|Pieces of good quality sandalwood|
Another of the classic ingredients of perfumery that has been in use for centuries, sandalwood is a fragrance that will be familiar to most people. What may be less familiar is the fact that the most famous form of sandalwood - from Mysore in India is now very rare and expensive because unsustainable harvesting has decimated the trees. The sandalwood that grows in India is Santalum album - also called East Indian or White Sandalwood.
There are several other species of tree from which a form of sandalwood oil can be extracted, most of which produce oils which are in various ways inferior compared to the best Santalum album can produce. This is obviously bad news for perfume and perfumery. There is some good news though in the form of what is sometimes called Australian Sandalwood, from Santalum spicatum - not as good as Mysore - but cheaper and more sustainably produced. What I’ve chosen to use though is from Santalum austrocaledonicum: the product produced in Vanuatu which is both very good and completely sustainable, if perhaps still not quite as good as the best Mysore, it is probably better than most Santalum album oil now on the market.
For those who may not know Vanuatu is a small country in the South Pacific, recognised by the UN as an independent nation in 1980 when the joint administration of Britain and France came to an end. Among a few other major commercial interests they have a government controlled Sandalwood industry based on sustainable farming practices, mainly growing (and at the moment only producing) oil from Santalum austrocaledonicum. It’s very good stuff - if you get it from a good source it’s high in the alpha and beta santalols that are essential for that distinctive sandalwood scent and for those who worry about these things free from the moral difficulty of using a product derived from an endangered species and produced in unsustainable ways. There are projects underway to begin production of oil from Santalum album in Vanuatu too but that is still some way off as the trees don’t reach oil producing age for about 30 years.
Vanuatu is the source of the sandalwood oil used in many of my fragrances.