How Are Perfumes Made in Kannauj? A Chef Demonstrates in His 120-YO Dwelling

To me Kannauj — solely a two or three hour drive away from my metropolis, Agra — at first seems as a typical, dusty city in North India, marked by slim streets, vibrant markets, and thronging crowds. However the scent of a wonderful previous captivates the historian in me whereas I stroll by means of these lanes and take within the sharp scents of roses, sandalwood, and jasmine. 

This historic surprise was as soon as the stronghold of Emperor Harsha, who made it his empire’s capital. As I traverse its expanse, I notice how, whereas its glistening attraction might have gotten rusty over time, it’s unperturbed in some ways — most popularly for its distinct tradition of perfumery or attar-making. 

A 200-year-old historical past 

Although modern-perfume making has posed a menace to this conventional trade, a number of Kannaujwalas (residents of Kannauj) try to maintain the centuries-old career alive. Amongst them is Pranav Kapoor, an eighth era perfumer who turned his 120-year-old haveli (mansion) right into a peculiar retreat as a approach to hold his household’s work alive. 

“Eight generations of my household have been perfumers, and I spent my childhood across the manufacturing facility,” the 35-year-old notes. “Certainly one of my fondest recollections is when my grandfather would ask me to establish fragrances.” 

On the haveli, by means of which he operates his enterprise Fragrance Tourism, Pranav gives friends a peek into his household’s 200-year-old historical past of fragrance making, their recipes and combos all year long, and the way the painstaking course of takes place. 

perfume tourism
Pranav transformed his 120-year-old haveli right into a retreat; Image credit score: Pranav Kapoor

The variety of distillers in Kannauj has been on a continuing decline, notes Stay Historical past India, and even measures like the availability of a Geographical Indication tag in 2014 haven’t helped the numbers from dwindling. 

Pranav’s Fragrance Tourism not solely comes as a a lot wanted recourse, but additionally marries an in depth perception into the centuries-old trade along with his love for cooking and elaborate meals. 

‘Needed to do that for my metropolis’ 

Pranav says that he initially pursued a culinary course in 2010.  “Since flavour and perfume go hand in hand, I went to Delhi and did a culinary course to turn out to be a chef. Cooking and perfumery had been my ardour, and I wished to discover a approach to merge these two,” he provides. 

In 2017, whereas on a trip to Jaisalmer, he stayed at a comfortable homestay that first impressed him to unite these two passions. 

“The place had been transformed right into a resort, which gave me the thought to transform my 120-year-old haveli into one thing related. I used to be fairly shocked that nobody within the metropolis had considered it earlier than. It solely made sense for me to return and do that for my metropolis,” he says.

“It took me almost six years to work out a plan of motion,” he provides, noting that COVID put a spanner within the works. “However in 2022, I made a decision to make the leap.” 

An fragrant expertise 

In 2022, Pranav began to refurbish his ancestral haveli to make it a pleasant keep for the friends. “I labored on the web site of the enterprise and in addition deliberate a full seven-course menu that revolves across the festivals that we host,” he says. 

He continues, “Within the haveli, we have now a courtyard, a perfume gallery, and a fragrance bar the place folks can come and make their very own perfumes too.” 

In March 2023, Pranav hosted his first group of friends to have fun the ‘rose competition’.

Explaining the itinerary, he says, “We break down our festivals into seasons, as a result of each flower has a special flowering season. For instance, February to March is the ‘rose season’, so we had a rose competition. Every thing was centred round roses, together with the meals.”  

perfume tourism
Fragrance Tourism has hosted folks from throughout India and international locations like Australia and France; Image credit score: Pranav Kapoor

“The friends are taken to the rose subject the place they pluck the flowers for the perfumes. They’re then taken to the distillery the place they will witness the entire course of of constructing scents. Then, we take them to the fragrance bar the place they will make their very own perfumes with my assist,” he provides. 

Fragrance Tourism additionally serves as a seven-course meal centred across the flower in query. To date, they hosted greater than 40 friends and are at present operating a ‘jasmine competition’. 

“Since jasmine flowers should be plucked at night time, the itinerary is modified accordingly. With the temperatures hovering, this has come to us as a bonus as it’s cooler through the nights,” he says. 

“Except for the eating and fragrance expertise, we additionally give them a fast historical past of Kannauj and the distillery, in order that they perceive the essence of the town. The friends then benefit from the haveli that we have now created for them and rejuvenate,” he explains. 

They’ve hosted folks from all around the world together with France and Australia in addition to from Indian cities like Coimbatore, Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. 

Shreeparna Khaitan, who visited the rose competition says, “It was fairly an thrilling expertise. We got a brief historical past of the place, after which we plucked flowers and noticed how perfumes are literally made. We had been additionally in a position to make our personal perfumes. Probably the most attention-grabbing a part of the entire itinerary was the meal that was deliberate. It was round roses, so each meal has some element of rose in it. I received to know in regards to the Indian important oils which can be utilized in perfumes and the wealthy historical past behind them.”  

Pranav notes, “With this enterprise, my concept is to advertise each side of my hometown and really make Kannauj the fragrance capital. Folks are likely to look in the direction of manufacturers or international locations like France for perfumes, forgetting that lots of these import scents from Kannauj. I need to ask them to look inwards and expertise the wealthy historical past with the most effective smells there are,” he says. 

“I imagine that once we begin a enterprise in a small city, it provides rise to extra work alternatives and promotes extra companies inside the metropolis. I hope that with this endeavour increasingly folks will work on related concepts and produce again the town to its former glory,” provides Pranav. 

You possibly can go to Fragrance Tourism right here

Edited by Divya Sethu

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