Founded in 1816, and located at Dariba Kalan in Old Delhi, Gulab Singh Johrimal was started by Lala Gulab Singh and his son Lala Johrimal. This father-son duo established this one-of-its-kind traditional perfumery that has seen India’s Freedom Movement, Independence, the struggles of towering leaders, and now, the new millennium!
If you happen to be in Delhi these days, there’s a place that you must visit. Fragrant heaven and a place where you’ll find different attars, perfumes, and other gorgeous accessories, Gulab Singh Johrimal has been running successfully for the last 205 long years. This shop has seen Dilli changing. It has been a witness of the freedom movement and has also been said to have scented the sherwanis of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Urdu Poet Mirza Ghalib, and many historic legends of Hindustani classical music. This aromatic shop offers non-alcoholic Attars, perfume oils, and eclectic incense varieties, and we say, how khushbudaar is that?
“We now have two stores, and the other one is located right opposite to the Town Hall in Chandani Chowk. That is also over 100 years old. The first shop, which stands at Dariba Kalan, was started as a perfumery and has continued to be associated with perfumes. But, now, we also have perfume accessories, fancy bottles that can be used as gifts.”, says Mukul Gundhi, co-owner of the shop.
The attar is extracted in an in-house facility
There are around 22-25 people who extract attar from fresh flowers. The quantity of the attar depends on how many flowers are available at the moment. Generally, for 1 kg of Rooh-Gulab ( Pure Rose Attar), 5,000 kgs of fresh rose flowers are used. “The commercial quantities of all the flowers are not available in the market. So, we make attar out of those flowers that can be commercially exploited.”, says Mr.Gundhi.
You will find 14 different types of attars at Gulab Singh Johrimal, including their bestsellers, attar Gulab, Rooh Rajnigandha, Rooh Khas, Attar Kewda, attar Shamama, and Mushke Ambar. Other than these pure attars, you will also see a variety of incense sticks, oils, soaps, and flora cones. All these are made using flowers and are popular among people.
Making the attar!
Gulab Singh Johrimal uses the authentic millennia-old Indian Deg Bhapka distillation techniques for the extraction of natural perfume oil, which takes about 6 weeks to extract 1 kg of attar. “The process of making pure attar is called Hydro distillation, where we put some water in a deg with the flowers. The water in the deg gets heated up. It later turns into vapour, and then we condense the vapours on the other side. We get the water and the oil from the flowers. After which we separate the water and take the oil from this collection.”, says Mr.Gundhi. This extremely long process is laborious and artistic. ” It’s an art to distill attar!!”, he further adds.
Sourcing of the flowers
One of the reasons why people love the attar of Gulab Singh Johrimal is because they are made with fresh flowers, and for the last 8 generations, the family has ensured its quality. The family sources the flowers from the farmers of different villages. “For rose, we have our facility and factory in Hathras, Mathura. We get Jasmine from Coimbatore. While sourcing of Kewda flowers is done from Behrampur village in District Ganjam of Odhisa.”, he explains.
Since everything is done in-house, there are many risks, Mukul Gundhi feels it is one of the biggest challenges that they face. “There are 2 ways of working. One where you trade any product, and you go to a trader and buy from them. But, when you do the production on your own, it requires you to be patient, and you will need working hands. Our USP is that we do in-house production. Producing inside your own facility and then selling it to your own retail counter is indeed difficult.”, he says.
“I still remember how Mr. Vir Sanghvi came to our shop for his show”
Gulab Singh Johrimal has even been featured by journalist Vir Sanghvi, for his show ‘Custom Made for Vir Sanghavi’. Reminiscing about the experience, Mr. Gundhi says, ” We didn’t know Mr. Vir Sanghavi was the anchor of the show. So, when we came to know about him later, we were all fascinated. The amount of knowledge he has is mind-boggling and he is like an encyclopedia in himself. I still can’t forget it.”, says Mukul Gundhi.
Mr. Gundhi, who belongs to the 7th generation of the family, has been running his family’s legacy since he was 21. He is now 50 and is currently running the shop with his 3 brothers, nephew, and son. ” We do have people coming and they tell us that they have been here with their grandfather, father, and now with their kids. I also call this patronage as our USP.”, he says.
Though Gulab Singh Johrimal has introduced many new products and even a new store in Chandani Chowk, certain things have not yet changed. The furniture and the decor are still the same, while the old method of making attar is still used under this aromatic canopy! If you are not in Delhi and want to smell what they offer, do check out their website.