Sandalwood, and the fakes we love.

Sandalwood & it’s synthetic friends.

I recently received a bad review on a single note sandalwood extraction. I’ve had my share of rude or bad reviews, and I don’t become upset when someone dislikes my craft – the diversity of our needs and experiences is amazing. Conceptually, it’s such a fantastic thing that people have an immense diversity of tastes.

But when you insult sandalwood and say it doesn’t smell right… we’ll, we have to have a chat.

First off, let me lament how difficult it is to write to someone that they don’t know what they’re talking about without sounding like a jerk. It’s really hard!

Second, let me address how sad it is that so few of us have a relationship with plants’ true scent. For example, most rose out there is a synthetic rose fragrance – and it’s so common in our products that the smell of synthetic rose smells more genuine than natural rose to the majority of people out there. It’s true; you can conduct this scent test with unsuspecting friends at home.

I started seeing this trend about 6 years ago when a friend told me she purchased this amazing pure sandalwood-rose oil perfume from Bali and how it’s so much better than synthetic! She said that she didn’t understand why commercial scents were so used when the beautify of nature could be felt in this perfect blend of sandalwood and rose essential oil. She also mentioned the surprisingly low price.

Oh darling, what you have is synthetic. And that’s OK.

Around the world, we pay the same amount for sandalwood and rose oils; natural oil prices do not fluctuate simply because the average wage is a country is higher or lower. Pure natural oils are costly all over the world. You cannot buy pure sandalwood-rose for only a few dollars. Yes, you may have a dilution, but even that is unlikely to cost so little.

Also, sandalwood-rose is actually a challenging blend to accomplish well. Rose is a cold scent, and it tends to sink inside sandalwood rather than see its sweetness or green notes enhanced by the warm wood. You have to add additional modifiers to bring out the different notes in the blend. Though the synthetic version of the two does smell rather delightful with very little modification!

The bigger point is this; most folks are too accustomed to the fake scent even to find the natural one pleasant anymore. I used to be one of these people, and I remember how the transition felt; how smelling sandalwood for the first time was so disappointing. Until, of course, my nose developed, and now the synthetic smells like the wrong one.

I want to clarify that there is no judgment here; it’s ok to have an inverse relationship to scents – preference is just that, and it isn’t right or wrong. But saying something is natural when it is synthetic, or thinking real sandalwood is the fake gets my goat.

Sandalwood has not been accurately produced as a synthetic, so there’s no mistake between the real and synthetic Ebanol or Javanol, which is used in its stead. Rose, however, is fairly close in its synthetic form, but still, it doesn’t have the same nuance.

So I received a two-star review, not because the scent was unpleasant, but because the person didn’t feel like it matched their expectations for the natural scent. How is that not the funniest thing of the day? I love it! It amused me for a while.

Sandalwood is both creamy and sour; it is a wood-like scent and has a yogurt-like tinge to the notes. It makes other aromas very creamy and blends into the background when combined, but on its own, it can come off as sharp and lightly acidic – terpenic and herbal, camphorous, even. For my honeymoon, we stayed in a hotel in Cha-Am whose walls were built entirely out of sandalwood, and it was amazing- but to someone unfamiliar, they would have said the place smells of mold and wetness. They would have seen an old hotel that was no longer in its glory days and let the foundation go to ruins. To one familiar with the scent, the hotel was a palace of luxury, soaked in the expensive warm scent of sandalwood.

This is the part I can’t stop smiling about how our relationship to scent changes our perception so strongly.



Sweet, woody, milky, campherous, herbal, terpenic, balsamic.

Body & Heart

Terpenic notes can last for a long time. 

Dry Down



Fragrance becomes subtle and soft at the 8-hour mark.

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