From Sandalwood to Vetiver: Our Ethos & Backstory
One of the first 100% natural Body Oils I created was fragranced with Sandalwood essential oil. The year was roughly 2010 and my daughter and I were newly located in our first proper shop in Chiang Mai's Old City in Moon Muang Soi 6.
Why did I choose sandalwood?
I was looking for the Earth aspect and deep woody fragrance notes amongst the commercially available Thai essential oils, which all leaned heavily towards citrus, spicy and herbal.
Sandalwood immediately became one of our best selling Body Oils, alongside the Ylang Ylang and Orange scent, which remains "up there" on our best sellers list.
So what changed and WHY did I drop Sandalwood altogether? Despite it obviously being commercially successful?
Sandalwood essential oil had always been crazy expensive. As it should be. It can take up to 60 years for a sandalwood tree to fully mature. And the tree needs to be cut for the oil extraction. I remember distinctly questioning the ever-increasing price one day with our supplier, and her answer. "I can get for you, from Laos. Much cheaper price. " And I bought it. Once. It smelled amazing. But something in me wasn't comfortable. And so I started reading. About the illegal logging, the bribes and the black market in exotic forest timbers. Research wasn't at your facebook fingertips quite as easily then, and it wasn't easy to wade through the NGO reports and the ecological survey material.
But everything I read disturbed and saddened me. No matter what amazing properties something has, if we have to destroy the earth to get some, then it simply isn't worth it.
And so I pulled my sandalwood off the shelves. Hoarded our last remaining stock and savored it, knowing I couldn't in conscience buy or sell sandalwood ever again.
Sidebar: for the very same reasons I don't buy, promote or support products made from or containing Palo Santo, Mahogany, Rosewood etc all.
For YEARS the earth-wood fragrance spot in our range sat vacant. Until the Royal Project here in Thailand started distilling and commercially selling Vetiver Essential Oil.
Vetiver is a grass, and the essential oil is extracted from its phenomenal root system. It grows quickly!! Very quickly. But it remains crazy expensive due to the MASSIVE effort to harvest the 2-3 meter deep root system from steep slopes.
We don't believe Vetiver should be grown and harvested like this, and we've been experimenting on above ground growing techniques for the commercial production of Vetiver Essential Oil.
We're excited about filling the Earth-Wood fragrance vacancy in our product lines. We're even MORE excited about the skin healing properties of Vetiver, it's gorgeous calming scent and the fact that it IS possible to start growing and distillation in mountain communities without the need to destroy the soil structure or the integrity of the mountain slope in the process.
Our work is slow but we're happy to be long-game players, of it means a better world for our children and better, higher quality, sustainable products.
Stay tuned for the next steps in our Vetiver journey.