Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is 100 year sandalwood oil lost forever?

The global sandalwood shortage has caused such paranoia that I no longer feel safe buying sandalwood oil from ebay vendors, online stores (or pretty much anyone else without a meticulous record and reputation online - safe sellers include Eden Botanicals, LibertyNaturals, etc). Also, with my 100 year old Mysore as a reference point, I have spent hundreds of dollars trying to buy something similar to it, and been "beyond" dissapointed each time. I have now given up! But... does this mean that the heavenly aroma of 1960's sandalwood is gone forever? I had an thought...

I emailed a few people who were much more knowledgable than I about an idea that I had (thanks Octavian as always for helping me with my questions ;) that centered around the point that essential oils can be taken apart and put back together again. You see, in perfumery there are used natural absolutes and essential oils as well as (of course!) synthetic molecules, but there is also a grey area in between these two which is the area of Isolates. Isolates are molecules removed from an essential oil (remember essential oils have many constituents) for the purpose of using as a standalone molecule - an obvious example would be linalool and rosewood oil. Well, if one were to look at sandalwood oil, one would find that ts is (on the most basic level) comprised of "90% sesquiterpenic alcohols of which 50-60% is the tricyclic α-Santalol. β-Santalol comprises 20-25%" (wikipedia: sandalwood oil). Since we know that the odour profile of sandalwood is mainly achieved by the ratio of Alpha to Beta Santanols, could we not isolate these and remix them to achieve the correct ratio? Of course this would give us less oil than we started with! but is it worth it ?

The answer is that this would be the start of a slightly more complicated and expensive process, although it is fully possible to recreate something very similar to a mature sandalwood oil this way. So, while it may be impossible to find, if you've got the $$ in the future you might be able to once again smell sandalwood of the 1960's.

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