We were lucky to catch up with Ali Attar recently and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Ali , thanks for joining us today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
our mission comes from our belief in the value of this knowledge and the fact that this falls on the thin line between art and science, and it’s both. protecting this art and keeping it alive, spending its beauty and power to people around the world, and showing that the old methods and the artisan style that the old world used since the down of civilization is not compromised by the newly mass-produced and built manufactured perfumes and that a perfume is a statement that should be unique and special for each person, exclusivity, quality, and art are the pillars of this mission.
The job of a Perfumist or a perfume maker in Arabic is called “Attar.” it’s considered one of the oldest, hardest, and most respectable jobs. In fact, the first documented perfume made in history was in the Middle East, where the art of perfume making was refined by Arabs and Persians. Islamic culture was the main reason for the development of Western perfumery: the French took the steam distillation process from the Arabs and the world of perfumery in the West was born, with its creation indebted to two Arabic men forever: Al-Kindi, and Jābir ibn Hayyān. We belong to that school, we are not just perfume makers and collectors but we are connoisseurs and purists in one of the oldest and most sophisticated arts in the world, perfumery.
Ali , before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
The Five pillars of The Perfumist
Our perfume house was established in Istanbul turkey more than three centuries ago in 1700’s by the great grandfather of Mr. Ali (the current master perfumist and owner of the house). We are considered by many experts and historians as the oldest existing family owned perfume house in the world, with an official documented letter from Sultan Mehmed V (the 35th sultan of the Ottoman Empire) in the 1900’s.
The master perfumists of our house over the last 300 years have mixed, distilled, and made over ten thousand different kinds of perfume oil from all around the world, the majority of those oils are now considered officially extinct.
Our perfumist house has created some of the most extravagant, exotic, and expensive perfume distillations ever attempted in history. With sultans, kings, and presidents sponsoring and supporting the ultimate pursuit for the very best perfume we spared no expense in making and distilling some of the rarest oils in the world.
From the 1700’s until 2018 we have been making and selling perfumes strictly and exclusively for a very limited clientele based on special requests and fully bespoke creation; on 08/08/2018 we started offering our work and perfumes to the public and on the very first day of our launch, we fully sold out on 7 out of the 15 different kinds of oils that we carried (half of our inventory).
We try to make this very short and simple. We have 3 promises that we have carried with us throughout the centuries.
ALL OUR OILS ARE
1- 100% natural, pure, artesian.
2- 100% cruelty free, ethical, eco-friendly.
3- 100% exclusive, limited, top quality.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
The Power of numbers ! So, you probably heard many people talking about oud, musk, ambergris, rose, etc. (oud this oud that). From the ancient houses and distilleries of India and Cambodia that made some of the rarest and most beautiful oils in the world, to the mass-produced air fresheners that are sold and marketed as oud in so many places yet doesn’t have anything in common with oud except the name, and only the name. Here I have to say that I strongly doubt that any perfume house, perfumist, or distillery will publish the information that you are about to read or would even like anyone to publish it or like it to be published. You may wonder why and that is because it will give the normal person, buyer, or customer a true and real idea about what they are buying and what they are paying for and showing what is happening in numbers, and remember, numbers don’t lie. Again, this is not simply thoughts or opinion, these are facts in numbers. So here it is:
Generally, a treated tree (treated: means it’s producing agarwood through human interference and not 100% wild. It’s still natural but can’t be compared to a 100% wild tree).
(Kindly note all our oud oils are inherited and very old; some are considered extinct and they are all from 100% wild trees not from harvested or farmed trees for two reasons. The first is that 50 years ago, it was easier to cut and distill wild trees than treating and making a treatment plantation. Second, it can easily be proven through lab tests on the specific materials or percentages of those materials in the oil that exists in wild oud).
So, a tree will produce between 20 to 30 dry kilos (depending on the region, age of the tree, and the kind of treatment) if we want to talk about real agarwood.
You will need between 30 to 40 trees (depending on your pods, fire, and mixture) to make 1 liter of pure oud oil.
A regular size farm or plantation field will have about 300 to 400 trees ready for chopping and distillation, so that is approximately 10 liters of oud oil (give or take).
So how do the big perfume companies, especially the ones in the Arabic world, have a minimum of 10 liters of oud oil or more in every store, in every city, in every country? Sf we said that the company has 100 stores and resellers, that’s over 1000 liters of oud oil and that is just what’s on the shelves – how about their online store, their warehouses, their storage centers?
When you (or anyone who distilled or made oud before) add the numbers together you realize that if those people harvest the whole of south-east Asia it still won’t add up to that much oud oil.
Rose is a big world with lots of different species and it depends on what kind, where and how, so let’s talk about something familiar and common, the Rosa Damascene or the Damascus Rose. This is considered by many nowadays as one of the best and most sought-after rose oils. It was made hundreds of years ago and is still produced and made mainly in Isparta, Turkey; Damascus, Syria; , Saudi Arabia, in the city of al Taif, and parts of northern Iran. To distill the oil from the rose you will need about 12 thousand roses to get one tola or (11 grams) and it’s extremely costly and time-consuming to make a large amount of oil. If you simply want to harvest a field of roses, use a distillery, hire workers and pay for bills you will end up paying the same or similar to what you would pay for distilling pure oud oil. So next time someone is advertising or selling “100% natural, organic, pure, certified, etc., etc.,” Rosa Damascene oil for $10 per tola, please don’t buy it and if you want to buy it then please don’t believe it, and if you do believe it, please don’t go around to makers and perfumists and ask why they are selling it for ten times the price, that you bought it for only $10.
Many people may not know this, but a full musk pod is between 30 to 50 grams (depending on the region and the animal) when opened and fully dried it will shrink to 20 to 30 grams. The price of a real musk pod is between $5000 to $7000 minimum; that’s just for the pod itself, not adding any trips, expenses, or communications involved in the process, so we can make a fair guesstimate and say it’s about $10000 per pod. Now of course that’s if you know what you are buying and from where you are buying it and not getting cheated or fooled with some fake machine made hairy ball that looks like a pod and has some very strong smelly things inside that don’t relate to musk at all (trust us we have seen many people fall for this trick and even some well-known people in the perfume industry).
To make pure musk oil, the pod is usually broken down and gets mixed with a carrier oil or a supportive oil like sandalwood, rose, coconut or jojoba and there are many ways to do this. But if you wanted to make real solid musk oil you would mix 1 to 3 (one measure of musk to 3 measures of oil), 1 to 5, 1 to 7, or even 1 to 10 which is considered on the light side. Anything after that wouldn’t be considered as musk oil but some kind of oil with some musk in it. So, if we said you got the best deal and got your pod after all expenses and bills paid, for $10000 and that it’s the biggest pod on the market after fully drying which is 30 grams. If you then made an oil from it with the maximum diluting formula and that is 1 to 10 with 30 grams of musk to give you 300 grams of other oil and that gave you 300ml or so of musk oil (that is about 25 tola). That means the cost of the oil for you without paying yourself or making any profit is about $400 per tola, if you simply want to break even. After your time and effort, you would sell it for $500 per tola and that’s not only if you got lucky but if you used the maximum diluting formula 1 to 10. So here I beg the question of how some companies and people are selling liters of what they call “pure 100% natural Kasturi deer musk oil” for $50 per tola? Ask yourself that next time someone presents what they call a pure musk oil to you.
I strongly doubt that any perfumist or perfume house is or was as crazy about ambergris as us. From studying Chinese medicine books to knowing the uses and benefits of ambergris, carrying out multiple analyses to understand the components and the chemistry ending up with distilling what many people think is the best and purest ambergris oil in the world, so when it’s about ambergris – we have done it all.
Ambergris is usually in 3 different qualities or levels (black, gray or white) or sometimes a mix of the three. Starting from the black, which to many people consider the lowest, and ending up with the fully dried musky royal white ambergris that many people tell us smells like heaven, or at least that’s their impression of it. Ambergris changes and fluctuates in the market, just like any other commodity, but it always has a low and high borderline that it never goes under and usually never goes above with some rare exceptions. So, it starts from $50 per gram if you are simply buying a few grams of white top grade ambergris and about $40 per gram for black or gray ambergris depending on the shape, weight and quality. Now, if you are buying bulk (one kilo or more) directly from a supplier you can get it down to $30 per gram for the white ambergris and $25 for the black or gray ambergris and that is the lowest it gets.
So realistically to make any kind of ambergris oil you will need a minimum of one kilo and that is (1000 grams or a minimum of $30000). This is just the raw material, you haven’t even started to grind, distill or mix yet. Now if you are crazy enough and trying to make pure essential oil from ambergris as we did a hundred years ago, then you will go through kilos before getting a simple drop of oil. But if you are like any other perfume maker or enthusiast about ambergris and want to make an oil that smells like ambergris then it doesn’t matter how you mix it or what is going in the mix, you won’t be able to get any kind of real ambergris smell out of the oil if you pass the 1 to 3 ratio (one measure of ambergris to 3 measures of carrier or supportive oil). So, you can make about 3 liters, give or take, based on the density and weight of the oil. That is $10000 per liter and that is still just cost – add your work, time, expenses and all the parts and the materials involved in the manufacture and you will realize why real ambergris can’t be used in mass-produced colognes and perfume and why most companies won’t even dare to talk about it, never mind try to make it.
Those were very simple calculations and information about some of the basic raw materials. In conclusion, you will realize that not many people know about the real industry and business and it may be surprising to you, as it’s surprising to many people, that only when knowing and adding the numbers does the real big picture show up. We hope that you enjoyed reading and learning from this article. If you liked it, please share it with others and let other people know about it, and as always, have a wonderful day.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
The underground secrets of the perfume industry! The underground secrets of the perfume industry!
The good, the bad, and the horrible about perfumes.
I wasn’t going to write this article because I know lots of people, especially companies and perfume makers, will hate me forever because of it, but I just couldn’t leave so many good people, collectors, connoisseurs, friends and loyal customers in the darkness about this. I just couldn’t take the guilt and the feeling of seeing so many good, hard-working people saving their hard-earned money and buying something that they may not really know much about!
So, let me start by saying that what is mentioned here is definitely not a generalization and doesn’t apply to all companies and makers and I do appreciate and respect all artesian makers, perfumist and enthusiastic people even those who are just getting to the surface of the perfumery ocean.
First, we will start with the good. Well, that’s not really why I’m writing this but let’s mention a few facts.
1- A thousand years ago you had to be a king, a very rich merchant or royalty to be able to afford your regular perfume or cologne that you wear every day.
2- Mass produced perfumes and colognes are getting more and more affordable because of the increasing global demand in relation to the mass supply chain involved in it.
3- If you are reading this article this means you like or have an interest in perfumery and that means you are probably smart, successful, and a very detailed-oriented person who pays attention to the way you look and smell – good for you.
This will sound a little unoptimistic, but you must know.
1- Based on the current consumption of agarwood, musk, and ambergris there is a possibility that one or more of them will be extinct in the next few years! And that’s why its radically increasing in value every year.
(So, save some good natural oils – it’s a good investment.)
2- In the last 100 years many of the top perfume houses were bought or acquired by large corporations or joint ventures with large corporations. The corporation’s goal was simply “maximize profit in any possible way” which resulted in a striking decrease in quality, and the use of may synthetic materials that many thought would never be used in anything that would touch the human skin!
(Try to buy natural whenever you can.)
3- Perfume companies don’t have to disclose all or most of the materials used in their perfumes. This is supposed to protect the company trade and formula, so the formula can’t be remade or regenerated. Many chemists and lab experts believe that some of those undisclosed materials could be poisonous or toxic. (Be careful what you wear or put on your skin.)
1- In most ready packed brand name perfumes and colognes you buy, the bottle, packaging and sealing cost more than the juice.
(Think about that next time you see a new perfume in a nice fancy bottle).
2- About 50% or more of the brand name perfumes and colognes that were made in the last 10 years are simple reformulations or recreations of older perfumes and sometimes the similarities are strikingly clear.
(Many perfumists and collectors will know exactly what I’m talking about.)
3- More than 90% of the top perfume brand names test on animals, and many famous brand names use or source material from countries with unethical sourcing and/or child labor.
(Not the greatest karma on a spray-spray base.)
What is the solution?
1- Read about what you are buying and wearing before you buy it and wear it.
2- Try to use renewable ethical natural materials whenever possible.
3- Try not to follow the fast trends of fashion, instead go with the solid establishment of style.
And just to summarize here is a simple short comparison between natural oil perfumes and mass-produced alcoholic smells.
Manufactured ready-bottled alcohol perfumes and colognes:
1- Have about 3% – 10% oil (perfume).
2- In 99%, 3% – 10% of the oil is synthetic NOT natural.
3- Have about 70% – 90% alcohol.
4- Have about 5% – 15% water (diluted).
5- More than 90% of the top perfume brand names test on animals.
6- Most of the chemicals in perfumes are not disclosed on the perfume label and most of these chemicals are POISONOUS.
7- Many of the top brand names use materials from countries with unethical sourcing and child labor.
Natural oils (our oils):
1- 100% pure extracted (therapeutic grade oil).
2- 100% natural oils, no synthetic chemicals, no additives.
3- 0% (no Alcohol or dissolvent).
4- Full maximum extraction concentration, no water (not diluted).
5- NO animal testing (NO animal is ever killed or harmed in sourcing, making, or selling any of our products).
6- NO poisonous substances, just pure natural oils and if it’s a mix of more than one oil, we will clearly state exactly what it is.
7- We only use experts specialized in this work – farmers, connoisseurs, artists – and we pay top dollar for it. We supervise all our work from the source to the sale. We will NEVER use/abuse the poor or needy to make a profit.
- Website: https://www.theperfumist.com/
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- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLOxX0ZVGKU7Iy0osXhhFqg
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