5 Sandalwood Fragrances (That Aren’t Le Labo Santal 33)
Sandalwood is a powerful note in fragrance. Long used as an aphrodisiac in ayurvedic medicine, research has found sandalwood boosts your mood, promotes relaxation and can even increase your sex drive. Fragrances with sandalwood also tend to have a longer sillage (sillage = how long you can smell the scent when you wear it, and how strongly it projects).
A perfect balance of masculine and feminine, they’re a first choice for when we’re in need of a confidence boost. One of the best known and most popular sandalwood scents is LeLabo’s Santal33. Created by nose Frank Voelkl, the fragrance launched in 2011 and became an instant best-seller for the New York-based fragrance brand. Santal 33 blends sandalwood, papyrus, leather, Virginia cedar and cardamon and musk along with a sprinkling of floral notes to create a classic, unisex scent (given a bottle will set you back anywhere between $296-433, going halves with your boyfriend might not be a bad idea).
The only issue with Santal33? As the New York Times reported in 2015, come autumn and winter you can start to feel like it’s… everywhere. Of course, don’t stress if you’ve splurged on Santal 33. As well explained by Lab Muffin Beauty Science, because of our unique body chemistry, the fragrance does smell slightly different on everyone and applied with a delicate hand, it is still a beautiful scent. But, if you love sandalwood but are looking to explore some lesser-known scents, these are my top picks.
- Chergui, by Serge Lutens, $213.00
A personal favourite, Chergui is one of the first “grown-up” fragrances I ever purchased. Chergui combines sandalwood, incense, amber and tobacco leaf for a strong, smokey open that will please Santal lovers. However, the juice is in the dry down with this delicious scent. With softer notes of honey, rose, iris Chergui is cosy and complex. The stroke of genius in this concoction? The addition of “hay” (yes, that’s right, what horses eat). Hay gives this fragrance a dry finish that stops the combination of honey and amber from ever being too cloying. The nose behind Chergui, Christopher Sheldrake was inspired by the smouldering remnants of a dessert fire as flowers, berries and twigs are laid to rest. This is a classic I always come back to.
2. Penhaligon’s Babylon, $358.00
Penhaligon’s Babylon is decadent and comparable silage and projection to LeLabo. The keynotes are saffron, nutmeg, vanilla, sandalwood and cedar. The addition of spices like saffron, nutmeg and cedar evokes the peace, tranquillity and ceremony of a Roman church – perfectly contrasted with the far sexier undercurrents of vanilla and sandalwood. With naughty-nun vibes, Babylon is a perfect pick for those who love vanilla but are looking for something a little more sophisticated.
If you’re looking for something unisex Radio Bombay is a great pick. Described as a “deconstructed sandalwood.” Radio Bombay combines classic sandalwood, balsam fir, ambergris musk and coconut with cool “copper and cedar” notes, heavy on aldehydes. The sweeter, warmer notes are only notable on the dry down making this a complex fragrance perfect for lovers of slightly metallic woody scents like Commes De Garcon’s Wonderwood ($140-184.00) and Amazing Green ($140-184.00).
A unisex fragrance Marrakech Intense is inspired by the roadside tea stands and spice markets of its namesake destination. The fragrance opens with sweet bergamot and neroli before drying down to a cool cedarwood, clove and sandalwood finish. Indulge in a little fragrance tourism.
An unapologetically feminine spicy amber COCO was launched in 1984, created by perfumer Jacques Polge – who was inspired by Gabrielle Chanel’s natural intensity and love for the baroque. The fragrance is layered with mandarin orange, Bulgarian Rose and Jasmine, which lends this scent its distinctive freshness. The dry-down is replete with vanilla, Tonka Bean, Civet (a notoriously animalistic note with a controversial history) COCO is a perfect “date night” option.