Sandalwood II: Faking It

Early in my perfumery studies, I set out to replicate sandalwood, not realizing that perfumers had been at it for centuries. Sandalwood oil is virtually impossible to replicate. Because few people have smelled the authentic distillate, much less the legendary oil from Mysore India, many sweet, chemical fakes are sold as the real thing. Now that the authentic oil has gotten so expensive, the effort to make a viable copy has intensified. 

While years ago, I was working with exciting combinations of immortelle absolute and green vetiver, I’ve since gotten more sophisticated. Having spent a small fortune on compounds and naturals, I now have hundreds of ingredients and yet still struggle to make an accurate sandalwood. But, while I probably will never be satisfied, I have finally composed a replica that pleases me. At least for the moment.

Now, we get heavily into synthetics.

 The experiment began with mysantol—woody and resin-like, soft and accessible, unlike some sandalwood chemicals that quickly tire the nose. Mysantol has a delightful green note, like that of the natural wood, but the note dissipates quickly, revealing the mysantol’s long-lasting underpinnings.

I added an extravagant amount of santalol. Santalol is distilled from the actual sandalwood heartwood, but is composed of a different arrangement of isomers than the classic oil. It is more expensive than even some sandalwoods, but less is required for an equal effect.

I’ve got to smell sandela the first thing in the morning—it must be well diluted—before it makes my nose go blank and I can’t smell anymore. It’s somewhat sweet, with traces of ambergris, while being slightly floral, soapy, and a little spicy (cumin?). I added it, not only for its fragrance, but because it is a long-lasting fixative. 

Mysore wood, a synthetic not to be confused with “Mysore sandalwood,” has a distinct creamy component that recalls the same milky facets found in real sandalwood. In it went...

There is more than a bit about sandalwood yet to come.