sandalwood: 14 posts

My Name is Red : Perfumes That Evoke Scarlet

“I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted… Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me.”

This description of the color of blood and roses from Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, has stayed with me ever since I first read the novel while studying perfumery. At the time, one of the exercises we were doing involved matching scents to colors, and so I started looking for a fragrance that evoked the same intensity as Pamuk’s description.

The obvious suspects like roses and raspberries were cast aside. I was after drama, rather than mere associations. Once while leafing through an album of Indian miniature paintings, I had an epiphany—sandalwood smells red. The 16th century vignettes painted during the Mughal era depicted women making sandalwood paste, and their activity reminded of the time I had spent in India, especially of the bright colors and smells.

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Sandalwood : Woods Series (New Video)

I’m continuing my woods series and today I’m discussing sandalwood, the most distinctive sweet wood in the perfumer’s palette.
The beauty of sandalwood lies in its sweet and creamy scent that differs from the aromas of other woods, which tend to be dry and sharp.

While I mention a variety of perfumes in this video, such as Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore, Santal Majuscule, Ambre Sultan, Jeux de Peau, Chanel Égoïste, Guerlain Samsara, Diptyque Tam Dao and 10 Corso Como, this is far from a complete list. Therefore, I wanted to supplement it with several other examples of excellent sandalwood perfumes.

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Dry vs Sweet vs Bitter : Perfume Descriptors (New Video)

What does dry mean when applied to a perfume? In fragrance, dry is used to describe compositions that are not sweet–it’s similar to wine terminology. Since the distinction can be confusing, I made a video comparing and contrasting different woods based on their main characteristics–dry, sweet or bitter.

Examples can be drawn from the whole perfume wheel, but I decided to focus on woods, because it’s easy to see why cedarwood is classified as dry and sandalwood as sweet. There are also many excellent perfumes on the market that fully explore these characteristics of raw materials and make them the key elements of their structure. The creamy sweetness of sandalwood in Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore, for instance, is its hallmark trait. The dryness of cedarwoods gives Cartier Declaration and Hermès Poivre Samarcande their pleasing sharpness.

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Sandalwood Scented Dreams

India and sandalwood. Long before I became interested in perfume as vocation, I knew of this connection. More than a stereotype, it reflects the significance of this wood in India’s traditions, from birth to death, from a wedding to a funeral. Sandalwood makes one’s skin more beautiful and gods more pleased. It smells divine. In my new FT column The Scent of Sandalwood, I explore how Indian and modern European perfumery were inspired by this precious material. Also, I touch upon an issue that rarely clouds the romantic accounts of Mysore sandalwood groves–their overharvesting and near complete devastation.

puja

“My mother-in-law rubbed a piece of pink-coloured wood on a rough stone until it turned to paste. My husband and I were about to travel back to Europe and in the Hindu custom my mother-in-law performed a puja, an act of worship, to ensure our safe journey. She lit joss sticks around the deities and dabbed some of the paste on the figurines of gods arranged on her small altar and then on our foreheads – the fragrance of sandalwood rose in the warm air. Many hours later as I sat in the plane, the creamy, floral perfume lingered around me, carrying with it the memory of a caring touch.” To continue, please click here.

One of my favorite sandalwood perfumes today–it uses a mixture of Australian and synthetic sandalwood–is 10 Corso Como. A niche classic. Do you enjoy sandalwood?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

Snake Charmer and Sandalwood

She is wearing a peacock feather mini skirt and gazing passionately at a cobra. Serpents embrace her slender legs adorned with heavy anklets and stained with henna. Who is this mysterious snake charmer in the 18th century Indian miniature?

ragini

According to Indian legend, snakes are entranced so much by the perfume of sandalwood that they wrap themselves around the trees, but there is something even more powerful that can entice them–raga. Meaning “color” as well as “beauty” and “melody,” raga is a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The painting held at the Victoria & Albert Museum is called Asavari Ragini, hinting that what we are looking at is a representation of a melody.  Asavari is usually performed in the morning, and it’s classical image is a woman charming snakes out of their sandal scented groves.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Linda in Reading Sa’di’s Gulistan: I never know what I will find on your site, but I do know I will be introduced new beauty. Thank you. October 3, 2022 at 1:23pm

  • Gabriela in Reading Sa’di’s Gulistan: Immensely beautiful. Thank you. Find beauty, be still. October 3, 2022 at 12:32pm

  • Katy in Reading Sa’di’s Gulistan: Lovely. I was thinking about his quote that is hung in tapestry in the UN. Heartbreaking what happens in this world. Thank you for sharing this. October 3, 2022 at 11:50am

  • Sam in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2022: thank you for the recommendations, Leslie and la_ninon! Irisss sounds up my alley, I have ordered samples for it and Splendiris already ^^ StC did not have Hedonist Iris Absolute… October 3, 2022 at 11:20am

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