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SEVERAL of the staff at Mt Romance felt managing director Stephen Birkbeck had gone out on a limb when he authorised construction of a 16-sided cone on the company’s Albany property.

But at least they knew what the plan was – the board of directors were not so well informed about ‘the cone’, ‘the gong’ and ‘the bowl’.

The unique project has been driven by Mr Birkbeck’s passionate belief in the therapeutic benefits of sandalwood oil.

While the sales of sandalwood oil to the exclusive perfume market continue to show good growth, it’s the health and wellbeing applications of the oil that most excite Mr Birkbeck.

And the cone, the gong and the bowl comprise a unique meditative space where sandalwood oil in conjunction with the sound of gongs is used to help people escape the stresses of everyday life.

It’s the success of the oil on the world perfume stage that has allowed Mt Romance to further explore the benefits of sandalwood in meditation and healing.

Mt Romance currently sells its sandalwood oil to four of the top five fragrance companies in the world.

“Each of these companies is capable of consuming from 2,000 to 5,000 kilograms of oil a year,” Mr Birkbeck said.

Mt Romance has negotiated contracts to supply oil to three of these companies and it was very close to signing a new contract, he said.

For commercial reasons Mt Romance is unwilling to disclose exactly which companies it has signed contracts with.

However, Mt Romance sandalwood oil produced in Albany is used in high-profile perfumes such as Calvin Klein’s Obsession, Paris by Yves Saint Laurent and Guerlain’s Samsara.

The sandalwood oil has even caught the nose of world-renowned perfumer Michel Roudnitska, who has agreed to diffuse the oil into the air at the opening of Centifolia, an international perfume congress, which will be held in Grasse, France, this October.

“For him [Mr Roudnitska] to endorse us is the first major breakthrough,” Mr Birkbeck said.

“It’s also simultaneous; we’ve never sold to the largest perfumers in volume and in the last eight months we’ve sold about one tonne of oil into the majors. And we’ve just had a re-order from that company.”

While the export of the sandalwood oil continues to grow, Mr Birkbeck said regu-lation of the industry would be the only way to control the entrance of new players in the market.

Mt Romance relies on the Santalum spicatum species of sandalwood, which grows over an area of WA stretching

from east of Shark Bay to Albany.

All natural stands of sandalwood are owned by the State Government, so the Forests Products Commission plays an important role in ensuring the stock is replenished following harvesting.

Mt Romance has a contract with the WA Government for the supply of sandalwood and is looking to extend this contract beyond the next 10 years.

“We have a contract with the WA Government until 2011, so we’ve got 10 years remaining and we’re trying to get an extension in place,” Mr Birkbeck said.

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