chips and the heart of the wood, but also the roots of the tree, are then reduced to powder (discover our incense powder of Sental wood) then dried, to be finally distilled with steam.
This process makes it possible to manufacture a precious essence whose quality will depend on the age of the tree.
An olfactory jewel to protect
A prized and long-abused material, sandalwood has become scarce since the 1970s. Excessive exploitation and the black market have pushed governments to regulate the exploitation and trade of sandalwood in India to preserve this precious resource. Faced with a wood that has become scarce, but a growing demand, new plantations have been created.
Indeed, the production of Mysore Sandalwood essence is extremely limited, and it is now almost impossible to find. It is no longer exported and is reserved for local consumption.
A bewitching perfume
Sandalwood is known for its unique sweet, woody and slightly spicy scent. It is often described as having a creamy, honey and rose scent, with a hint of cedar.
Its scent is so enchanting that it has been used for centuries in religious and spiritual rituals, as well as in perfumery. Today, Sandalwood is a key ingredient in many luxury perfumes, bringing a unique depth and warmth to these fragrances.
A valuable ingredient in aromatherapy
In addition to its use in perfumery, Sandalwood is also valued in aromatherapy for its many beneficial properties. It is known for its soothing and relaxing properties, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
It is also used to promote restful sleep and to improve concentration and mental clarity. Its sweet and comforting scent makes it a popular choice for massage and body care.
A symbol of sustainability
With the growing awareness of the need to preserve our natural resources, Sandalwood has become a symbol of sustainability. Sandalwood producers are now striving to cultivate this precious tree in a sustainable manner, ensuring that natural forests are not depleted. In addition, they are committed to replanting new trees for every tree cut down, thus ensuring the sustainability of this precious resource.
An olfactory journey to discover
If you have not yet discovered Sandalwood, it is time to do so. Whether it is for its unique fragrance, its therapeutic virtues or simply for the pleasure of discovering a rare and precious natural product, Sandalwood is an olfactory journey to discover.