Welcome to drugstore week! While Robin is on vacation, I’m going to treat you to reviews of fragrances you can buy with your lunch money. First up: Dana Classic Fragrances Chantilly.
My first memory of Chantilly involves a gift set an uncle gave me for Christmas and an elderly woman who did handwriting analysis and numerology. I couldn’t have been much more than twelve years old, and in those days, Houbigant made Chantilly. Before embarking on the visit to the handwriting analysis lady with my mother and little sister, I gave myself the full Chantilly treatment — bubble bath, lotion, and a slick of Eau de Toilette. A six-foot Chantilly zone surrounded me.
In the end, I over Chantilly-ed and couldn’t wear it again. Eventually the Eau de Toilette turned brown and I threw it out. But a whiff from the bottle I picked up for this review, and it all came back: the white bread sandwiches the lady gave us; her low-ceilinged, dim room with the jungle-like garden beyond the sliding glass doors; and her calculations next to the scrap of paper on which I’d written my name.
Houbigant first released Chantilly in 1941. Dana’s website describes Chantilly as a “chypre Oriental – A timeless Oriental classic fragrance with a blend of roses, jasmine, and Oriental mysteries.” Jan Moran’s Fabulous Fragrances calls it an “ambery-oriental” and lists its notes as fruits, lemon, bergamot, neroli, jasmine, rose, orange blossom, spices, ylang ylang, carnation, Indian sandalwood, moss, vanilla, musk, leather, tonka bean and benzoin. She attributes the fragrance to perfumer Paul Parquet.
The Chantilly I sprayed from my 12 ml bottle of Eau de Toilette (two for six dollars at Walmart!) is definitely Chantilly. But I’d swear it’s not the Chantilly I smelled so many years ago, and my guess is it has suffered heinously over the years. Still, it is recognizably Chantilly, and that sort of signature is the sign of a great perfume. Sadly, instead of the heady list of notes Jan Moran cites, my Chantilly seems to be made of alcohol plus imitation Chantilly extract. Shake well and bottle.
Today’s Chantilly opens with a cloud of snuffed-candle aldehydes and lemon, quickly followed by what smells like fusty orange blossom, powder, amber, and cinnamon. I can’t smell any moss, and leather notes are muted. It’s a grand, old fashioned powdery oriental made on the super cheap.
Recognizing similarity in bone structure, I tried Chantilly next to a drop of Guerlain Shalimar extrait (I know this isn’t fair), vintage Coty Emeraude Parfum de Toilette and Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar. Chantilly is definitely a cousin to Shalimar and Emeraude, and a great-great aunt to Esprit d’Oscar. Its lemony opening mimics Shalimar, but it is more powdery and less brooding than either the Shalimar or Emeraude. Wearing Esprit d’Oscar next to Chantilly brought out Esprit d’Oscar’s powder and tuberose and made it feel more oriental than I’d recognized before.
Today’s Chantilly is comforting, feminine, and as sexless as knitting aunties watching game shows. But something about it is still wonderful. I can imagine wearing Chantilly while reading Great Expectations or wrapping Christmas presents. I only wish it weren’t so thin and one-dimensional. Made with the beautiful materials it deserves it must have been a knock out. On the right kind of maiden auntie, of course.
Chantilly is available at most drugstores.