The Smell Of Rain On Earth – How India’s Perfumers Recreate It

The Smell Of Rain On Earth


Fresh roses are the main ingredient for this ancient way of making perfume. The tradition is thousands of years old and this small city in India is one of the only places that still makes it this way. One batch can take weeks or even months to prepare. The result is 100 percent pure perfume also called the Arabic word for fragrance. But what makes the Attar so special is also what is leading to its demise the time consuming process is hard to sustain.

We visited India’s perfume capital Kannauj to see how this craft is still standing. Workers gather roses in these fields near Kannauj and deliver them to distilleries while they’re still fresh.

This one is over 100 years old it’s owned by ml Ramnariyan perfumers.

Making Process 1st step

There is no electricity and no industrial machinery here. Workers have already prepped these copper containers or dates filling them with just the right amount of water about 80 kilos. Once the flowers arrive they are carefully weighed it is an essential part of the process as getting an accurate ratio is key. The roses are evenly spread out and it takes two men to carry and pour them into the dates. As the petals begin to seep in the water a craftsman seals the container rim with a mixture of clay and cotton.

Making Process 2nd step

They then light firewood inside an earthen oven called a patty and the alchemy begins. The heat boils the water and flowers until the emits steam. It condenses as it travels through this hollow bamboo pipe or change that connects to the papka a smaller container filled with sandalwood oil that forms the base of Attar. This is where every last drop of fragrant water will gather over 6 hours.

In the meantime, workers constantly check the temperatures of the different vessels using their hands and years of experience instead of thermometers they monitor the fire to make sure that the eggs are warm enough to create steam but not too much otherwise it can destroy the scent.

They also have to make sure the popcor stays cool enough to turn the steam back into liquid. This is a job which requires a lot of patience it requires a lot of time and effort the input has to be good to get great outcomes. So all every stage of our process has to be given a lot of focus and to be done with a lot of concentration and any slip-off can you know have negative results.

And the result is the all-natural Attar free from any alcohol or artificial chemicals with a scent that can linger for days.


The smell of rain on earth making process

Here they make over 15 different kinds of oils but one of their most prized is mitti attar literally meaning earth perfume. When let’s say there is rain on dry purged earth and you know the smell the sweet soothing smell that one gets so that’s the smell that you can expect from other methods to recreate the smell of earth. They use old clay pots that were used for spices or tea.

They crush the pots and add them to the water just as they did with the roses. But while Rosetta is made in a day others can take weeks or even months to produce. They are distilled and redistilled till the smell is potent enough.

Bottling Process


The last step is the bottling process. It’s also old school using a funnel and a bucket every tiny bottle is filled by hand. Expensive Attar can sell for 10 000 Indian rupees or 135 us dollars and that’s the price for just two teaspoons of it. The raw materials are costly and it takes a lot to make just little amount.

Foreign for at least 400 years as a matter of fact cannot has got the geographical indication for another. So technically uh an author can only be from Canada but the method of steam distilling is said to have originated in ancient Persia and the middle east thousands of years ago in India.

It was popularized by Mughal kings during the 17th century. But these days’ young brand conscious Indians mostly use western perfumes. As a result, in the last 20 years 80 percent of India’s traditional distilleries have closed down and the people of kannauj have felt the decline. So the whole town is involved in in the business of perfumery. I would say uh about 80 to 85 percent of the people living in the industry in in the town are associated to the perfume industry in one way or the other.

A lot of people say that you know it’s losing its shame and stuff like that but I personally don’t feel that way. Every day we strive to innovate and you know find a new application for our oils. So we’ve seen growth no doubt Muslims all across south Asia have used attar for centuries it’s believed to be one of prophet Muhammad’s most prized possessions.

And outside of India these chemical free attars are popular in the middle east. European fragrance houses have also been importing attar to use it as an ingredient in their modern perfumes breathing new life into an ancient industry.




We are very proud of our lineage and but at the same time it’s a lot of responsibility as well. When you have to maintain and sustain certain standards then that becomes difficult makes us proud to carry forward a legacy of five generations. After all, recreating the smell of rain on earth is no small legacy.

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