By Amy Derungs

January 3, 2021


The answer to the question: "What does sandalwood smell like" is: 

 Sandalwood is deep, woody and often smells like a mix of floral, rich, balsamic, soft, and sweet accords.

Sandalwood has made a name for itself in the fragrance industry, but its use extends far beyond that. This fragrant wood from Santalum trees in India has been used for thousands of years in Hindu and Buddhist rituals. Now, in the Western world, sandalwood is used as a home fragrance or as a base in perfumes. Before we look into the best sandalwood fragrances for women, we should look at the background of this aromatic bark. Or if you want to go straight to the perfume section, click here.

About Sandalwood And What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

Sandalwood tree

What is Sandalwood?

Sandalwood is a class of woods that are taken from Santalum trees. The Sandalwood woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained. They can also retain their smell for decades if stored properly. Sandalwood essential oil comes from the roots and wood of the Santalum trees. It is used in perfumes, cosmetics, sacred unguents and as a mild food flavoring. Sandalwood is known to have a warm and relaxing quality.

Where Does Sandalwood Come From?

Originally, sandalwood was only harvested from Southern India’s Santalum trees. Santalum trees are very slow-growing trees. They have to be 15 years or older before they can be harvested. These Sandalwood trees are not cut at the ground like most trees, they are pulled down to their roots and processed to make use of every part of the tree. Sandalwood is the second most expensive wood in the world. Unfortunately, these trees have been over-harvested in India. They are now considered a threatened species. The harvesting of Sandalwood trees is monitored by India’s government, but illegal harvesting remains a problem. Indian sandalwood is known to be the highest quality and best-smelling sandalwood. Most of the sandalwood on the market today comes from Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hawaii and Australia. 

A Short History of Sandalwood

Many ancient Indian temples and sacred objects were made from sandalwood. Sandalwood essential oil was also a main ingredient in Egyptian embalming practices. People believed that sandalwood had the power to release the souls of the dead during funeral rituals. These were rituals that honored their deities. This was because of their belief that sandalwood is essential for reincarnation.

Sandalwood was also used as an ingredient for incense in the 18th century. In this same timeframe, it became a vital component in cosmetics, unguents and pastes. It was also used in other substances used to perfume the body.

From approximately 1714-1835 (the Georgian era), sandalwood was assumed to be a masculine scent. In 1796, the perfumer James Floris created Stephanotis. This was a feminine scent. It blended base notes of sandalwood and musk with orange blossom, stephanotis, and lily of the valley.

In the 19th century, many products like fans and sewing boxes were made from sandalwood.

More recently, sandalwood has been the center of many scandals. Since the wood and its essential oil are so highly valued, it is a magnet for theft and smuggling.  

The Benefits of Sandalwood

The benefits of Sandalwood are many; especially in terms of mental and physical health. Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medical practices use sandalwood essential oils to treat ailments. Sandalwood essential oil has astringent, anti-septic and skin-softening properties. This makes it popular in toiletries.

It may increase mental alertness and decrease the symptoms of anxiety. The aroma is pleasant and charming. It relieves worries by relaxing the central nervous system. It is a powerful aid in meditation practices, and some consider it an aphrodisiac.

The natural astringent properties of sandalwood essential oil help to firm and tone aging skin. It is thus also used in beauty products.

What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

As expected, sandalwood has a woody smell. It is quite unique because it has a distinct exotic, sweet, creamy, smooth, and warm scent. Sandalwood is immediately recognizable once you know what it smells like.

It adds nuance, warmth, and complexity to any scent. It works as a base and carrier for other aromas. Sandalwood works best with cedar, rosewood, patchouli, and vanilla note.

In floral and citrus fragrances, sandalwood is used as a fixative to make the other oils last longer. It is a soft woody and long-lasting base for fragrances in the oriental, woody, fougere and chypre families.

Now that you know what sandalwood smells like you may ask yourself which perfume you should buy? The scent that you choose should correlate with the kind of main accords and notes that you like in a perfume. (An accord is combination of two or more scents creating an entirely different aroma. The personality of a fragrance is determined by its basic accord.) Make sure that you know what you’re looking for and then find the scent you like best and suits your needs.

Sandalwood Scents for Women

1. Best Overall: Samsara Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Samsara Eau de Parfum

Samsara Eau de Parfum was one of the first woody perfumes for women. So this is quite an iconic fragrance. The perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain was motivated by his trip to India and wanted to create a perfume that blended the purest sandalwood and jasmine fragrances.

It is a classic for Guerlain fans. The opening of this scent is quite intense. The dry-down is soft, powdery, and woody. This creates a comforting, tranquil smell.


Notes:

  • Top: ylang-ylang, peach, and bergamot 
  • Middle: iris, jasmine, narcissus, orris root, rose and violet
  • Base: sandalwood, vanilla, iris, tonka bean, amber and musk

Main Accords:

  • Powdery
  • Woody
  • Yellow Floral

Samsara Eau de Parfum is suitable for every day wear and for all events. And it adds a special twist to any romantic occasion. It is quite long-lasting so your morning spray should last for the rest of the day.

The packaging is sleek and elegant and will look gorgeous on any shelf.

This perfume is a real crowd-pleasure, so you’ll be turning heads wherever you go!

2. Premium Perfume: Byredo Mojave Ghost Eau de Parfum

Byredo Mojave Ghost Eau de Parfum

Byredo Mojave Ghost is a fresh oriental floral fragrance for men and women, although it leans towards being a more feminine scent. 

Notes:

  • Top: sapodilla and ambrette
  • Middle: magnolia, violet and sandalwood
  • Base: ambergris and cedar

Main Accords:

  • Floral
  • Woody
  • Powdery

Byredo Mojave Ghost's unusual notes create a sensual and mysterious fragrance. This perfume is ideal for daytime wear and for relaxing, laid-back occasions.

The packaging and bottle are unpretentious but still look neat and sophisticated.

The longevity is moderate to long-lasting. Byredo Mojave Ghost has a powerful smell that packs a punch but is not overpowering in any way.

3. Best Value: Diptyque Tam Dao Eau de Toilette

Diptyque Tam Dao Eau de Toilette

This is a woody, unisex masterpiece that was inspired by the landscape of Tonkin. The main accord is woody, and it has strong notes of sandalwood and cedar.

Notes:

  • Top: Italian cypress, myrtle and rose
  • Middle: sandalwood and cedar
  • Base: Brazilian rosewood, spices, amber and white musk

Main Accords:

  • Woody
  • Aromatic
  • Powdery

Diptyque Tam Dao has a moderate longevity, so if your intention is to wear it for a whole day, you might have to touch up. The smell is not overpowering, but it can still be smelt by those around you. It is not flashy - an intimate and noticeable scent.

Diptyque Tam Dao is a versatile perfume and works well on any occasion. The packaging is simplistic but tasteful and refined. 

4. Good Girl by Carolina Hererra Eau de Parfum

Good Girl by Carolina Hererra Eau de Parfum

This elegant scent by Carolina Herrera is sure to turn heads. Good Girl is a sexy, oriental fragrance that represents the duality of a woman’s character.

The bottle is unique and beautiful, in the shape of a stiletto shoe.

Notes:

  • Top note: almond, coffee, bergamot, and lemon
  • Middle note: tuberose, jasmine sambac, orris, orange blossom and Bulgarian rose
  • Base note: tonka bean, cacao, vanilla, praline, sandalwood, amber, musk, cashmere wood, patchouli, cinnamon, and cedar

Main Accords:

  • White floral
  • Warm spicy
  • Sweet

This is quite a complex smell, but the notes work together well. Good Girl is a sexy, oriental fragrance that represents the duality of a woman’s character.

The scent is quite long-lasting, so it makes a good all-day wear. It is a moderately strong smell, discernible without being too intense.

Good Girl is a great perfume for when you’re feeling sweet and sexy – all year round and for all occasions!

5. Gucci Bamboo Eau De Parfum

Gucci Bamboo Eau De Parfum

Bamboo by Gucci is a floral fragrance for women. It reflects confidence and femininity and is designed for the modern women in all her multifaceted glory.

Notes:

  • Top note: bergamot
  • Middle note: Casablanca lily, orange blossom and ylang-ylang
  • Base note: sandalwood, Tahitian vanilla, and amber

Main Accords:

  • White floral
  • Citrus
  • Woody

The longevity of Bamboo is moderate, so it may require touch-ups for long-term use. This fragrance is fresh, but still luxurious.

Bamboo is a lovely, citrusy scent that will be a real crowd-pleaser. It catches the attention of those around you in the best way.

The packaging is relatively simple, but still classy and a bright addition to any collection.

Once you smell Gucci’s Bamboo, you’re sure to remember it and want another whiff!

Also be sure to have a look at our Gucci article for men's fragrances.

In Conclusion

Sandalwood makes a great base for fragrances, the abovementioned five being the best for women. Its woody, earthy aroma makes for familiar and calming fragrances that pair well with many notes. This includes rose, frankincense, myrrh, and ylang-ylang.

Products that include sandalwood are wonderful if you’re looking to relax, take a load off and find your peace. Sandalwood scented products can help you feel better mentally and physically, so they are a great buy!

Sandalwood scents make excellent products that are well worth purchasing. Whatever you’re looking for, there is a sandalwood scent that can fulfill your needs. Try out some sandalwood perfume, you won’t look back!

Burberry perfumes also offer a number of fragrances featuring sandalwood - have a look! If you are interested in sandalwood fragrances for men, have a look at The 7 Coolest Sandalwood Fragrances For 2021.