Mitti Attar is the Indian equivalent to ‘petrichor’ – the scent of the first rain. The term ‘Mitti’ means earth and ‘attar’ is the staple perfume of the Middle East and South East Asia which is usually a herbal or floral blend of concentrated oils in a base of sandalwood (Santalum album) oil. Mitti attar is the essential oil extracted from dry clay earth.
I first came across the term Mitti Attar a few years ago and asked my parents to bring some back from their annual trip to India, which they did. I received two different types, one in a lighter sandalwood oil and one in a darker sandalwood oil. Both smelt amazing, however I preferred the light oil version as the earthy rain smell was more distinct. Mitti attar is mainly made in Uttar Pradesh, in the city of Kannauj, known as the ‘perfume and essential oil capital of India.’
The process of attar making is centuries old. Archaeologists have excavated clay distillation pots dating back to the ancient Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley. These same process’s now capture the scent of rain. The method includes removing clay from topsoil and then baking it in a kiln. The baked clay is then immersed in water and goes through the traditional extraction method of hydro distillation, a process which extracts natural oils into water. The finished essence is usually blended with Sandalwood oil. The result is a captivatingly soothing and grounding aroma that is deeply connected to the earth. It really does smell like the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. It is said to have the therapeutic properties of healing and calming.
With the Mitti attar I received from my parents, and also finding a good supplier of the essence, I’ve been busy creating perfumes for the last few months, and these will be available in my shop very soon!