Amouage Sandal Attar

Some of the most luxurious creations in the perfume world are rich Middle Eastern attars, and few people do it as well as the royal perfume house, Amouage. I recently had the chance to try Sandal, an lesser-known Amouage attar, thanks to the kindness of a reader of the blog, “Dubaiscents,” who generously sent me a sample. Sandal is a soliflore centered around one ingredient, and one ingredient alone: sandalwood. 

Sandal attar, via Fragrantica.

Sandal attar, via Fragrantica.

Sandal‘s press description is provided by one EU retailer, Profumeria Pepos, and reads:

Unique and therefore absolute. Only one player dominates the heart of this attar, Sandalwood. Mystic wood celebrating the oriental cults. Aphrodisiac wood smelling the nights of love. Lonely lover’s skin is often sought to sublimate the Asian touch with its dry and velvety touce. Here, a maximum concentration of itself, was left alone to be admired in its absolute beauty.

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Sandal is supposedly nothing but pure Indian sandalwood. It is one of my favorite notes, and I grew up in an age where all the fragrances I wore had copious amounts of the glorious Mysore wood. Rich, red, spicy, often a little smoky, creamy, and with a touch of sweetness, it was beautiful. Unfortunately, nowadays, true Mysore sandalwood is so rare and so astronomically priced in even the smallest quantities that it might as well be extinct for the purposes of perfumery. As regular readers of the blog know well, I’m a huge sandalwood snob, and I find the Australian kind to be significantly different. I can count the modern fragrances that include genuine Mysore sandalwood on one hand, as the smell is truly distinctive for me.

Australian "santalum spicatum," via alibaba.com .

Australian “Santalum Spicatum,” via alibaba.com .

To my nose, Amouage’s Sandal attar smells like Australian sandalwood, and nothing like the Mysore variety that I grew up wearing in fragrances and oils. Sandal opens on my skin as green creaminess that smells exactly like buttermilk with the slightest, faintest tinge of sourness. The wood smells young and green, and doesn’t evoke the visuals of true Mysore sandalwood with its red-gold hues, rich spiciness, light smokiness, and sweetness. I recently received some oil from an Australian sandalwood plantation, and Amouage’s Sandal is almost identical to that on my skin. The only difference is that the Sandal lacks the occasionally medicinal touches, and is infinitely creamier. It’s beautifully soft and smooth, but it still smells green to me.

As a single-note oil, Sandal doesn’t change much on my skin. After a few hours, a lovely, extremely delicate, and light floral element creeps into the creamy woody smoothness. It has an almost a lemony undertone to it and, on occasion, smells a little like lemongrass. At no time is any of it spicy or smoked in feel. The attar wears very close to the skin, hovering perhaps an inch above at best in initial projection in the opening hour. It becomes a skin scent after about 5.5 hours, then fades away entirely at the start of the 9th hour.

Australian sandalwood or "Santalum Spicatum." Source: rarewoodsandveneers.com

Australian sandalwood or “Santalum Spicatum.” Source: rarewoodsandveneers.com

I couldn’t find any blog reviews for Sandal, but there are brief assessments in some very old Basenotes threads. In one discussion dating back to 2010, a commentator found the sandalwood in the attar to be genuine Mysore sandalwood and described the smell like “coconut water.” He thought it was exactly like the old Mysore scents he used to wear in the 1970s. However, in an earlier thread from 2009, the two olfactory descriptions of the Sandal attar were different.

  • I’ve sniffed Al Andalous and Sandalwood and both seemed to be very similar to other typical Middle Eastern attars of the same respective genres, with a fair dose of clearly synthetic ingredients.  [...] The Sandalwood attar was not unpleasant but not anywhere near the pure sandalwood oil.
  • The Sandal is very medicinal, like a cough crop. That sounds strange but it’s gorgeous.

Amouage’s attars are not immune from reformulation or weakening, so I don’t know if the 2013 version that I tested has changed from the 2010 version of the Basenotes commentator who detected “genuine” Mysore sandalwood. All I can say is that, to my nose, Sandal has creamy buttermilk greenness, not the red Mysore spiciness, sweetness and smoke.

Sandal is pretty in its creaminess and, if one were not a sandalwood snob, would probably be very enjoyable to wear. For me, personally, however, I could not justify spending the amount of money asked by Amouage for such a green, buttermilk version of my favorite note, especially given the sillage. I tested the attar a few times and, on one occasion, asked a family member who loves Mysore sandalwood what they thought. It was only an hour after application, but they could barely detect the scent on my skin. I said, “it’s sandalwood,” to which they replied, “doesn’t smell like it to me.”

Sandal is cheaper than Amouage’s better known attars like Tribute and Homage, but they’re still not giving away. You can find the smallest size (12 ml) starting at $250 or €168, which is better than Tribute’s opening price of $370. It’s still quite a hefty outlay for a mere 12 ml of a soliflore with weak sillage. For me, personally, the glorious, fantastic Tribute blows it out of the water, but Tribute is a much more complicated beast and definitely not a soliflore. I also prefer the interesting, nuanced Al Mas and Asrar attars, but, again, it probably isn’t fair to judge a single-note fragrance by the standards of scents with more layers.

At the end of the day, price is always a subjective matter, as is probably the aromatic impression of Mysore wood in general. So if you’re looking for a creamy and pretty take on sandalwood, then you may want to consider Sandal. It’s not the easiest thing to find, but it’s not impossible either. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sandal is a concentrated perfume oil, and comes in two sizes: 12 ml and 30 ml. Amouage has stopped carrying its attars outside the Middle East. Sandal is not sold in the U.S. nor available directly from the Amouage website, but you can find it on a few online retailers. Before I get to that, however, your best bet in finding the attar is in perfume groups. One is “Facebook Fragrance Friends” on Facebook, in which decants or samples of all the Amouage attars are currently being offered by the kind reader who provided me with Sandal. She paid the lower Oman and Dubai price for the bottles, so you may save a little over buying them at the higher Western price. Outside of Facebook, both sizes of Sandal are available at Zahras, a US online site specializing in Middle Eastern fragrances. You will have to scroll down that PDF link to page 19 to find the listing. The prices are $250 and $469 respectively for the 12 and 30 ml bottles. In the EU, I found Sandal at Profumeria Pepos which sells 12 ml of Sandal for €168. Same thing with Al Sacro Cuore, another Italian site. I could not find Sandal on the Dubai perfume site, ASF-Dubaishop, which normally carries a few of the Amouage attars at a good price, but not this one. Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes also doesn’t carry Sandal, but Italy’s Alla Violetta has numerous Amouage attars listed, including the Sandal at €168. However, none of them seem to be in stock, as they all carry the comment, “notify me when available” and you can’t put anything into a shopping cart. In terms of other vendors, Sandal is sold by Russia’s ry7. I don’t think the Amouage boutique in London carries the attars any more, as they’ve been limited to the Middle East by now, but you can always check. Samples: I haven’t found samples of the Sandal to be available on any of the decanting sites.