SITTING before me is a vial of cloudy white broth. Biologist Patrick Boyle invites me to take a sniff. To my amateur nose, the liquid smells green and sweet, a little like fresh-cut grass, a little like a bunch of flowers.
The concoction is a microbial perfume. Cooked up in the laboratories of Ginkgo BioWorks in Boston, it contains yeast that has been genetically engineered to smell of roses. Its ultimate purpose: to become part of a designer fragrance, one where its presence rivals the rose oils often used in luxury scents.
The “cultured rose” was born out of a marriage between Ginkgo – which bills itself as “the world’s first organism engineering foundry” – and Robertet, a French flavours and fragrance company founded in 1850. Robertet prides itself on the natural ingredients it uses in perfumes created for clients such as Chloé and Bottega Veneta, as well as its scents for household products like detergents.
Rose oil is a classic perfume component. Traditionally, roses are grown in vast fields in Bulgaria or Turkey, then picked by hand and distilled to extract the aromatic oil. But from the fragrance companies’ perspective, this approach is unreliable. Both the quality and the price of roses can fluctuate wildly from year to year, influenced by factors such as natural disasters, labour shortages, diseases or simply a poor growing season. “You have raw materials that will go from $10 to $100 a kilo because there’s a shortage or an embargo,” says Bob Weinstein, chief operating officer at Robertet. To read more, click HERE!
P.S- In case you haven’t seen this movie, it offers a different view of yeast perfumes.