May 22, 2023

What's the difference between Indian Sandalwood and Australian Sandalwood? We're glad you asked.

Image of sandalwood with text that reads, "The intriguing  history of sandalwood

What's the story with Sandalwood? 

If you possess nearly any level of interest in the world of fine fragrance, odds are that you are at least somewhat familiar with the ingredient Sandalwood. At Fulton & Roark, it’s a centerpiece ingredient for both Calle Ocho and Blue Ridge. Sandalwood offers a rich, woody scent that is hard not to love.
But what you may not know, is the intriguing history of Sandalwood in the fragrance industry, and why we have seen a transition from Indian Sandalwood to its Australian counterpart, as well as the reasons behind this shift. We’ll also explore the olfactive similarities and differences between the Indian and Australian species.


The OG, Indian Sandalwood:

For centuries, Sandalwood has been revered for its exquisite fragrance and versatility. However, Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album) has become increasingly scarce, leading reputable fragrance companies to explore alternative sources. Why is Indian Sandalwood rarely used today? The answer lies in its dwindling supply and sustainability concerns.

Indian Sandalwood's popularity and demand have resulted in overharvesting for years. When combined with the slow growth rate of Indian Sandalwood trees, the ecological imbalance lead to severe shortage. Moreover, strict governmental regulations in India restrict the export of raw Sandalwood, making it even scarcer on the global market. Recognizing these challenges and ethical concerns, many fragrance companies (including F&R) have turned their attention to Australia.


Enter the Australian Alternative:

Enter Australian Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), a sustainable and eco-friendly solution to the scarcity of Indian Sandalwood. In the late 19th century, Sandalwood seeds were brought to Western Australia from India and planted in the vast arid landscapes. Initially, these plantations were established to meet the demands of the incense industry.

Over time, Sandalwood cultivation expanded, attracting farmers, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists alike. The unique Australian climate, with its sandy soils and dry conditions, proved conducive to the growth of Sandalwood trees. The fragrance industry soon discovered the remarkable potential of Australian Sandalwood, and its use in perfumes and fine fragrances began to flourish.


The Sustainability Advantage:

One of the key reasons behind the increasing preference for Australian Sandalwood is its sustainability. Unlike Indian Sandalwood, Australian Sandalwood is plantation-grown, ensuring a reliable and consistent supply. These plantations are carefully managed to maximize resource utilization and minimize environmental impact.

Australian Sandalwood offers a shorter growth cycle, allowing for more frequent harvesting without endangering the species. Additionally, Sandalwood trees have a positive effect on the environment, with their deep root systems preventing soil erosion and enhancing soil fertility. This sustainable approach promotes the long-term viability of Sandalwood cultivation, preserving this precious resource for future generations.


The Fragrance Distinctions:

While Indian and Australian Sandalwood share some similarities, they also possess unique olfactory characteristics. Indian Sandalwood is known for its rich, creamy, and warm aroma. It exudes a luxurious, slightly sweet, and woody scent, often described as velvety and sensual. The fragrance is captivating, with a long-lasting presence that lends a certain depth and sophistication to perfumes.

On the other hand, Australian Sandalwood offers a different olfactory experience. Its scent is softer, lighter, and more delicate than its Indian counterpart. The fragrance is often described as fresh, green, and subtly woody, with hints of citrus and floral notes. Australian Sandalwood possesses a unique versatility that allows perfumers to create a range of modern, vibrant, and contemporary fragrances.

Where things stand today:

As the fragrance industry evolved, so did the sourcing of Sandalwood. While Indian Sandalwood once reigned supreme, the sustainable cultivation of Australian Sandalwood has emerged as an environmentally friendly solution. The shift towards Australian Sandalwood ensures a reliable supply while reducing the ecological impact caused by overharvesting. Furthermore, the distinct fragrances offered by Indian and Australian Sandalwood provide perfumers with an exciting array of possibilities to craft exquisite olfactory compositions.
For two examples on the amazing versatility of Australian Sandalwood in fine fragrance, consider our two scents, Calle Ocho and Blue Ridge. Calle Ocho also features notes of Tobacco Leaf, Vanilla, and Aged Rum, creating a rich, warm, and inviting aura that is remarkably addictive. Meanwhile, Blue Ridge pairs Sandalwood with Sage and cool amber to create a remarkably fresh scent that is perfect for any occasion. No matter which you choose, you can feel confident knowing the Sandalwood we source is sustainably and ethically procured.

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