If you own a number of sandalwood perfumes, I highly recommend lining up your collection of santal scents to observe the versatility of this ingredient, as well as to see how each perfumer has interpreted this complex and beautiful wood. Santal Noble is a remarkably contemporary scent considering it was first launched in 1988 by French perfumer Jean Laporte. It carries all of the hallmarks one comes to expect from a Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier fragrance: rich, decadent and overly confident. Inspired by 17th century French culture, the brand’s Parisian boutique on rue des Capucines conjures images in my mind of ‘les elegants’ who would gather in boutiques like this to perfume their gloves, wigs and practice the art of conversation. The scent of sandalwood must have made an excellent conversation piece as tales of the exotic east began to filter back to the old world. While the brand is steeped in historic references, Santal Noble is a timeless scent that I can see attracting a variety of men, all for different reasons.
The press kit from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier that came into my possession a few years ago lists the notes of Santal Noble as coffee, incense and spice in the top notes. Sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla and vetiver are in the mids. Castoreum, ambergris, oakmoss and vanilla are in the base. The coffee note is a great point of difference and an innovation in regards to being paired with a sandalwood scent. I get it at the start and again at the back end of the fragrance once the lighter notes have evaporated. The floral note that colours the composition is abstract and simply acts to lift the dense, heavier notes of woods, resins and animal. After the perfume is given a few minutes to settle these heavier notes begin to separate out. In summary I get amber, wood and animal. The amber is a mix of incense, resins, perhaps labdanum, vanilla and patchouli. The wood is sandalwood and although unlisted, I smell Virginian cedar. The animal note is musk and castoreum that has the sharpness of labdanum resin, later settling into a leathery powder note castoreum is known for creating. Within the fragrance there is a lot going on however Laporte still maintains the wearer’s focus on sandalwood.
Santal Noble carries an air of mystery. It has a lot of personality and wearers need to take care the scent does not end up wearing them. Launched at a time when watery ozonic scents were in fashion it is mind boggling that small perfume houses like Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier have continued to persevere with such avante garde creations that now, over 20 years later are very much en vogue. The dark, moody character of this fragrance should appeal to a man with a taste for the exotic.
Perfumer: Frederic Stalin, Jean-Francois Laporte
Release date: 1988
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Mossy Woods