Because sandalwood has gotten very expensive–the best genuine Mysore stuff goes for around $25/milliliter—many try to emulate its scent using inexpensive aroma chemicals. Despite my own efforts, I’ve never been able to match the silvery, creamy woodiness of sandalwood without putting any sandalwood in the mixture.

I’ve since made a couple of discoveries that have made my fake sandalwood almost match the real deal.

I first constructed a wood/sandalwood base using Javanol, Sandela, Vertofix Coeur, cedar Atlas, Iso e Super and guaiac wood to create a woody base. I added amyris (sometimes called “West Indian Sandalwood”) which, in fact, provided a few particular notes that I couldn’t find in any other substance. I included Firsantol, an excellent sandalwood chemical, and dihydro ionone beta, which pulls together the woods. To provide the lactonic creaminess, I added a trace of methyl laitone and bicyclononalactone. Musks, especially Cashmeran, fleshed out the whole construction.

At this point, I have a nice woody complex that one might say is analogous to sandalwood, but not the real deal. To really get the aroma right, I’m going to have to add beta santalol, derived from sandalwood, which is almost as expensive as sandalwood itself. The thing about the santalol, though, is that it’s strong and projects a powerful sandalwood aroma so I could get by using just a little. Last, I added a trace of Laotian oud. This oud is more expensive than sandalwood, but because it works in trace amounts, it doesn’t cost that much to use. It provides a powerful radiant note—be careful or your sandalwood will smell like oud—that ties the whole thing together.

My concoction isn’t as good as Mysore sandalwood, but when used in a perfume, sometimes in conjunction with additional sandalwood, it provides many sandalwood notes, deeply reminiscent of the real thing.

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