Thierry Wasser 2014
[sɑ̃tal rwajal]
Family: woody, spicy, leather
Notes: leather, peach, cinnamon, orange blossom, sandalwood, agarwood, musk, saffron, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, raspberry, amber
Strong wood and syrupy rose
Period: The recapitulation years
Santal Royal collection

There's a lot of money in the United Arab Emirates, and every luxury brand would love to hit it big there. Therefore, Guerlain has started to design fragrances for the Arab market. Deeply rooted in a French perfume tradition dominated by floral harmonies, citrus, amber and powder, Guerlain isn't as popular in the Middle East as it is back home. Arabs simply aren't attracted to classic European perfumes, not even the orientals; living in an extremely hot climate, they prefer strong woody scents, dark rose, and spices. Thierry Wasser's perfume trio Les Déserts d'Orient from 2012 was targeted directly at Arab customers, and so is Santal Royal.

Santal Royal opens straight onto the scent of sandalwood, sweet and fragrant like a sawmill. Sandalwood oil smells profound but has little radiance, and as a main note it risks flattening the perfume, unless a synthetic is added to support it. Here, it's paired with a strong leather note, pure, radiant, raspy and very dry, i.e. the modern variety that we also find in Thierry Wasser’s L’Homme Idéal. In Santal Royal, the dose of leather is high enough to be a top-to-base note. Maybe Thierry Wasser stretched the synthetic part a bit too far; it may fit the Dubai taste for power, but the elegance of the sandalwood oil struggles to breathe underneath it. Together with leather, we get the metallic freshness of orange blossom, and we clearly sense that Thierry Wasser composed Santal Royal at the same time as when he created L'Homme Idéal. There’s also a fruity top note, that peach-like note which has brought luminosity, sweetness and verve to many a Guerlain composition (Mitsouko, Chant d'Arômes, Nahéma, Guet-Apens). Without this peach, Santal Royal would probably strike you as too bleak and black, at least for a Guerlain perfume.

Say “Guerlain” and “sandalwood” in the same sentence, and you immediately think of Samsara, famous for its overdose of sandalwood. Santal Royal is very different though: far less floral and stripped of the Guerlain powder, it's more of a woody “niche type” oriental. Along with the sandalwood we get an agarwood note, with its unmistakable flavour of the Middle East. However, Santal Royal is not officially a member of Guerlain’s Les Déserts d’Orient series, even if it smells like one (it shares the hay-like and slightly bitter and spicy saffron vibe of Encens Mythique d'Orient), and it comes with its own bottle design. It looks like Guerlain wanted a mid-level product for the lovers of Middle Eastern scents: 160 € for 125 ml, which is the price of a mainstream Guerlain EdP.

The scent of agarwood is often described as having a syrupy raspberry facet. In Santal Royal, the raspberry note is quite present, and at some point we almost think of La Petite Robe Noire Couture. This is also the moment when Santal Royal starts to get a smoother feel, with a floral bouquet of jasmine, rose and ylang-ylang, classic Guerlain. Yet, as noted, the dominant notes remain the woody-leathery and not the floral ones. We also detect the warmth of Christmas spices, in the style of Tonka Impériale. Yet, Santal Royal is not a gourmand fragrance, as the dryness of wood and leather persists throughout, although it seems to be rounded off with a bit of caramel sweetness towards the end (but significantly less so than in L’Homme Idéal). If the start of the fragrance could appear a bit unfriendly and stinging, the base mix of wood, raspberry, amber and leather has that addictive quality that is the hallmark of Guerlain.

Typical of leather and woody materials, Santal Royal is an extremely tenacious fragrance. A single application is enough for more than one day. On fabric, it will probably last for weeks.

Bottle. Santal Royal comes in a black version of the Aqua Allegoria and Eau de Rituel bottles, with a dark, woollen scarf around its neck.

  We love: to get to know what Middle Eastern people like

  Black fruit

  Mysterious man

Some images courtesy of

Back to contemporaries      Back to perfumes