The word ‘attar’ is Arabic and it literally means scent. The practice of extracting and using attars is thought to be over 5000 years old. A true attar is made from flower petals, spices, grasses etc. distilled in water (or sometimes oil). One unique feature of an attar distillation is that no separate condenser is used. The unique aroma of the attars is obtained by condensing the vapours into a base material – usually sandalwood (sandalwood is used as a base or fixative because it binds the molecules of the essential oils and allows their subtleties to develop). The receiver is usually built of copper and is typically round in shape with a long neck. The distillation is done with low heat and low pressure and takes several weeks or longer. The steam containing the essential oils is collected into the mild sandalwood oil and over the days and weeks, the sandalwood oil becomes completely saturated with the fragrance of the flowers, spices etc. The great thing about attars is that they have no shelf-life – in fact most get better with age. Traditional attars are the world’s oldest perfumes and can contain hundreds of ingredients. Although the average length of time to distill an attar is several weeks, in some cases they are distilled over the course of years. Attars became particularly popular during the Mughal Era (about 1550 AD) and the technique for producing them survived because of Islamic rules that do not allow the use of alcohol and therefore alcohol based perfumes. Many modern day perfumes are misleadingly called attars. Traditional attars are never blended but produced by an age-old distillation process from a variety of carefully selected natural exotic ingredients and the formula is often a closely guarded secret. Some popular attars: Amulya – contains over 60 precious oils Golden champa – usually distilled over a period of 30 days Rose Vetiver Marigold.