"As early as the 1700s, Sayed Mohammed al-Attar established the House of the Perfumer in Istanbul, Turkey. The title itself (al-attar) means the Perfumist, a family title used in many countries in middle east distinguishing the profession of making perfumes and natural materials. The name comes from the Arabic, Urdu, and Hindi word "Itr" meaning perfume.
Sayed Mohammed wasn't originally a perfume maker, he was a religious scholar with an interest in chemistry, botany, and biology. his passion was to learn from the best masters around the world and travel and explore the world and to sustain his passion and studies he opened a store for natural materials and perfumes in Istanbul Turkey.
being familiar with the science of chemistry, botany, and biology he started making mixtures as both medications as herbal remedies and perfumes. Being a devolved man who believed in a fair business and an honest and approach to work and life his name got known in the city, as being honest seller, experienced and knowledgeable.
At that time the ottoman empire was the pinnacle of perfume development and research, and the empire followed the steps of the fathers of perfumery al-kindi and Jabber bin Hayan. even though this was almost a thousand years after Al-kindi and Jabber bin Hayan who have contributed the most to chemistry and perfumery. The Ottomans loved perfumes and many of the sultans were directly involved in the development and the establishment of perfume distilleries.
The Perfumist passion and ability made him a prominent figure in the perfume community at that time, which opened the door for him to meet and sell to the sultan and the royal palace. The sultan admired his dedication and knowledge and decided to give him the title of "The Perfumist of the sultan" or the perfume maker of the royal ottoman palace. This was a great honor and privilege as he will be directly interacting with the sultan and his family and be able to research and work with an open budget to make perfumes for the royal palace.
His dream was happening, and he took the best advantage of that as in his life he attempted some of the most difficult and demanding distillation and worked with some of the most intricate and exotic materials. rose, musk, ambergris, oud, and sandalwood. Based on the recorded his family have he has attempted some of the most challenging perfume distillations.
He traveled to India to learn the arts of distillation and to trade, then to Morocco to explore exotic roses and herbs of the region, Persia, Yemen, then back to Damascus where he started his first distillery in the old market in Damascus. after many years of traveling and learning he went back to Turkey, got married, and started his second distillery in Istanbul near what is now the grand bazaar area.
He wrote and taught the science and art of perfumery and many of his apprentices moved to other places and regions and become masters themselves, some moved to Baghdad and opened the perfume market in Bagdad which still exists, some moved to Damascus and opened some of the oldest attar shops in the city, and some moved to mecca and Oman.
His teachings were both spiritual and scientific as he believed there is a thin line that can encompass and embrace the heart and the mind where the spirit and the mind can meet in perfumery. He always talked about the old Arabic and Persian poets who used the rose as one of the most important symbols within the mystical Muslim tradition known as Sufism. Rose is also considered a symbol of the prophet Muhammad, therefore, rose oil and rose water are highly esteemed and often used in religious ceremonies and rituals throughout Turkey and the Middle East.
Musk and how the scent of heaven is made from musk and the power and healing properties musk has to the body and the mind. It is not widely known that Each year during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, the black cloth of the Ka’ba (the holiest shrine in Islam, located at the mosque in Mecca) is sprinkled with rose water brought in from Taif regions in Saudi, Iran or Turkey, and rose oil is burnt in Ka’ba’s oil lamps to emit a rose fragrance to the environment. some of his work is still present in the family archive and considered by many as the crown jewel of the modern attar /perfumery art. that is encompassing ancient methods and the modern scientific approach toward perfumery.
So people may wonder, why the house of the Perfumist is currently in the USA even though it was originally established in Istanbul turkey, the reason is that the current owner and his family all moved to the USA many years ago, where he studied and lived and moved his business, not only to introduce the art of attars and natural perfumery to the world but to be with his family who is currently residing and living in Houston Texas in the USA.
Current owner and mater Perfumist of the house the 6th generation master Ali Attar is still the maker and producer of the majority of the Perfumist work. Their office in Houston is open for bespoke and private clients by invitation only. They don't take walk-ins, refuse to have any agents or representatives, and don't offer their products in any department store.
Most of their work is extremely limited in quantity and extremely high quality, even though the majority of us probably won't be able to afford any of their exotic and sometimes pungent oils and perfumes, but for those who appreciate their work and art and have a passion for this kind of perfumery they are considered the undisputed benchmark of quality.
Their work is a little secretive and mysterious as they rarely promote or advertise their productions, possibly because they produce in so small quantities they are almost always out, but if you manage to get your hand or nose on one of their creations you will realize how different it is. I say different and not better because the truth is their work is one of these things that you even love or hate. Their work is very pungent, extreme, and pure. as they claim that they use the highest quality materials in the world and have lab tests of their products and oils on their website. they also guarantee that their perfumes and attars are pure and not mixed and they issue a hand-signed certification of that with every order personally signed by the owner of the house. talking about the commitment I think that is enough commitment to make them have one of the most loyal following in the niche perfume industry.
Published in an article, in collaboration with the Perfumist LLC. USA
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