A leather case containing more than 40 vials of perfume oil has been recovered from the wreck of the Titanic - and the fragrance is still sweet after nearly a century under the North Atlantic.

The oils apparently belonged to first-class passenger Adolphe Saalfeld, a Manchester businessman who appears to have survived the North Atlantic disaster that claimed more than 1500 lives on April 14, 1912, when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

They were found by members of a controversial expedition by RMS Titanic Inc, a US company with salvage rights to the shipwreck. RMST has retrieved more than 5000 artefacts in five previous expeditions and put them on display.

RMST had originally planned to seek objects from the interior of the ship but was accused of grave-robbing from critics, including Mr Robert Ballard, who discovered the shipwreck 15 years ago.

A court order blocked the removal of such objects. But the folded leather case was plucked from the ocean floor about 200ft from the Titanic's stern, said Mr Mike Harris, expedition leader.

The 1.5-in vials were labelled A. Saalfeld & Co, Manchester.

''To smell something that smells the same as it did on the Titanic before it went down is simply incredible,'' said Mr Graham Jessop of Paris, a shipwreck artefact retrieval expert on the expedition.