A botanist named Vieill has given the name austrocaledonicum o this very special species of Sandalwood. We can mainly find New Caledonian Sandalwood in the Loyalty Islands and on the Isle of Pines. Santalum austrocaledonicum is close to the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) by its smell and composition. It is completely different from Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum). The principal clients are the most famous French cosmetic and perfumes companies.
Sandalwood is a well-respected oil, holy and indispensable in religious and spiritual practices, and used for centuries. Also called liquid gold due to her precious nature, Sandalwood oil is used in Ayurveda, and aromatherapy and is also a key ingredient in many lotions and soaps thanks to its antimicrobial properties.
The sandalwood tree is felled in the forest and the sapwood is removed before delivery to the distillery, as only the heart is rich in essential oil. The wood is stocked for drying and then milled to become wood chips. The double boiler, with a wood fire, heats the chips, and the steam allows the wood to exude its essential oil. The next step is the cooler, which gives a water and oil mixture. The last step is to use an ‘essencier’ or Florentine vase to separate the oil and the water by density. Once filtered, the oil is very pure.
The seedlings are raised in nurseries, then transplanted in the forest. It is important to note that all stages up to harvesting are done in an artisanal manner – there are no industrial processes. The local tribe members are in charge of planting, harvesting and the sale of sandalwood to the distilleries. Only 40-50 year trees are felled each year, and natural regeneration is greater than the harvest. Also, the regeneration process requires three planted trees for one felled. Trees are selected and identified by a hammering of the trunk and the cutting down controlled by the forest department. The authorised quantity does not exceed the natural capacity of regeneration. The tree nursery takes care of young trees, are then transplants them into a natural environment.