Travel the lengths and breadths of the world, there ain’t anything as good as indigenous. Go around the world, but everything will lead you back to the homeland. This, I claim after a visit to the oldest perfumery in India. A shop that isn’t just a regular perfume store….. it is a 200 hundred old legacy, natural heritage of India captured within the four walls, tucked within the oldest part of Delhi….. it is Gulab Singh Johrimal, but of course!
Through the by lanes of Chandni Chowk, towards Dariba Kalan market, I thought I’d never find it, but finding a guide to Gulab Singh Johrimal isn’t a task at all. World renowned, the name is enough for any shopkeeper or passerby to bring you through the meandering lanes.
It is the oldest perfumery in India, Established in 1816, it is now being run by the 7th generation of the Gundhi family, Mukul Gundhi, keeping the legacy of his forefathers alive. The antique grandfather’s clock hanging inside the legendary shop, is cue enough to realise their love for the heritage. The aura takes you back in time…. The one thing that they ardently maintain, is the quality and capacity.
Gulab Singh Johrimal attends to a labourer buying agarbatti for ‘namaz’ from them as much as they do, a foreigner tourist spending in dollars, also relating to the fact that they create for every worthy spender. The synthetic ones will cost lesser while the organically procured ones can get exorbitant.
Visit the shop to buy perfume products including fragrant soaps, agarbatti (incense stick), ittar (essential oil), etc., The fascinating minutiae is that most of the fragrances are created with authentic natural flowers and herbs, some distilled from exotic and rare flowers!
The world renowned fragrance, the Ruh Gulab is their iconic product and is still considered to be a specialty. 5000 kg of the Bulgarian rose, Rosa Demicina, is distilled to extract 1 kg of rose oil that goes into making Ruh Gulab! Attar Harshringar is a rare and exotic fragrance as is Attar Rajnigandha, which costs INR 10000 for 10 grams! Attar Kewda, Jatamasi, Moulshree and Taif Rose are other special fragrances to indulge in.
You’d be surprised that all the international niche perfumes infuse fragrances through this process… and you get the base oil used for those, right under your nose! Move over Chanel, Guerlain, Issey Miyake, Gucci and the likes…. we got our own authentic one!