What is an Attar?
Traditionally, attars (also known as ittar) are oil-based perfumes made from organic sources. Attars are highly concentrated and free from alcohol and synthetic materials. They are offered in very small quantities poured in small decanters or glass bottles.
Attar may be a new term for some despite being around for centuries. Their prominence overshadowed during modern century in the rise of mass producible and for decades commonly available synthetic perfumes. This primarily in the form of spray perfumes, and also as perfume/fragrance oils.
Due to their organic source, traditional attars are unique in delivering an authentic aromatic experience displaying a complex scent profile.
How are traditional attars made?
Traditional attars are made by blending essential oils or absolutes derived from natural sources. These essential oils are customarily extracted through methods such as steam or hydro distillation, cold press, maceration or enfleurage. The process used for extraction being subject to the natural material being used.
In an attar, essential oils are normally distilled into or mixed with a wooden base (carrier oil), like sandalwood, and stored to age. The aging process itself can range from one year to ten years, depending on ingredients used and the desired outcome.
The video below (from Feel Oud who are a prominent oud distiller) gives a brief demonstration of the distillation process:
XXX Add Video
Types of Attars
Attars can generally be classified into the following types:
Floral attars: Floral attars are made by using extract from a single species flower, or my blending several floral extracts. Some examples of common floral attars are Rose and Jasmine.
Spicy/Herbal attars: these attars are made by combining several natural oils derived from botanical sources such as flowers, leaves, spices, fruits, roots, or stems.
Animalic attars: these are made with extracts derived from non-vegan sources. Primarily including animal musk (deer musk, civet musk and beaver musk) and ambergris (derived from sperm whale).
It is not uncommon for attars to be found as a combination of these types.
How to apply attars
Attars are typically worn by applying directly to pulse points. You can apply by dabbing on your wrists, behind the ears, chest, neck or behind the knees.
Note - attars may stain on your clothes, particularly if wearing bright coloured garments. It is hence recommended to avoid applying directly on to garments, or can rub a small amount into your palm, and then run your hands across cloths instead of direct applying.