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Natural Indian sandalwood oil is mainly composed of santalols. Surprisingly, as almost any other natural wood, there is no commercially available natural-identical synthetic replacer. Though synthetic santalol may be produced, its synthesis is so costly it has no interest for industry. For this reason, and since price for Indian Sandalwood has grown very high, many molecules that try to reproduce the sweet woody, milky, somewhat steroidal sandalwood odour, have been invented. Since 70’s many chemicals with a sandalwood-like note have been developed. I still have a lot to learn about these products: some are closely similar and their behaviour in a fragrance composition can be surprising as well.

The following list might not be exahustive.

Sandela (IBCH): If am right, it is the oldest one. In my opinion, it is the most true-to-nature. Subtle and creamy, sometimes you would tell it is odorless. But on skin it develops a thick, woody odour. Slighlty sour and acidic. Being as viscous as pure Galaxolide, it is sometimes sold at 85%.

Sandalore: not the most powerful, creamy, rosy, light, with an anise-like accent.

Bacdanol: close to Sandalore, I like to think of it as its fatter companion. It is thicker and more sweet, less vertical than Sandalore, rounder. Somewhat gourmand, vanillic. Edit (24/06/2016): I have compared Bacdanol with Dartanol (Firmenich), it’s the same product according to The Goodscents Compamy, but the quality is very different. Dartanol is less creamy, it is whiter, cedary, fibrous, more textured, slightly acidic.

Osyrol (Acsantol): the weakest one. Powdery, fine, natural smelling, well rounded. Not easy to smell, I don’t understand how I can use it.

Polysantol: bold, but more natural than Sandalore and Bacdanol (I know someone who would argue it is not natural at all). Difficult to overdose. With an aromatic, sweet nuance. At the time it was used in Samsara, it was a Firmenich captive.

Ebanol: the most aromatic. Quite different from other sandalwoods. In a blind test with a colleague, it performed as the most powerful, Javanol and Polysantol were closely behind. It defines what ‘aromatic’ is for sandalwood odorants : a sweet and woody odour similar to dried fennel, liquorice, immortelle / everlasting / helychrysum.

Santaliff (Sandalmysore): strange and beautiful. But its fat molecular structure tends to completely anesthetize my receptors. Even in small doses, it lends a surprising brilliance to my perfumes, almost like a musk would do (?). Very facetted, it has rosy (Sandalore), creamy (Bacdanol), aromatic (Polysantol/ Ebanol) nuances. This is one of my favorites.

Brahamnol: fine and elegant, quite close to real sandalwood. I would put it close to Bacdanol or Polysantol (not as strong).

Javanol: at thirst it punches with its thick woody, thin, anisic mass. But properly diluted and used with caution it fully develops its character. Which is rosy and brilliant, quite transparent, floral (mimosa / Acacia).

Firsantol: similar to Polysantol, less aromatic, very natural, rich woody, fibrous, creamy. One of the most convincing?

Androstenol: a human (and a pig 🐷) pheromone. I had the chance to obtain a sample in the pure and diluted form. As pure it is almost odorless, or very weak. It blocks my receptors in a fraction of a second and it becomes completely odorless. Diluted @1% it is easier to smell: sandalwoody (not the natural sandalwood oil but, surprisingly, closer to the synthetic molecules), somehow clean, musky. Quite dull, not as exciting as some fine perfumery sandalwood chemicals mentioned above. I made some tests with friends, it is interesting to observe that some women tend to perceive it as dirty, urinic, sweaty, not sandalwoody at all. It surely is connected to its role as a pheromone.

Kephalis: almost not sandalwoody, it has plastic and vetyver-like character. Clary sage and ionone-like. In my opinion it can be described as possessing a sandalwood note, but it isn’t truly a sandalwood odorant.

There also is Karmawood, which I have not tested out yet (24/06/2016) I have just received a sample of Karmawood and it smells nothing like a sandalwood, it is more woody ambery (boisé-ambré, bois qui pique), close to Trimofix, Ambercore, etc.

If you have any other suggestions I will be happy to try them out.

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Molecular structure reference: S. Arctander works. Image created using ChemSketch.

Molecular structure reference: S. Arctander work. Image created using ChemSketch.

White flakes.

Warm, honeyed, metallic, sweaty odour, resembling rose with an animalic (castoreum) and jasmine-like nuance. Dry, medicinal, sweeter on dilution.

In traces it could lend interesting effects in jasmin, rose, cuir type fragrances, tobacco or animal accords.

This product doesn’t resemble civet on its own (in my opinion) but, as suggested in some works, I understand its use in civet imitation bases. Somehow dirty (not fecal): it is waxy, fatty, sweet and slightly acrid (tanned leather, vinegar, feet-like odour) and it could bring texture and roundness to the stronger skatole or indole.

What is surprising about this material is that it lasts forever on paper or tissue. According to S. Arctander’s Perfume and Flavor Chemicals, phenylacetic acid is

[…] one of the most tenacious odorants of all known and used perfumery materials. It will outlast Vanillin on a ‘blotter test’ and a 5% solution of Phenylacetic acid may last more than 3 years on a blotter […]

Text printed on graph paper. The blurred effect was obtained with an alcoholic solution of phenylacetic acid and a tracing paper. Surely, you can't smell it, but the odour really adds something to it.

Text printed on graph paper. The blurred effect was obtained with alcohol and a tracing paper.