Sandalwood smells like an aromatic exotic spice with warm wood undertones. The scent is sweet and creamy not astringent like other spices. It has balsamic hints which means it’s more fragrant than almost all other woody scents.
Sandalwood is one of the woody smells with the least amount of wood undertone. It smells like warm spices from the Orient. It smells balsamic but creamy at the same time. This means it can be smelt for a long time without having an astringent scent undertone.
Santalum Album is the original East Indian tree where sandalwood originates from. Sandalwood’s scent is derived from the Santalum tree bark. The tree originates in India. It has later been adopted by countries in the region including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Certain types of Santalum also grow in exotic Australian and Hawaiian climates.
What is Sandalwood
The tree bark of the Santalum Album goes through a distillation process and is turned into sandalwood essential oil. This fragrant oil is used as a base longevity-giving ingredient in perfumery, aromatherapy, or as a food spice.
Sandalwood is a masculine scent on its own but it can be turned feminine when mixed with other ingredients. As its rarely used on its own in fragrances, sandalwood tends to blend well with other aromatic fragrances and floral scents which, in turn, get a longer-lasting smell when mixed with this Indian aromatic wood.
What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?
Sandalwood smells aromatic, sweet, and oriental. It features woody undertones which make it smell a bit earthy. It has a spicy quality to its smell. The scent is calming and warm, having an inviting overall fragrant profile.
The smell of sandalwood can be broken down into multiple categories. One of the most intriguing characteristics of this scent is that it smells less woody than many expect a smell that is derived from tree bark to smell.
Sandalwood smells exotic
Sandalwood first smells exotic. Its exotic fragrant nature comes from East Indies where the Stantalum tree it’s made from originates. The smell is often categorized as exotic by Western standards. It’s often placed in the same category with frankincense and myrrh both for its exotic scent and for its use in religious rites. Sandalwood oil, sandalwood shavings, and sandalwood cologne have been used in Hindu rituals as well as in neighboring Buddist religious services.
Sandalwood smells sweet
One of the distinct characteristics of sandalwood is that it smells sweet. It’s almost as sweet as vanilla which means it’s highly inviting and not off-putting to people smelling it. As everybody loves sweet scents sandalwood is part of a group of scents that are pleasant in various uses such as in fragrances.
Sandalwood smells aromatic
The aromatic nature of sandalwood is rather complex. Its aroma can differ depending on the sandalwood it comes from or from the area it comes from. Indian sandalwood is impacted by the warm humid climates the Santalum tree grows in while Australian sandalwood is impacted by high heat tree growth.
Sandalwood smells spicy
There’s a spicy nature to sandalwood which makes it an ideal smell for winter. It smells best in cold weather where its scent lingers on longer than almost any other scent. It also smells very good in high heat, but without a cooling effect of other spicy oriental scents such as incense.
The spicy nature of sandalwood is quite distinct. Many spices are invigorating. But since sandalwood is sweeter and warmer first, it’s rarely as invigorating as other spicy scents such as bergamot. Sandalwood is spicy but inviting at the same time.
Sandalwood smells warm
Sandalwood smells warm, mainly due to its sweetness. This warm aroma is what makes this oriental scent smell inviting when used in perfumery or when used in candles that make the home smell good. Its warm scent has been used in a wide range of beauty products for an inviting skin scent as well.
Sandalwood slightly woody
Sandalwood only slightly smells woody. It’s not as woody as other scents that come from trees or tree bark. Still, the woody nature is there as an undertone. The wood aroma is complex even if faded. It takes at least 15 years for Santalum Album to mature and to become right for sandalwood oil creation. This means the woody aroma impregnates the shavings thoroughly, but it can often be completely overlooked by the untrained nose.
Sandalwood scent is calming
Sandalwood smells calming and not invigorating. It’s often used in drinks such as tea for its calming effect. The relaxing nature of sandalwood is what separates it from other oriental or exotic scents.
Sandalwood scent is long-lasting
The last characteristic of sandalwood scent is that it lasts long. Like almost all classic oriental scents, sandalwood’s scent projects thoroughly and it lasts a long time. It can linger on the skin for more than a day when applied as a fragrance. While not Middle Eastern, sandalwood lasts as long or even longer than some of the longest-lasting smells in the world.
The smell of sandalwood is long lingering and it’s used as a base note in perfumes for men and women. Its scent is unique and it is categorized within the floral oriental fragrances.
When you first hear that sandalwood (made from Santal) is woodsy, you might expect something similar to cedar in smell. But your nose perceives sandalwood as a spice which is why you might not even consider it woodsy at all.
The warm effect of its smell is something you might be familiar with from your wintertime café lattes. But sandalwood is a base note in perfumes as it adds longevity and vivacity to most compositions.
Types of Sandalwood
Not all sandalwood is fragrant. However, there are more than 19 types of known sandalwood, most of which are aromatic.
- Indian Sandalwood
Santalum Album also known as the Indian Sandalwood is the original sandalwood tree the sandalwood essential oil is made from. This is one of the most expensive types of sandalwood as it’s very hard to find. It can cost thousands of dollars per gallon which makes it one of the most expensive types of sandalwood in the world.
This sandalwood tree is protected in India. However, the tree is often subject to illegal cutting which makes it a threatened species. Sandalwood plantations in India are often based on Santalum Album for their high economic development value. Santalum Album or Indian sandalwood is also grown in Western Australia.
- Australian Sandalwood
Santalum Spictaum is a type of Western Australian sandalwood still grown today. It was once the main export of the area and the wood was heading to Europe where it was used to create the sandalwood scent mainly used in perfumes. While the production of the tree has decreased, it’s still estimated to be in its thousands per year.
- Hawaiian Sandalwood
Hawaiian Sandalwood is also considered of high quality for its smell. This type of sandalwood has ceased exploitation a few decades ago. It’s rarely found today as the trees were cut down a long time ago. The scent of Hawaiian sandalwood can be chemically recreated, as with most types of sandalwood.
The Benefits of Sandalwood
There is a wide range of sandalwood benefits from perfumery to shaving products. Sandalwood smells good and is used in perfumes. It’s also a popular antiseptic used in shaving products or a skin conditioner used in body creams.
Sandalwood is a fragrant note in perfumes
The unique smell of sandalwood firsts recommends it for use in perfumery. Sandalwood notes are among the most important when it comes to long-lasting perfumes, wintertime perfumes, and colognes that last well in the high summer heat.
You can find sandalwood in almost all oriental-inspired perfumes. The note mixes well with florals as well as with sweet notes to create memorable fragrances.
Sandalwood relaxes the mind
As mentioned above, the smell of sandalwood is relaxing. There are other spicy notes in perfumery and cosmetics such as bergamot which tend to be revitalizing rather than relaxing. The warm nature of the Santal tree is what makes the sandalwood smell so relaxing.
Sandalwood is a good antiseptic
Antiseptic qualities have been tied to sandalwood. These are important when it comes to fighting bacteria and they can be a very good addition to just about any shaving cream. Natural sandalwood oil is an antiseptic with a similar action to witch hazel, albeit of lesser intensity.
Key combinations for the sandalwood scent
As a default, woodsy notes tend to mix well with a large number of other accords. However, not all perfumes made with sandalwood are successful.
Slightly bitter and slightly floral, orange blossom is enriched by sandalwood. You can find these perfumes in many Arabic perfumes for the summer.
The delicate floral note of jasmine sits well on sandalwood which offers a bit more power to a mild note.
Gardenia mixes well with other fragrance notes but sandalwood with its spicy scent brings an oriental vibe to the delicate flower.
Tuberose might be expensive, but it mixes with sandalwood and other white florals to create complex perfumes for women.
Bergamot is already a bit spicy and bitter on its own. Sandalwood can be used to give it a piercing profile.
The sweetness of vanilla is often mixed with sandalwood to create a chai latte-like smell.
Sandalwood vs Cedarwood – What’s the Difference?
Often confused, sandalwood and cedarwood are different types of woods with different smells. Both are used in perfumery but sandalwood smells oriental while cedarwood smells woody.
Sandalwood is derived mainly from the Santalum Album tree found in India and Australia. Cedar comes from the Cedrus tree found in high-altitude terrains around the world. These trees can sometimes grow in the same natural habitat, but they look and smell differently.
Sandalwood smells exotic, aromatic, and warm. Cedarwood smells woody and a bit musky, not spicy or exotic.
Sandalwood vs Agarwood – What’s the difference?
Both sandalwood and agarwood have exotic scents. Sandalwood is warm, spicy, and aromatic. Agarwood is aromatic, woody, and can sometimes be off-putting if too intense.
Sandalwood comes from the Santal tree. Agarwood is an aromatic gum resin formed by infecting the tree of aquaria with Phialophora parasitic mold.
Sandalwood is sweet, aromatic, balsamic, and oriental. Agarwood smells ambery, oriental, woody, and mildly floral.
Sandalwood vs Hawaiian Sandalwood
Both Indian sandalwood and Hawaiian Sandalwood have similar aromas. Indian sandalwood is considered superior while Hawaiian sandalwood is still considered of high quality for its aromatic scent. Both are used in perfumery and cosmetics.
Indian sandalwood is protected by law for its important economic role in the country. It’s the original sandalwood that is also grown on a commercial scale in Western Australia.
The scent of the Indian sandalwood is considered a bit more intense, while still warm and highly similar to the scent of Hawaiian sandalwood. Most types of Hawaiian sandalwood are completely gone today as the trees have been cut down a few decades ago.
Where does sandalwood come from?
Most people believe sandalwood from India to be the most aromatic. You can still find good alternatives in Indonesia and Nepal. In the fragrance world, synthetic chemical sandalwood is largely used as a substitute.
Where to buy the best-smelling sandalwood?
You can buy sandalwood as raw santal wood or you can purchase sandalwood essential oils.
- East Indian Sandalwood Essential Oil
- Australian Sandalwood Essential Oil
- Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood Essential Oil
- New Caledonian Sandalwood Essential Oil
- African Sandalwood Essential Oil
- Sandalwood chemical composition
You can buy sandalwood from authentic Indian sources online. Alternatively, you can buy it from resellers as long as it meets the chemical standards listed below.
Sandalwood chemical composition
Sandalwood is mainly made from 90% sesquiterpene alcohols with 50-60% is the tricyclic α-santalol (the compound has to have a minimum 41% concentration in the best essential oils), and β-Santalol.
These figures vary depending on the country of origin as well as on the time of harvest.
Is sandalwood an attractive smell?
Sandalwood is one of the most attractive smells men can wear. Women like sandalwood colognes on men as it makes them smell boldly oriental and luxurious. Sandalwood is an expensive note which is often used in the most expensive perfumes in the world.
What does sandalwood fragrance smell like?
A pure sandalwood fragrance smells woody aromatic and oriental. Sandalwood fragrances mixed with other ingredients mainly smell warm and inviting with the sandalwood note becoming more prominent in the dry down or a few minutes/hours after perfume application.
Is sandalwood a feminine scent?
Sandalwood is considered a masculine scent when worn on its own as an essential oil. It can be a feminine scent when mixed with other feminine-specific smells such as florals, sweet notes, and fresh notes in perfumes.
Example perfumes that smell like sandalwood
You can find thousands of sandalwood colognes to enjoy the aromatic wood smell every day. Here are 2 notable options.
- Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule for men and women
The oriental woody fragrance features cacao, Damask rose, and sandalwood notes. Resinous and creamy sandalwood smells are often described when reviewing this perfume.
With 10/10 versatility, you can wear this perfume to any occasion. As with most sandalwood perfumes, you can smell it on your skin for up to 10 hours.
- Nirvana Black Elizabeth and James for men
Woody, dark, and masculine, this best sandalwood cologne comes with vanilla, santal, and violet notes. The sandalwood here is very dry and woodsy which is what turns it a bit towards the masculine side of perfumes even if there are plenty of women wearing it. Rich and dark, it’s the best sandalwood-heavy intoxicating powdery fragrance you can buy cheaply.