Sandalwood

Ten years ago, I had a midlife crisis and bought a powerful motorcycle. Instead of slowly building my skills and becoming comfortable with the machine, I’d ride the bike on the FDR drive, the highway that runs along the east side of Manhattan. As I clenched the handlebars desperately, at the average speed of about 80 mph, drivers constantly weaved between lanes. The road had plenty of cracks and pot holes. After 6 months of terror, I gave the bike up.

I took the same bold approach when it came to perfumery. Within a month of beginning my passion, I set out to create an artificial sandalwood, unaware that this has been the quest of perfumers for at least a century.

Most sandalwood calls itself “Mysore,” the city in India that is (or was) the source of the best quality. It came from wild trees, of which now there are few, if any, left.

I have 20 different samples from around the world and only one smells like genuine Mysore, with a subtle, almost medicinal complexity, that runs through it. I would be happy to duplicate any sandalwood, provided it comes from santalum alba, versus the less-charming Australian species, santalum spicitus. Recreating the exact aroma of Mysore sandalwood has never, as far as I know, been done.

BPC's Sandalwood is made bold with vetiver and frankincense. In addition to acting as fixatives, these rest over a sandalwood-like substructure and allow the aroma of the wood to emerge as the perfume dries down. This substructure is frightfully complicated, but it provides an authentic sandalwood note because it contains a fair amount of the real stuff. It also contains santalol, a distillate made from sandalwood itself, but more assertive.

Of all my perfumes, only Sandalwood lacks aphrodisiacal funk. It is clean and robust and starts or ends the day with a note of bold freshness. It lasts long on the skin. It draws commentary, especially when one is kissed on both cheeks, à la française

“What is it you’re wearing?”