A joint approach that combines molecular modelling and fluorescence spectroscopy is used to study the affinity of an odorant binding protein towards various odorant molecules. We focus on the capability of molecular modelling to rank odorants according to their affinity with this protein, which is involved in the sense of smell. Although ligand-based approaches are unable to propose an accurate model attending to the strength of the bond with the odorant-binding protein, receptor-based structures considering either static or dynamic structure of the protein perform equally to discriminate between good, medium and low affinity odorants. Such approaches will be useful for further rational design of either odorants or bio-inspired sensors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.