THE ORIGINS OF SANDALWOOD SPICATUM
Sandalwood is an evergreen tree of the Sandalwood family that grows naturally in the southern half of Western Australia. Although it was once found mainly in the Wheatbelt region, there are now crops in the Midwest and Goldfields regions(notably in the small mining town of Kalgoorlie where our Sandalwood comes from). These are strictly regulated and protected by the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) under the provisions of the Sandalwood Act.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Small shrub that does not exceed 4 meters in height, the Santal Spicatum is a hemiparasite. That is to say, if it contains chlorophyll allowing it to ensure itself its photosynthesis, its roots are not sufficient to pump in the ground the water and the nutrients necessary to its development. During the first 10 years of growth, it feeds and hydrates itself directly from the roots of neighboring trees, such as Acacia or Eucalyptus.
WHEN WAS IT FIRST DISTILLED?
According to Australian archives, the first distillations of Sandalwood Spicatum are estimated to have taken place in the middle of the 19th century.
WHAT SITE IS SUITABLE FOR GROWING SANDALWOOD SPICATUM?
The preferred site for growing sandalwood is clay soil. However, sandalwood also grows on gravel, yellow sand and red sand. The site must be able to hold water while being well drained. Saline, waterlogged or very clayey soils are not suitable.
HOW IS SANDALWOOD GROWN?
Sandalwood cultivation is a long and meticulous art. First, farmers dig cultivation beds 4m apart and 50cm deep. Then, the seeds of the host trees (eucalyptus, acacia) are planted on each row with a spacing of 3 meters between each seed. It is then necessary to wait between 1 and 2 years (the time that each host tree measures at least 1m) to plant the sandalwood seeds at 50cm of each shrub. Sandalwood seeds then take between 4 and 8 weeks to germinate and it takes a minimum of 5 years and an average of 10 years to grow sandalwood; it is generally grown when its trunk exceeds 125mm in diameter, or even 150mm at ground level.
It should be noted that at the age of 5 years, the parasitic needs of sandalwood spicatum are far too important for a single host tree. A quality culture will thus require at least a ratio of one sandalwood spicatum for 2 hosts.
In the aboriginal culture, it is said that sandalwood has been used to perfume the air for over 30 000 years. This makes it the first perfume of humanity. The wood was heated to release its aroma and implore the gods. Sandalwood has always been perceived as a material that allows men and gods to correspond. It was therefore regularly used for cremations; for the anecdote Gandhi was buried with a ton of sandalwood (album this time, but it shows the “sacred” around the whole species).
USES IN CARE
Even today in the contemporary use of Sandalwood Spicatum we find a strong attachment to the sacred. Rich in terpenes, its essential oil is known to be positivizing, while soothing and calming. It promotes positivity.. It is thus enormously used in aromatherapy or olfactotherapy to treat various ailments, from the highly stressed to the depressed.
USE IN PERFUMERY
In perfumery, sandalwood spicatum is known as an excellent fixative and is widely used in top notes to enrich creations.
IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS SANDALWOOD
If sandalwood has always had something mystical about it, it guided us to our profession, at a time when our chief sourcer had nothing to do with the sourcing world. These twenty years of work are the result of a chance of life, sprinkled with a little bit of madness, we grant you. Here is the story. In the summer of 1999, with our backpacks slung over our shoulders, a road trip took us to Western Australia. On this occasion, we stopped at an old friend’s place, named Steve, in his farm in Albany, a small coastal town 400 km south-east of Perth. Over a meal, he told us about a project he was developing at the initiative of an aboriginal community from the Kalgoorlie region, the Dutjahn.
FROM EXPROPRIATION TO THE COURTS
Since the colonization of Australia by the English at the end of the 18th century, the law of terra nullius has been invoked to violate the land rights of the Aborigines. The expropriations are constantly motivated by money, as the whole country abounds in particularly lucrative resources. Recently, many actors are fighting for the rights of the aborigines and some communities have won a first battle by recovering the ownership of their land. This is the case of the Dutjahn. But in Western Australia in 1999, the natives still had no right to exploit the resources that abounded in the soil and subsoil. The Dutjahn were thus denied the right to grow sandalwood on their own land, no matter how well they knew how.
A UNIQUE MODEL, HALF OWNED BY THE ABORIGINES
The State of Western Australia would not flinch, so they needed an Australian guarantor to set up their project. They naturally turned to Steve, a well-known entrepreneur who is very committed to the aboriginal cause. He quickly agreed. After a long struggle, they even managed to share equally between Australians and Aborigines, which was inconceivable a few years ago.
At the time, in a country then plagued by clichés, few people believed in this initiative. Sales were taking off timidly on Australian soil, while they struggled to find an intermediary willing to sell their wood on the European market. Without even thinking about it, we offered. Steve thought we were joking at first, but when we insisted, he finally decided he had nothing to lose. The funniest part of the story is that we didn’t have any contacts in the business at the time…