What is Sandalwood?
Sandalwood is an aromatic timber that has been used for thousands of years ranging from incense for religious ceremonies agarbatti, perfume and cosmetics, medicinal treatments, aromatherapy, insect repellency, furniture and carvings, and chewing tobacco.
The value of the Sandalwood is in the heartwood which contains santalol and the make up of the alpha and beta percentage of the heartwood will dictate the value of the sandalwood.
Sandalwood is part of the Santalum genus and there is in excess of 20 species throughout Asia, Australia and the Pacific. There are currently only 8 species harvested commercially from the wild. In order of value, starting at the highest, (but subject to the age and conditions of growing) there is album; yasi; austrocaledonicum; paniculatum; macgregorii; spicatum; lanceolatum; and acuminatum.
The most famous Sandalwood is the “Mysore” Sandalwood which is album and growing in Southern India. Album grows wild throughout India; Sri Lanka; South East Asia; Indonesia; and Timor. The true Yasi is very similar to album and grows in Fiji and Tonga, but there are many similar looking woods that have little value. There are now album / yasi crosses growing in Fiji which add to the confusion.
Austrocaledonicum grows in Vanuatu and New Caledonia with some areas yielding better santalols than others. Again there are many substitute woods of little value in this region and you need to know what you are looking at. Macgregorii grows in Papua and New Guinea and has many sub-species and “look a likes” that make it difficult to trade. The last three species are grown in Australia and harvested in a sustainable manner.
Paniculatum is from Hawaii and more recently the harvesting has been increased from private property. There are few Government controls on the harvesting. The logs are very popular for furniture and the oil is low yielding but very good quality.