Sandalwood in India

Click here for specific information on the specific brands of fine sandalwood incense that we carry.

The best quality sandalwood oil comes from the Indian province of Mysore and Tamil Nadu where the harvesting of Sandalwood trees is supposed to be protected by the state government. The sandal tree variety found in India is known as Santalum album L.The tree achieves heights of 12-15 meters but grows very slowly. As it grows, essential oil begins to develop in the roots and heartwood in about 15 to 20 years. But full maturity requires 60 to 80 years for the center of the slender trunk (the heart wood) to achieve its greatest oil content. Because much of the oil is found in the roots during the rainy season harvesting typically used to occur at that time of year when the trees were easily uprooted to harvest all of the oil available from each tree. Today they are frequently just cut and felled because demand for the oil has driven the price so high.

planted red sandalwood grove

Pterocarpus santalius or santalum rubrum (red sandalwood) previously used only for colouring and dyeing is now also being used for incense. Other varieties come from the Sandwich islands, Western Australia and New Caledonia. The Australian (S. spicatum or Eucarya spicata) produces a very similar oil but with a woodier top note.

natural sandalwood grove

Events in India and other countries where the preferred variety of sandalwood naturally grows have now created a situation where the availability of high quality sandalwood incense and sandalwood oil has become seriously compromised. Harvesting practices over the past 30-40 years in the forests of Mysore have resulted in the virtual depletion of most mature trees. Many remaining trees in Mysore are too immature to produce quality sandalwood or sandalwood oil. Despite sustainable growing requirements in place today, forests are still being illegally plundered by bandits and poachers who rape the forests of immature trees. High quality oil still comes from the Indian province of Tamil Nadu in limited quantities where more mature trees can be found. In Vietnam and New Caledonia one can also find plantations of genuine sandalwood.

Recent government regulations and sustainable practices have now begun to slowly reverse the current lack of availability of high quality oil but for the immediate future many incense and oil suppliers refuse to buy or sell sandalwood oil or incense for moral reasons. For that reason pure sandalwood incense is now more difficult to obtain.

We still specialize in sandalwood incense because the sweet woody scent of pure sandalwood has been the incense of choice for many of our customers for many years.