Exploring Sandalwood after a period of anosmie

Sandalwood oil is a very precious material in perfumery because of its rich odour and good tenacity. Unfortunately it was not easy for me to explore it as I am (or better say was) partially anosmic to it. When I smelled it for the first time for about three years ago I could only smell a faint easily disappearing woody odour. The Virginian cedarwood oil with its distinguished woody character seemed to be a much better aromatic product to me. I couldn’t understand why do people appreciate Sandalwood… But fortunately, anosmia can be reduced or even disappear when you are training your nose and work with aromatic substances. So, today I could explore much more nuances of Sandalwood oil. But first of all – some theory:

The term sandalwood oil refers mostly to an oil, produced by a steam distillation of Santalum Album wood snips. It’s so-called White Sandalwood or East-Indian Sandalwood. It has a very rich odour combining the woody nuances with sweet creamy and animalic notes. The demand for this oil exceeds the supply that results in constantly growing prizes and frequent falsification. The massive (and often illegal) cutting of Sandalwoods also takes place making the whole situation even worse. The highest quality Sandalwood oil is produced in Mysore region of Southern India. Sandalwood oil contains up to 90% of Santalol – the majour constituent responsible for its smell.

There is also Australian Sandalwood oil produced by a steam distillation of Santalum Spicatum from Southwest Australia. This oil also contains a high amount of Santalol. And by dry down the smell of Australian Sandalwood approaches the smell of East-Indian Sandalwood. But it has a different dry-bitter top note contrary to a sweet top note of East-Indian Sandalwood oil. Australian sandalwood has different Latin names – Eucaria Spicata, Fusanus spicatum, Santalum cygnorum. Very confusing, because sometimes you find information that they are not the synonyms of the same species, but different trees.

Amyris oil is often confused with Australian Sandalwood and is called West-Indian Sandalwood. It’s produced from steam distillation of Amyris Balsamifera – a tree belonging to a different genus (Amyris) belonging to Rue family (Rutaceae) – a completely different family that doesn’t have anything common with Sandalwood. The oil has a balsamic-woody smell.

Red Sandalwood is the name of Pterocarpus santalinus tree that doesn’t produce any essential oil, but can be used as a dye, for example for food colouring. Only fresh Red Sandalwood is supposed to have a woody odour according to perfumery books. I have a woody smelling powder of Red Sandalwood for making incense and very curious what it might be – a pure Red Sandalwood (but it doesn’t supposed to smell woody when dried)? A mix of Red and White Sandalwood? A mix of Red Sandalwood and Virginian Cedar?

I used a 10% alcohol solution of East-Indian Sandalwood (or sold as it :o) on my wrists and found the following nuances:

Directly after apply I could smell a sweet, slightly turpentine-like odour with a woody undertone that reminded me a bit of Cedarwood. It was more turpentine-like than Virginial Cedar and more woody than Atlas Cedar. The first notes were a bit unpleasant, but they easily blended and found balance on my skin within the first minutes revealing a rich, deep and warm woody aroma. There was also a musky animalic note in it that reminded me a bit of Cumin. I was surprised when I couldn’t find the creamy aspect… but it came later in form of fullness and non-sweet oily creaminess. Although it was much less than I expected. All together it smelled like a skin of Eastern princess warmed by the sun, creamy and silky.

The unpleasant turpentine-like first note and the lack of creaminess made me think that I have a sample of Australian Sandalwood oil sold as East-Indian… The same turpentine like note I could smell in Yatra perfume by Aveda. And they used Australian Sandalwood (although Yatra was much more creamy because they added some Vanilla).

So, I am very glad, that I can smell and distinguish more nuances of Sandalwood oil now. Although… I still barely recognize (and sometimes don’t smell at all) some of Sandalwood aromachemicals… Well – probably it comes with more experience.

8 opmerkingen:

Andy zei

oh wow. an anosmie towards sandalwood. Amazing. And what a pity. I love the flowery aspect that you find in real Mysore sandalwood. It is such a delight!
A matter of curiosity: Can you smell sandalore or other synthetic single sandalwood substituting molecules?
All the best!

AromaX zei

Well, Andy. It looks that it's getting over. I can smell much more nuances now in Sandalwood itself.

Sandalore and Sandela - I couldn't smell them from the bottle - like smelling nothing... But it's different now - I can smell the warm sweet creamy Sandalore and a bit sour Sandela. And Ebanol as well... And I am so glad i can really smell them now :o)

There should be still one aromachemical I can't smell, but I don't remember which one...

Andy zei

Hmmm let's see.... musks?isosuperE, ambroxan, ... good to hear that you can smell Sandalore. This is one of my favorite molecules to work with . So complex and rich. But of course never as good as the real thing. Have a lovely evening.

joxer96 zei

AromaX, what technique have you used to overcome the partial anosmia? I was having a difficult time smelling Benzyl Salicylate and Hedione. I obtained good results by putting one drop of a 10% solution on a smelling strip, and smelling a few times throughout the day. Suddenly I was able to smell both ingredients. Very interesting, no?

AromaX zei

Dear Andy, it was one of Sandalwood component - either a base or a single raw material - can't remember as I don't own it. Musks, Ambroxan - another tough chemicals... But it's getting all better.
And Sandalore is a real treasure, indeed. :o)

AromaX zei

Dear joxer96,
As I started to explore perfumery something like a year ago, I didn't use any special technique - just conscious and analytical smelling of different raw materials to train my nose to distinguish nuances (and I think to make it more sensitive in general). And come back to difficult materials again and again and try to use them even if I couldn't smell them :o)

Benzyl salicylate - yeah - it's another "faint and fading till disappear" one. Indeed amazing as I can smell it pretty good now. And before it was a kind of "hide and seek" game. I guess your more intensive method is working too :o)

joxer96 zei

I guess it really is just a matter of, as they say, getting your hands (nose?) dirty, and smelling the materials over and over again.

Keep up the great work, love your blog! : )

AromaX zei

Indeed, joxer96, it is - or as a famous Dutch proverb says - you learn by DOING things. :o)

Thanks for your compliments. It's always pretty to know people are reading what you write :o)