I have worked in the Sandalwood industry for over 17 years it amazes me how often I am asked what sandalwood is. Quite often people have never even heard of it.
People are also often quite surprised to learn that Western Australia has its very own species of sandalwood that in the last few decades has proven its value on a global scale.
Think high quality perfumes, skin care, soaps, aromatherapy, incense where sandalwood can be a key ingredient.
The quality of the sandalwood in these products can be the one component that sets one product from the other.
Almost anyone that’s heard of Sandalwood will ask about its connection to India. It’s a popular and common question. In the Sandalwood world, the Indian species of Sandalwood (S. album) is identified as premium. It is exotic as it is beautiful. However it is no longer readily available and supply is stagnant meaning that world perfumeries and the like cannot be sure of its source, ethnicity and sustainability.
Western Australia is the only region worldwide that can boast our own beautiful sandalwood species (S. spicatum) of which there is continuous and sustainable supply today and in future generations to come.
Why? Wild sandalwood in Western Australia is protected by government legislation which dates back to 1929. The government recognised Sandalwood’s value back then and implemented controls to protect it. This legislation ensures wild sandalwood on crown land is protected and harvested correctly, ensuring future growth of trees.
When we think of Western Australia in the early 1900s we wouldn’t be at fault if we thought of an agricultural economy. However it was actually Western Australian Sandalwood that played a significant role in establishing WA’s export industry and trade ties. The magnitude of its role in economic development is unquestionable.
This unassuming tree is slow growing and becomes better with stress and age – quite the opposite to us. The heartwood is the best part as this contains sandalwood oil which can be extracted. We have gotten better at utilising the entirety of a sandalwood tree – 20 years ago we may have been using only 50% of the tree – now we are using 100%.
The Western Australian government, farmers, processors and stakeholders in the WA sandalwood industry have done a great job in placing Western Australian Sandalwood on the world map so that it is now a highly sought after resource that unlike other Sandalwood species, is present, is continuous and remains untouched therefore in optimum conditions.
Next time you put on your perfume, light an incense stick or burn sandalwood essential oil, you may be enjoying the benefits of a natural resource from Australia’s very own doorstep.
Western Australia is essentially the sandalwood region of the world.
Another reason that makes where we live so great.