Test Your Fragrance IQ : Perfume Quiz

Madame rochas

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 ?
Ernest Beaux

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?
Prince Matchabelli

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?
Mae West

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?
Que Sais-Je?

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?
Guy Robert

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?
Concentrate, compound

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?
Salvador Dali

The first of the so-called green (or floral-green) perfumes was introduced by Balmain in 1945. What was its name?
Vent Vert

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?
Cold-pressed expression

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?
Rosa Damascena

Which perfume company uses a symbol representing its founder and her daughter?




  • Cheiroso: Very interesting questions, and I knew the answers to more than I thought I would. I have a couple of questions to add.

    1) What perfume ingredient, which comes from an fungus-infected evergreen tree, is often described as smelling like Band-Aids?

    2) What plant oil, named after the beaver, has been used as a substitute for beaver musk in fragrances since ancient times?

    Please enter me in the drawing for Chanel No. 19. Thanks. July 27, 2010 at 10:23am Reply

  • samarkand: Ouf challenging questions ! I do not know all the answers but half of them. Here I have one more :

    What was the name of the most famous Egyptian perfume whose formula is still known today and which was resurrected in Cairo in 2002?

    Please, I’d like to be in the drawing for Chanel 19

    samrakand July 27, 2010 at 11:15am Reply

  • Style Spy: Fun! I don’t know a lot of these, I’m embarrassed to report.

    The “perfume thing” does sometimes come up with civvies, like when someone whose main experience of perfume is the cosmetics department of Dillard’s compliments me on some niche thing with a French name I’m wearing and then wants to know where I got it. I find the most common response I’ve encountered is disbelief — people just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that I spend this much time & energy on something like perfume. So I took a picture of my collection with my cell phone. It’s a convenient shorthand way of conveying the depth of my obsession. People take one look at my drawer full of bottles and decants and then they get it. July 27, 2010 at 9:16am Reply

  • Ariana: I want the answers! Where can I email to? Thanks, July 27, 2010 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Oh, I did not know a few of these either, especially the ones concerning bottles, since I was never a bottle collector. In fact, when I learned that bottle collectors buy old bottles and then empty them of their contents, I was in shock.
    Yes, most of the time I do not even try to convey the depth of my obsession to the uninitiated. It is just too much! 🙂 July 27, 2010 at 10:04am Reply

  • sweetlife: So are you going to post the answers next week, V? Because some of those are going to drive me crazy (the smell of new-mown grass!). Others though, I don’t care about at all…too much about the industry, not enough about the juice.

    I had a funny experience answering the quiz questions that Cinquieme Sens (sp?) sent out to promote their classes. Apparently, I missed one, and so didn’t win their prize, whatever it was. But the coordinator wrote back to say how impressed they were by my answers and asked if I was in the industry… July 27, 2010 at 11:08am Reply

  • Annapurna: Which flower is known in India as “rat ki rani” and why? July 27, 2010 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cheiroso, wow, great questions! Thank you. I especially love the first one! July 27, 2010 at 11:45am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: A, ha ha, I knew that this might happen. If it is going to bother you too much, please let me know and I will email you answers to alleviate your suffering. 🙂
    I would be thrilled to hear that. You’ve impressed them! July 27, 2010 at 11:47am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Samarkand, half is already very good, especially since some of these are not easy at all. Thank you for your question, very good one! July 27, 2010 at 11:48am Reply

  • Musette: Wow! I’m impressed that I got about half of them! Without cheating! Especially the Hungary Water question (though I just smelled a version of HW not too long ago, so it is a bit of a ‘cheat’)

    Here’s a question, hope it’s usable in the draw:

    What flower-scent, used in a variety of ‘springlike’ perfumes, cannot be distilled from the actual plant and must be replicated using other ingredients?

    Would love to be entered for the No 19!

    xoA July 27, 2010 at 1:39pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Perfect question!!! One of my favorite flowers, as it happens to be. 🙂 July 27, 2010 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Ariana, I will post them Monday, along with the winner of this draw. July 27, 2010 at 1:52pm Reply

  • Elisa: How about: Which aldehydes form the signature opening notes of Chanel No. 5?

    I’d love to enter the draw. I want to smell both, but would probably lean toward the No. 19 … July 27, 2010 at 3:22pm Reply

  • Tania: Love this post! What an extraordinary quiz. I won’t pretend I can answer most of these. I had no idea Coty’s real name was Spoturno! I would have changed it too.

    This quiz reminds me of a story L told me about Peter Ustinov. As a boy, Ustinov took a school exam that included the question, “Name a Russian composer.” He wrote, “Rimsky-Korsakov.” It was marked wrong with an annotation in the margin: “The answer is Tchaikovsky.”

    On strange lingo: A couple of days ago I was in Saks poking my nose around, and a helpful perfume department employee came to offer assistance. He asked me how I liked what I was smelling.

    I said, “The top note is quite nice.”

    He said, “What was that?”

    I repeated, “The top note. The top note I’m smelling right now is quite nice.”

    “The what?” he said.

    “The top—” I could see him fading. “Oh, never mind.” July 27, 2010 at 4:04pm Reply

  • Julie: Nice quiz. How about this question:

    What Guerlain fragrance was named after a book by an author who also wrote a book considered to be a children’s classic? Please enter me for the Chanel 19 July 28, 2010 at 9:42am Reply

  • Vishishta: Please enter me in the drawing for Chanel #19 July 28, 2010 at 10:36am Reply

  • Louise E: Eveytime I look at my collection, I revel in the fact that these are more precious to me than big screen TVs or tennis bracelets. How lucky to be transported at dab of a wrist!

    Here’s my question: What “gruesome” perfume became popular as a result of the French Revolution?

    I would love the Chanel No 19 please! July 28, 2010 at 11:13am Reply

  • Dominika: What was the flower used by the chemist who first experimented with extracting oils by distillation?

    Please enter me in the draw for #19. July 28, 2010 at 3:13pm Reply

  • KJanicki: Wow, those were fun! Here’s one: According to Luca Turin, how does the human nose distinguish different odor molecules, by shape or by vibration? July 28, 2010 at 11:55am Reply

  • Lynn: I’ve read so many books on perfume and yet a few of these stumped me. This is a great list.
    Please enter me in the draw for the #19. July 28, 2010 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Aimiliona: What is another name for helichrysum?

    Please enter me in the drawing for Chanel No. 19. July 28, 2010 at 7:45pm Reply

  • L. D. Lovingood: Well, that was a miserable fail for me, and I thought I had learned something about perfume.

    What is the name of the “world’s most expensive perfume” which was a great success during the Depression era? July 29, 2010 at 12:16am Reply

  • Jiyin: I was excited to even know a handful of answers to these questions.

    So here’s one: What French perfume house created the first fougere fragrance, in 1882?

    Please enter me in the draw. Thanks! July 29, 2010 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Casey: What are the names of the four different levels of oil concentration found in fragrances? July 29, 2010 at 11:21pm Reply

  • Lavanya: Fun! Can’t wait for the answers on Monday! (I could answer some, some more I thought I knew but couldn’t get my brain to spit out..lol..and some I didn’t know).
    I was just talking to someone about how it is so obvious sometimes that the sales assistants at perfume counters know very less about the perfumes they are trying to sell..I don’t blame them but sometimes it can get tiring listening to them tell you things that are so not accurate..lol.

    It doesn’t seem particularly difficult but this what I could come up with:
    1. Which much maligned natural ingredient was an important part of the base notes of the Chypre family of fragrances (question seems a little ambiguous..:)
    2. Which was the first ever chypre

    I’d love to be entered in the draw for the Chanel 19 July 29, 2010 at 9:29pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I meant the answers to the questions I came up with don’t seem particularly difficult..:) July 29, 2010 at 9:30pm Reply

  • Zazie: I enjoyed the quiz very much! But I could answer only 13… I fear I need more studying – and sniffing!
    Here are some questions (the draw has such an appealing prize – n. 19! It would be a great opportunity to learn the origin of the name!)

    1) Coty’s Chypre was inspired by the smell of a popular “body product” from the previous century. Which?
    2) Which fragrance is deemed to have the highest concentration of tuberose absolute on the market?
    3) Which object inspired the bottle of Guerlains’s Vol de Nuit? And the cap? July 31, 2010 at 9:49am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Love this creative post – as usual Victoria you provide we readers with such joy and inspiration.

    questions : What chinese flower is credited to form the unique body of the scent Patou 1,000 ?
    2. What perfumeur is responsible for such classics as Tresor, Eternity, Beautiful and White Linen ?

    3. What female French perfumeur is credited with creating the classic Bandit which led to other leather scents ?

    I would love to be enterred in the drawer . Chanel No. 19 vintage.

    Thank you = July 31, 2010 at 3:40pm Reply

  • ScentScelf: Ah, fun! Appreciate you sharing this…even if I did spend a little time muttering about the inclusion of Knowing with Ma Griffe and Crepe du Chine. I mean, I see how intellectually it is, but experientially? I’d much more easily see one of your two prizes grouped with the Carven and the Millot.

    Oooh! Guess which one!! Does that count as a question? 🙂

    Or, how about…

    1) Which note in perfumery is commonly mistaken as a flower, but is really a root?

    or in fun…

    2) What behavior employed by surgeons pre-operation is also practiced by slightly bonkers perfume fans when they find they have applied a scent they find to be unbearable?

    I’m off to find out who devised a fragrance classification system based on musical notes, if I can. As you may have guessed, if I were to win the draw, I would choose the perfume I consider to be the better third member of the Ma Griffe/Crepe du Chene/? trio. July 31, 2010 at 6:23pm Reply

  • Tambri: Loved the quiz.

    Another question: what is headspace technology?

    Please enter me in the drawing for No. 19, thanks! August 1, 2010 at 8:17am Reply

  • anarkistaperfumista: Hello! Here is a question for you–Name the Jean Patou fragrance inspired by suntan oil..

    Please enter me in drawing. Thank you. August 1, 2010 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Carla: Great post!! I could answer half of these questions, so I guess, I need to learn more about fragrances.

    Here is what I came up with for my questions:

    –Which was the first fashion designer perfume?
    –What does “tasty” mean as applied to perfume? August 1, 2010 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Audrey H: What a great quiz, I didn’t know most of those. My question is, what is the best selling perfume of all time? Thanks for the lovely giveaway, would love vintage No. 19 August 2, 2010 at 3:16am Reply

  • Audrey H: What a great quiz, I didn’t know most of those. My question is, what is the best selling perfume of all time? Thanks for the lovely giveaway, would love vintage No. 19 August 2, 2010 at 3:16am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Dear all, while the draw is closed, please feel free to come up with questions. They are great! Thank you. August 2, 2010 at 7:20am Reply

  • anarkistaperfumista: Hello.

    I was under the impression that the Femme(Rochas) bottle was inspired after Mae West’s figure. Is this correct?

    Best… August 2, 2010 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: That’s right! It was also inspired by her figure. August 2, 2010 at 4:19pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Thank you for the answers, V! But coumarin does not smell like fresh mown grass, at least not to me. Fresh mown hay, maybe… Perhaps this is a British/American division?

    And, oh, Theophrastus, how could I have forgotten? (slaps forehead) 😉 Have you read him? August 2, 2010 at 5:41pm Reply

  • Carla: Yay!!! I am so excited about winning! I am dying to smell the vintage version of Chanel No 19. Thank you. August 4, 2010 at 6:28pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: A, I know what you mean, but freshly cut grass also has the same note, although of course, the sharp green facet is much stronger.
    There is a fair bit of coumarin in various leaves, such as cherry and fig. I remember eating the most wonderful preserved figs in their own leaves in the south of Italy. They had such a haunting fragrance, which I placed only much later when I learned about coumarin. Same with my grandmother’s dill pickles, to which she added a handful of cherry leaves. August 4, 2010 at 6:42pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Carla, congratulations! I hope that you will enjoy it. Do email me your address. 🙂 August 4, 2010 at 6:44pm Reply

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