Close up little blue flowers and green leaves

Guaiac Wood

Guaiac Wood. Tree of life, “Palo Santo” or Lignum Vitae, you are known under many pseudonyms. You are a sacred tree of the Americas, your distant and illustrious cousins are myrrh and frankincense. Since ancient times, shamans and other priests have burnt your hard flesh to purify the sacrificial ground and the house of the sick and unfortunate. You are commonly used in folk medicine to relieve from stomach pain and arthritis, among many other ailments.

Bursera graveolens Palo Santo Palosanto
Wood chips of Palo Santo are commonly used as incense to purify homes and in sacred rituals

The guaiac tree, or scientifically Bulnesia Sarmientoi,  is a small tropical tree from Central and South America, with a decorative dark heartwood and a light yellow sapwood. Thanks to its extreme hardness and density, guaiac is widely used for art crafts and for making utensils.

Its high aromatic oil content is appreciated locally for concocting incense and popular medicines. Guaiac (essential) oil is produced by the steam distillation of the wood chips and sawdust from the tree. The oil is, in fact, a wax at room temperature and melts at about 40 degrees Celsius, but when mixed with other oils, it remains in liquid form. It is, however, an essential oil and not a concrete.

Beautiful shaving brush made of guaiac wood

Guaiac oil is increasingly popular in aromatherapy for its relaxing, anti-inflammatory, lymphatic decongestants and arthritis curing properties. It is a good oil to prepare the body for relaxation before meditation. The oil has a very pleasant woody-floral aroma and can sometimes be used as a substitute for, or to complement, an expensive rose essential oil or concrete.
The oil is composed mainly of guiaol, a sesquiterpenoid alcohol also widely present in cypress pine and cannabis oils. Guaiacol is a different organic compound with a smokey smell, once extracted by dry distillation of guaiac wood, but now mostly synthesized and used to produce other aromatic molecules such as vanillin.

In modern perfumery, guaiac wood oil is used as a base note and a fixative, and widely present in woody accords. Its relatively low price makes it a versatile ingredient in soap formulas, body and skin care, scented candles, etc. It has a balsamic, honey-like, floral (mainly rose) and slightly smoky note which blends well with citruses and spices and other woods.

Givenchy’s campaign visuals for Guaiac Mystique

Some perfumers have placed guaiac wood at the center of their creation, such as the wonderful unisex Gaïac Mystique, part of the high-end collection of Givenchy called L’Atelier de Givenchy. In the words of Givenchy, this sublime juice combines “the enveloping and powdery comfort of Iris, the smoky and voluptuous power of Guaiac Wood, the mysteriously addictive duo of Tonka Bean and Incense.

The delicious Bonbon by Viktor & Rolf – a sweet gourmand fragrance with a base of guaiac wood

For the “gourmandes” among you, try the new Bonbon from Victor&Rolf. In this sweet fragrance, guaiac wood pairs with santal and amber in a mild base note. Caramel and peach compose the gourmand heart, and citruses sit at the top. A hint of jasmine complete the delicious feminine blend. The enormous sillage will please the ones in search for sweet encounters.

For the true Woods lovers, Bois Noir by Robert Piguet, is an elegant blend of guaiac and cedar woods, supported by heart notes of sandalwood and patchouli, resins and musk. A truly-warming winter fragrance for him and her.

Bois Noir by Robert Piguet – A woody jewel made of guaiac

My pick of the month goes for the latest creation from Cartier for men, called LEnvol. The fragrance is as refined and beautiful as the original and classy packaging that goes with it. The guaiac wood note is distinguishable, leaving a very soft and elegant rosy-woody base to the Honey-accord heart. The perfume is quite linear though, having top notes of similar nature as the heart notes. It is a really mild juice for any man who does not want to stand out of the crowd but care about his loved ones.

The latest men’s fragrance from Cartier – L’Envol

For you ladies, Vanille 44 from Le Labo should please you with its accord of vanilla-guaiac-citrus enhanced with sparkling aldehydes, a good choice for misty late-autumn days.

I wish you a warm weekend and look forward seeing you again on Scent & Flavor next week.


About Laurent 70 Articles
Born in Switzerland but lived half of my life in fragrant Asia, I want to share my passion for scents and flavors

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