Fragrances, Flavors & Attar

    The history of natural attars is very much associated to  the history of Kannauj. Kannauj has been known for natural attars from the Mugal period  or even earlier when aroma bearing substances like Sandal, Musk, Comphor, Saffron were used as such  (without isolation of odorous principles) and the  range of such materials and essential oils were further enriched during the  Mugal  period, when new plants were brought by the Mugals from Central   Asia to this country.  This lead to the discovery and development of process for the preparation of attar from Roses by Noorjahan, the Mugal queen, This was the beginning of the natural attars  in India, which developed and progressed in and around Kannauj and is quite strong even now. Floral Attars may be defined as the distillates obtained by the hydro distillation of flowers in Sandalwood Oil or other base materials like  DOP,  DEP,   Paraffin etc. 

The attars of Rose & Kewra are used as flavours in Indian sweets.   The main users of attars is in the Pan Masala and Chewing tobacco industry.  The two product also unique to India & consume nearly 80%  of all the attars manufactured. All the attars are used as perfumes  by  themselves.  In India and middle East, attars are made as offerings to the God.

There are  evidences in the history and Hindu sacred books ( Holy texts)  that perfumery  tradition dates back to over 5000 years at the time of Indus valley civilization as well when distillation practice  was reported to   be in existence.


                    The attars are manufactured traditionally ‘Degs & Bhapka system’, which is a hydro distillation process.  The still is heated form below by lighting a fire with the help of wood or cow dung.  The  temperature and speed of the distillations controlled by regulating the fire.  The distillation is managed by highly skilled/experience, workers called ‘Dighaa’. He knows when the correct quantity of vapours  have condensed inside the receiver by feeling the round part of the receiver  under  water.  The water in the tank is change continuously to prevent the temperature rising too high. Managing the still is highly skilled job, as the operator must keep the boiling in the still at a level that matches the condensation in the receiver, in order to keep the pressure under control. When  the desire quantity of vapours have condensed, the Dighaa rubs a wet cloth around the body of the still for a temporary pause in distillation and the filled receiver is replaced by  another receiver.   If necessary, the second may be replaced by a third receiver. The receiver is then allowed to cool and may remain idle for one or two days depending on the pressure of work. The mixture of oil and water is then separated either directly form the receiver through a hole at the bottom or pouring the whole mixture in an  open trough, After   the oil and water have separated into two layers, the  water is removed from  an opening in the bottom, and the same is cohobated. The base material remains in the receiver.   After desired concentration of the attar has been reached, then same is poured into leather bottles for sedimentation and removal of moisture. Sometimes liquid paraffin is used for the manufacture of cheaper attars. The mouth of the receiver is sealed by wrapping coarse cloth around the bamboo pipe and pushing it inside the condenser.  The receiver may  contain up to 5-10 kilos of base materials and is kept in a small water tank.


Base Material : Sandal wood oil, Di-octyl Phthalate (DOP)  & Liquid paraffin.

Floral Material : Flowers of Gulab, Kewra, Bela, Mehndi, Kadam, Chameli, Marigold, Saffron & Maulshri.

Herb & Spices :   A number of hersbs and spices are used in this industry  which includes Oakmoss, Sugandh mantri, Laurel berry, Juniper berry, Cypriol, Indian valerian, Jatamansi, Hedychium spicatum, Daru Haldi, Sugandha Bala,  Sugandha Kokila, Kulanjan, Javitri/ Jaiphal, Cardamom, Clove, Saffron, Ambergris & Musk.

          The above materials are available in the different parts of the country as :-

Sandal Wood Oil

South India


Aligarh (U.P.), Palampur (H.P.)


Ganjam (Orissa)

Maulshri, Jasmine, Marigold,chameli, Kadamb,Mehndi

Kannauj, U.P.

Spices and herbs

North-East and  South India, Madhya Pradesh


Jammu & Kashmir


           The attar manufacturing for floral type takes place in remote places because the flowers are required to be processed quickly after plucking.  The apparatus &  equipment’s used for manufacture of attar are light, flexible, easy to repair with a fair degree of efficiency, keeping in view  the  above facts, the traditional Deg &  Bhapka process is being used for centuries and  even now

The details of equipments are as follows :-

(i)       Deg or Still

The process  is carried out in copper  stills called ‘ Degs’  as was done centuries ago. These are all direct fire heated  stills and their capacities can range from 10-160 kilos of floral/herbal  materials.  The lid of the   still is called ‘Sarpos and is also made of copper  having opening for connections to one or two receivers.

(ii)      Bhapka or Receiver

One of the  peculiar features of attars distillation is that no separate condenser is used.  The unique odour of attars is obtained by condensing vapours into the   base material, mainly sandalwood oil. The receiver is built of copper and is of round shape with long neck, for case in connection with Deg via chonga. It is known as Bhapka and it acts as condenser as well.

(iii)     Chonga or Bamboo Condenser

The still and receiver  are connected by a Chonga.  This is a hollow bamboo pipe wrapped with twine for insulation.

(iv)     Traditional Bhatti or Furnace

          Normally wood or coal is used for heating. Heat is controlled manually.

(v)     Gachchi or Cooling Water Tank

This is the place where Bhapka, or receiver is kept and used for cooling the distillate from Deg.

(vi)     Kuppi or Leather Bottle

These are the bottle made from leather of animals. The reason for making these bottle is their semi-permeability towards water. It is used for removal of moisture from attars. The leather allows water to move-out and attar to be remain, as such, thereby separating the moisture from attar.

Copper has  been the main structural material for Deg and Bhapka because it is malleable , good conductor of heat & easy to repair.


           The attars may be broadly categorized into following types on the basis of raw materials used.

Floral Attars – Attars manufactured from single species of flower are coming under this category. These are :-

(i)                 Gulab ex Rosa  damascena  or Rosa Edword

(ii)               Kewra ex Pandanus odoratissimus

(iii)             Motia ex Jasminum sambac

(iv)             Gulhina ex lawsonia inermis

(v)               Chameli ex Jasminum grandiflorum

(vi)             Kadam ex Anthoephalus cadamba

Herbal and Spicy Attar

         Attar manufactured from combination of floral, herbal & spicy materials are coming under this category.  Hina and its various forms viz., Shamama, Shamam –tul –Amber, Musk Amber and Musk Hina.

      The some attars which are neither floral nor herbal and are coming under this category.  Attar Mitti falls under this category and is produced by distillation of baked earth over base material.


       The Indian attars in the past has been utilized by elite class of the society particularly kinds  & queens on their body.  With the span of time kingdoms got abolished and hence the kings &  queens.  But, attars industry  got a new dimension form the field of fragrance to flavour and now a days it is used in the following areas;

1.                  Pan Masala and Gutka is the largest consumer of Indian attars.   The reason for using it is it’s extraordinary tenacity along with  characteristic to withstand with tobacco note.  The  attars used are  rose, Kewra, Mehndi, Hina, Shamama, Mitti, Marigold etc.

2.                  Tobacco is relatively smaller segment for attar consumption   as compared to above industry.   The attars used are mainly kewra & Rose. Alongwith Pan masala & Gutkha it contributes to more the 75% of attar consumption.

3.                  Betlenet is relatively smaller segment for attar consumption as compared to above two industry.  The attars used are mainly Kewra & Rose.

4.                  It is used by people as a personal perfume, particularly by Muslims due to absence of alcohol.

5.                  Attars does have the application in  pharmaceutical industry too.

6.                  Attars of Rose & Kewra are used in traditional Indian sweets , for imparting flavour.



The quality of Attars can be ensured by

i)                    Controlling the qualities of raw material i.e. flowers & base materials  like sandalwood oil etc.

ii)                  Standardization of process parameters.

The BIS specification is available for the analysis of Sandalwood oil. Most of the species which are used in the manufacturing of Indian traditional fragrances for example Sugandh Mantri, Sugandh Bala, Kapoor Kachri, Jatamansi, Nagarmotha, etc. have no specification for their quality assessment.

The  quality of attars depends upon.

1.                  The quality of flower

2.                  The time duration between the plucking of flower and charging into the stills,

3.                  The process parameters of distillation.

To survive in the world market of fragrance & flavour, it is necessary that attars  should be of standard quality.  Therefore, their standardization is essential to sustain in the world market.


                  The equipemnts which are used in this industry are designed and fabricated in and around Kannauj & Farrukhabad districts of U.P. by the local  fabricator. The equipments are easy to be fabricated and are made of copper. They can be made by any good fabricators after getting design from any authentic source.


                 The attars does have a good market potential in Middle East countries where they are using it due to absence of alcohol. Simultaneously, if properly packaged and marketed in the name of natural fragrance there does exists a market potential in other countries as well. The attars can have a good market potential in international market if consistency in quality and supply is ensured. They can found a good use in high class fragrances, cosmetics and even for aromatherapy as far as National market potential is concern, the prevailing one is in Tobacco, Pan masala & Gutkha industry but, its horizon of market can be widen if surety about quality and assurance about consistency in supply could be made. It could found a lot of use in herbal products and in aromatherapy. There also exists a good potential if they are packaged in small packing in marketed in attractive manner. If, there national & international potential are properly harnessed there, exists a good future for Indian natural fragrance & attars.


                   The cost of one unit capacity 100 kg. raw materials would be around Rs. 40,000/-. This unit consist of one Deg and three receiver (Bhapka) capacity 15 liters waters each.


                   Still there is need to control the quality of attars by quantifying the amount of odoriferous materials distilled over it and amount of distillate it has received. But, till now no method has been developed so far. This is an area where industry and R & D institutions have to work together. If, it is done there is no doubt that a bright future will be there for this traditional, unique industry of Indian attar.


For More Details Visit FFDC Website:-

Source : Director, Fragrance & Flavour Development Centre,Kannauj