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Traditional Method of Making Attars in kannauj Using Hydrodistillation (Deg & Bhapka Method)

Natural attars are fragrances derived from the distillation of various plant parts like flowers (e.g., saffron, marigold, rose, jasmine, pandanus) or other botanical elements (e.g., Vetiver from the roots of the vetiver plant, Oud from the wood of the Agar Tree) in a base material like sandalwood oil. The term "true attars" refers to those obtained specifically through hydro-distillation over a sandalwood base.

Deg Thappa Method
Deg Thappa Method

The traditional process of making attars is typically carried out in remote locations, primarily because it's important to process the flowers promptly after harvesting. The equipment used for this process is adaptable and reasonably efficient. Traditionally, a method known as the "deg and bhapka" process has been utilized for centuries in Kannauj, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India, renowned for its distillation of attars and essential oils. This method still employs the following traditional equipment:

  1. Deg (still)

  2. Bhapka (receiver)

  3. Chonga (bamboo condenser)

  4. Traditional bhatti (furnace)

  5. Gachchi (cooling water tank)

  6. Kuppi (leather bottle)

Kannauj has earned a global reputation as a hub for distillers and perfumers, renowned for producing some of the finest essences globally. It is often referred to as "The Perfume Capital of India." Despite the availability of modern machinery, many perfumers in Kannauj continue to prefer the traditional deg and bhapka method for making attars, as they believe it is the only way to capture the genuine essence of plant materials and flowers.

Here is a step-by-step guide to making Rose Attar using the traditional distillation method:

  1. Experienced farmers or collectors pluck fresh rose flowers in the early morning before sunrise and take them to a nearby distillery.

  2. At the distillery, the rose petals are carefully separated from the fresh flowers.

  3. The rose petals and water are combined in copper pots known as "degs."

  4. The deg is sealed using a mixture of clay and cotton.

  5. A bamboo pipe, referred to as "Chonga," connects the deg to a copper receiver, or "Bhapka," as well as a water tank.

  6. A fire is lit beneath the deg, and the pot is heated.

  7. After a few hours, the first distillate is condensed and collected.

  8. The liquid is transferred to an empty copper pot and distilled once more.

  9. The genuine rose attar is extracted during this second distillation.

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