What does sandalwood smell like?

Like some of the best fragrances, sandalwood is the kind of scent that everybody recognizes, but can’t quite put their fingers on.

The warm, creamy, and exotic scent is a staple in colognes and candles and is known as one of the most expensive woods in the world.

But what does sandalwood smell like?

What is sandalwood?

Sandalwood isn’t only the wood from one plant, believe it or not, it’s a name given to a group of trees. Sandalwood is found in the core of the trees, in a part called the ‘heartwood’, and has been used since ancient times in religious practices and ceremonies. 

There are around ten different species, which range from reasonable and common to incredibly expensive and rare enough to be worth their weight in gold. Each oil-producing tree has a slightly different fragrance, which blends with other scents to create fragrances that shift from calm and relaxing diffusions to deep and sexy colognes, to find the perfect atmosphere for every situation. But not all of these trees are farmed for their fragrance, instead, one of the rarest and most expensive types has no scent at all!

What does sandalwood smell like?

The usual way of getting that warm fragrance into sandalwood colognes, perfumes, and skin care products is by extracting sandalwood oil. We do this by steam distilling the root or wood, this makes a honey-coloured oil which can then be sent to shelves or manufacturers. As you can guess, different types of sandalwood have slightly different smells, but what do they smell like?

White Sandalwood

White Sandalwood, also called Indian Sandalwood or True Sandalwood, is a famous member of the sandalwood family. These trees take over thirty years to fully mature and can live for up to a century. White Sandalwood trees have distinctive thin leaves that grow in pairs from the branches, one opposite the other, and get their name from their white or pale green heartwood. Heartwood is the wood closest to the core of the tree, and in this case, is where the most oil is hidden.

White Sandalwood has a sexy, sweet and buttery scent which has captivated humans for hundreds of years, but that very scent has caused a drop in tree numbers. Now, authorities carefully monitor the growth and conservation of the tree to make sure the next bunch of humans can enjoy its scent too.

Red Sandalwood

As you can guess, the Red Sandalwood tree gets its name from its reddish wood, which is exceptional both because of its amazing color and because it’s incredibly dense. It’s a little smaller than the White Sandalwood tree, standing at between five and eight meters, and needs a lot of sunlight in a warm climate to be happiest. Being used to warm weather, it loses its leaves in the winter and can be killed by a bad frost. 

Unlike the White Sandalwood tree, the Red Sandalwood doesn’t have the same fragrant heartwood, instead, it’s loved for its color, therapeutic uses, and place in the cosmetic industry.

Although it's not the most fragrant of woods, there are very few Red Sandalwood trees left in the wild, simply because their wood is so valuable. Just growing the plant in India was enough to get you a hefty prison sentence or fine before 2002!

Australian Sandalwood

The outback sibling in the sandalwood family is Australian Sandalwood, and like White Sandalwood, it has that deep, musky smell that makes sandalwood so desirable. As you’d guess, this tree is from Australia and is typically found in the hotter, dryer southwestern regions. This sandalwood is yellow, dense, and has a fine grain, and like the Red Sandalwood variety, it keeps its scent for decades. 

The different chemical makeup of Australian Sandalwood sap means it typically has a more woody smell than Indian Sandalwood, with less of a buttery undertone. It’s a rugged, mysterious scent that transports you to the middle of an endless redwood forest in July, and for a fraction of the cost of White Sandalwood. 

Pacific Sandalwood

Found in the forests of New Caledonia, Pacific Sandalwood is the closest to White Sandalwood if we’re talking scent. Like its more expensive counterpart, Pacific Sandalwood has that distinctive, warm, buttery scent, but is spicier, and far more subtle to begin with. White Sandalwood is a powerful, impossible-to-ignore scent that takes center stage in every variation of its use. Pacific Sandalwood, however, is initially more subtle and builds to match the same scent-intensity as White Sandalwood.

When thinking about availability, reduced environmental impact, and cost, it makes sense for Pacific Sandalwood to be the go-to choice for use in natural cosmetics, skincare, and aromatherapy. Plus, it just feels better to use an oil which doesn’t risk our environment.

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Other sandalwood scents

The over-farming of Indian sandalwood has driven sandalwood essential oil prices sky-high and forced the government to strictly monitor sandalwood exports, which created a huge demand. People always want what they can’t have (or at least, what is worth a whole lot of dough). 

One way perfumers protect the resource is by using Australian or Pacific sandalwood oil, but another way of getting that comforting, woody scent is by using turpentine. Turpentine is a natural material from pine trees, which is extracted in the same way sandalwood oil is, by steam distillation extraction (fancy!). When processed, fragrances from Turpentine can smell incredibly similar to sandalwood, with the same sexy, woody scent. 

One standout example of a sandalwood synthetic is Sandaxol, or Sandal Mysore Core, which is incredibly similar to sandalwood. It's similar enough to the genuine fragrance that it can even be used to give highlights to the natural oil itself. Coming from turpentine, Sandaxol is similar but far cheaper than the real deal.

They’re not an exact match and don’t last as long, but are a good mimicry for off-the-shelf products that want that classic sandalwood aura.

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Why is sandalwood so popular?

It's pretty simple - our ancestors got it right! The smell of sandalwood can affect our overall well-being, and help bring clarity, which is why it's used in prayer, meditation and other religious practices. Studies even show sandalwood oil can help us tread that delicate line between mental focus and calm.

The bustle and hubbub of daily life can wear even the toughest of us down, and everyone feels anxious or stressed after a bad day. Sandalwood is commonly used in aromatherapy blends to help ease anxiety, stress and depression, and is a natural mood booster. So next time you feel like you’re chewing gravel, take a good whiff of sandalwood.

You’ll often find sandalwood extracts in high-quality toners and aftershaves because it helps tighten, soothe and cleanse the skin. Being an organic product, sandalwood is preferred by many as a natural leg-up to looking and feeling their best.

Ever wondered why sandalwood is such an attractive scent? If you’re planning on hitting the sack with a special lad or lady, a little sandalwood can help spice things up! Being a natural aphrodisiac, sandalwood can increase sexual desire, and libido and even kick impotence out of the tent. So, light a sandalwood candle or two next time you’re both in the mood to give the night an extra kick in the stirrups.

Is sandalwood a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ scent?

Typically, sandalwood is considered a more ‘masculine’ scent, but has been cropping up more in ‘feminine’ fragrances lately. The smooth, sexy scent is versatile and adaptable, so blends well in formulas aimed toward all genders. Sandalwood is often used as a base note for fragrances because of its ability to balance being long-lasting without being overpowering. 

To call sandalwood simply ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ would be too simple, instead, the important distinction is whether or not it suits the person wearing it. People like sandalwood for being sexy, free-spirited and timeless, and the impression wearing it makes on those around them. It suits those with a wild, adventurous spirit whose souls long to explore the wild deserts, regardless of whether they’re ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re on the right track.

What scents go well with sandalwood?

The list of scents that compliment sandalwood is as long as route 66, but there are a few combinations that we’ve decided are simply the best. We worked hard to find scents that call you back to the untamed, high desert, by mixing the sexiness of sandalwood with the great outdoors. Here at Outlaw, we love sandalwood so much that we decided it was the perfect fit with not just one, but two of our signature scents. 

The Cowboy’s essential: Blazing Saddles

If the smell of gunpowder and leather gets your heart racing, and sandalwood and sagebrush make you want to grab your barrel hat and take off into a wild west sunset, then our scent Blazing Saddles is for you! The American frontier is just waiting for you to take it by the reigns and gallop into the distance! Spritz yourself with our unisex Blazing Saddles cologne for a haze of the wild west that follows you around all day. If a deeper, headier scent is more your thing, switch it out for our Blazing Saddles solid cologne, or double-holster with the Blazing Saddles Shotgun Set: Spay and solid cologne duo.  

Looking to slide a sandalwood fragrance into your daily routine? Blazing Saddles comes as a natural body wash, natural lotion, and deodorant to make smelling great easier than ever. Want something even simpler? You can choose from our handsome Blazing Saddles handmade soap, or simple-is-best milled soap

Are you a human being with hair? Well, the Blazing Saddles Beard oil and Hair elixir is the soothing answer to any hair, facial or otherwise! 

But if you’re like us, and can’t choose, you don’t have to, we’ve thought of that! If you or another wild soul is hell-bent on a good lather, the Blazing Saddles Gift set takes the problem of choosing out of the equation. 

A Desert Romance: Lust in the Dust

Looking for an alluring, wild scent that reeks of wanderlust and a romance in the high desert? Lust in the Dust is for you! A warm, sexy fragrance that makes you want to shuck your travelling leathers and get cozy around a campfire, Lust in the Dust is the perfect scent to transport you deep into a western romance. 

Surround yourself with suds of sexy sandalwood, sagebrush and a hint of campfire with Outlaw’s Lust in the Dust Natural Bodywash or handmade soap. Afterwards, we’ve got you covered with our Natural lotion and unisex Beard Oil and Hair elixir -  the desert may be dry but you don’t have to be!

Outlaw’s Outtake

Sandalwood is an ancient, cultured product that creates warm, bold and sexy scents that are simultaneously calm and comforting. We think it's just the best, but don’t believe us, let our reviews have the last word!

Start your Desert Romance with Lust in the Dust