Monday, December 17, 2012

My Top Ten Eleven Sandalwood Perfumes

Sandalwood as a perfume note seems to be everywhere. It's a common base note though cost and rarity nowadays often cause real gorgeous sandalwood to be replaced with other materials, synthetic or natural. The following list offers my very personal top ten sandalwood perfumes, focusing on fragrances where the note is dominant and not just supporting the structure.

  • Diptyque- Tam Dao. No surprises here, this is a sandalwood classic, creamy and soulful. 
  • 10 Corso Como. The other sandalwood classic. Suffered a worse reformulation than Tam Dao, so I cherish the small amount of vintage juice I have.
  • Serge Lutens- Santal Majuscule. An oriental woody good enough to eat.
  • Serge Lutens- Santal Blanc. Spice and booze adding a naughty layer to good old sandalwood.
  • Serge Lutens- Santal de Mysore. The cuminest of them all.
  • Kenzo- Jungle L'Elephant. Chai, spice and everything nice.
  • Guerlain-Samsara. Sandalwood and jasmine (vintage formulation). Perhaps the last of the truly great Guerlain perfumes.
  • Chanel- Bois des Iles. Cashmere sweaters and art deco.
  • MPG- Santal Noble. Dry and elegant. Probably the most masculine from this list.
  • Ava Luxe- No.23. Tam Dao's sweet little cousin. Uplifting and comforting.
  • Le Labo- Santal 33. A wild and tenacious  ride of sandalwood, leather and camphor. One of my biggest compliment-getters.
An honorable mention goes to Santal Massoia from Hermes, though I smell anything but sandalwood there, and Profumum Roma Santalum, because it smells like a million dollar.
Which sandalwood perfumes top your list?

Photo by Sumit Kumar (on Flickr): Sandalwood figurines at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna, near the city of Mysore


  1. I've realized that one of the things that draws me to vintage perfume is the real sandalwood. ~~nozknoz

  2. Vintage Egoiste and several from the Sonoma Scent Studio line -- including Jour Ensolleile, Champagne de Bois and Nostalgie.

  3. Sandalwood is one of my favorite essences in perfumery. My favorites are Samsara (I have a bottle of the vintage perfume). Samsara is easily my all-time favorite Guerlain. Al Aoud by L' Artisan, it's animalic sandalwood appeals to me. Safran Troublant, also by L' Artisan, with it's ethereal spicy/rose/sandalwood and Red Aoud, a deeper more velvety sandalwood with tons of rose. Honorable mention goes to Jour Ensoleille, very beautiful golden sandalwood.

  4. Santal de Mysore tops my list. Beautiful earthy and creamy once the spices are gone.

  5. Many so called sandalwood fragrances smell more cedar-y or amber-y to me.
    That's the case with one of my absolute favorite perfumes: bois des iles. And, like Elisa above, I love its mainstream cousin Egoiste. In the vintage version I own, the sandalwood is there!!!!

    ...I don't wish to love anything from the Tom Ford perfume line (prices and positioning bug me), but I have to admit that my favorite "sandalwood mostly" fragrance is his own Santal blush. I am draining my sample so quickly that I think I'll need the full bottle. Also my husband fell in love with this milky floral woody fragrance...

  6. Thank you for the top ten posts. I am newly falling in love with perfume and these are a great reference point. Happy holidays!

  7. Bois des îles vintage formulation is king in my heart (but also the new one in perfume concentration is not bad at all) followed by Santal Noble. Another sandalwood gem used to be Madame Rochas. Among the new ones I prefer Jeux de peau over Santal Majuscule because I like the toasted sandalwood creamyness. I still have to check Santal 33 but now you got me curious about that

  8. I love I Profumi di Firenze's Sandalo Misore. It's the opposite of the Lutens one, it's dry and herbaceous, not sweet. Very bracing.


  9. Caron's Montaigne is a favorite, and I find the sandalwood note very dominant.

  10. I enjoy La Via del Profumo's Sandalwood in addition to an unmarked vial of sandalwood oil a friend brought back from India.
    Thanks for your post for it reminded me of how long it has been since wearing these. I am going to put them in my rotation this week.

  11. I'm not really drawn to sandalwood perfumes, but I really enjoy wearing La Via del Profumo's sandalwood and an unmarked vial of sandalwood oil a friend brought back from India.
    Thanks for this post for it reminded me that it has been a long time since wearing these two. I'm putting them in this week's perfume rotation.

  12. Most of my favorites feature sandalwood: Vol de Nuit, Bois des Iles, Samsara, Shaal Nur, Barbara Bui, SSS woodier creations. Lately, I've been enjoying wrist dabs of Caswell-Massey 10% Mysore sandalwood oil. When I put my nose close to my wrist, I can't really smell it, but it wafts around me & is low-key and lovely.

  13. I have an unrequited love of sandalwood. Instead of caressing me in it's milky embrace, it pushes me away with screechy sour notes that leap off my skin. 10 Corso Como bellows Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" any time I deign to try it (just one more time).

    However, SL Santal Majuscule is so beautifully balanced with other notes, I can truly enjoy the luscious blanket that envelopes me. Barbara Bui also works beautifully.

  14. None of these unfortunately. The closed smell to Sandalwood I get is in Nassamoto Black Afgano and I get it a lot in that.
    After trying various sandalwood fragrances, I have made my own and that feels very good. I have used the following -
    cedarwood, neroli
    rose abs, cinnamon
    sandalwood, vetiver, nagarmotha, frankincense

  15. Tom Ford: Santal Blush! Such an inexpensive perfume.....

  16. An excellent list!
    As a lifelong sandalwood fanatic myself, I have been fortunate to try almost all of them - with the exception of the Ava Luxe one.
    Here are some more of my favourite sandalwood fragrances:
    Le Roi Santal by Comptoir Sud is a beautiful sandalwood, and one of my favourites, as it captures that classic Santalum Album scent profile perfectly, although longevity is very poor and it would be perfect as an EDP.
    Then of course there's Floris Santal leading the field of traditional men's sandalwood colognes, with Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood and George Trumper Sandalwood in a tie for second, followed by Taylor's.
    Original Santal by Creed deserves an honourable mention, although the tonka bean note mutes the sandalwood somewhat.
    Another Creed worth mentioning is Santal Imperial, the Eau de Toilette created for Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria-Hungary, which features a sublime sandalwood, introduced by Creed's signature Citrus opening. Spillage and longevity are very poor, but the ingredients are undoubtedly of the highest quality.
    Creed Himalaya also features a very beautiful White Sandalwood.
    And of the Italian perfumers, Lorenzo Villoresi Sandalo is an absolute masterpiece and probably my all-time favourite.
    Byblos Sandalo and Sandalo per Teti are also both excellent in their own right, and although originally marketed to women, can very easily be worn by a man.
    These are some of the best. I definitely think Villoresi Sandalo should be in the top ten.

  17. I haven't tried MPG- Santal Noble and Ava Luxe- No.23. However, all the remaining perfumes in their latest versions are without any sort of sandalwood. The Indian company called 'Forest Essentials' do a sandalwood and vetiver spray which has real sandalwood. It is available at Mumbai duty free shop and also in their shops in Indian cities. Both being basenotes, they last long even though it is cologne concentration. Even the next day, there is lingering smell of sandalwood on your clothes, amazing! PS- I am not advertising them by the way.

    1. Of all the items that Forest Essentials produce, their Sandalwood and Vetiver spray does NOT contain real Sandalwood (regardless what the label says - this is an Indian company, and you can't take them at their face value). Forest Essentials also sells the same Sandalwood diffuser oil, and after smelling it, it becomes very evident that the Sandalwood Oil in their formulations (including their soaps, and body products) do NOT contain any real Sandalwood.
      Back in 2004, Forest Essentials used to sell their straight up Essential Oils, and the Sandalwood Oil that they offered was by far THE best Sandalwood Oil back then, however, those days are gone, and since Forest Essentials have been partly owned by Estee Lauder, their quality has suffered considerably. Take any of their products pre-Estee Lauder, and compare it with their current offering, there is a stark difference between them.
      Don't get me wrong, Forest Essentials is still a great company for their other fragrance sprays, where I believe they do use real essential oils, however, my honest assessment of their Sandalwood Oil in their products is a 'Fragrance Oil'.


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