Santal Blanc was launched by Serge Lutens in 2001. It was created by perfumer Chris Sheldrake, and features notes of white sandalwood, cinnamon, fenugreek, pink pepper, rose, jasmine, orris root, musk, benzoin and copaiba balsam.
Like many Serge Lutens fragrances, Santal Blanc starts off rather like spiced stewed fruits. Fenugreek, which is used in curry recipes and also as a flavoring for artificial maple syrup, adds an interesting touch, and there is quite a bit of pepper in the mix. Within a few minutes, the fruits and spices are overtaken by the woods. There is sandalwood, yes, but also quite a bit of cedar. The woods smell ever so slightly scorched, and that helps to balance the sweetness in the top notes.
Some time ago Serge Lutens compared Santal Blanc to the smell of fresh bread from the bakeries in Lille where he was born. It does have a doughy sort of undertone once it dries down, but it is more frequently compared to the smell of a pencil. And it does smell like a pencil: a very nice pencil, mind you, perhaps the nicest ever, but still, it is probably not a smell that is universally appreciated as a personal fragrance.
I like it best when applied very lightly, and it reaches perfection after about an hour, when the spices have calmed and the woods are very creamy and smooth. The floral notes are subtle, but the iris lends a beautiful butter-velvet finish and is as much the star of the show here as the sandalwood. It doesn’t strike me as sexy, like yesterday’s 10 Corso Como, nor is it a calming, contemplative fragrance, like Diptyque Tam Dao. It is an enigmatic scent, evocative, a bit other-worldly, and one of my favorites from this line.
Serge Lutens Santal Blanc is an Eau de Parfum, and the lasting power is average, or perhaps a bit less than average. It is in the export range, so you can buy it online in the United States [in 2010, Santal Blanc was moved into the exclusive range]; see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses for sources.