A perfume aficionado with a taste for details and history might know the story of Chanel No 5 and the meaning of chypre. Some of us comb libraries for old perfume books and auction sites for forgotten vintage gems. We collect raw materials and analyze their nuances. When we start talking about accords, sillage, drydown and composition to “regular” people, their eyes glaze over. If you have a mischievous streak to your personality, take this talk to the perfume counter at your local department store. You will be rewarded with a look of total incomprehension. Therefore, when I came across a fragrance quiz devised by the British perfume writer Nigel Groom in July 1996 for Mastermind, I immediately wanted to share it with you. Nigel Groom thought that these are the things a perfume lover should know. So, give it a go! How many can you answer without referring to Google? What other questions would you add?
P.S. And no, these are not easy! I admit that some of the questions stumped me. On the whole, it is an interesting and educational quiz.
Who was the nose who created Chanel no5 ?
Chanel No. 5 was the fifth of five fragrances given to Coco Chanel by Ernest Beaux for selection. Why was Chanel No 19 so called?
August 19th is Coco’s birthday.
Musk comes from the musk deer, civet from the civet cat. Name another perfume material of animal origin.
Ambergris, from the sperm whale. (Also possible-castoreum (beaver), propolis (beeswax), hyraceum (from the hyrax) and sweet hoof (from a marine snail).
Who devised a classification of fragrances along the lines of musical notes?
Charles Piesse (In 1880 in his book The Art of Perfumery).
Which famous perfume house was founded by Francois Spoturno?
What essential oil is distilled from the flowers of the Bitter Orange tree?
Neroli; orange blossom absolute is also derived from the same flower, but it uses a different form of extraction. (The leaves produce Petitgrain Oil, the peel of the fruit produces Bitter Orange Oil. The tree is also called Bigarade).
What perfume house is known for bottles shaped like crowns?
In 1889 Guerlain created what is sometimes described as “the first modern perfume.” What was its name?
When Florence Graham founded Elizabeth Arden in 1910, how did she come to choose that name?
She derived it from a popular book “Elizabeth and her German Garden” by Elizabeth von Arnim.
What perfume ingredient comes from a tree identified botanically as Boswelia sacra?
What percentage of perfume oil to alcohol would you expect to find in an Eau de Toilette?
4-8, but possible up to 12%
Schiaparelli’s perfume Shocking was introduced in 1937 in a bottle shaped after a famous female figure. Whose figure?
The earliest treatise about perfume, called “Concerning Odours” appeared in around 300 A.D. Who wrote it?
Theophrastus (A Greek botanist)
Jean Patou started his perfumery business with three perfumes -Amour Amour, Adieu Sagesse and what was the third?
Which of the plants used in perfumery produces the most powerful scent?
The perfumes Caleche, Madame Rochas and Gucci No 1 were all created by the same nose. Who was he?
Which Guerlain perfume, still marketed has a link with the Arabian Night Tales?
What name do perfumers apply to the finished perfume creation before it is diluted into different strengths by adding alcohol?
Hungary Water was first made for the Queen of Hungary in 1370 A.D. What was its main ingredient?
Rosemary. (It also contained smaller portions of marjoram and penny royal. Later some citron, lavender and orris were added)
What would you expect the synthetic ingredient ionone to smell like?
Schiaparelli celebrated the end of World War II with a new perfume called Le Roy Soleil (The Sun King.) Who designed the bottle?
The first of the so-called green (or floral-green) perfumes was introduced by Balmain in 1945. What was its name?
What is the term perfumers use to describe the aroma left behind when someone wearing perfume passes by?
What is the technique for extracting essential oils from the peel of citrus fruits called?
Which perfume house, still in business, supplied Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon and Queen Victoria, and created The Czarina’s Bouquet for the Czarina of Russia?
In Greek mythology the Hesperides were nymphs guarding a tree of golden apples. What does the name signify to perfumers?
What synthetic perfume ingredient derived from plants and tar, provides perfumers with the smell of new-mown grass?
What is the name given to the essential oil distilled from the rhizomes of the Iris plant?
Orris (Sometimes called Orris Butter because of its color and texture, and also sometimes called Iris Oil)
Carven Ma Griffe, Millot Crepe de Chine, and Estee Lauder Knowing all belong to the same fragrance family. Which family?
For whom did René Lalique design his first perfume bottle?
Coty, (for L’Effluert de Coty in c. 1908)
What species of rose would you expect to find under cultivation for attar of roses in the Bulgarian rose-growing district of Kazanlik?
Which perfume company uses a symbol representing its founder and her daughter?