I've been nursing a decant of Santal Noble for the past year and a half, and it's taken me this long to finally appreciate it. It's not that I didn't like it before, but more that I was unimpressed by what I'd thought was its oversimplicity. Until recently, Santal Noble (current formula) just smelled to me like sawdust mixed with fruit (for those who don't know, "Santal" is the French word for sandalwood; this is a sandalwood fragrance). This fragrance is legendary among perfume and sandalwood enthusiasts, but I couldn't understand why anyone would pay over $100 for a fragrance that smelled like a lumberyard. Granted, I like the smell of wood, but I like a wood fragrance to have some complexity.
Santal Noble is a fragrance that must be worn for a full day in order to appreciate it fully. Don't just spritz this on the back of your hand, sniff it all day and expect to be impressed. This was meant to be worn, not sample sniffed, and you need to wear it in order to savor all of its facets and opulence.
Santal Noble smells better and better the longer you wear it. It starts off kind of fruity actually, sort of like the smell of sawdust and canned pears. It's not a bad smell, but it's nothing mindblowing or particularly creative, and I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather smell like than this. Luckily, after about a half hour the fruit smell fades to the background, and the scent becomes drier and woodier smelling. By this point, Santal Noble smells more like a cedar fragrance than a sandalwood one, but over time the unmistakable scent of sandalwood works its way to the forefront.
By about the three or four hour mark, there's no mistaking that Santal Noble is a sandalwood fragrance. Sandalwood's hallmark richness, complexity and spiciness are on full display now, and at this point I finally understood why this fragrance is so beloved among sandalwood fans. It's smells so perfectly balanced, I can't get enough of it. It is a complete fragrance, totally rich and luxurious, without ever being heavy, sweet or overbearing. It's light and transparent enough to wear in casual settings, but it also has a complexity and elegance that would go perfectly with a black tie and tux.
Is Santal Noble the best depiction of sandalwood on the market? No, my award for that still goes to Caswell-Massey's Sandalwood; the bottle of Caswell-Massey I have contains authentic Indian sandalwood, which is much richer and more complex than the Australian variety that Santal Noble uses. On the other hand, I actually prefer Santal Noble as a wearable fragrance due to its better versatility and slightly more interesting drydown. Also, whereas Caswell's has an old fashioned barbershop smell to it, Santal Noble is more timeless, and I find I'm in the mood to wear it more often than the Caswell-Massey.
MY RATING: 9/10
Fragrance House: Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier