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Want to know everything about attars? This is the perfect guide for all your questions on what are attars, how they are made, and who uses them.
What is Attar?
Attar, ittar or itra, can simply be described as a traditional natural perfume. Attars are pure essential oils from natural aromatic sources like flowers, herbs, roots, spices, or woods. Sometimes, multiple different ingredients are used for a special scent.
What makes them unique is that they are 100% organic and chemical-free. Technically they can be also called ‘concentrated’ perfume oils’.
However, you will find many online retailers who sell diluted attars. These are cheaper but have very poor quality and cannot be called authentic. ‘Sugmy’ is proud that our Attars are still handmade with only natural items. We are preserving this craftsmanship.
The history of these perfume oils can be dated back thousands of years ago, from the Middle East to South Asia. There are references to these perfume oils in ancient Egyptian, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit literature. Shakespeare also mentioned them as the “perfume of Arabia” in Macbeth.
Currently, the biggest place where they are manufactured is in the Kannauj district in India. Distilleries there are known for producing attar in the same traditional method devised around 5,000 years ago. That is why Kannauj is known as the ‘perfume capital of India’.
These Kannauj attars are then exported to 100+ countries around the world including the USA, Canada, Australia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Germany, etc.
What are Attars used for?
Attars are basically pure perfume oils, so they are mainly used to make someone smell pleasant like perfumes. You apply them to your body and their scent lingers around you.
Cosmetics and medicines also include these for their fragrance because they are natural and safe. There are also some therapeutic benefits of them, like Aromatherapy. They generally make you more relaxed and feel refreshed.
These are also used by many religious communities. Many Muslims apply attar during festive occasions. Some Hindu worship traditions also include attar in their rituals. It is also considered a great gifting option.
Types of Attars
There are various ways to classify itra in the real world. But the main division for most people will be based on their effect on the body. This decides which season they can be used for.
Cool attars are used in summer because they have a cooling effect on the body. Warm attars are used in winter because they increase the body temperature. Examples of cool ones will be shamama & saffron, and warm ones will be jasmine and mitti.
Another way to categorize them is by their ingredients. Floral attars are derived from flowers like rose, jasmine, etc, while herbal attars are derived from herbs, species, or a mix of them like amber, musk, or shamama. Beginners usually start with floral products and then shift to herbal ones when they learn more about these natural perfumes.
Attars vs perfumes
The main difference between Attars and perfumes is the raw ingredients used to make them. Perfumes mostly consist of chemicals, while attars are purely made from aromatic parts sourced from nature.
Attars are also alcohol-free, while perfume contains a large proportion of alcohol as the base.
What makes the smell of Attar strong?
One more difference from perfumes is that the scent of attar is stronger and richer. What makes the smell of attar strong is that they are concentrated. The fragrance gets contained in a base oil and nothing else is added. There is no dilution involved with a base chemical, while perfumes are contained some alcohol base. This means that only a few drops are enough to spread its aroma.
This is also why perfumes come in spray bottles because they are sprayed over the body, while attars come in small roll-on bottles to directly apply them to the skin. They also last about 8-16 hours on your body.
Why are they so expensive?
There are 3 main reasons why attars are expensive: Ingredients cost, labor, and purity. These things cannot be changed to sustain the quality.
Some of the ingredients like oud and saffron are very rare and expensive. However, they are the main essence of these perfume oils, so there is no alternative for them.
The manufacturing process is still done by hand with intensive and skilled labor required for correct production.
Finally, purity is the biggest reason. It takes many flowers or herbs for even a few drops of attar. For example, 1ml of rose perfume oil requires kilos of rose petals.
Find out which is the most expensive attar here.
But let us remind you that they is applied in smaller quantities than your normal perfume. A single drop of attar is equivalent to 5-6 sprays of perfume. So, they might look costlier, but they are more long-lasting too.
Does Attar expire?
Many people ask how long these organic perfume oils stay in pure condition with the same fragrance. Does Attar expire? Usually, they don’t have an expiry date. As long as they are stored in their bottles at room temperature, they will preserve their scent.
There is also a belief that their scent is better with their age. With time, their scent gets more concentrated and the fragrance is more enriched. However, it is important to not expose them to sunlight for a long duration.
Who uses it?
Attars can be used by anyone in the world. However, they are currently most popular in Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and South Asian nations like India and Malaysia. Some people in these countries are still buying them from India because they know that they will get only the purest ones from Indian distilleries.
But nowadays, many folks in America, Europe, and Australia are trying these natural perfume oils, instead of synthetic chemical-based perfumes. One more important reason for this switch is how long they last as compared to synthetic perfumes. Mitti Attar is getting a lot of love in western countries right now.
How are Attars made?
The steam distillation process is used to make attars but in a traditional way. This is also known as the ‘Deg & Bhapka’ method. There are historical records that this technique was first used thousands of years ago in ancient India.
There were some modifications made in this process throughout the centuries, but the basic production method is still handmade.
What are Attars made from?
Attars can be made from a variety of natural and botanical sources like flowers, roots, spices, herbs or even wood. Basically, any aromatic item from nature can be used to extract its fragrance. The fragrance depends on what aromatic part is used.
Some of the most famous contents are rose, jasmine, blue lotus, kewda, vetiver, saffron, oud, blue lotus, henna, and musk.
Attar making process
These perfume oils are still manufactured using the same traditional ways, which is the reason why they are so pure.
The main two pieces of equipment in attar making are a big pot (Deg) and a small container (Bhapka). This is why this method is also called the ‘Deg and Bhapka’ Method. Both are connected with a long bamboo pipe (Chonga).
The final installation looks like this:
Here is a simple 7 steps Attar making process:
- Fresh ingredients like flowers are collected in the early morning from nearby farms.
- A large copper pot (Deg) is filled with these ingredients and water.
- Another small container (Bhapka) is filled with base oil.
- The pot is connected via a long pipe (Chonga) from the top to the smaller container.
- The pot is then heated from the bottom and the steam is passed to the container.
- The base oil in the container absorbs the fragrance vapors from the steam.
- Then this base oil is filtered by removing excess water and we get attar perfume oil.
It takes around 4-8 hours for one batch to process and gets the final perfume. Sometimes, the process is repeated multiple times for better quality.
As you can see, there is hardly any modern technology or electricity involved. Making it in all-natural equipment also preserves the real fragrance, which cannot be replicated with electrical machines. Even the pot is heated by burning cow dung or wood. This process is completely manual and a lot of labor is required. This is when we can say whether it is authentic or not.
Best Attars in the World
There are many types of attar and everyone has their favorite ones. But there are some which are more popular in different parts of the world. They are also Eco-friendly and non-toxic, making them perfect for many people today who are moving towards nature.
Rose Attar is the most known all around the globe because the aroma of rose is loved by everyone. And since most people apply them only during festivals or weddings, the rose is more suitable for such occasions.
Shamama Attar is another famous perfume oil in the Middle East for its strong spicy scent, along with Oud. It is a mix of many different scents in one bottle.
One more itra which is gaining popularity worldwide is Mitti Attar or Rain perfume from Kannauj. The key part of it is land soil collected during the monsoon season. So the perfume oil scents like the soothing earthy smell you get after the rain.
Here are the Top 5 Most Famous Attar from India!
So, now we have covered all the questions about what is attar and how are attars made in this complete guide for beginners. This might be a great time for you to try them and we have a perfect collection for you. Get one now!