It would be more accurate to say that bananas smell primarily of isoamyl acetate (3-methylbut-1-yl ethanoate) than the other way around

“…it is the model of production rather than mere understanding that is the basis of the ‘chemical humiliation’.” ––Iain Hamilton Grant

“…when the Elk River chemical spill occurred near Charleston, West Virginia, the first clue to local residents was a distinct licorice-like smell permeating the air: the chemical 4- methylcyclohexanemethanol, which is used to purify coal and was released into the water supply, is very closely related in both molecular structure and flavor to artificial flavor compounds in use in various countries.”

“…it’s not just about understanding the ‘nature of nature’, not just about metaphysics––it’s about recreating nature. That synthetic ambition is unique to chemistry––it’s about production as well as analysis.” ––Iain Hamilton Grant

“…the “maple syrup event” in which the city of New York was periodically inundated with a thick maple smell––that was later found to be the byproduct of a Frutarom flavor processing plant in New Jersey––was initially feared as a chemical weapons attack by many Manhattan residents.”

Since a molecular structure is the most basic distinctive “chemical signature” of an entity, the realm of olfaction presents itself as the proper domain for understanding material specificity on a phenomenological level: the sense of smell is the body’s pre-existing sensory apparatus for distinguishing between nuanced differences in molecular structure.

Our understanding of scent is generally held in a mimetic, or referential paradigm and we have a hard time thinking abstractly. Is it possible to think of specific scent-compounds as entities in their own right, rather than as representational facets, or as mere components in the depiction of a familiar object?

About Air Variable

Air Variable focuses exclusively on scent fabrication for art, design, and architectural projects. Founded in 2014 by Sean Raspet, Air Variable aims to further scent research and discourse by making scent a more accessible medium to artists.

Raspet has worked extensively with the scientific and technical aspects of scent chemistry, including gas chromatography and mass spectrometry reverse engineering of fragrances and natural products, environmental air sampling (recreating the background scent of a space) and abstract scent formulations.



◊ Scent Analysis and Replication

Air Variable can analyze and replicate the scent of almost any substance or item.

◊ Custom Scent Formulation

Air Variable has an extensive library of scent chemicals and many years of experience in formulating scents. We can work with you to produce a scent based on your exact specifications, whether it is a resemblance to an pre-existing scent or a specific abstract quality you are seeking. We especially enjoy producing abstract, unusual and completely unique scents to fit your idea.

◊ Consultation

In addition to our scent formulation services, we provide consultations on a wide range of scent fabrication and chemistry-related issues including:

  • Chemical compatibility and chemical or materials sourcing
  • Scent-diffusion, air-filtration and controlling the direction of a scent in a space
  • “Scratch and sniff” coatings and inks
  • Producing scented products or materials
  • Creating modified atmospheres and working with gases
  • General troubleshooting and other topics

Please use our Enquiry form and provide us with some details on your project. If we can’t help we will put you in touch with someone who can.

◊ Air Sampling

Air Variable can provide you with an analysis of the scent of a particular space. From this analysis we are able to reconstruct that space as a fragrance mixture which can be diffused or used in another manner for your project.

◊ Deformulation; Reverse Engineering

Similar to scent analysis, Air Variable can also perform an overall analysis on a substance to provide you with a comprehensive list of its ingredients and their proportions. The substance can then be replicated or modified.