Indian Sandalwood vs Australian Sandalwood: Which one should I choose?

Sandalwood refers to a group of naturally fragrant woods that come from various species of trees belonging to the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained. Unlike many other aromatic woods, these woods retain their fragrance for decades.

Sandalwood is highly valued for its aromatic and medicinal properties, and it has been used for centuries in religious rituals, perfumes, cosmetics, and traditional medicine.

The most well-known and widely used type of sandalwood is Indian sandalwood (Santalum album), which is native to India, Nepal, and other parts of Southeast Asia, like Indonesia. It holds the highest concentration of a-santalol and b-santalol, the chemical compounds responsible for sandalwood’s luxurious woody-floral scent. In the wild, it takes at least 7 years for a sandalwood tree to start producing scented heartwood. Most sandalwood trees are left to mature for at least 15 to 20 years before they are harvested, which allows the valuable heartwood to grow to a larger size.

In the 19th Century, sandalwood seeds were brought into the western part of Australia from India and planted in the vast arid landscapes. The unique climate of Australia makes it very conducive for growing sandalwood trees. The cultivation of Australian sandalwood has expanded over the years and has since gained recognition in the global market as a sustainable source of sandalwood. 

When it comes to picking sandalwood incense, you may be in a dilemma on which type to choose. Here's a comparison on the differences of Australian sandalwood and Indian sandalwood for your reference.

1. Scent

  • Indian Sandalwood: Indian Sandalwood is renowned for its opulent, creamy, and inviting aroma. It emits a luxurious, faintly sweet, and woody scent that is often characterized as velvety and alluring. This fragrance is not only captivating but also long-lasting.
  • Australian Sandalwood: Australian Sandalwood offers a milder, airier, and more delicate scent compared to its Indian counterpart. Its fragrance is frequently depicted as refreshing, verdant, and subtly woody, with subtle traces of citrus and floral notes.

2. Endangered Status

  • Indian Sandalwood: Due to over-harvesting and habitat degradation, Indian sandalwood is classified as endangered in the wild, subject to international regulations and conservation efforts.
  • Australian Sandalwood: Australian sandalwood is not endangered and commonly follows sustainable harvesting practices to ensure its long-term sustainability.

 3. Cultivation

  • Indian Sandalwood: Although Indian sandalwood is often cultivated, it requires several decades to produce high-quality heartwood with a robust fragrance.
  • Australian Sandalwood: Australian sandalwood is cultivated more extensively to meet demand, with a shorter growth period, making it a more sustainable choice.

 4. Price

  • Indian Sandalwood: Indian sandalwood has historically been more expensive than Australian sandalwood due to its superior fragrance and the fact that it is considered the classic source of sandalwood. Prices for high-quality Indian sandalwood heartwood can be quite high, especially when used in the production of sandalwood essential oil, which is highly sought after by the perfume industry.
  • Australian Sandalwood: Australian sandalwood, being more readily available and cultivated sustainably, is generally more affordable than Indian sandalwood. However, the price can still vary depending on factors such as the age of the trees and the quality of the wood. Australian sandalwood is often used as a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to Indian sandalwood.

Sandalwood incense is a popular offering item in Buddhism.You may offer whatever that is within your means and favour. Please bear in mind that it is the intent that is important when it comes to offering items to the Buddha.

Shop our range of Sandalwood incense here.

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