Revealed: The Stories India’s Secret Perfumers
By Jhelum Biswas Bose
Customised perfumes may seem to be a novel concept; however; in India; personalised a fragrance based on your personality and emotions is not new. In her TED Talk on Art of Seduction; Dr Seema Anand; shares a rather sensuous description of perfume wearing from the Kama Sutra. She speaks of how applying oils on specific parts of the body was considered an art in ancient India. One of my favourite fragrance stories is that of the discovery of rose essential oil and how Emperor Jehangir was so impressed by the aroma that it was named “ attar”. There are several perfumers around the country that uphold these age-old traditions. Here are some of our discoveries:
Located in Srinagar’s Old City; near the shrine; this is perhaps the last of the rose water shops. This little apothecary of the family (they migrated to Kashmir from Turkey) is more than 500 years old. The store has several decanters; but they are not for sale. if do visit the little store for some rose water you must take your own empty bottle.
On the way to from Munnar in Kerala; you will find this little shop in the middle of nowhere. I discovered it quite accidentally during a road trip. I had dozed off and when I opened my eyes; I saw the board of Balad. you see I would have never discovered it had I not woken up at the right moment. The place specializes in oud blends; but also has a fine selection of vetiver; rose; and sandalwood. My favourite; of course; is their pure oud but I also love the jasmine and oud blend that was made for me.
I discovered this brand in a mall in Bhopal. I was attracted to the gentle fragrance enveloping the kiosk. I loved the fine blending of the scents and what I liked best was that the aura of scent around it was not overpowering. I had picked up a bottle of their Amber Magic. The strong woody aroma is long lasting yet not “in-your-face”. It is much later that I discovered that it was founded in 1951 by Haji Ajmal Ali from Assam. While this family-run brand is headquartered in Dubai; there are several stores in India.