The mammalian olfactory system can discriminate between volatile molecules with subtle differences in their molecular structures. Efforts in synthetic chemistry have delivered a myriad of smelling compounds of different qualities as well as many molecules with very similar olfactive properties. One important class of molecules in the fragrance industry are sandalwood odorants. Sandalwood oil and four synthetic sandalwood molecules were selected to study the activation profile of endogenous olfactory receptors when exposed to compounds from the same odorant family. Dissociated rat olfactory receptor neurons were exposed to the sandalwood molecules and the receptor activation studied by monitoring fluxes in the internal calcium concentration. Olfactory receptor neurons were identified that were specifically stimulated by sandalwood compounds. These neurons expressed olfactory receptors that can discriminate between sandalwood odorants with slight differences in their molecular structures. This is the first study in which an important class of perfume compounds was analyzed for its ability to activate endogenous olfactory receptors in olfactory receptor neurons.