Kannauj famous for distilling scents is known as India’s perfume capital and is renowned for its traditional Kannauj Perfume. Kannauj itself has more than 200 perfume distilleries and is a market center for tobacco, attar (perfume), and rose water. It has given its name to a distinct dialect of the Hindi and Urdu language known as Kanauji, which has two different codes or registers.
The town which owes its origins to the Mahabharat era has generations of families engaged in the vocation of making ‘attar’ or natural fragrant oils and extracts used widely for making perfumes, essential oils and even medicine. Even the distillate is not wasted but used to make agarbattis (incense sticks).
The most interesting fact about this place is that the ‘attar’ makers have stuck to the traditional methods of extracting and distilling, a very labor intensive process called ‘deg bhapka.’
The fragrances are drawn from a large number of natural ingredients, such as different kinds of flowers (rose, kewra, chameli, bela, marigold, jasmine, lavender, etc.) and from natural products such as vetiver, and herbs and spices (cardamom, cloves, saffron, juniper berry, jatamansi, etc.).
Each family even has its own secret recipe for making certain kinds of fragrances.
Kannauj Perfumes got the Geographical Indication tag in 2014, and its fragrances are exported to many countries.
Fun fact: The perfumers of Kannauj mastered the art of capturing the delicate smell of the fresh rain on dry soil into a perfume many years back. Long before two Australian mineralogists, Isabel Joy Bear and Richard Grenfell Thomas, discovered the chemistry behind the heady smell and named it ‘petrichor’. Known as ‘mitti-attar’, it is one of the most sought-after perfumes of Kannauj.