Sathya Sai Baba's liquid 'amrit' (i.e. honey nectar or, imaginatively, "ambrosia"), is a supposedly holy substance, and does have a distinctive odour. It can be collected from the doubtful 'Thief's Temple' in South India near Mysore, run by a man called Halagappa, a former thief who has two small amulets with Sai Baba's picture on that supposedly give off amrit into the jar in which they are kept. The sweet, fragrant liquid was analysed and found to be sugar water, according to experts referred to on the Danish video 'Seduced' which caused such a furore in March 2002 in Denmark. Halagappa also had some feet carved in black stone on a pedestal, representing the deceased Shirdi Baba's feet under a small portico, which somehow exude a particularly fragrant 'nectar'. These symbolic 'feet' were installed there on Sai Baba's directions by N. Kasturi in the 1960s, Kasturi told me. 'Amrit' is itself supposed to be the 'nectar of the gods', which - in the ancient and fabulous Ramayana myth of India - gave eternal life to those who were fortunate enough to taste it. Those who did not succeed were consigned to more lifetimes as demonic 'asuras'. Sai Baba says of (at least some of) the amrit he claims to materialise that it indicates that the receiver will be free from the cycle of birth and death... liberated. Therefore, it is always spoken of by devotees as having an otherworldly fragrance, unsurpassed sweetness and freshness etc. and is treated with reverence. When they finally taste some they believe they are thrice blessed and so on. Those who have smelt and tasted amrit, know its very distinctive taste and smell, a smell which cloys the more the older it gets.
A devotee of Sathya Sai baba who lived at Kadugodi (near the brindavan ashram) claimed to know that Halagappa was manufacturing the vibuthi and amrit which appear there. (See here)
In my previous days of occasional gaping wonder, I also thought that it might just be something 'out of this world.' But one day while I was still a follower of Sai Baba I kept getting a whiff of amrit, as if 'from out of nowhere'. This kind of phenomenon has in fact occurred before to me, and reportedly to many others, not least with the scent of Sathya Sai Baba scented vibhuthi (ash). Though I cannot explain the several previous experiences, the latest one could certainly not have been a 'leela', I figured, for I had just delivered some rather damning evidence against Sathya Sai to one of his leaders in Europe (not an act that the 'so compassionate' Sai Baba would like or reward thus! Rather, quite on the contrary!). But that distinctive smell kept on catching my nostrils. I soon discovered that I had washed my hands with a new piece of soap. The amrit smell came from that.
In order to test my identification of the smell, I held my hands before my wife's nose and she almost jumped out of the chair. "Amrit!" she exclaimed. "What, what... have you been in the fridge?" (We have some of the stuff from Halagappa, kept for interest's sake - and possible future analysis). I showed her the soap and, sure enough, she confirmed the unmistakable amrit smell. The soap is made by Yardley's and is called 'Tea Rose'. So there is one little mystery solved, it seems. The odour that is used in the mixing of amrit, is no more unearthly than are tea roses… and they can be rather special, I admit!
(Addition - 2006) To confirm that amrit is based on tea rose essence, one may search the words 'tea rose' on Google and select one of the huge range of tea rose scented products. Tea roses have long been famous for their exceptional fragrance and there are many variants. Some of these are literally identical to the scent of Sai Baba amrit.
(Addition 2007) The following is based on a comment posted on ExBaba.com Guestbook in 2005. It was insightful and I have taken the liberty of editing it to add some details and remove some redundant or superfluous bits:
"The recipe for amrita is simple sugar water with tea rose essence, the result is identical to so-called 'Sai amrit'. The tea rose essence in seldom met with, so it makes the amrit perfume/taste seem unique. Fantasising wholly uncritical visitors talk of it being "definitely not of this world! ( R.D. Awle)" That is simply because tea rose perfume is still so seldom met with!
This 'amrita' harks back to the nectar of immortality (given to the devas by Vishnu in the Ramayana mythology) an so to those who receive some it represents a blessing or the grace of God ( i.e. in sensory, culinary form!) One imagines it is often taken in Sai circles to mean that Sai Baba is lining one up for liberation."
Same with the amrit at Srirangapatnam 'orphanage'. This supposed 'orphanage' is also famous as 'The Thief's Temple' because its owner was caught as a thief (a 'baggage lifter' in Bangalore bus and train stations). He still deserves the title of thief because he collects (major) donations under false pretenses. The 'flow'of amrit from the amulets he shows is just a tiny dribble, not much at all. When visitors increased, suddenly there were two amulets, but there was originally only one!) Halagappa does not allow it to rest on your hand more than a short time. The amulets may well be hollow with concealed opening at top and bottom, which allows more amrit to run out, but Halagappa never allows genuine examination of either amulet (he limits it to seconds)! (the 'Seduced' film team were not able to test it properly. One would think this would be very helpful to all, IF it were genuine). One is not allowed to dry it off and wait for a new flow, for example. Why?
Sometimes Halagappa scrapes away the flow with his spoon beneath the amulet on your hand to show that yet more will flow, but then the amulet gets more amrit from the spoon as he is scraping up to it. He may do this several times, and the amazed recipient does not think to question for it may eveb feel sacriligeous to do so (and most people want to be convinced and feel they are personally worth a divine blessing). Mr. Awle thinks he saw it running for "several minutes" while Hallagappa four times scooped away (!) the gathering liquid and put it into his other hand. Halagappa never waits for a minute, just 10 of 15 seconds, until oozing slows, when he scoops again with his suspicious large tablespoon. It is a clever deceit!
Then there are also 'feet of Shirdi Baba' - two foot- or sole- shaped forms carved in black stone which allegedly "sweats amrit". Why does Halagappa always stand nearby while one tests it? (There is such a thing as a simple hydraulic footpump).
What happened to the miraculous vibuthi box Halagappa allegedly 'found' many years ago, which refills itself when shaken? He is supposed to have stood and given vibuti to many people, shaking the box when it emptied. However, he told one of us it had stopped producing any more (Swami was angry with him for throwing out his wife and taking another)! Meanwhile, the Sai temple orphans wear rags & have no proper books or other facilities, while Halagappa's (second) wife wears diamonds and where the 'temple' has been marbled and beautified at great expense. Yet the donations made by visitors are truly enormous. The taxi firms are hand-in-glove with Halagappa too and bring many well-to-do foreigners there from Bangalore on day trips... One big scam!
Sai Baba has himself warned strongly in discourses against "happenings in Mysore and Madras" (Sathya Sai Speaks vol. 10, p. 186) and "in Mysore state there are some who distribute amrith, vibhuuthi and other articles announcing that they are showering from their pictures at their places... Devotees should keep far away from such places and persons" (Sathya Sai Speaks vol. 11, p. 147). Sanathana Sarathi also published a prominent warning against the Mysore/Sri Ranga Patna orphanage and unauthorised money collections there. So much for the genuineness of Halagappa's tricks and his collection of funds (another financial competitor to the Sai Central Trust!)