The art of perfumery dates back to ancient days when it was a symbol of status and only reserved for elitists. Global perfume’s fantasy with Indian ingredients is a well-versed topic, now. Well, a classical fragrance house from the royal city of Lucknow has created a prominent space for itself, although necessarily changing with the ‘not-so-static’ nuances of scent
I have always tried to reason behind a fragrance’s strong evocative power of memories. Before being sent out as another mere ‘perfume bottle’, it’s intriguing how fine notes are crafted. A notion of fragrance evokes a primary story – for say, Jasmine odours tells you its tale in the most unique manner that goes far beyond memory. It was in the 1850s when Mr Chhunnamal Vijayvergiya took the initiative of starting a perfumery business, that would reach the masses. Sugandhco came about then and has been a popular name ever since for merging traditional aromas with modern blends.
Run by a family of perfumers, Sugandhco indulges in traditional attars made with modern variations apart from present-day perfumes and fragrances. Vishwas Vijayvergia, Director of Sugandhco says, “The ability to combine a group of molecules from a palette comprising of thousands of aromatic ingredients is the result of experience and knowledge, which is passed from one generation to another. Traditional Attars such a Ruh Khus, Ruh Gulab and Gil (Mitti) are still made using the ancient technique of water distillation using the ‘deg and bhapka’ method.” The heritage perfumery brand hailing from the ‘City of Nawabs’ ascertains its grandeur. Housed in Lucknow, the old-city charm with its varied cultures from beautiful sprawling gardens to fine music and art never ceases to mesmerize. The credit for patronizing and popularizing perfumery goes to the Nawabs of Oudh, signifying an important cultural life.
Art of Scent & Perfumery
Ingredients play an important role, reflecting our experiences of everyday life and bringing in hints of nostalgia. Mr Vishwas says, “The main aim was to always spread fragrance all over. Our plate consists of ingredients from around the world. Sugandhco combines traditional knowledge and modern trends to create fragrances.” A scent that represents the mix of old and new can perfectly capture the zeitgeist of all times.
Perfumes also follow some kind of cultural constructs. They are inspired by the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead and the paths we demarcate. He says, “Nature is what principally inspires our fragrance creations. Our aromatic blends are based on diversified feelings, emotions and experiences. They are a blend of art and science, and it takes years of hard work and perseverance to make each commercially successful and aesthetically well-balanced fragrance. Our Platte consists of ingredients from around the world. The Lavender from Bulgaria has its own place, and so does the Kashmiri Lavender of India.”
“A process that is now foregone as too meticulous in times of machine-made – we still manufacture and extract many of our own essences using traditional infusion and distillation techniques that capture the complexity and notes of raw and rare ingredients of each blend.” guides Vijay. Although modern perfumery has turned into a static thing – ‘just a perfume in a labelled bottle’, the impact of essences and oils can keep one entangled with how perfumes are ideated, selection of notes or what thought-processes it projects.
Chic Scents & More
Creating progressive compositions for today’s audience as well, each essence of the perfumery house is still measured, blended and formulated by hand, as it was a century ago. “Over the last century, our fragrance house has managed to build and blossom the business driven by the artistry and perfection of hand blending and not commercial priorities; along with a keen inherited nose, counting 150 years and 6 generations to be precise,” tells Mr Vishwas.
The Indian market is constantly evolving. International brands and perfumers have been inclined towards the usage of Indian spices, herbs, essential oils and flowers while crafting a scent. Enlightening us, he tells “Nature is diverse and spread all over the globe. The jasmine of India and that of France, both smell quite different but have equal importance in the creation of different perfumes. The Rose from Hasayan, the precious Agarwood (Oudh) from Assam, the Keora from East Coast of India, Lavender from Kashmir and Lemongrass from down South are only a few examples of extremely useful perfumery ingredients which are grown in India and shipped globally.” India is home to some of the finest ingredients in the world. Some of the natural ingredients may be used as a very high dosage or in pure forms in India but in the western world, it may be used as a dilution in a small quantity. These scents have stories crafted into them. Hence, a different desire can be achieved from a diluted model than the one with pure ingredients.
The World Around Perfumes
Perfume descriptions can be really abstract, noting things like a top note of sun or a middle note of air – trying to build a bridge between humans and nature. The modern face of perfumery is slim, smart and designed in cutting-edge style. And of course, there’s an enormous amount of technology in perfumery now, in terms of the creation of molecules. “Perfumery, though it may seem pretty simple to a layman, is actually very scientific in nature. All the Fragrances are created with the entire molecular chemistry of each ingredient in mind. For example, a perfume for the soap industry should not hinder the pH level of the final product, a shampoo perfume should not interfere with the viscosity and colour of it, etc. Likewise, all fine fragrances ingredients are duly regulated by IFRA (The International Fragrance Association) which studies every perfumery molecule to make sure it is safe for us. Machines like GCMS (Gas Chromatography|Mass Spectrometry), Polarimeters and Fractional Distillation Units are employed to check the quality and manufacture perfumes” tells Vishwas.
Fragrances and perfumes exude an oriental mysticism about them. The enormous power and healing realms of scent have been around since Ayurveda days. Undergoing continuous reformations, there was a time where the fragrance composition consisted of many ingredients but with minimalism on the peak, modern perfumery has also started concentrating on a smaller quantity of ingredients. Sugandhco tells, “A century and a half ago we served the Nawabs of Awadh, and today we are serving the modern-day ‘Nawabs’. The change is forever on-going thing and we try our best to keep up with it. Every year during the Diwali Month we hope to come up with a fragrance which is up-to-date in every manner. Also, with the introduction of the new fragrance, One of the old ones goes off the shelves (though some of the classics never go out of trend), this helps us to keep our collection as per the liking of our patrons.”
Sugandhco, being a homegrown brand, has been around for ages; built a niche far before then today’s growing participation of Indian perfume houses. Perfumes mostly have been about the experiences and lifestyles of the West, notably Europe. However, India has been a perfumers’ leitmotif for many years. Capturing the vibrant spirit of the people, the smells, poetic passages and the colours of India in a fragrance, this Nawabi fragrance house has built a prominent and trusted space. Mr Vishwas concludes, “Our business has always been driven by our passion for creating blends which would delight our customers. Commercials were never really a concern. The business has grown only organically through word of mouth.”