The Smell of a Hero


He’s musky, woodsy, and oftentimes earthy, but overall a hero’s scent is akin to sandalwood. Why is that? A curious reader wants to know!

Sandalwood: semiparasitic fragrant yellowish woods used often for their essential oils.

I researched sandalwood to figure out its appeal. I found that it’s been used in incense and perfumes for over 4,000 years. It is said the best sandalwood smell comes from a mature tree as opposed to a young tree.

But what does sandalwood smell like?

Sandalwood as a note is a striking wood base. It has a bright and fresh edge with few natural analogues. In most perfumes and scents I find it very strong. It permeates a small space easily and can be very heady despite the crisp edge. For me, the scent of sandalwood lingers, smelling like a memory after a time.

Sandalwood Today:

incensesticksMost of the sandal forests are gone, having been depleted over the years to meet up with demand. Part of the problem is how it is harvested. They pull up the whole tree instead of just hacking at the base because the natural essential oil is so expensive.

Can you imagine how lucrative growing sandal trees must be?

Nowadays true sandal trees are heavily monitored, though poachers are still a problem, and trees within the same family are being used instead and labeled sandalwood.


Taking what we know of sandalwood and applying it to the genre we can deduce that it represents many characteristics for a discerning writer.

First and foremost sandalwood represents the earth. A sandalwood scented hero is a man of dirt and woods; he is robust, practical, and worldly. In a word sandalwood is manliness.

Secondly, sandalwood represents wealth, luxury, and status because it is scarce, expensive, and refined. A hero smelling of sandalwood is a rare specimen of finest quality.

Lastly, sandalwood scented heroes are in dire need of a helmet and a spear to ward off the ladies eager to sink their claws into him. His first two qualities alone will make him the sexiest man on the block and being so intensely desired requires a protector… a job the heroine is more than willing to fulfill.

Fragrances with Sandalwood (likely chemically produced versus naturally produced): 1189! Eau de Sandalwood by Le Jardin Retrouvé Review

Photo Credits: nicholaslaughlin

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  1. rebyj

    quote ” Sandalwood: semiparasitic fragrant yellowish woods used often for their essential oils.”

    There has to be a joke about semiparasitic heroes somewhere LOL

    Love the article and sandalwood is mmmmmmmmmm !

  2. That’s just what I was thinking, but I couldn’t come up with it so I didn’t mention it… lol

    Perhaps emotionally dependent heroes can be semiparasitic?

    Or ooo the fortune hunter heroes…

    What else?

  3. Susan S.

    Sandalwood does smell awesome.
    For all those paranormal romance fans–the hero should have a helmet, a spear & a very thick collar to deter us:
    we rather sink fangs not claws!!! (LOL)

  4. Susan

    Ha,ha you got me. In my world everyone’s fang obsessed (lol) I’d say werewolves would also use
    fangs since wolves have large canines. (No claws) he-he.

  5. They do have large canines. I think that should be a post – comparison of vampire and werewolf canines: Does Size Matter?

  6. Thanks for this. I’ve seen sandalwood mentioned in so many romances, but for the longest time had no clue what to imagine. When I was on vacation a few months ago, I went into a shop that sold incense and they had sandalwood–I was so excited. It was like–oh, that’s what it smells like! lol

    My husband asked me why I was so interested in that particular one, so I held it to his nose and told him, “This is what a romance hero smells like.” Yeah, I got the great-I-married-a-crazy-person look.

  7. Nice! Just keep in mind that incense is a lot smokier than perfume/cologne… though some heroes might smell like sandalwood incense (all that manly cigar smoking after dinner). 😉

  8. Sharon S.

    I love sandalwood. I get sandalwood soap made from goats milk at the local farmers market. That is the scent I would use if I wrote a hero. And a little bit of a wood burning fire. yum 😉

  9. Wood burning smells aren’t as pleasant as they sound if they’re smokey. lol

  10. Sandra

    I found this a really interesting article, and do remember reading that sandalwood, like patchouli is a very male scent, and quite alluring.

    I have some sandalwood incense at home, and some bath essence that has patchouli in it – and it’s dreamy.
    I got it from a place called Lush in a mall.

    Oh, no! I’ll have to write about patchouli now!

    • You should. Haha. 😀 I think some of the nicest yummiest smelling perfume/cologne is made for men. Probably why they wear it instead of women, so they can attract the women… lol

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