It is exam season in Japan, or as the locals call it, ‘exam hell’: students and teachers cramming and exhausting themselves into high schools and universities; an impressive, if sadomasochistic, demonstration  of Japanese will power and conformity. Some of my colleagues have been working straight since the beginning of November and yes I mean straight: with the exception of January 1st, some of them have been coming into school every day, for at least twelve hours, for about six weeks. This is illegal, but the pressure is so high to get the results that they can really not do otherwise.



And there I am, with my three week holiday at Christmas and New Year, waltzing in to do my bit come the first week of January, but even a month of it has left this indolent foreigner feeling frazzled and debilitated: I came home on Friday night feeling teary and depleted; a husk with his juice sucked out, porous sensitivies over-flooded with tense, heightened Japanese voices. Knowing I would have to be going in on Saturday morning  as well for a whole day of examination interviews, I decided just to collapse in to bed…



But perhaps just a touch of perfume beforehand, something new, before I turn out the lights to let my mind veer…….?..something from those little boxes of samples I had not yet tried that might subdue my humming synapses..?






I semi-randomly alight on something called Cocoa Sandalwood, apply it wearily to the back of my hand.
















suddenly a towering forest of sequoia trees flashes up before my eyes. I can feel them, smell the cool of them, the bark, the dappling light between their trunks, as they soar up into the sky that is blue, and the air that is clear, miles and miles of them out in the Californian country – a synaesthestic mirage that makes my soul briefly snap into place again on a disconnected plane and I find myself wanting to go back down into it all again, back down from the shimmering skyline treetops and back into the forested depths, this time to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the mysterious redwoods behind which you disappear, somewhere in the heart of deep green………….


















All of which I realize might sound rather exaggerated and forced, but which I did actually experience on Friday night, lying on my futon as something loosened its grip on my psyche and a gentle, alternative universe released me….















I have been finding this recently with natural perfumes. There is something in the essences themselves, the plants’ ‘life force’ if you like, that speaks, that stimulates my nervous system in a very different way to other perfume ( which is perhaps more purely aesthetic). Where I was expecting to just find the usual sandalwood (one of my least favourite notes in perfume as I have always found it so fatty, unmysterious, and splayed somehow), the perfumer (Laurie Erickson) surprised me with a creation that temporarily took me beyond myself.





The sequoias I ‘saw’ originated, I imagine,  in the significant dose of Cedar Virginia that opens the perfume, giving the richer, more oozy New Caledonian sandalwood a solid backbone through which a slow, warm sap of cocoa absolute, cinnamon bark, coffee, rose, clove, vanilla and ginger rises slowly, the sandalwood gradually thickening in generosity, expanding and revealing its wise, sagacious  depths. Soothing, comforting, with an excellent equilibrium between savoury and sweet, the perfume helped me, finally, to sleep.
















Filed under Cocoa, Perfume Reviews, Sandalwood


  1. brie

    It is my life mission to turn you into a lover of sandalwood!!!
    All kidding aside, I knew you would find something special about Laurie’s work and I hope to hear more about the others I have sent you. (a small sample of Lieu de Reves-the most gorgeous violet,rose, heliotrope will be on its way for you to sample and just in time for spring!). And when SSS releases the next all natural- Spicy Citrus Vetiver a FB has my name on it so expect some of that as well!
    Completely agree on your feelings about natural essential oils- they do have a “life force” and healing qualities that affect our psyche and overall well being which is why I love to play around with them and use on a daily basis.
    Fabulous review…looking forward to more…and hopefully my next package will help to soothe you and get you through these stressful times!

  2. Pingback: Update and Cocoa Sandalwood Review « Perfume in Progress

  3. Cath

    I am intrigued now. I am a big sandalwood lover. The more the better, bring it on.

    • ginzaintherain

      I most definitely am not, on myself at least, but I can definitely appreciate it on others, and in incense.

      This is a good one, I reckon. Full, with integrity.

  4. brie

    Fantastic suggestion…wore this to bed last night and no complaints from my beloved..just a drop on the wrist and I sniffed happily into slumber! Sandalwood is a very grounding,sprititual oil….
    and as an aside, used it as a base this morning with a drop of Pacifica French Lilac as an overlay…perfect! After once again shoveling my long driveway (this snow will be the death of me!) I REALLY needed to smell spring (ie: lilac) and the cocoa sandalwood added just the perfect layer of depth!

  5. I think Cocoa Sandalwood is a very nice scent and I will wear it as a sleep scent though I do not think it’ll work forme as a daytime perfume.

    • ginzaintherain

      Me too. I just can’t rock the santal effectively, even though I can smell this is a very convincing take on the note…

      • I have no problem with sandalwood, I actually like it. But for me most SSS’s perfumes are rather a very personal experience: I enjoy smelling them (wearing them to bed) but I do not want to smell of them in public.

      • ginzaintherain

        This is my first exposure to their perfumes but I would totally agree. They are very emotional somehow!

  6. ginzaintherain

    Somehow, perhaps when stealing a kiss, my cat Mori got some of this on her cheek. And lord does sandalwood smell divine on her. YES I KNOW ANIMAL LOVERS that perfume is not for animals but I LOVE IT ON HER!

  7. Isn’t it wonderful how scent can transport you and improve your mood? I especially feel the need for a fragrant pick-me-up at the end of a long and rough day. What a good choice Cocoa Sandalwood sounded. It’s funny, I wore it to bed a few nights ago too!

  8. Pingback: The Human Touch | The Fragrant Man

  9. MrsDalloway

    Sonoma Scent Studio is closing down, isn’t it? They were never available here but American blogs are mourning. This one sounded rather lovely. Hope exam hell is not too hideous this year.

    • MUCH better – in fact it was interesting experiencing the contrast with now and then. My job has got much better.

      I will have to look into the Sonoma Scent Grief – I hadn’t realised.

  10. I was so sad when Laurie announced her retirement. I adore her roses and her mind-blowing Champagne de Bois. She has good reasons for stopping, her health and her aging parents need more of her attention. She says that someone will be taking over the company, and I can only hope they stick to her formulas for her most loved perfumes.

    • I love Champagne De Bois too ( I once wrote a really good piece on that one actually but then lost the notebook ).

      It reminded me of the fur of a particular species of rabbit we used to keep.

      She is a very instinctive and talented perfumer.

  11. I know that Laurie had to evacuate her home and was concerned about her folks when the fires ripped through Sonoma recently. Just wrenching.

    She is one amazing human being.

    FYI, here is her blog post about the changes:

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