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  1. #1

    Default Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    "There is no such thing as human history. Nothing can be more profoundly, sadly true. The annals of mankind have never been written, never can be written; nor would it be within human capacity to read them if they were written. We have a leaf or two from the great book of human fate as it flutters in the stormwinds ever sweeping across the earth. We decipher them as we best can with purblind eyes, and endeavor to learn their mystery as we float along to the abyss; but it is all confused babble, hieroglyphics of which the key is lost."

    So wrote my distinguished co-historian John Lothrop Motley in 1868, and if you replace "history" with "sandalwood" you get a sense of what I feel after the rather devastating reviews of most sandalwood fragrances by Turin and Sanchez. The devastating part being that none of them any longer contain "santalum album," but either Australian "sandalwood" or synthetics.

    And here I was pondering the naturalness of Floris, Villoresi, Creed Bois & Imperial or Art of Shaving versus what I considered more evidently synthetic notes (say, in the - very nice - Dominguez or Etro Sandalo).

    I'm not even sure now anymore whether my authentic Mysore sandalwood oil is real or fake (i always did think it was a perfume of its own, incredibly complex, with most perfumes capturing only aspects of it - perhaps this explains that perception). There is no reference. I'm recalling Guerlain's adventurous story of seeking out real Mysore which led to the creation of Samsara - but then, is that still authentic today? And I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Creed actually owned Sandalwood property in India. A figment of my or Olivier's imagination?

    What will my wife say if I tell her I want to blow three years worth of our vacationing budget for smelling some trees in India?

    The smells are still great, yet reality now seems blurred and warped.
    My Wardrobe
    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière/Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pénètrent le verre.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    I had wondered about this. I have sandalwood oil that a friend brought back from India. Although I suppose it could have been imported from some obscure corner of Australia to some obscure corner of India to sell to American and European tourists? But I doubt it. But so anyway it does smell quite wonderful but it has almost no projection. It lingers for days but stays incredibly close to the skin. And so I had been wondering how on earth sandalwood frags manage projection. And if the answer is that it's not sandalwood that we're smelling in Santal Noble or Tam Dao, then I must say long live synthetics, bid farewell to another pure falsehood, and greet another scruffy pleasure with open arms. And as far as the epistemology of smell, even if we don't get to so far as wondering whether if a man farts in the woods does it make a smell?, there's still all the variations in variety, crop, and extraction method to keep us confused about what a rose smells like, let alone rose oil, let alone a soliflore rose perfume. Sheesh. Pass the Old Spice. At least that smells like real Old Spice. Oh, and pass the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    "There is no such thing as human history. Nothing can be more profoundly, sadly true. The annals of mankind have never been written, never can be written; nor would it be within human capacity to read them if they were written. We have a leaf or two from the great book of human fate as it flutters in the stormwinds ever sweeping across the earth. We decipher them as we best can with purblind eyes, and endeavor to learn their mystery as we float along to the abyss; but it is all confused babble, hieroglyphics of which the key is lost."

    So wrote my distinguished co-historian John Lothrop Motley in 1868, and if you replace "history" with "sandalwood" you get a sense of what I feel after the rather devastating reviews of most sandalwood fragrances by Turin and Sanchez. The devastating part being that none of them any longer contain "santalum album," but either Australian "sandalwood" or synthetics.

    And here I was pondering the naturalness of Floris, Villoresi, Creed Bois & Imperial or Art of Shaving versus what I considered more evidently synthetic notes (say, in the - very nice - Dominguez or Etro Sandalo).

    I'm not even sure now anymore whether my authentic Mysore sandalwood oil is real or fake (i always did think it was a perfume of its own, incredibly complex, with most perfumes capturing only aspects of it - perhaps this explains that perception). There is no reference. I'm recalling Guerlain's adventurous story of seeking out real Mysore which led to the creation of Samsara - but then, is that still authentic today? And I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Creed actually owned Sandalwood property in India. A figment of my or Olivier's imagination?

    What will my wife say if I tell her I want to blow three years worth of our vacationing budget for smelling some trees in India?

    The smells are still great, yet reality now seems blurred and warped.
    A point of correction: The truth be told, sandalwood's absence from contemporary formulations was made clear here on Basenotes almost two years before the release of Turin and Sanchez' book, if anyone cares to take a look and remember:

    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...=171844&page=8

    scentemental

    Last edited by scentemental; 5th May 2008 at 03:50 AM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    I am sorry for going off topic. But i just have to say....

    Welcome back scentemental! What a pleasant surprise. I think i speak for everyone when i say, we have missed immensely, both you and your insightful posts.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    scentemental, we have sorely missed you. Welcome back.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    I feel the same way and then more... The conceptual Sndalwood note is a whore. Anyone can say I have it, nailed it, hit it, etc

    F**k that. Sandalwood is now a thing of status, something that makes your notes sound pretty and elegant. A perfume enthusiast can claim (s)he can smell the 2000 variations of "sandalwood" and say they know it as authentic... most of the times they do not even know what they are talking about. A lot of times I have found people just blindly repeat the notes listed by the manufacturer.

    What happened to the purity od sandalwood, the natural feeling it inspired, the nostalgia and grandiosity of a hundred year old tradition... gone.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by scentemental View Post
    A point of correction: The truth be told, sandalwood's absence from contemporary formulations was made clear here on Basenotes almost two years before the release of Turin and Sanchez' book, if anyone cares to take a look and remember:

    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...=171844&page=8

    scentemental

    The return of the repressed

    That's also where zztop posted the article in which Erwin Creed states:
    “We purchase premium sandalwood from Mysore (India), where 150kg of roots yields a precious 15gm. Unfortunately, the huge demand has led to depleting supply. My father refuses any other sandalwood so he contracted a farm to grow it exclusively for Creed to continue our tradition.”

    http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/stor...iving/13986823

    An outright lie? Or do Creed sandalwoods perhaps contain an infinitesimal amount of Mysore sandalwood to keep up the facade? Villoresi also explicitly claims his Sandalo is "a base di sandalo di Mysore." Is that just a description of the "note" aiming to semantically suggest the true ingredient?

    You see, I never wanted to be cynical about perfume, because I already am about so many other things. What a lousy choice .

    btw.: I am willing to embrace synthetic sandalwood, certainly the protection of this cultural heritage of India is far more important than smelling good. But I would really like to hear perfumers speak honestly to these issues.

    P.S.: According to this article from 2002 annual production of sandalwood oil is 40 tons.
    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/...0500571700.htm
    This report lists 200 tons for 2007:
    http://www.rirdc.gov.au/pub/media_releases/23jan07.html

    It's not like there isn't any around. Who's using it, if not Creed, Villoresi, what have you?
    Last edited by the_good_life; 7th May 2008 at 07:11 AM.
    My Wardrobe
    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière/Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pénètrent le verre.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Montale produces a perfume advertised as single note sandalwood oil from Mysore, wondering whether it is the real thing.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    the 8 ball says doubtful

  10. #10

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by Ascella View Post
    Montale produces a perfume advertised as single note sandalwood oil from Mysore, wondering whether it is the real thing.
    IMHO it is exactly that. Montale was kind enough to send me a large decant of their Mysore sandalwood by request.
    I couldn't smell a difference to the original mysore sandalwood essential oil by german quality brand Primavera. Both are very expensive, the Primavera is about 22,00 Euro for 5ml and the Montale is a limited edition as far as I know. Both smell exactly the same to me and both claim to be as authentic as can be.
    Well, that's proof enough for me and the fact they smell exactly the same is another no brainer in this case.

    Now, the smell itself is "just" sandalwood, no complementing notes. Therefor it's quite one dimensional and projection is poor, but that's the characteristic of sandalwood and not an indicator of quality or whatever. The closest to the Montale and the Primavera IMHO is Floris. Not their Eau de Santal, but Floris - Sandalwood.
    Last edited by dr.creed; 7th May 2008 at 12:58 PM.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by dr.creed View Post
    IMHO it is exactly that. Montale was kind enough to send me a large decant of their Mysore sandalwood by request.
    I couldn't smell a difference to the original mysore sandalwood essential oil by german quality brand Primavera. Both are very expensive, the Primavera is about 22,00 Euro for 5ml and the Montale is a limited edition as far as I know. Both smell exactly the same to me and both claim to be as authentic as can be.
    Well, that's proof enough for me and the fact they smell exactly the same is another no brainer in this case.

    Now, the smell itself is "just" sandalwood, no complementing notes. Therefor it's quite one dimensional and projection is poor, but that's the characteristic of sandalwood and not an indicator of quality or whatever.
    I would have guessed it's real too, and it sounds reassuring that it smells exactly like the one from Primavera.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Can't we just grow our own? May take a few years 'til fruition, but it would be a wise investment.
    "I exist for myself, and for those to whom my unquenchable thirst for freedom gives everything, but also for everyone, since insofar as I am able to love - I love everyone. Of noble hearts, I am the noblest - and the most generous of those that yearn to give love in return. - I am a human being, I love death and I love life."

    Egon Schiele - Self-Potrait


    My classics: Dior Homme EdT, YSL Rive Gauche PH, Helmut Lang Cuiron, L'Occitane Neroli (vintage), Davidoff Zino, L'Occitane Eau des Baux

    http://www.basenotes.net/wardrobe/2976

  13. #13

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Can't we just grow our own? May take a few years 'til fruition, but it would be a wise investment.
    Your definition of "few" is greatly different than mine. It takes 20-40 years from Santalum album sapling to being ready to harvest. While a tree might produce some oil after 20 years it takes 40 years to produce the best oil. If you trying establishing this plantation in the Mysore region then realize that once the trees are barely old enough to produce inferior oil there will be other people who want to harvest your trees so that if you want to wait another 20 years for top quality oil you will need to hire a paramilitary group to guard your plantation.
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    P.S.: According to this article from 2002 annual production of sandalwood oil is 40 tons.
    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/...0500571700.htm
    This report lists 200 tons for 2007.
    What report lists 200 tons for 2007?
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Is it that important to have sandalwood oils from Mysore in sandalwood fragrances? The alternatives work fine (most of the times).

    Most of the sandalwood frag reviews in the book were focused on the source of the oils rather than judging the entire composition. Ofcourse the authors deviate from this approach when the perfume is dear to them - they ignore the clearly synthetic sandalwood notes in compositions like Bois des Iles, Samsara, etc and instead go on in great detail to describe the overall composition.
    -

  16. #16

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Is it that important to have sandalwood oils from Mysore in sandalwood fragrances? The alternatives work fine (most of the times).
    What alternatives, are you talking about the synthetic sandalwood odorants?
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    What alternatives, are you talking about the synthetic sandalwood odorants?
    Either synthetics like Sandalore, or authentic oils from sources like Sri Lanka, Australia, pacific islands, etc.
    -

  18. #18

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Either synthetics like Sandalore, or authentic oils from sources like Sri Lanka, Australia, pacific islands, etc.
    That is quite a range of very different things. So if you ordered a pizza with mushrooms on it and I gave you a pizza with poisonous amanita mushrooms you wouldn't complain because, after all, they are authentic mushrooms.
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    That is quite a range of very different things. So if you ordered a pizza with mushrooms on it and I gave you a pizza with poisonous amanita mushrooms you wouldn't complain because, after all, they are authentic mushrooms.
    If thats the case, then just buy the indian mysore oil and stay put. No need for perfumers to create their own sandalwood compositions.
    -

  20. #20

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    What report lists 200 tons for 2007?
    http://www.rirdc.gov.au/pub/media_releases/23jan07.html
    My Wardrobe
    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matière/Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pénètrent le verre.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    P.S.: According to this article from 2002 annual production of sandalwood oil is 40 tons.
    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/...0500571700.htm
    This report lists 200 tons for 2007:
    http://www.rirdc.gov.au/pub/media_releases/23jan07.html

    It's not like there isn't any around. Who's using it, if not Creed, Villoresi, what have you?
    Is it sandalwood in it's entirety that's endangered and ultra rare or just mysore sandalwood - you had australian "sandalwood" in quotation marks? Is Mysore the only kind of sandalwood?

    Unless there's some perfume line that's so high end that the general public is not told about it and it's only sold to the super-wealthy (which I don't think is so far fetched!) I'd have to assume that the Creeds and Montales etc are the ones using the 40 tons per year of sandalwood (or sandalwood mysore?) oil. And are there any other special uses for sandalwood oil that would take precedence? Fueling nuclear power plants or something?

    In any case, if it's endangering the whole species, I'd say put a moratorium on it's use for as long as it takes to make it viable again. Even with frangrance fanatics, 99% of us can't tell the difference between the real mysore, and some other variety/combo as most of us have never smelled it according to these reports! It's not necessary to destroy the whole species, and future generations enjoying the real thing, just so we can get some extra jollies. I'm sure companies just use the Mysore tag because they're targeting a very status conscious market of people who are obsessed with having rare things of the highest quality, even when they generally know nothing about those things in the first place!

    That kind of marketing is insulting, and it makes us all stupid over time, but that's how the market works!

    But honestly Good Life - although I would never put it past perfumer to outright lie about what's in their potions (every fragrance pyramid is a lie!) I wouldn't put stock in anything Turin says about anything except maybe for chemistry. He's a very entertaining writer, and that's about it. I wouldn't pretend for a second that I can smell the difference between real sandalwood and some dupe of it, but based on reading his reviews, I doubt that he could either.
    Last edited by GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR; 7th May 2008 at 12:37 PM.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Is it sandalwood in it's entirety that's endangered and ultra rare or just mysore sandalwood - you had australian "sandalwood" in quotation marks? Is Mysore the only kind of sandalwood?
    The discussion gets confused because of sloppy terminology. People often say "Mysore" or "Indian" Sandalwood Oil to mean essential oil from the tree Santalum album while the term "Australian" Sandalwood oil is usually used to mean essential oil from the tree Santalum spicatum. Santalum album and Santalum spicatum are different species of tree, not the same species of tree grown in a different location, and the essential oils from these two trees have significant differences.

    The discussion gets even more confused because some people are attemptempting to cultivate the Indian sandalwood tree, Santalum album, in Australia for essential oil production. Any essential oil production from these plantings is still some decades away.

    There is even another species of sandalwood tree, Santalum austrocaledonium, native to the islands of New Caledonia. This type of sandalwood tree produces an essential oil closer to that of Santalum album than the essential oil of Santalum spicatum.

    Edit:
    Oh, when discussing naming confusion we shouldn't forget the essential oil of the tree Amyris balsamifera which is sometimes call "West Indian Sandalwood Oil" even though the tree is from a different genus and the oil smells nothing like the essential oil of Santalum album.
    Last edited by dcampen; 7th May 2008 at 07:04 PM.
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by dcampen View Post
    The discussion gets confused because of sloppy terminology. People often say "Mysore" or "Indian" Sandalwood Oil to mean essential oil from the tree Santalum album while the term "Australian" Sandalwood oil is usually used to mean essential oil from the tree Santalum spicatum. Santalum album and Santalum spicatum are different species of tree, not the same species of tree grown in a different location, and the essential oils from these two trees have significant differences.

    The discussion gets even more confused because some people are attemptempting to cultivate the Indian sandalwood tree, Santalum album, in Australia for essential oil production. Any essential oil production from these plantings is still some decades away.

    There is even another species of sandalwood tree, Santalum austrocaledonium, native to the islands of New Caledonia. This type of sandalwood tree produces an essential oil closer to that of Santalum album than the essential oil of Santalum spicatum.
    Thanks! I was just reading up on this when you posted - apparently they are doing large scale planting of Santalum album in australia.

    So is Mysore sandalwood just a synonym for Indian sandalwood - i.e. Santalum album, or is there something particular to the Sandalwood from this region which sets it apart, even if it doesn't have it's own genus?
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    So is Mysore sandalwood just a synonym for Indian sandalwood - i.e. Santalum album
    Yes, at one time most wood and essential of of Santalum album did come from the Mysore region so the term Mysore Sandalwood came to be used generically to refer to any Santalum album no matter if it came from Mysore, Tamil Nadu or Ceylon.
    All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp View Post
    Is it that important to have sandalwood oils from Mysore in sandalwood fragrances? The alternatives work fine (most of the times).
    They really don't. Synthetic sandalwood odorants do no more than resemble sandalwood's odor. They lack true sandalwood's richness, warmth, and complexity. This is not a subtle difference, only detectable by a trained "nose"; synthetics (even complex synthetic blends) are clearly and obviously distinguishable from the real thing, particularly in the drydown. Synthesis of beta-santalol, one of natural sandalwood's primary odorants, is technically possible but may never become commercially viable.

    For some random fragrance that lists sandalwood among its basenotes, the synthetics may work just fine, but the more you make sandalwood the centerpiece of your fragrance, the more it will be desirable to use the real thing, if it's possible to do so. New Caledonian sandalwood is a reasonable (if inferior) substitute for the Mysore, but this is still an expensive oil with a limited supply.
    Last edited by Xplo; 12th May 2008 at 08:57 PM.

  26. #26

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Hey Xplo - since you're obviously familliar with real Mysore, and it's various substitues - would you say that the sandalwood fragrances that tout having mysore sandalwood really have it? I'm thinking of Lutens Santal de Mysore, and some of the Montales. And what of the sandalwood that's in the various Creeds - Original Santal, Himalaya, Santal Imperial, or Green Irish Tweed?
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  27. #27

    Default Re: Sandalwood - an epistemological crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by Xplo View Post
    New Caledonian sandalwood is a reasonable (if inferior) substitute for the Mysore, but this is still an expensive oil with a limited supply.
    Euhm, if perfumers would do this, I think they would have a lot of tweaking to do to get their scent(s) to smell the same as it was with mysore. I can see Mr. Turin sharpening his knifes already...

    Also, someone mentioned the oil from the Primavera brand. While this is a pretty decent oil, and is 100% real, I think one should consider the fact that Primavera's (and it's costumers) main focus is on aromatherapy, NOT perfumery...
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