making perfume from rain: 1 post

Making Perfume From The Rain

The village of Kannauj in the state of Uttar Pradesh has been perfuming India’s emperors and mere mortals for centuries. It thrived under the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658), the aesthete and arts patron who left the world the Taj Mahal and many other pearls of architecture. In the refined Mughal culture, the use of fragrance was part of daily life, and every courtier knew how to blend perfumes. Today Kannauj continues to produce attars, co-distillations of rose, jasmine, camphor, henna, and vetiver with sandalwood, most of which are used by the chewing tobacco industry. One of the most remarkable local specialties is mitti attar, the smell of rain.

rain flowers

This unique aroma is the subject of Cynthia Barnett’s article Making Perfume From the Rain for The Atlantic. She’s also the author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, and in Kannauj she discovers how the artisans process the local clay to capture the fragrance many people find evocative. Of course, rain smells differently around the world, and this is another topic she discusses.

“Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff. To continue reading, please click here.”

Is there a perfume that captures the scent of rain for you?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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