Sandalwood Oil Face-Off – The Niche, The Cheap & The Hippie

Santal 33 Oil - every bit as compelling as the standard fragrance

Santal 33 Oil – every bit as compelling as the standard fragrance

Wow – only the second day, and I’m already late to post.  December 2nd’s entry goes in on December 3.  This is completely analogous to those days that you forget to open the advent calendar on time.  Well – not entirely.  I did sniff yesterday’s choice yesterday.  Santal 33 oil is a very memorable sniff, indeed.

But today, we add two reference sniffs.  Sandalwood oil from the Warm Glow Candle Co. in Indiana.  And Spiritual Sky Sandalwood Perfume Oil, which was bought in a granola/hippie/alternative store in Lawrence, Kansas, back in the late ’80’s or early ’90’s, or maybe earlier – we don’t remember.

The results are interesting.

Spiritual Sky Sandalwood Perfume Oil - still the same bottle after two or three decades

Spiritual Sky Sandalwood Perfume Oil –  same bottle as two or three decades ago

My Spiritual Sky Sandalwood Perfume Oil is clearly depleted of sandalwood’s main fragrant components.  If I sniff long and continuously, I can build up enough of the sandalwood imprint to get the fine, old sandalwood note that used to be there.  This stuff was the real thing.  But sadly, for the most part, it’s gone.  Just like sandalwood “the wood” tends to lose fragrance over time, so a small bottle of oil sitting in a truck for decades can lose its mojo.  I remember the sandalwood animal carvings of my youth.  As they years went by, they just smelled less and less interesting, until I could barely smell the wood at all.  It was not until a colleague gave me some sandalwood paper-clips, fresh from India and almost wet with oil, that I remembered what real, fresh sandalwood smells like.

Warm Glow Sandalwood

Warm Glow Sandalwood, shown in its natural habitat

Warm Glow Sandalwood is – how did Luca Turin put this for so many other notes?  Ah, yes.  “Not sandalwood.”  Sure, there may be something there, buried in fake stuff, but in the large, it’s just nothing like the real McCoy.  It’s almost a kind of amber that has been smoothed and morphed into passable pseudo-sandalwood.  There is a warm, buttery feeling there, but nothing like real sandalwood, or vintage fragrances with a real sandalwood note.  But then, what do you expect for $4.25, and designated for potpourri or warming pots?

But let’s not hang around these things, when something as enjoyable as Santal 33 awaits.

Santal 33

Santal 33 – my first truly memorable niche sandalwood experience

My first sniff of Santal 33, the fragrance, was in Barneys New York, specifically their Las Vegas boutique.  O.  M.  G.  I was mesmerized by the stuff.  I think I spent the better portion of an hour sniffing a big card with a nice fat spray of Santal 33, while all other scents had to fight for intermittent whiffs.

Well, Santal 33 the oil is every bit as interesting.  It has a powerful sandalwood note that is just as strong and textured as the stuff of my youth.  Whether it’s real or not – who knows.  But layer on that an assortment of other notes – green, fresh, spicy – with superb restraint.  Letting them land on the sandalwood just barely, as if you were peppering some amazing food, so that all the core flavor comes through, even the nuances, but the black pepper comes through right on top of it, accenting but not covering up.  Galbanum-peppered sandalwood, medium rare?  Whatever it is, I love it!

My overall impression of Santal 33 oil is remarkably reminiscent of the sandalwood paper-clips my friend gave to me.  For that reason alone, it’s worth a buy.  It’s likely the closest I’ll ever experience to the uncut real thing for a while.  But beyond that, it’s just a bit different – more creative – and a worthy fragrance.  I could see myself wearing this stuff.

As a final note, I do hope that sandalwood – “the king of woods” – makes a comeback.  The smell of my crude little toy elephant and rhino, when I was a kid – mmmmmm.  Great memories!  I wish them on everybody!

Sandalwood animal figurines

Sandalwood figurines for children, much like my own

PS – Thanks, Primrose!

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