What is Sandalwood?

Definition of the Perfume Ingredient Sandalwood

Sandalwood
Dinodia Photos / Getty Images

What exactly is the perfume ingredient sandalwood? In this article, we explain where this popular fragrance ingredient comes from, what it smells like and we share actual perfumes that contain sandalwood.

Sandalwood oil is used widely as a base note in modern perfumery and cosmetic production. The oil is highly valued for its deep, woody aroma. The oil is generally steam distilled from the heartwood and roots of the tree genus Santalum album, which can retain their distinctive fragrance for decades.

Due to its increasing rarity, sandalwood is among the most expensive perfume ingredients and is most commonly found in designer fragrances.

Where It's Found

The main source of true sandalwood oil, Santalum album, is an over-harvested, slow-growing protected species, and demand for it cannot be met. As a result, many species of plants within the genus Santalum (there are more than nineteen) are traded as "sandalwood". The Santalum tree is primarily grown in India but can be found in over 10 distinct regions of the world.

What it Smells Like

Sandalwood essential oil provides perfumes with a striking wood aroma. It has a sweet, fresh chypre odor, which is widely employed in the fragrance industry as a base note. It has excellent blending and harmonizing qualities and is valued as a fixative ingredient for other perfume ingredients.

Other Uses of Sandalwood

Sandalwood has been a part of the religious and spiritual traditions of India for centuries, where it is used as an aid to meditation and for calming and focusing the mind.

The wood is used to fashion representations of deities, and the essential oil is used as incense in temples or on personal altars, to anoint both deities and their worshippers.

In traditional medicine, sandalwood has been used for thousands of years as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, disinfectant, emollient, expectant, hypotensive, and sedative agent.

Sandalwood Fragrances to Try

Some fragrances for women starring sandalwood in their composition are Estee Lauder Pleasures Sandalwood Amber Splash, Chanel Bois des Iles, Boucheron Femme, Bond no.9 Chinatown, Dior Dolce Vita, Diptyque Tam Dao, 10 Corso Como, Etro Sandalo, Cacharel Loulou, Guerlain Mahora, and Guerlain Samsara.

Scents for men that strongly feature sandalwood include Histoires de Parfums 1725 Casanova, Aramis, Hermes Bel Ami, Etro Sandalo, Black Jeans by Versace, L'Artisan Parfumeur Santal, Bleu de Chanel, Chanel Egoiste, Creed Santal Imperial, Burberry for Men, Donna Karan Chaos, Comme des Garcons, Contradiction for Men by Calvin Klein, Dior Fahrenheit, Yves Saint Laurent Jazz, Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male, Comptoir Sud Pacifique Le Roi Santal, and Rochas Macassar.