Sandalwood is one of my favorite accords of all time. It has all of the bite and stiffness of typical woods accords, but with an added amber, creamy element.
The best sandalwood colognes are mysterious and full of life. There’s a reason they have been one of the most popular genres of fragrance since the late 80s.
In this guide, I’ll be stepping through the whole timeline. From the classics that have stood the test of time, all the way through to trendy modern interpretations.
Some of the colognes are mainly focussed on expressing the woodiness (like Cool Water and Chanel Egoiste) while others employ sandalwood as a partner for another primary note (like Mont Blanc Individuel, or Prada L’Homme).
7 Gents Guide to the Best Sandalwood Colognes
- 7 Gents Guide to the Best Sandalwood Colognes
- Cool Water by Davidoff- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Cedar
- Drakkar Noir Guy Laroche- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Pine
- Tom Ford Santal Blush- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Vanilla
- Individuel Montblanc- Best Fruity Sandalwood Cologne
- Prada L’homme- Best Clean Sandalwood Cologne
- Original Santal Creed- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Spices
- Chanel Egoiste for Men- Most Underrated Sandalwood Cologne
- Eau de Santal Floris London for Men- Best Sandalwood Eau de Toilette
- FAQ: What You Should Know About Sandalwood Colognes
- So- What Now?
So, let’s get into it!
Cool Water by Davidoff- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Cedar
It’s impossible to talk about the best Sandalwood colognes without mentioning Cool Water by Davidoff.
Cool Water was synonymous with the club and bar scene 15 years ago. It seemed that everyone was wearing this fresh and distinctive cologne.
Back then, it was the go-to for reviving yourself for another round of dancing. The fresh pick-me-up is in the midst of a renaissance at the moment, too.
Cool Water is for a mature gent who is growing into his 40’s gracefully. Still dominant, still a leader, an exuding a depth of confidence that hints to his established power and status.
This nostalgic fragrance feels like something James Bond would wear- no young buck, still a dangerous edge that you wouldn’t want to mess with.
The dry, bitter sandalwood is the main accord here, but it’s mellowed by an aquatic sense of seafoam and citrus vitality.
It’s clean, laundry-detergent fresh, and brings to mind a pristine white t-shirt. Casual and proud.
There are touches of herbs from accords of lavender and rosemary. These kick out hits of earthiness once the bracing, cool opening has subsided. These pops of vitality help round the harsh sandalwood and keep Cool Water energetic rather than aggressive.
In the base, white musk oakmoss lends a chalky, powdery sense and offers a great contrast to the vitality of the heart. These deeper accords dull some of the shoutier notes and present that bold, bitter sandalwood thrust in the best light.
It bears a striking similarity to one of my favorite colognes of all time, Creed’s Green Irish Tweed. If we call Green Irish Tweed the “green” fragrance, Cool Water is its “blue’ counterpart.
The resemblance is not without controversy, with Cool Water creator Pierre Bourdon calling foul play.
“When I lost the finale of Lancome’s Sagamore project, he stole my formula from me, modified it to make his Green Irish Tweed.”Pierre Bourdon. The Ghost Perfumer Page 84
|Top Notes:||Sea water, Lavender, Mint, Green Notes, Rosemary, Calone and Coriander|
|Middle Notes:||Sandalwood, Neroli, Geranium and Jasmine|
|Base Notes:||Musk,Tobacco, Oakmoss, Cedar and Amber|
Drakkar Noir Guy Laroche- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Pine
Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason. Dramatic Noir Guy Laroche is another blast from the past in the same way as Davidoff’s Cool Water; it was also very popular 15-20 years ago.
It’s less known nowadays, but still has a cult following from those who fell in love with it. Drakkar Noir is the more opulent, devil-may-care analog of the bright, aquatic Cool Water.
Like the confidence boost of a new haircut, when I wear Drakkar Noir I feel like a million-dollar man.
It’s not for youngsters; this cologne is very mature.
The overwhelming sense is of a pristine 90s barbershop, packed full of shaving cream, herbs, and green pine. It’s like a nice clean shave and very mature smelling.
In the opening, we’ve got lemon and lavender with a touch of mint. It’s energizing and enjoyable but is well-balanced enough to feel measured and sophisticated.
Within half an hour, these lighter notes make way for a heart of pine, cinnamon, and the dominant sandalwood moves from the sidelines to center stage.
The dry down is where the wood notes lay bare, like the most relaxing sauna you’ve ever been to. It’s masculine and mature, with touches of smoke and musk that prevent it from feeling dated or off-trend.
As you might expect from a fragrance this well-worn, performance is excellent. You’ll get well over 8 hours of wear out of Drakkar in all its woody glory.
The projection is also, for me, just right. With a couple of sprays, you’ll be noticeable without dominating the space.
|Top Notes:||Lavender, Bergamot, Mint, Lemon, Rosemary and Basil|
|Middle Notes:||Jasmine, Juniper, Coriander, Cinnamon and Wormwood|
|Base Notes:||Sandalwood, Pine Tree Needles, Fir, Leather, Oakmoss, Cedar, Patchouli and Amber|
Tom Ford Santal Blush- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Vanilla
Santal blush unisex, and the quality indeed transcends gender concerns.
This unconforming blend is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you prefer classically alpha male and aggressive fragrances, look elsewhere.
This spicy and dry blend makes me feel luxurious and elegant. Santal Blush reminds me of a fine dry white wine in the opening, crisp but with delicate woody infusions. As the heart opens up it becomes creamier, a little like snacking bread in a workshop scattered with sawdust.
The more masculine elements of animatic musk and suede emerge in the dry down. There’s also a touch of vanilla that leaves Santal Blush feeling like a thick, powdery milkshake.
My girlfriend says she ruined Santal Blush for herself by realizing it smells like Crown Royal (she had a bad experience in college…). She’s not wrong, but for me, it’s a bonus. The sweetness and woodiness are all there.
It’s not overly masculine, but for me, Tom Ford offer one of the best sandalwood fragrances out there.
But if you’re interested in poise, precision, and craftsmanship- Tom Ford delivers once again.
|Top notes:||Cinnamon, Caraway, Carrot Seeds and Spices|
|Middle notes:||Ylang-Ylang, Rose and Jasmine|
|Base notes:||Sandalwood, Virginia Cedar, Musk, Agarwood and Benzoin|
Individuel Montblanc- Best Fruity Sandalwood Cologne
Montblanc Individuel is an excellent and bright daytime sandalwood fragrance. It’s perfect for the chillier seasons, perfect for adding some zip and energy to days where it’s lacking.
The opening is full of playful, flirty raspberries. It’s sweet and fresh, with touches of spicy florals to keep things interesting.
This energetic fragrance is for a guy in his 20s or 30s, ideal for a casual evening dinner or laid-back cocktail date. It projects this air of a fun-loving, spontaneous gent who doesn’t feel like he has to assert his masculinity every step away. It’s for the guy that girls have fun with, rather than dates that feel more like business meetings.
This is not a de facto sandalwood cologne. Individuel is more of a wrestling match between sandalwood and the raspberries. Sandalwood starts as the underdog but takes control in the later rounds. It’s a journey from the sharpness of the opening to a more warm, masculine drydown.
The clean and fruity raspberry note is what Individuel revolves around, and it lasts right through the dry down. As the body develops, vanilla and cinnamon enter the scene, adding a more delicious, dessert-like quality.
I imagine this sweetness could become a little cloying in warmer weather, so I wouldn’t recommend Individuel for summer.
Performance is strong, with an arm’s length projection for the first few hours and total longevity of 6-7. If you apply Individuel before leaving the house for dinner, you’ll be going strong through post-meal drinks and in the taxi home.
It’s not what you’d go for if you’re looking for an unadulterated sandalwood blast. Individuel offers a powerful representation of the accord, but in the context of a berry-platter and masculine florals.
With serious signature fragrance potential, it’s a great pick for Sandalwood fans who are looking to liven up their palates.
|Top Notes:||Lavender, Pineapple, Cinnamon, Juniper Berries, Mint, Cardamon and Rosemary|
|Middle Notes:||Orange Blossom, Jasmine and Violet|
|Base Notes:||Sandalwood, Vanilla, Raspberry, Dark Chocolate, Musk, Amber, Vetiver, Oakmoss and Patchouli|
Prada L’homme- Best Clean Sandalwood Cologne
L’homme is an upper-class and professional smelling Prada cologne. It inspires confidence in others, without the danger of offending them. It’s for a Gent who is safe and friendly- but unapologetically successful.
The Sandalwood here, like Mont Blanc Individuel, is moderate but critical. The creamy woodiness is complimented by the sweet, soapy iris, producing a bright and versatile fragrance.
The overall effect is a very clean-smelling fragrance with plenty of masculine bite from sandalwood and cedar notes.
L’homme would suit a handsome lawyer or tech exec who prioritizes his work and productivity. He views his career as a conquest to be won, not a chore to be a slave to.
There are hints of prickly pepper in the opening, and a woody-sweet carrot seed accord that adds some density.
Within 20 minutes, a heart fortified by warm amber and spice opens up, and L’homme becomes 10 times more alluring.
This is the sort of fragrance that makes people want to hug you and stay there. It answers the question “Can you smell sexy, without smelling sexy?”.
This is a cologne more interested in hand-holding strolls through the city than late-night desire and seduction.
As such, it’s versatile. It’s safe to wear to work, but to relegate L’homme to a workplace fragrance would be doing the world a disservice. It’s not going to offend anyone, but it is not bland in the least.
Projection is moderate, which is perfect for what the scent is. I found that L’homme was able to survive most of the day in the office, but by around 4 o’clock it has sort of faded into the skin-scent territory.
I defy anyone to tell me they hate this scent. It’s just not possible.
|Top Notes:||Neroli, Cardamom, Carrot Seeds and Black Pepper|
|Middle Notes:||Violet, Iris, Geranium|
|Base Notes:||Sandalwood, Amber, Cedar, Patchouli|
Original Santal Creed- Best Sandalwood Cologne with Spices
Original Santal is incredibly popular, and for good reason. The subtlety of this Creed offering is unparalleled, and a masterful effort from the designer house.
This is a gentlemanly and refined representation of dry and light sandalwood. It’s peppered by soothing lavender and aromatic spice to produce a well-balanced cologne.
For me, it’s a perfect winter fragrance. It got that feeling of overcoats and frosted grass. However, it’s not one of these overly Christmassy colognes that overdo it on spice and aromatics.
The warmth here comes from subtle cinnamon and ginger, but they’re only there to lightly support that primary sandalwood accord. The takeaway is still resoundingly masculine, and the wood feels fresh and vivacious rather than stuffy and musky.
Original Santal packs enough punch to cut through cold weather. It projects well for 2-3 hours before becoming a 1-2 ft scent bubble for another 2-3 hour stint.
I find it to be a great stress buster and would recommend it to any gent that is looking for a sophisticated winter cologne, The emphasis on quality is so apparent it’s almost impossible not to exude a sense of authority and status while wearing it.
Most Creed fragrances are an exercise in modern refinement of a classic accord, and they’ve repeated the trick with Original Santal. This is classic masculinity, repackaged and rebranded for the 21st Century.
|Top Notes:||Sandalwood, Juniper Berries, Coriander and Cinnamon|
|Middle Notes:||Lavender, Ginger, Rosemary and Petitgrain|
|Base Notes:||Vanilla and Tonka Bean|
Chanel Egoiste for Men- Most Underrated Sandalwood Cologne
Chanel Egoiste is a comforting and elegant fragrance that relies on the best parts of sandalwood. It functions as the lynchpin of this classy cologne, prevalent from the first spray right through to the deep base.
The effect is clean, crisp, and refreshing, packed with vitality and the air of the forest rather than oppressive over-woodiness.
The opening is like a brisk winter walk in the woods. As the heart opens up you step inside from the cold, and find cinnamon and other spices are mulling on the stove.
A supporting note of amber adds warmth and coziness. It combines incredibly with the earthier sandalwood that runs through the core of the cologne.
It’s the balance of energizing, fresh feeling, and subtle spice that makes Egoiste worthy of this list. This is a cologne for go-getters, problem solvers, and guys who just “get it done”- but with grace and style.
There’s enough going on to make Chanel Egoiste feel unique and “niche-smelling” while remaining pleasant and appealing to a broad audience.
This woody-creamy combination is a borderline gourmand and reminds me of soft, pastry-like goodness. It’s deliciously comforting.
|Top Notes:||Rosewood, Mahogany, Mandarin and Coriander|
|Middle Notes:||Cinnamon, Rose and Carnation|
|Base Notes:||Sandalwood, Tobacco, Vanilla, Leather and Amber|
Eau de Santal Floris London for Men- Best Sandalwood Eau de Toilette
It’s an airy, smooth cologne that is incredibly fresh and clean.
Like Creed, Floris as a house uses such high-quality ingredients that it would be difficult to mess up a blend provided you don’t over-clutter it.
Thankfully, they leave plenty of room in this airy fragrance for sandalwood to take center stage. As the name suggests, this is a sandalwood cologne first and foremost, not just a fragrance that includes sandalwood.
The only real additions I pick up on are flickers of light spice in cardamom, pepper, and clove. There’s a touch of lavender, too, but it’s not overly sweet and is there to enhance, not distract. The base has a musky, vetiver quality but creamy sandalwood is always front of mind.
Floris has a bit of a reputation for being dated or untrendy, but I didn’t get this sense at all from Eau de Santal. To me, it felt quite modern and subtle, in the same vein as a Creed or Tom Ford.
It’s not a showboater, and won’t win any awards for creativity or flair. Nevertheless, the fragrance had enough about it to make me wonder if Eau de Santal- and Floris more broadly- are probably quite underrated.
To me, the fragrance was very pleasant, sophisticated yet charming, and just made me feel relaxed. It’s the sort of cologne I could imagine an aloof but interesting gent wearing. He’s not going to give the game away, can do without all of the fuss and commotion. It’s for the guys that prefer a real conversation about ideas and beliefs, rather than empty table talk.
For an Eau de Toilette, performance is pretty good at 4-6 hours of longevity. Just don’t expect Eau de Parfum levels of performance, and consider Eau de Santal as more of a travel sprayer that you might keep in your bag or locker. You’ll need to reapply or accept a skin scent.
This soft-woody fragrance with a spicy backdrop is the embodiment of smart-casual. It would suit a gent in his late twenties/ early thirties for formal lunches, interviews- or just for adding some gravity to a coffee date.
|Top Notes:||Pepper, Bergamot, Grass, Lemon, Cardamom|
|Middle Notes:||Lavender, Nutmeg, Clove|
|Base Notes:||Sandalwood, Vanilla, Virginia Cedar, Amber, Musk and Vetiver|
FAQ: What You Should Know About Sandalwood Colognes
So- What Now?
If you’ve never tried a sandalwood cologne, you should change that. It’s incredibly rare to find a woody accord that isn’t overwhelmingly deep, and actually harbours a little sweetness.
I’ve included links to the best prices I could find for all of the colognes above, and they’re the perfect place to start if you’re looking for something tried and tested.
Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite sandalwood cologne is and any hidden gems I might have missed!