In the dry heat, sandalwood can be a boon. To tether loose ends. And while many ‘sandalwood’ perfumes these days can be sickeningly ‘cashmeran’ and buttery in their base notes – an accord both D and I I avoid like the plague – it is possible to find alternatives that make up for the lack of true Mysore sandalwood oil available by playing with other ingredients to make individualistic boisé perfumes that will see you through to the evening, and beyond.
Santal Nabatea, from Mona Di Orio’s Monogram collection, doesn’t ‘read’ as a sandalwood per se, but I like its dry peppered elegance. Inspired by the culture that flourished in the 4th century BC around Petra and the Arabian peninsula, there is something in this very wearable perfume that reminds me of the long disappeared bright, wood floral for men, Insensé by Givenchy: black currant bud and oleander in the top notes along with apricot and a tart dose of freshly pressed black pepper cede to opoponax and tonka bean in a way that is subdued and unimpinging but also quite contentedly ‘lost in your own reverie’. You can imagine actually touring the ancient palaces of Jordan wearing this, leaving your hotel fresh and clean.
Olfactive O promises to find you a ‘perfume for your personality’ (https://www.olfactiveo.com) ; the idea is that you read the description of the character traits provided and select the scent that seems closest to your inner self. I am not sure if people can be reduced so easily, nor whether any of the personas presented would directly speak to me (if I were a woman or otherwise), but Skin, the scent in the collection that is designed to be used either alone by itself or layered with other selections, is a nice rendition of a skin scent sandalwood/vetiver/iris that is well balanced and affordable. Ambrette and beeswax add a touch of musky sweetness, while a fresher top note of magnolia adds a linen-close intimacy. The scent blooms on skin in a familiarly sandalwoody fashion that is nevertheless not overdone or flagrant : for those that like the Prada Infusion D’Iris style of office-wearable floral warmth but tire of that perfume’s insistency, this would make a quieter, pleasingly intimate, alternative.
Also from the UK is former Gorilla perfumer Simon Constantine, who has formed his own eco-conscious and ethically sustainable house https://andfragrance.com. Typically off the radar and olfactively challenging, I found this perfume at first quite off-puttingly weird; sweet spearmint-like ethereal floatings above banana and cardamom pod in a peculiarly high-pitched heart of Australian sandalwood, labdanum and benzoin — the blend didn’t speak to me at all. As it settles, though, this turns out to be a very unusual and original take on the sandalwood trope that sings in its own key (probably A#) : and is strangely appealing. Centering. Even haunting. What is it about sandalwood? It is far from being my favourite note in perfumery, and yet there is something so cooling psychologically about the essence that warms the spirits while strengthening the outlook. For nervine sustenance, and if you like to prevail in the woodier notes in summertime, all three of these perfumes are probably worth your attention.