Traditional Attar and Enfluerage Making Techniques in India



Those who distil perfumes use a copper still, which may hold from 150 to 200lbs. of water, and has a flat head. A tube, bent at right angles, conveys the vapours into a copper cucurbit, which serves as a recipient, and is placed in a widemouthed earthen vessel to contain water for condensing the vapour. The whole apparatus, and the place where it stands, are exceedingly slovenly. The artists make three kinds of water, from roses, from the Pandanus (Keara), and from the lime (Citrus) ; but the quantity of the two latter is very trifling. The rose water is either single or double-distilled, the latter being drawn a second time from fresh roses. These flowers are only used when fresh gathered. Even in three hours they are supposed to lose their perfume. The single-distilled rose water sells, by wholesale, at from 12 to 13 rs., and, by retail, at from 16 to 20 rs. the man, which weighs about 76 lbs. Each distillation, according to some, for a man of Water requires 22,000 roses, and about 56 sers of water, of which 40 only are drawn off. The double-distilled rose water retails at 2 rs. a ser (1196 1b.), and being only in demand among Europeans, is not made, except when commissioned. Others allege that all is distilled twice, as such alone will keep, and that what is required for common use is diluted with water, when wanted. The other waters are distilled in the same manner. All their essences consist of sandal-wood oil, impregnated with various smells, for imbibing which this oil has a strong capacity. The best workmen distil their own sandal oil, but some is imported. The sandal wood comes from Malabar. It is rasped, soaked three days in a little water, and put in the still with water, and the oil is found floating on the surface of the water in the recipient. It is distilled to dryness. Sandal oil alone is not used as a perfume, but is impregnated with many odours by placing it in the recipient, and distilling over into this the waters from various substances, such as roses, the flowers of the Bel (Jaminum sambac W.), spices, the roots of the Andropogon called Kus, the flower of the Chameli (Jasminum grandfflorum), that of the Mulsari (Mimusops Elengi), Agarwood (Agallochum), the flower of the Keara (Pandanus), the flower called Juhi (Jasminum), and even clay. The most common by far is the rose, and what is in almost universal use among the natives of India, as atur of roses, is sandal-wood oil impregnated in this manner, which, according to its quality, sells at from 1 to 2 rs. for a rupee weight, while the real essential oil of roses costs 50 rs. at Patna. The sandal oil seems to extract the whole perfume from the rose water, as this passes into the recipient. A common essence used is one impregnated with the odour of spices, and called Mujmua. The ingredients vary from 5 to 50; but cloves, nutmegs, mace, greater and lesser cardamoms, and saffron, are the usual ingredients. It sells for from 1 to 3 rs. for a rupee weight (three drams apothecaries weight) ; but it is not at all agreeable. By the skill of European artists the essences might perhaps be rendered useful ingredients in perfumes, as they preserve the smell of various very agreeable odorous substances, which could not be readily procured in Europe, especially that of the Pandanus flower. The most strange of these essences is that made with the clay, which communicates to oil of sandal-wood the smell, which dry clay emits, when first wetted, and which to me is far from agreeable. It sells at 1% rupee for each rupee weight. The best sandal oil costs here about half a rupee for the rupee weight.

The workmen of Bar, instead of a distilled oil, impregnate an expressed oil with the odour of the Chambeli flower (Jasminum grandiflorum W.). At the beginning of the flowering season they take 82 sers (about 169 lbs.) of the seed of Sesamum (Til), and every fair day during the season add to one-half of it as many flowers as they can collect, which may be from one-fortieth to one-fourth of its weight; next day these old flowers are picked out, and put to the other half of the seed. The season lasts about three months, and the whole quantity of flowers may in that time equal the whole weight of seed; but one-half of the seed is impregnated entirely with the fresh flowers, while those given to the other half are withered, and have lost part of their strength. The seed is then squeezed in a common oil mill, and each gives 12 sers, or about 24~ lbs. of oil; that impregnated by the fresh flowers being of twice as much value as what is impregnated with the withered. I am told that the 12 sers of the best kind are mixed with 96 sers of common oil of sesamum, and the mixture here sells at half a rupee for the ser, so that it brings 54 rs. The people who make it valued it at 12 rs., and thus made it appear that they lost by the manufacture; but they live easily, and do no other work than to pick the flowers from among the seed, and mix and retail the oil. The inferior oil at the same rate will bring 27 rs., and the total value will be 81 rs. The real charges are 82 sers of sesamum seed, at 25 sers a rupee:3r. 5a. 9p.; 44 sers of oil of sesamum, 15 r. l2a.; 2 mans of flowers, 12r.; expressing the oil, 8a.; total, 19 r. 9a. 9p.; profit, 61 r. 6a. 3p.