ATTAR DISTILLATES OF KANNAUJ, INDIA.
In conversation with Pranjal Kapoor of M. L. Ramnarain
We are honoured to work with Pranjal and lean on his experience, his family have a long history and heritage of plant extraction, particularly with sandalwood.
Pranjal can you tell us a little more about M. L. Ramnarain, its heritage, inspiration and philosophy?
M.L. Ramnarain Perfumers is the parent company of Manau Lal Ramnarain Perfumers which is operating with the 5th generation taking the legacy forward in the same line of business and more.
The story began over a century ago with my forefathers initially trading essential and edible plant oils. One thing led to another and we have been continuously evolving with a determination to maintain our traditions but move forward and grow to where we currently stand.
With knowledge and passion, our family at MLRNP became pioneers in the distillation and exports of Sandalwood Oil amongst the private players in India. However, the company had to discontinue the distillation of Sandalwood Oil back then in the 70s owing to government policies which made it difficult to prevail in this business. That did not stop MLRNP from expanding its global presence, by then the firm had already introduced a new essential oil to the perfume fraternity, which is called Cypriol Oil or Nagarmotha Oil. Cypriol oil became an important raw material for many perfume compositions.
Back in the 70’s The Maunau Lal Ramnarain family split into 4 different entities with M.L. Ramnarain Perfumers being born. The company is still in the distillation and exports of Indian essential oils and attars and is always thinking of what next while sustaining our ancestral roots.
You use very traditional and ancestral extraction methods and techniques; can you please share a little more about your methods?
Primarily we use two different distillation methods (a) Steam distillation and (b) Hydro /Water distillation.
Attars and a few other floral essential oils are distilled using the traditional or so to say the conventional hydro distillation methods.
Interestingly at our Kannauj distillery we distil the essential oil of North Indian Jasmine Sambac. Usually Jasmine Sambac is extracted using solvents in the form of absolutes or concretes. However, Kannauj is one of the very few places where we produce an essential oil of the fragile flower distilled using the traditional and unique ‘Deg Bhapka’ hydro distillation method.
Just to add Pranjal's Jasmine sambac distillation is an absolutely incredible expression of this flower, you will be able to access this through the shop very soon.
We use a similar process of distillation for our Ruh Gulab which is the Indian Rose Oil. Interestingly, about 4000 Kgs of Rosa Damascena is used to yield just 800 gms of the oil and thus it is very expensive.
Amongst some attars which are unique to Kannauj are Attar Mitti and Shamama.
Attar Mitti is a co distillation of earthen clay pots with the steam bearing the scent of the soil, the clay is infused over sandalwood oil. Over several rounds of distillation / infusion the base oil is imbibed with the smell of the clay till it starts smelling of petrichor. The attar known as Attar Mitti is fancied by end consumers trying to get as close to the olfactory sense of the rain. It also is used by the perfumers to inculcate an earthy note in their perfume compositions.
Shamama is a rich concoction of several herbs, spices, essential oils, flowers and resins. It involves a distillation process with several complex stages and we follow a secret family recipe.
We will talk more on Shamama soon…..
You distill many plants but if we could please focus on a couple, we work with many rose distillates from all over the world but your Ruh Gulab strikes a beautiful chord with us, so much dynamism and personality, could you tell us more about your Rosa Damascena extraction?
The Indian Rose Oil best known as Ruh Gulab indeed is a very beautiful smelling oil. It takes one back to a beautiful imaginary world of beds of roses.
The distillation method is traditional hydro distillation method.
Harvest and Distillation season is a 40-day period starting from the last week of March until about the last week of April. However due to climate change the seasons are shifting and we are forever monitoring the changes.
Area where cultivated – A village called Hasayan in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.
The oil is primarily stored in thick glass bottles for a short time to settle and mature.
The rose variety is Damascena, these rose are planted and nourished by local community farmers.
We also work with your Ruh Khus, another dramatically profound expression of vetiver roots, can you tell us a little more about this particular oil?
Ruh Khus to my nose is wet, green, forest, grass, minty, sweet, a tad animalic and also hints of what nuts and bolts can smell like.
We use only the wild rhizomes of Khus (Vetiver, to distill the Vetiver Oil. The process is Hydrodistillation in copper vessels which is also the reason for the green colour of the oil.
The visual and olfactory profile of Ruh Khus emits a very cooling effect to ones senses. It is quite a famous oil in India for its use during summer and applied for its cooling effects. A lot of Hindu deities are also offered Ruh Khus not just for its soothing fragrant properties but to calm the nervous system.
We love your distillates, we totally connect with the dynamism and personality in every scent and feel the immense vibrancy and energy of these oils, is this a combination of quality of plant material, terroir and extraction methods? How would you explain this?
Yes, it is a combination of all these things. The input has to be good, we are meticulous with the sourcing of the raw plant material, there are no chemicals or pesticides used on any of our plants, the processing has to be well planned and studied before actual distillation begins, the extraction and filtration to get the final oil has to be considered, the time an oil has to be given to rest or mature has a role in the final output too. To add there is generations of knowledge of the plants and the extraction techniques infused in to each oil we produce.
What is your vision for M L Ramnarain for the future?
To continue to be known for quality and authentic natural fragrance raw materials to the world.
Three plants, you can only distill three plants what are they and why?
Rose Oil -
Obviously, it sounds biased when I say my baby is the best amongst the lot. But then that is what it is in my opinion, I find the Indian Rose Oil distilled at village Hassayan to be the best Rose Oil available on this planet in terms of its scent profile. I believe a lot of factors are responsible for the output, distillation method, water, flower, etc.
Ruh Motia – Jasmine Essential Oil
It is a very unique essential oil and to the best of my knowledge, Kannauj is the only place where the essential oil of Jasmine is distilled using the traditional hydro distillation method.
Cypriol Oil -
This oil was introduced to the industry by my grandfather, and we will be happy to take the legacy forward. Cypriol Oil has become a very common natural raw material in the composition of oriental fragrances.
The work of Pranjal and his team is infused into many of our products, more oils and attars will be launched on the site shortly.