What’s in a nose? Everything, if you are in the fragrance business. Indian fragrance dealers contend they can better any perfume produced by France or Belgium. The sole constraint is their lack of easy access to perfume grade alcohol, a key ingredient in any fragrance.
It is only the government’s restrictive policies on the use of ethyl alcohol which composes the bulk of the perfume body that is holding Indian perfume makers back.
The Indian government’s policies lay down strict usage guidelines for perfume grade ethyl alcohol as it is also commonly misused to manufacture country-made liquor.
Under the existing policies, fragrance manufacturers must account for every last drop of ethyl alcohol they purchase. “That is virtually impossible,” said Jugal Kishore Gupta, president of the Essential Oil Association of India.
“If I am issued 100 kg of ethyl alcohol, I pack it in bottles of 25 gm each. But there is always some amount of spillage. A certain amount is also lost due to evaporation, because of the tropical climate in which we live. Government inspectors, however, accuse us of trying to evade duty by claiming spillage and evaporation,” he said.
As a result, most members of the industry prefer to stick to fragrance products -- like ittr, agarbatti, dhoop, and tobacco aromatics -- that do not require alcohol bases.
A senior member of the industry, who preferred not to be identified, said: “In France, perfume grade alcohol is sold over the counter with no restrictions. They merely add a denaturant – rendering it unfit for internal consumption -- which ensures that the ethyl alcohol cannot be diverted for making liquor. Why can’t something similar be done here?”
Naveen Gandhi of Gulab Chand Johri Mal -- Delhi's oldest ittr shop established in 1816 – said: “The perfume industry is all about the nose. We, like Cyrano de Bergerac have the biggest - and we can compete with the perfume boutiques of France. We can create the fragrance. All we need is easy access to the alcohol base. Right now we are managing with Eau de Cologne purchased from the market.”