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Introduction: Notes from Litrahb Perfumery
Welcome to my first newsletter! I needed a neutral space outside of social media to communicate with my Patrons and folks keen on an update on my work. Many of you are familiar with my published writings as an art critic since 2008 (
Singapore/ Southeast Asia), but even more of you know me since I established my perfumery practice in 2018.
Between 2018-2020, I produced a short documentary series on Litrahb Perfumery, and created a range of Synesthesia Experiences. This year, I filed the paperwork to trade-mark “Edible Perfume” in India, and organised my website to make it easier to browse the Shop or read my inter-disciplinary Journal where I continue to interview academics, perfumers and invite cultural producers and scientists to guest-blog.
Perfume of the Season: Mitti/ Petrichor
Attar Mitti is a fragrance distilled in Kannauj (India) for over a century. In the old days, clay would have been distilled onto a base of sandalwood oil, but in contemporary times, such a method is simply too expensive. (These days it is distilled onto a solvent base). The origin and processes involved make for a good story - the ‘bottled fragrance of rain’ has been written about, exoticised and romanticised plenty by the foreign media - but the attar itself has a fleeting petrichor note.
Personally, I’ve found it too faint and ineffective to be used as a raw material for perfume. For the Summer and Monsoon season, I decided to construct a Mitti accord from scratch. A musty, grassy, earthy family of natural perfume ingredients came together: cyperus/ nagarmotha, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, cocoa absolute and oudh with top and heart notes lent by rose and tuberose extract. A micro fraction of geosmin also went into the formulation to compound that ‘wet earth’ scent. The result was a robust ‘wet soil’ note that floats around you like a cloud for hours.
As for the perfume-concept and description, I wanted the audience to immerse themselves in a dense scent of soil and rain. To Smell the pleasant earth and floral notes, but also inhale the fleshy green stems of day-old drenched tuberoses lying in buckets at the flower market with wafts of moss, decay, gasoline and monsoon thunderstorms. [After years of sifting through curatorial jargon, it’s now my turn to write a high-concept text :) Read the full concept note here.]
My description of Mitti also mentions ‘indolic notes’ - To understand this term frequently used in perfumery, please refer to the writings of:
Nuri McBride:The Chemistry of Death and Desire
Victoria Frolova: Indole, Indolic: Perfume Vocabulary & Fragrance Notes
PS: Patrons are welcome to ask for extra notes of rose or tuberose, while others request for a mild fragrance. I am always happy to oblige! This customisation is especially useful if clients have allergies or sensitivity to strong aromas.
To enquire, simply reply to this email or explore the Shop.
1. I’m funding a small scale research into biodegradable materials and circular design. Delhi based designer Midushi Kochhar (Ylem Lab) is in the process of creating prototypes of diffuser blocks, incense and candle holders from what she terms ‘Eggware’, formulated with egg shells and binding agents. The final object appears as fine and dainty as porcelain. Pictured is the first prototype of our diffuser block.
2. Once our lockdown in India ends, I will finally get to work on my new Mitti Synesthesia Box. I plan to include a special edible perfume chocolate spread that simulates the sensation of eating clay/mud, and for the first time, a home fragrance. I make only editions of ten so please let me know of your interest ahead of time. Previous Season’s Synesthesia Box can be found here.
3. Last week I was invited to takeover Lover magazine’s Instagram to share behind-the-scene insights to my practice. View IGtakeover
4. Zero-waste Perfume Project (India): Please send me your miniature perfume bottles, no more than 6ml, I will fill it with a mystery cologne and post it back to you. [More information here]
I devised this project in order to reach more folks in India who wish to sample my perfumes but without having to produce expensive and wasteful bottles, labelling and packaging. I refuse to manufacture ‘discovery sets’ so this is an excellent means through which to indulge in low-cost scent-sampling. The next best thing to get is my Perfume Soap, incense or tea.
1. Chartreuse Perfume Tea: Black tea with chamomile, bergamot, lavender buds, fennel, cardamom and a bundle of vetiver. July 2021: Green Chutney Perfume Tea.
3. Shamama Perfume Soap: ingredients - Saffron, sandalwood, cardamom, rose
4. Compressed Synesthesia Experience: Gul Ishboor Chocolate + Incense
5. Perfumes: Mitti, Gul Ishboor, Rose Sherbet, Khus Lemonade, Bagh-e-Hind ‘Mulberry’ edition.
What made my day:
Over the last two months, I’ve heard back from so many of you. Ciara (Canada) received their Mitti perfume and said it made them feel like static building up before a thunderstorm! Maia (USA), my OG Patron who’s tried every perfume since 2018 got her parcel of Mitti and Gul Ishboor - She thinks ‘Gul’ is the best perfume I’ve made yet! Peter’s mom in Kerala received her birthday gift (Rose Sherbet incense and perfume), she says her whole house smells lovely now. Gurmeet in Delhi sent a sweet message to say the fragrance of Mitti helped her through a really difficult time.
Elana (USA) got her large bespoke Chartreuse Synesthesia Box in time for her birthday. Her box included Chocolate, Chartreuse incense sticks, Chartreuse Perfume Tea, Soap, Cologne and Extrait de parfum along with other items that usually go into such a box (custom made glass incense holder, a vintage brass bowl and so on). She’s been wearing Chartreuse perfume for two years now and wrote back with delight about how she wants to simply drown in all the smells!
I love hearing from my Patrons – Do write to me and if you wish, hit reply to send your testimonial for Litrahbperfumery.com