There is a lot to say about Chantilly by Houbigant (1941), and more commonly-known now as being by Dana; but before we dig into any of it, we should make mention of the obvious. Like a lot of classic Avon or Coty fragrances for women, Chantilly carries the stigma of being cheap and for old ladies. Well, I guess that is inarguable to a degree, because Chantilly is primarily found in big box retailers like Wal-Mart and used mostly by people who are halfway to 100 or older, unless one has a particular affinity for the golden oldies. Even then, most people seek out Guerlain, Caron, Patou, Lauder, Lanvin, or classic Chanels for that particular fix if big-boned fragrances for women are what they want. Houbigant and by extension of it, fragrances like Chantilly, get left out in the cold either because they're too rare for having been discontinued for far too long (like a lot of classic D'Orsay perfumes), or sent into downmarket Hell when Houbigant imploded and sold off a bunch of their catalog. It doesn't take too much of a guess if you're familiar with vintage brands and their tendency to die, only to resurrect like the Phoenix when a nostalgic rich person comes along (this saved Caron recently), you'll know Houbigant has been happily back at the niche level where it once sat hundreds of years ago. Chantilly however, one of the brand's biggest fragrances from the 20th century, has not fared anywhere near close to as well. 1941 is the year of the original release, and being that Europe was embroiled in World War II, we're lucky this came out a all. Especially since Germany was clearly gunning for France and eventually occupied them, it's flabbergasting to ponder how anyone could sit around and compose perfume literally under the gun. Gabrielle Chanel was off playing smoochy-smoochy with Nazis to keep her business alive, and to attempt wresting it from the Wertheimers, so go figure.
Marcel MIllot is credited with making this perfume, which is part of the "lot to talk about" I mentioned at the beginning. He is a virtual unknown to the world of perfumery, despite having been a key collaborator on several important perfumes of the era, like Amour Amour by Jean Patou (1925), which is credited solely to Henri Alméras. Millot also bares no relation to the house of F MIllot founded by Felix Millot and famously perfumed for by Jean Desprez for a time. Marcel Millot in an article written in 1966 for American Perfumer and Cosmetics, talks about his involvement with Chantilly being a collaborative one as well, implying most perfumes made in the labs he worked during that period were typically not purely solo efforts. In any case, whoever the unknown co-contributors to Chantilly are, they helped give Millot his sole perfume credit. As for the fragrance itself, Chantilly is fairly typical for the time, being a mash-up of chypre elements and oriental elements, a compromise between Chypre de Coty (1917), Chanel No. 5 (1921), and Guerlain Shalimar (1925) as it were. This kitchen sink of notes opens with aldehydes, because of course it does, and then moves through sweet citruses of orange, lemon, and neroli, before moving to indolic florals. The rose and jasmin bring their virility, which is flanked by a fat carnation note and given a slight soapy edge of orris. The powdery resinous base of benzoin, vanilla, and tonka is boosted by a Mousse de Saxe leather note full of oakmoss and warmed with sandalwood. The leather here isn't butch per se, but it adds a unique punch. In it's original form, Chantilly was very expense, and rather expensive-smelling too, but a softer and more-glowing counterpart to aforementioned women's classics. Wear time and projection vary by vintage, but there isn't a weak formula of this anywhere, just strong and stronger. Best use is probably in colder months. Either way, you're going to smell like a madam, and you know what kind I mean.
My mom wore Chantilly when she wasn't wearing Chanel No. 5, her other "big expensive" perfume at the time. When Houbigant went pop and New Renaissance Cosmetics picked this up in a fire sale alongside Raffinée (1982), Lutèce (1984), and Demi-Jour (1988), they were all tossed onto market under New Dana Parfums alongside Monsieur Musk (1972), unchanged at first but much cheaper. Obviously, my mom like many others went nuts over this and started using Chantilly a lot more, even more than her Avons, because now she could replace it for pennies at the local Rite-Aid when it ran out. I remember her having face powder, cream lotions and everything, to the point where she reeked of Chantilly and I had to slow her roll a bit or risk fumigation. Sadly, once New Dana became Dana Classic, and manufacturing went in-house (up in New Jersey somewhere), this got reformulated to oblivion for cost. Lutèce, Raffinée, and Demi-Jour were dropped altogether, although the first two would find a new brief lease on life in some form under Prism Parfums. Meanwhile, all that goodness in the old Chantilly was gutted out, even if the new cheapo bottles still smell tolerably pleasant. I actually compare Coty Stetson (1981) to a masculine interpretation of this fragrance, as it too is a semi-oriental floral leather chypre mish-mash with vanilla, carnation, and benzoin. Smell them side-by-side (vintage in both cases) and see what I mean. As for my mom, she knows her beloved Chantilly is a pale impression of what it once was, but I think she's just casual enough of a fan to be happy with that impression all these years later. Most people seem to be, hence Dana keeps it rather than letting Houbigant have it back. Still, a proper loving reconstruction a la how Houbigant treated Fougère Royale (1882) would make this old gal glorious once more. Thumbs up
I have the eau de toilette version of Chantilly by Dana. It smells similar to Shalimar but softer. Chantilly smells warm with a spicy powdery aroma. It also has a hint of vanilla with leather in the dry down. I haven't tried the vintage, but Dana's version is very good. The bottle I bought said, "New Look, Same Scent." I still think there was a reformulation, and it's for the better. I paid $25.00 dollars for a 2.0 ounce bottle, which is about $10.00 dollars more than it use to cost. The bottle is cheap looking, but the new version of Chantilly has better longevity. The sillage is rather intimate, but I think I like that in a fragrance. I highly recommend Chantilly. It's an affordable classic.
Sometimes, when reading other perfume reviews, a humbling realization strikes in which it becomes clear that a life experience that felt unique or authentic is, in fact, quite common. Chantilly was worn by my grandmother. She would douse herself in about 50 sprays during special occasions–i. e., anytime we would visit–and then toddle around the house doing all of those wonderful grandma things.
As a child, I never understood that we were not well off and part of the reason for this was that my grandparents would spend the whole year saving up for Christmas to ensure that the whole family would feel special and cared for. My grandmother spent very little on herself, but she took pride in her appearance by applying makeup to her miraculously wrinkle-free skin and regularly covering her gray hair with dark brown dye from a box. She carried herself with dignity in spite of the polyester dresses and rough southern Italian accent.
As others have pointed out, the affordable Chantilly is several classics rolled into one without coming across as cheap or derivative. It opens with a heavy dose of aldehydes and lemon balanced with a sweet, spicy vanilla musk. The development on my skin, however, is disjointed as the aldehydes remain jagged and piercing next to the sweet oriental base. The lemon curdles the cloying cream as the composition falls apart.
This perfume is basically like a less expensive dupe of a Classic Guerlain like Shalimar or Mitsouko, although I would say it actually reminds me of Mitsouko a bit more.
I actually used to wear this one a lot when I was a teenager, and, at the time it always used to remind me of baby powder for some reason! Although it does have a slightly powdery quality, I just sprayed some of it on from a tester bottle at the drug store, and actually realized that it is mostly a mossy green-woody chypre! I can instantly recognize that now that I have acquired some more knowledge of perfumes that I never used to have! It is also quite unisex and could easily be worn by a man, as well as by a woman, since it really doesn't have any very sweet notes. It's interesting to me that as a teenager I never noticed that! My nose has become so used to all of the very sweet vanilla and fruity-florals that dominate the market now, that, now that I have gone back and revisited "Chantilly" I realize that it is, in fact, quite a dry fragrance compared to a lot of what is sold now!
It is, however, still a really great perfume and I recommend trying it! It is in the lower end price range, as I said, but to me, it doesn't smell like a lower end fragrance. I think it's just as great as Mitsouko! If "Chantilly" has one drawback it would be that it really doesn't have a lot of sillage or longevity on me! I think one other reviewer on here mentioned that this perfume is way stronger than Shalimar. On me, the opposite is actually true. This fragrance is quite quiet and subtle, fades out kind of fast, and seems to remain mainly a skin scent. Shalimar is almost obnoxiously strong on me by comparison! (I suspect Mitsouko probably is too, but I've never found a tester bottle in stores, so I've only been able to sample it from small tubes with dabbing sticks.) Like I said, this one isn't very expensive though, so reapplying a lot isn't really a big deal. I definitely think you should try this if you like dry woody, unisex fragrances and mossy green chypres at all. You'll probably like it! :)
I was only a child the last time I smelled the original chypre Chantilly by Houbigant. I have no precise memories of it but I do remember I thought it smelled like old ladies! I just sampled the Dana version and I must admit it is not without its charms. Of course, like the original, it is a typical "drugstore" fragrance and it is by no means a "young" fragrance but at least, it is rather nice. If you like Shalimar, chances are you will like Chantilly (Dana). These fragrances share a brief citrucy start and a lingering ambery base. As a matter of fact, their olfactory pyramid are extremely similar. Of course, Chantilly does not have the subtlety of Shalimar but hey, for one fifth of the price, you get a pretty decent equivalent.