One of the other top loves of my life is the smell of sandalwood. Mysore is the main area in India where this is produced so I was looking forward to seeing, smelling and buying some.
The first thing I learned is that the tree is called a sandal tree. things are carved from the sandal wood but the oil is sandal oil. think of our indigenous trees. we call them cedars and pines and maples – when something is made from the wood we do not call them cedarwood carvings or maplewood furniture. and this is the same with the sandal trees.
the next thing I learned is that the sandal trees have been seriously depleted to the point where the they are guarded and protected – the public is not allowed into the forests and poaching is a problem. the trees take 20-30 years to grow and right now mos t of the trees are less than 10 years old.
At this factory, unlike the silk factory, we did have a real tour with someone who could give us some history and information. (no cameras and photos, alas!) the first thing we saw was a young sandal tree in the garden. then we went to where the trees logs are split. only the inner core of the tree is used to produce the oil. the outer wood is split away and is sold by the ton for some carving and also cremation firewoodwood. then the wood is finely shredded and put into huge tanks where the first run of oil is steamed out. the residue from this stage is thick ‘dust’ and it is used for making incense. then this crude oil goes through another steaming/distillation process and what finally drips out is pure 100% sandal oil. it is very expensive and valuable – more so than even gold.
our guide told us that the factory is not producing oil right now as the re-establishment of the sandal forests is not sufficient to harvest.
we were able to buy sandal soap and incense and then splurged and bought a small vial of pure sandal oil.