Article: History of Australian Sandalwood & Springtime

Date Posted:2 September 2019 

As the name suggests – this quarterly Sandalwood Scoop will detail educational pieces on Australian Sandalwood, the latest news and happenings at our distillery, recommended products to use for the season and more. As this is your very first Sandalwood Scoop – we thought we would start from the beginning.



History of Santalum spicatum (Australian Sandalwood)

Neil Mitchell. Battye Library, Western Australia

Sandalwood has been used for thousands of years in traditional Australian Aboriginal, Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat conditions like stress, insomnia, eczema and acne. Buddhist monks inhaled Sandalwood before meditation and Australian Aborigines used the scent to relax and focus before walkabout. The wood has been used for sacred ornaments, fans and incense holders. The distilled Sandalwood oil is used as a fixative in perfumes, soaps and for medicinal purposes.

The plethora of uses for Sandalwood, it’s huge demand, scarcity and slow growth rate have all contributed to the “Sandalwood Frenzy” during the 1900’s.

As mentioned, the significance of sandalwood has been recognised for centuries by Australian Aboriginals and was integrated heavily in their lives for medicinal and spiritual processes. Fifteen years after the 1788 foundation of Australia, Sydney merchants were in search of a commodity that could be exchanged for tea in China.  No Sandalwood grows organically on the East Australian Coast – only minimal amounts in remote Queensland. So, they sourced Sandalwood elsewhere – Fiji.

As time went by, news of the latest boom traveled thick and fast to the other side of the country – Perth, Western Australia. The aromatic quality of the West Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) was highly acclaimed overseas in places such as Singapore and Shanghai. Primary activity was based around the Avon Valley where trees were cut down with axes, stacked on a cart and sent to Fremantle for shipping. It was then discovered the butts and roots of these trees were more valuable, so entire trees were later pulled out with camels or horses with chains.


Sandalwood awaiting shipment in Fremantle. Battye Library, Western Australia

By 1847, WA experienced Sandalwood fever! It got to a point where Australian Sandalwood export challenged whale oil and wool exports from figures being virtually zero 4 years prior.

As you could imagine, the competition between landowners and labourers was manic. Pastoralists found employees very hard to find at this time.

By mid 1849 – this boom was over. It became expensive to travel to remote areas for Sandalwood – an estimated 8 or 9 times more than the cost from Fremantle to London! Prices remained low until 1859 where a rise from Singapore, Bombay and China occurred. The Government then introduced a tax per tonne for road improvements which was bitterly received.

The northern and uninhibited areas of WA provided opportunities for tax evasion and illegal exports from the coastline. “Smugglers Cove” just north of Geraldton was named after illegal Sandalwood exports!

In 1913, the first Sandalwood Distillery was created by Braddock in Belmont, Perth. He went on to export 3,000 lbs annually to England by 1917 after the British Medical Association found the when used in capsule form, Australian Sandalwood helped cure venereal disease. The demand increased during WW1 and since then the oil was used for antiseptics, perfumes and for the bases of soaps and creams.

By 1916, Western Australian Sandalwood dominated 80 percent of the Chinese market.

Between 1889 – 1980, gold was leading the WA industry, but Sandalwood still played a big role and was a welcome substitute when gold became scarce. As Sandalwood’s value became more widely recognised, fears arose about the industry’s long-term survival. Re-forestation programs were introduced by the newly established Department of Woods and Forests. Hardly any were successful as germination was not uniform and pests and grazing animals destroyed seedlings.

One plantation looked quite promising – but it was seen by a local Arab who ended up purchasing the land from the Government to feed his camels which caused outrage.

In 1921, the production of Australian Sandalwood oil was regulated by improving processing and introducing quality controls in the concentrations of Santalols (chemical components used to classify the quality of Sandalwood oils). This improved the Australian Sandalwood oil to such a point that it was incorporated as medicinal treatment in pharmacopoeias in countries including Britain, France, Japan and Belgium.

By 1923, the Western Australian Government then passed legislation to limit harvests at a sustainable level, protect the sandalwood getters, monitor illegal harvesting, conserve supplies and ensure the Crown received due reimbursement. This continues today.



Product for Spring: 
Pure Australian Sandalwood Heartwood Powder

Pure Australian Heartwood Powder

Spring is a time for detoxing. Just like nature, our bodies feel a new lease of liveliness and energy after a long, cold winter. The pure Australian sandalwood heartwood powder will do just the trick to spring clean your skin! Heartwood is at the center of the sandalwood tree and is the most oil bearing – pure and high quality. Our sandalwood powder is finely milled onsite at Mt Romance, the Sandalwood Factory in Albany.

You can use this pure Australian sandalwood powder mixed with equal-part water as a face mask. Using light-pressure with your fingertips, massage the paste on your skin, avoiding contact with the eyes. The gentle circular motion will gently buff away dry, dead skin cells and boost circulation to the skin surface. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. If your skin is dry, substitute coconut milk in place of water for an added moisture-boost. You can even add a pinch of turmeric to the mix for increased anti-inflammatory benefits. 

This can be done 2-3 times a week to restore softness, a natural glow, treat uneven skin tone and promote a radiant complexion. 


Community Involvement

Days for Girls & Mt Romance

Here is Ann, packing our pure Australian Sandalwood soap into her Days for Girls kits. She is headed to Uganda next month for two weeks to help the children in the slums of Kampala. Ann is travelling with an organization called KwaYa Australia, a registered charity based on the Gold Coast in Queensland. They provide exceptional opportunities for ordinary Aussies like her, to work on projects alongside The African Children's Choir.

Days for Girls increases access to menstrual care and education by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers, and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls. Together, we're creating a world with dignity, health, and opportunity for all.

The Days for Girls movement has reached more than one million girls — and counting! Well done Ann and thank you for getting us involved!


Albany Happenings


Kery'ls delicious butter chicken curry featuring Sandalwood nuts is going down a treat at the Albany Sandalwood Cafe! Open 7 days, 9am - 4pm. 


2019 Great Southern Art + Craft Trail

We are pleased to take part in the huge 2019 Great Southern Art and Craft Trail – where over 300 artists have showcased their work across 86 venues in the Great Southern. ‘In the Moment’ is being showcased at Mt Romance, Albany from September 21st – October 13th. This exhibition is a collection of snapshots, moments captured in time by the Albany Photographic Society members. We welcome you to come and share these moments with us. 

The Cone, Gong & Bowl 

The Cone, The Gong and the Bowl is continuing to be most popular here at Mt Romance. It is the original experience of combining Gongs and Sandalwood in a sixteen-sided cone featuring celestial skies. The orchestral harmonies of the Gongs wash over and through you producing a positive effect on many different levels. The mind relaxes into deep peace. The cells of the body are gently massaged by the resonance, helping to release old tensions. Session times are Wednesday – Sunday, 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:00pm. Please book ahead on 08 9845 6817.


Until next time, 

The Mt Romance team.