Today most Kannauj attar ends up in the Middle East and among regional Muslim communities in India. In Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk, a market built in the 17th-century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, Gulab Singh Johrimal is a longtime institution that now carries both attar and modern fragrances. It's almost always full of Muslim men in search of attar to scent themselves before Friday prayers and festivals such as Eid.
Nonetheless, Kapoor is optimistic. He spends much of his time courting top international perfume houses, touting the traditions of attar and the terroir of Kannauj botanicals. "Western tastes are shifting East," he says. "Typically, the West prefers light, citrusy notes, but these days you see the big daddies like Dior, Hermès, and of course, the Middle Eastern perfume houses going for gilded scents like rose and shamama."