Find Your Scent: What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

We know that finding your scent can be daunting, especially when you’re not sure how to pronounce half the scents in a fragrance — let alone imagine what they smell like. With phrases like “eau de parfum”and “base notes” being tossed around, it might seem like the whole world of scents is too complicated to invest in. 

Snif isn’t the brand to harp on scent notes, but we know it's our role to act as the translators of the fragrance world to make it easy to understand. At Snif, we want to give you all the information you need to find your signature scent, without all of the fragrance jargon or gendered words like “perfume” or “cologne.” 

In this article, we’re going to tell you about one of our favorite scents — sandalwood — without the complex description nonsense. 

Meet Sandalwood: Citrusy, Floral, and Woody

If you’ve never heard of sandalwood (or have heard of it but have no idea what it smells like), you’ve come to the right place. Although sandalwood is one of our favorite fragrance ingredients, we know that most people are introduced to sandalwood for the first time when they are scent shopping. Here are some sandalwood FAQs we get regularly.

What Does Sandalwood Smell Like?

Sandalwood is considered a “woody” fragrance. Other scents in the woody family include pine, cedar, cypress, vetiver, and patchouli, which may help lead you in the right direction.

When you first smell this earthy scent, it might seem a little sweet, spicy, and musky along with its strong woody vibe. However, unlike other woody scents, sandalwood settles soft, smooth, and creamy. 

You might be wondering how a scent can possibly smell smooth and creamy. You know when you smell a Christmas tree or walk into a forest, and your nose starts to tingle? Sandalwood is a slightly smoother woody scent, so it won’t cause that familiar nose tingle and might seem more mellow. Some people describe the smell of sandalwood as buttery, comforting, and sensual.

It’s a really rich scent that’s perfect for someone who wants a strong woody smell with a little softer of a twist. Compared to other woody scents like cedar, sandalwood is a bit more subtle and brighter. You might notice that sandalwood is considerably sweeter than classic woody scents like cedar and pine. 

Where Does the Sandalwood Tree Grow?

Sandalwood comes from the essential oil, santol. Santol is extracted from the Indian sandalwood tree and other trees in its family. Today, a Santol tree can be hard to come by because it produces highly sought-after oil for both fragrance and aromatherapy purposes. As a result, it is currently considered an endangered species.

Given that everyone wants to get their hands on sandalwood and there are so few trees left, it is considered the most expensive wood. Due to the dwindling population of sandalwood trees in India, today’s sandalwood oil usually comes from Australian sandalwood or New Caledonia sandalwood. Nowadays, you can find sandalwood trees in Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Hawaii in addition to their traditional Southeast Asian homes.

It can be hard to notice the differences between these sandalwood varieties at first, but if you try hard enough you can start to catch them over time. Sandalwood from Australia is slightly woodier and has a lighter scent than Indian sandalwood, whereas the scent of New Caledonia is really creamy and very similar to Indian sandalwood. 

What Scents Layer Well With Sandalwood?

The sandalwood scent is distinct because it complements other scents so well, kind of like that friend you can bring to any party. Your favorite sandalwood pairing is going to be up to you to decide, but these are some fan favorites you might want to try.


You can easily layer sandalwood with citrus scents like orange blossom or clementine to make a light, bright scent with an earthy, woodsy twist. 


Sandalwood also pairs exceptionally well with jasmine, a floral scent that’s rich, sweet, and fruity. The slight musk scent in jasmine works really well with the slight musk in sandalwood. 

Black Tea

Sandalwood can also be layered on top of black tea to enhance the sweet and floral scents that come from this classic fragrance. 


Vetiver is also a member of the woody fragrance family but smells a bit drier and leathery than sandalwood. For this reason, when combined, sandalwood and vetiver make a complex, delicious woody pair. 

What Should You Snif If You Love Sandalwood?

If you’re sold on sandalwood at this point and want to make it your signature scent, we’ve got you covered. There are a few different Snif fragrances and candles that incorporate sandalwood. Luckily, you can take them all on a test run to decide which one suits you the best with our trial kits. Give them all a spin, and see which one feels the most like you.

Show Pony

If you’re looking for a dark horse scent, we recommend Show Pony. This fragrance combines black tea, saffron, vetiver, sandalwood, bergamot, black pepper, and golden plum to create a scent so smooth and warm you’ll never want it to wear off. 

Natural Talent

Our Natural Talent scent just can’t help but steal the show. Along with sandalwood, you’ll find apricot, jasmine, soft suede, osmanthus flower, clementine, and citrus in this scent. All of these ingredients make Natural Talent juicy, leathery charisma in a bottle. 

Way With Woods

You know those days when you want a subtle, inviting scent that can last you through a long work day and into a night out? We definitely do — and Way With Woods is the perfect easy-to-wear scent combining white tea, mandarin, amber woods, vetiver, musk, and sandalwood. There’s a reason this is our hands-down fan favorite.

Ditch Plains

Missing the beach? We’ve got the perfect candle for you. Ditch Plains, named after a beach in the heart of Montauk, NY, is the essence of an east coast surf summer captured in a candle. Made from sandalwood, orange blossom, tuberose, orris, rum, cedarwood, tobacco, and amber, this candle will always bring you back to the beach. 

Find Your Fragrance

We hope you’re feeling a little more confident and ready to go out there and find your fragrance now that you know all about what sandalwood smells like, where it comes from, and what it layers well with. Remember, you can try any of the scents and candles we talked about in this article with Snif’s try-before-you buy program — because we know that, ultimately, your nose has the final say. 


Re-discovering Sandalwood: Beyond Beauty and Fragrance | NIH

Jasmine Benefits | Natural Health Guide | NIH

NCI study of tea drinkers in the UK suggests health benefits from black tea | NIH

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