I just read the most interesting article about a village in India that creates an attar to capture the scent of rain and the seasonal monsoons: Making Perfume From the Rain.
Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff.
Fascinating! The author, Cynthia Barnett, goes on to describe how she flew to India on the eve of monsoon season for the express purpose of visiting the village in Uttar Pradesh where, for centuries, villagers have captured the scent of the rain in their part of the world. They call it mitti attar. She describes in great detail what materials they gather and how they process them according to traditional routines. And then, she samples the end product, “Earth’s perfume”: Continue reading