Attar (Arabic: عطر) also known as ittar is a natural perfume oil derived from botanical sources, such as flowers (jasmine, rose, sandalwood and more), herbs, spices, or barks. Oils can also be expressed by chemical means but generally natural perfumes which qualify as Attars are distilled naturally. Once obtained, these oils are generally distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired.
These all-natural perfumes are highly concentrated and therefore are usually offered for sale in small quantities and have traditionally been offered in decorated crystal cut type bottles or small jewelled decanters. Attars are popular throughout the Middle East, South Asia (Far East of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) and parts of Africa. Attars have been used in Eastern world for thousands of years. These 100% pure and natural perfumes are free of alcohol and chemicals and so the problems faced in the West by perfume lovers are irrelevant to most Eastern perfume lovers. Natural perfumes are affordable because they are so concentrated that a small bottle will last the user several weeks, if not months. Due to the purity and the nature of oils, there is very little chance of spoilage unless a food based carrier oil is used to cut the concentrated pure oil.
Traditionally in the Eastern world it was a customary practice of nobility to offer attar to their guests at the time of their departure. The attars are traditionally given in ornate tiny crystal cut bottles called as itardans. This tradition of giving a scent to one's guests continues to this day in many parts of the Eastern world.
Most attars are alcohol-free and are used by many Muslim men and women. Attar has long been considered one of the most treasured of material possessions and Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) has been compared to attar as one of the most beloved of gifts given to mankind.
Attars are also used among Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh meditation practices.