note evaluations: the wood family

the handle of our front door made of a piece of lavender root.
the handle of our front door made of a piece of lavender root

Next to the resins this has got to be my favourite perfume family.  These are the notes that ground, guide and instruct me, not just in my daily life but also on the importance of constructing a perfume upon a solid base – firm and lasting. This in essence is what I extract from this family.

Some favourites that I have in my collection that are part of this group but are not part of the evaluation are: Davana, Oakwood CO2, Birch Tar rectified, Rosewood and Himalayan Cedarwood.

Myrrh: this opened with a freshness that was surprising, strangely I couldn’t smell it out of the left nostril.  Faintly woody, dry and brittle, reminiscent of paint somehow.  It was light, citrusy even and vaguely camphoraceous.  The dry down 6 hours later presented a warm, woody, bark, cinnamonish, drier than before but still present, almost seemed imbedded into the paper.  Volatility: mid-low.

Cistus Labdanum: oh, my God, I’m in love! Resinous, penetrating, sharing aspects in common with citrus for me, woody. Light, warm, reassuring yet sharp (that’s gotta be the camphene I’m detecting).  There is a dark side to this, it’s moving and has the ability to stir the soul, touches the belly, ancient and balsamic.  Drying down reveals tendrils of smoke wafting into the air that are still distinctly resinous, ritualistic, conjuring impressions of an orthodox church, comforting in its permanence, captivating, earth-bound, recalling sounds of Gregorian chants; medieval.  Volatility: still very impressive, so low-mid volatility.

Patchouli: how do I love thee, let me count the ways! Patch equals inner peace for me. Dark and woody, mysterious and creamy in quality. It expresses the woman I aspire to be at my core. Ritualistic, lush, narcotic, dense and bold. Reverent, true to itself, mature, like an anchor, raw power, untamed and unorthodox.  After 6 hours it is still vibrant, but in a much more contemplative way, still creamy, devout and evocative.  In a word: sultry.  Volatility: very low-mid volatility.

Vetiver: reminds me of citrus, dry and woody. I can pick up an animalic note, fecal even, but so soft.  Grassy, cabin in the woods, damp, wet sensation, a feeling of deepness, character, dense, expansive wilderness.  I get the ghost of an impression of Iris root, with a sense that these two could blend very well together.  This note is very persistent, whenever I leave and re-enter the studio I can smell it above all the others I’m currently evaluating!  In the dry down it is still very powerful. Grassy, beige quality, like a blanket. Now it is very warm. Volatility: very low volatility.

Oakmoss: opens clean, fresh, soggy and wet, earthy.  Out of the right nostril I can barely detect it only an impression of “clean”.  Wet woods, green forest sparkling after a warm rainfall, a bit sweet, somewhat dark and leathery.  After 6 hours it has faded to a sweet, balsamic quality, thicker than in the beginning.  Something I hadn’t noticed when I first evaluated this months ago is a faint smoky quality in the dry down, almost of tobacco.  Perhaps it is this sample that has that facet.  Volatility: low to mid volatility.

Cedarwood: awakens with a resinous appearance, soft, clear, clean, crisp with a touch of sweetness, balsamic. I get an impression of the outdoors in the middle of winter, snow, exciting, white! Shortly after I am struck by a sense of majesty, immenseness, a bit sticky, sharing common elements with Birch Tar rectified, leather! Could be a good marriage. Volatility: after 6 hours this dries down to a zingy bite, a touch citrusy, sweet, almost balsamic, similar to Davana, sort of spicy! Low to mid volatility.

Sandalwood: brighter than Cedarwood, woody, I can barely smell it out of my left nostril and it’s almost invisible through my right.  With both I get soft, dry, a bit sweet, exotic, graceful and delicate, creamy, impressions of the Middle East. Hushed. This note lurks in the shadows!  What other mysteries is it leading me to? In the dry down it reminds me of an Indian store I used to work in as a teen. I get wooden jewellery boxes, filled with treasures.  The gem of this note seems to be coming out now after 6 hours with a distinctly round, soft character.  Sandalwood is unapologetic in its nature.  In one word I would describe this note as: Ageless.  Volatility: very low to mid volatility.

Next up is the Powder family and a class experiment. Finally some mad scientist stuff!


Myrrh: 48 hours later still soft, I have to get up close but it’s more intimate now.

Labdanum: 48 hours later it’s very present, less incensey, now just a very lived in feeling, smokey leathery.

Patchouli: 48 hours in and it’s more leafy, comes and goes, softer, more powdery, less noticeable somehow.

Vetiver: 24 hours after and to me this is sort of soapy, still dry and very much out there!  Clear and decisive but tamer though.

Oakmoss: 24 hours later and I still get tendrils of tobacco, plumes of leather, less of an impression but the impression it does leave is darker if that makes any sense.

Cedarwood: 24 hours into the dry down and if this were a colour it would be yellow/green now with a light citrus edge, hints of similarities with African Bluegrass, and still quite perceptible.

Sandalwood: 24 hours on and this note is much more powdery, softer, talcum soft, reminds me of a talc I used to have as a pre-teen with a puffer. It also brings to mind  embers in a hearth early the next morning.


Photo credits: whenever not mentioned the images are taken by me. Door handle image credit goes to our friend: Luca De Nale.


aromatic profile: davana eo

davana essential oil

Common name: Davana

Genus name: Artemisia Pallens (part of the Asteraceae, or Daisy, family)

Supplier: White Lotus Aromatics

Note: Base to Middle note

Chemical Compounds: a ketone called davanone (>50%), linalool, a few terpenoids, davana ether, acetoeugenol, anemone, davana furan, methyl cinnamate and ethyl cinnamate.  According to Davana oil has a number of rare furanoid sesquiterpenes as major constituents like davanone.

Production: produced in India by steam distillation of the flowers and stems, must be fresh.

Interesting bits: Fruity and fresh with a hint of strawberry, this is a difficult note to describe, it is so unique and to me at least, incomparable.  Most of the research I found expounds on how it changes on every individual, this of course helps the perfumer create truly individual accords and compositions.  I have yet to verify this for myself but I love how it smells on me.

Everyone lately is obsessed, going on and on, about Oud (I haven’t smelled it yet) but to me Davana is pure and a greatly unexplored ingredient. The way people are mauling Oud at the moment makes it feel tainted. I like the unusual, often choosing to go left when the crowd’s going right so you won’t see me running to add Oud to my collection any time soon.  But that’s just me.

Davana blends well with Patchouli (well, that was a no-brainer!), rose, rosewood, sandalwood – in fact, it grows in the same parts of India, right near the trees where sandalwood is grown, hmmm, I smell affinity; tangerine, Tuberose, vanilla, ylang yang, bergamot, black pepper, cardamom, jasmine, mandarin, etc.

It is the preferred food of a number of butterfly species!  In India the blossoms are offered to Shiva, the god of transformation. Kinda makes sense when you think of how unique it is, mapping itself aromatically almost like DNA to its wearer.

Widely used in the food industry, for flavouring tobacco, pastries and some beverages.

Rarely growing in the wild, Davana seeds are small with delicate seedlings which require extreme care and nurturing so it’s mostly cultivated in gardens and fields.  This suggests to me that great care must be used when including this as an ingredient and that it may take time to fully blossom within a composition.

Other than giving a boost of energy and elevating the mood, the regular use of Davana results in silky smooth and healthy skin ( Going to definitely use when making the next set of skin serums.

Their nose: (White Lotus Aromatics) radiates and intensely sweet, sharp, herbaceous, wine-like aroma with a delightful fruity-balsamic undertone.

(Agricultural Products India) It has strong, woody and fruity notes reminiscent of the apricot fruit.

(Bo Jensen) The fragrance of the herb and its essential oil is described as deep, mellow, persistent and characteristically fruity.

My nose: at first I smell blackberries and fruit, a bit floral and voluptuous, and it strikes me as definitely something new to my aroma landscape.  Shortly after I get the full on fruit power, bringing to mind some place tropical and a colour pops out of nowhere: purple!  After an hour it becomes softer, less pungent, but still very present.  After 5 hours it’s softer still but growing more mature, fruity still but with more grace, rounder somehow. After 7 hours it’s still warm and fruity I can almost smell a combination of this with oakwood, cognac, with the alcohols, still quite present but becoming much more subdued. After 12 hours, wow! Divine! Warm, delightful, still very present but as a backdrop.

For me this is and will forever be known as Divine Davana.


aromatic profile: sandalwood absolute

sandalwood absolute

Common name: Sandalwood

Genus name: Santalum Austro Caledonicum (New Caledonia)

Main chemical components are: α-Santalol(38.2%),β-santalol(18.2%),trans-α-bergamotol(9.9%),lanceol(9.1%), and epi-p-santalol(3.8%). But I learned something interesting from White Lotus Aromatics about New Caledonia Sandalwood, that “GC-olfactometry revealed, that iso-β-bisabolol [2], a new odor active sandalwood trace constituent, having a strong floral, muguet-like, very pleasant smell (16-18) was also present in the oils from New Caledonia.”

Some interesting bits: New Caledonian sandalwood oil is long-lasting, has little or no particular top note and smells soft, sweet-woody, nutty, animalic-balsamic, but is weaker and less radiant than its East Indian counterpart, according to WLA.  Victoria of Bois de Jasmin, says “in some parts of India sandalwood flavors milkshakes and sweetmeats.” Sandalwood, sadly, is among the threatened species because of overharvesting in many countries.  The chewing tobacco market in India is a huge consumer of the essential oil.

Their nose: “a rich, soft, sweet, creamy, balsamic, precious woods odor which is uniform in olfactory properties throughout the long life of its dry out. The heart note is softer and creamier in aromatic texture than the Sandalwood from India and Sri Lanka.” ,WLA. “Sandalwood has a rich, balsamic, sweet fragrance with delicate wood notes. The oil has a woody, exotic smell, subtle and lingering and the color is pale yellow to pale gold.”, Fragrantica.

My nose’s immediate impression is very light, woody and soft, intimate and silent.

After 1 hour I find that with this absolute I have to be in a calm space in order to fully appreciate it, I can’t be stressed or have a gazillion things going on, can’t be in a rush,…after a while I smell more of the wood but in a coy, cajoling sort of way.

After 3 hours it reminds me of paper and I LOVE paper! Dry.

1 day later and now this one just continues to surprise me, holy smokes! It’s so smooth and soft, more of a woody landscape yes, and wonderful base note!