What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

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The floriental scent of sandalwood features delicate, green and woody top notes with an enticing, sweet, lingering, balsamic dry down. Read on to discover more about what sandalwood smells like and its incredible benefits for beauty and health care.

What is Sandalwood

Sandalwood refers to a group of related slow-growing trees in the Santalum genus native to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii and certain South Pacific islands.

True sandalwood, also called white, is known as Santalum album. Santalum spicatum, or Australian sandalwood, is another family member, along with a number of other subspecies, all yielding the highly coveted, aromatic oil from their heartwood. Santalum spicatum is commonly used in aromatherapy.

The densely fragrant, yellow oil is extracted by steam distillation of both the wood and tree roots. Steam distillation is a separation process that uses steam forced through the plant material. As the hot steam passes through the wood, it picks up the oil and carries it to a condensation collection area where the cooled steam, now a liquid, separates from the oil. Being lighter, the oil floats on top of the water. The oily layer is decanted and further purified into sandalwood oil, suitable for use on the skin.

Sandalwood can also be processed into a light, dusty powder, which is used in India for making traditional Brahman caste marks and for sachets to scent clothing. Other topical uses for the powder include fighting acne and the signs of aging, lightening the skin, calming sunburn and exfoliation. Both sandalwood powder and oil are antibacterial.

What is Sandalwood Essential Oil used For

The oil has a myriad of uses, including in soap, hair care, aromatherapy, cosmetics and even as a flavoring for foods and beverages.

In India, the oil is used for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine as a diuretic, mild stimulant and skin enhancer, sandalwood oil has modern uses in hair care products, too.

Because it’s derived from a wood source and contains a type of sap, called resin, sandalwood is available as a resin incense. Although any scent can be imbued into a resin, sandalwood comes by this trait naturally. Resin incense looks like little brownish chips or beads. Resin incense cannot be lighted as an incense cone or stick can. Instead, place the resin in a brazier, cauldron or diffuser and heat. In no time, the dreamy scent of sandalwood will fill the air and then linger for hours.

Sandalwood is one of the most costly woods in the world, second only to African blackwood. Because of their rarity and high tree value, all sandalwood products are expensive.

What is Sandalwood Essential Oil Good For

Sandalwood is a common ingredient in hair care products because it’s great for split ends and dandruff and for promoting hair gloss and luster. Medicinal-grade sandalwood oil, available online, encourages hair growth with regular use.

The oil is soothing to facial skin and acts as an astringent, removing excess skin oil, tightening pores and soothing irritated skin. The oil is also rich in antioxidants that neutralize substances called free radicals. These rogue molecules damage skin cells and DNA, resulting in wrinkling, sagging, discoloration and premature signs of aging.

When ingested, sandalwood oil has natural relaxant properties. It may boost memory, improve concentration and relieve itching. It may allay eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.

Both sandalwood oil and incense are natural mosquito repellents.

Where does Sandalwood Come From

Indian white sandalwood, Santalum album, is considered the gold standard for the best-smelling sandalwood, with the provinces of Tamil Nadu and Mysore traditionally being regarded as the best sources for quality wood.

Unfortunately, the tree has been illegally harvested to the point of endangering the entire species. As a result, many sandalwood products on the market today originate from Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Australia and Hawaii. These incredibly valuable trees are very slow to mature. It can take 60 to 80 years for the richest levels of the aromatic sandalwood oil to form in the tree’s heartwood and roots.

Both Vietnam and New Caledonia have well-managed sandalwood plantations.

Contrary to popular legend, snakes aren’t attracted to sandalwood trees because of their scent. Snakes do have a keen sense of smell, but they likely wrap around sandalwood trees to keep cool, not because they like the smell.

What does Sandalwood Smell Like

Imagery like enchanting, warm, languid, ethereal, sultry, creamy and sweet are often used to describe the exotic essence of sandalwood.

Although it’s derived from a type of wood, its scent isn’t bright like cedar or fresh like pine. Instead, the smell of sandalwood is smoky, decadent, lush, sensuous and richly intense with just the barest nuance of floral notes. Used as both a fragrance in itself and as a base or fixative for other perfumes, it blends well with many other scents. Its legions of devotees would probably say it smells like heaven. Sandalwood smells very good.

Which Scents Go Well with Sandalwood

Sandalwood combines with a great many different scents without losing its strong character.

It pairs well with many florals, including rose, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, lavender, geranium, lily, gardenia and hyacinth. It also blends perfectly with the more contrasting citrus scent family: Grapefruit, lemon, orange, lime and bergamot. Sandalwood mingles easily with spicy and smoky scents, such as leather, tobacco, neroli, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Woody cedar notes mix well with sandalwood, too.

Many sandalwood blend scents include the oriental family: Musk, vanilla, amber, oudh, ambergris, tonka bean, frankincense, myrrh and patchouli. Patchouli is derived from a flowering bush with pinkish-white blossoms. It’s a sweet, opaque, spicy, powerfully musky scent often used in candles and incense. Oudh is a Middle Eastern resin scent derived from the heartwood of the Southeast Asian agar tree. Frankincense and myrrh are also resin scents derived from wood. In Biblical times, they made a costly, rarified gift fit for a king.

Ambergris is both a fixative for many classic perfumes and a scent in its own right. A whale waste product, ambergris forms when the whale’s intestines are irritated by the presence of swallowed giant squid beaks. The excreted substance finds its way to the ocean’s surface, where it may float for years, curing in the sun and saltwater. It eventually washes up on beaches, where observant opportunist scavengers pick it up and sell it to ambergris brokers. It can fetch prices as high as $50,000 per kilo

Perfumes with Sandalwood

Alluring, sinuous, sophisticated and worldly, sandalwood perfumes evoke mystique and romance. No wonder they’re so popular. Here you find our list of recommended perfumes with sandalwood.

Perfumes with sandalwood

Perfumes with sandalwood and vanilla

  • Aerin Tangier Vanille, Estee Lauder
  • Vanilla Sandalwood, Edens Garden
  • Dior Addict, Christian Dior
  • Hypnotic Poison, Christian Dior
  • Manifesto, Yves St. Laurent
  • Tainted Love, Tokyomilk

Perfumes with sandalwood and patchouli

  • No. 19 Sandalwood and Patchouli, Rituals
  • Vanille Patchouli, Molinard
  • Richwood, Xerjoff (sandalwood and patchouli dry down)
  • Eau Sauvage, Christian Dior
  • Patchouli, Reminiscence Paris

Perfumes with sandalwood and bergamot notes

  • Bergamot Eau de Parfum, Malin & Goetz
  • Venetian Bergamot, Tom Ford
  • Orange and Bergamot, Molton Brown
  • Dries Van Noten, Frederic Malle
  • Bergamot and Sandalwood, Notebook
  • Santal, Floris

Perfumes with sandalwood and musk

  • Kayali Musk, Huda Beauty
  • Cool Water, Davidoff
  • Milky Musk 39, Parle Moi de Parfum
  • Lyric for Men, Amouage
  • Musk al Madinah Al-Rehab, Crown

Perfumes with vanilla, sandalwood and musk

  • Dalal Al-Rehab, Crown
  • Emporio Armani Lei, Giorgio Armani
  • Smart, Andrea Maack

Perfumes with jasmine, lavender, sandalwood and musk

  • No. 6 Jasmine, Sandalwood & Oriental Musk, Rosendo Mateu
  • Vanderbilt, Gloria Vanderbilt
  • Lavender and Sandalwood, Bath and Body Works
  • Oscar, Oscar de la Renta
  • Tova Signature, Tova Beverly Hills

Frequently Asked Questions about Sandalwood

Which sandalwood powder is best?

White Indian sandal powder, called chandan, is generally regarded as the finest complexion powder available.

Which sandalwood is best, white or red?

Both types offer similar benefits for health and for skin care, but the red variety of sandalwood is not aromatic and will not provide the distinctive scent of white Indian sandalwood.

How is sandalwood powder made?

This fine, soft powder is made by rubbing either white or red sandalwood against a moistened marble or granite stone. It’s an expensive product and cheaper to make at home. Just use a plain marble stone, moisten it with a few drops of water and keep rubbing the sandalwood against the dampened stone. You will get sandalwood paste. Air dry and then sift the dried paste to get the sandalwood powder finished product.

How to pronounce sandalwood?

Sandalwood is pronounced phonetically, with the accent on the first syllable: SAN/duhl/wud.

Is sandalwood oil safe for dogs?

Pure, natural sandalwood essential oil is safe for dogs and cats as long as it’s applied in extremely diluted form, no more than 1 drop of sandalwood oil to 100 to 200 drops of product, such as pet shampoo, or carrier oil. There are approximately 100 drops in a teaspoon and 600 drops in an ounce, so the correct dilution ratio can be calculated from those figures. Never apply undiluted oil to a dog or cat. Pets may also be sensitive to any essential oils used in diffusers or as incense. Place these items in rooms not accessible to them.

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