Traditionally Attars (word used across Asia) also known as Itr in the Middle Eastern countries has been made using a mix of raw materials such as flower petals which are placed in a still containing water. The actual mix of raw materials used is a closely guarded secret and will only be shared within perfume making families generation after generation. There are other aspects to making the perfect Attar such as the age of the flower or wood, the temperature to burn the raw material and many other aspects that come with experience or knowledge that has been passed on.
The still is then boiled allowing the vapours to exit through a hole connected with tubing at the top, through which the vapours travel to a condensing unit. This condensing unit usually already contains the base of the Attar which has traditionally been Sandlewood oil, but due to rising demand and costs, other cheaper alternatives are used such as Jojoba oil and in many cases dioctyl phthalate (DOP).
The most expensive Attars will use Sandlewood oil as its base as the pure Sandlewood oil will improve with age, whilst other ingredients used as a base will smell awful after a year or two. The best Attars will be quite expensive and will contain no alcohol, this is a basic requirement for Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, who apply the perfume oil directly on skin and feel that any alcohol contact makes them impure.
Some of the most expensive ingredients for traditional Attars are Saffron, Jasmine, Myrrh, Frankincense and of course the most expensive after deer musk is Eucalyptus Oil or Agarwood oil. Anything with deer musk should be avoided as it could mean that it was extracted by killing a musk deer, even though the best musk in the world can be obtained without killing the deer, but requires patience.
Oudh or agarwood oil has been treasured and loved for thousands of years by romantics and mystic alike. It is also proclaimed as an aid to meditation. Since this tree species is facing an extinction threat, majority of the agarwood in the market is now obtained through poaching. To prevent it from extinction, many farmers have now started replanting these trees throughout the region. Everyone is being encouraged to plant the saplings of these trees.
Practicing sustainable as well as organic harvesting methods, the extractions and plantations centers are providing means of livelihood for honest families and also ensuring that these beautiful trees remain around for many years to come.
Agarwood oil is costly, not only because it is rare but also it is of extremely high quality. All the work in making this oil is done by hand, with sincere dedication and respect for the trees and the land. Unlike earlier days, steam distillation method is not used now for its distillation. Instead CO2 extraction method is now being used as it is more environment-friendly.