The Night They Invented… Chantilly by Houbigant The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

It isn’t that she isn’t modern, mostly.

She has the career: e-publishing; the commute: Piccadilly line, nine stops to town; the mortgage, the independence, responsibilities and bills.

It’s simply that now she asserts her right to retreat.

No, that sounds like a defeat, and, emphatically, it isn’t.

For when she decides on certain days to refuse to heed the calls of colleagues and the computer, it is a retrenchment on her own terms not a strategic failure or business battle lost.

She became the boss precisely so she could, if not on a whim, then when the need arose, set up stall in bed amongst doubly plush duck down pillows with a book and pot of orange and all spice tea and plan to do with the day as she pleased.

Today she pleases to take a bath, a long slow one, and to look out the window all the while at the white blossom just freckling the recently winter-bare trees. Life at last after those deathly months.

Emerging from the water, our Venus of north west three is a cloud of scented steam goddess, formed from the vapours of Moroccan rose oil and the bag left over from her earlier citrus tisane tipped carelessly into the roll top tub.

Because, you understand, she can.

When dry, she fashions another fog, this time out of ancient “silkening powder”, talc to anyone except the ad men that christened it, and proceeds to perform swirls of quiet rapture in this dusty sweet haze of her own creation.


Icing sugar.

Sandalwood shaving soap.

White chocolate truffles and Champagne.


She whispers to herself. With a flourish worthy of a Hollywood choreographer she swipes condensation from the bathroom mirror now transformed into her close-up camera.

She fixes the new-made lens a smile and sings…


The day from here will be plain sailing: satin pyjamas, improper foodstuffs and French Belle Epoch musical theatre made for film.

She will watch Leslie Caron become a woman rather than a courtesan, discover effervescent wine all over again, eat confectionery stuffed with crème Chantilly and fall in love, once more, this time forever, with Louis Jourdan.

She will rewind and watch favourite scenes over, sing along to loved songs, pre-empt well-worn lines, notice new details in décor and rekindle old envies over costumes and hats.

She will wish she was born then and then know it’s not true.

Her emotional equilibrium restored, she will remember that she’s content to be what she is right now.

Thoroughly modern with merely old fashioned moments.


Imagine the comforts and indulgence of a day spent in the company of one’s duvet, a favourite old film and divine but devilishly-bad-for-one food.

That day made fragrance is Chantilly by Houbigant. IMG_20140225_112401

This is a Gigi of a scent.

It’s possible that my vintage had lost a little of the sharpness of the orange note that opens affairs, it was still there, but muffled, almost alcoholic, more Cointreau than citrus per se.

The florals too are more muted than opulent, but rose, spiced and dry is present and thoroughly pleasant.

Orange blossom is paired with a bright white musk which explodes into a joyful powder keg cloud that dominates the middle part of the perfume.

Some people will no doubt object to this stage of the scent’s development, a little akin one imagines to a ballet troupe’s dressing room before a performance of Swan Lake: all metaphorical feathers and a literal pall of brilliant make up poudre. 

In The Dandy though, its tantalising suffocating texture by turns sweet then chalky, excites an urge to waft arms and languidly raise limbs as though performing a contemporary dance bathed in dry ice.

This is a fragrance that seems to induce a sense of slow motion, like a Busby Berkeley set piece or an MGM big number.

The dry down is soft sandalwood in extremis. Tempered just slightly by vanilla and those mixed spices.

A funny thing here, for the last hour or so Chantilly smells almost exactly like The Dandy’s favoured shaving soap. It’s an elegant affair in wooden dish from a notable perfume house mixed to a cream with a horsehair brush. Mixed to a cream.

That’s the thing, for in the midst of everything else that’s going on scent does have an undeniable creamy element: a nod to the eponymous culinary creation.

Perhaps Chantilly was named for the lace, but on the skin and in the soul the feeling is pure cream. IMG_20140225_111950

And just like Crème de Chantilly be you homme or femme, when the mood takes you so will this scent.

No need for guilt at all, this is pure pleasure!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy. The Perfumed Dandy


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12 responses to “The Night They Invented… Chantilly by Houbigant The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    Love that one! Chantilly is exactly as you describe, a scent for self indulgence. 🙂 ❤

    • Dearest Lily
      Yes. That’s what I felt. A perfumed treat.
      A scent to dip oneself in and then leave one out to dry.
      This is one cloud I would always welcome on my horizon.
      I suspect that the new stuff’s not as good, am I right?
      Is it even wearable post reformulation?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. I’ve never tried it (and probably never will) but it’s nice to read your perfumed letter about it.

    • Dearest U
      And it’s nice to know your reading… it’s always nice to know you’re reading.
      There’s actually a touch of oakmoss in there, which makes me think of your attachment to Miss Dior, that gives the composition a little bite, something I should have mentioned.
      Hence, it’s a cloud or fog, has a presence, which so many modern perfumes lack.
      It might not be your thing at all, but if it ever crosses your path it might be worth a sniff, just for fun.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. rosestrang

    I too have never tried Chantilly, but will when I have the opportunity. I fully approve of your fictional character’s lifestyle Sir Dandy. It reminds me of an amusing documentary about Richard Branson – the interviewer was being shown around his island paradise home and asked ‘Where’s your office?’ so RB took him out to the porch overlooking the sea and pointed to a hammock. What made me laugh was the look of disapproval on the interviewer’s face – he seriously needed to be dipped in Chantilly!

    Staring into space, clouds, sea, bath’s entirely necessary for the human condition, that’s my unasked for business advice for the day (advice you happily don’t need Sir T.P.D.) I can just picture you now, moving gracefully through clouds of sunlit, Chantilly-scented dry-ice, love it!

    • Dearest Rose
      I do like Sir Dick’s style in this case – even though I must confess I’ve never got on with hammocks, marvellous conceptually, flawed in reality!
      Chantilly, I must confess is merely one more excuse for days spend with baths and white linen and favourite old fiction.
      Hot soaks are my particular treat, domestically.
      But I’m also rather pather to full immersion at the two or three Victorian / Edwardian pools where I eek out my lengths. My favourite swimming bath is, without a word of a lie, both marble lined and council owned.
      Such is my love of the waters that I’ve taken proper spa holidays (not that awful fashion supplement sort) to Vichy, Baden Baden, Budapest and more obscure still resorts, including dear old Harrogate!
      Enough already, for I fear I am planting to many images of The Dandy in the altogether out there in the ether.
      The wonderful thing about steam baths of course if that they preserve the modesty!
      Do you still have some at Leith?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • rosestrang

        I’m envious of your capacity to swim, I made myself learn to swim a length in case of potential shipwrecks but I don’t seem to float naturally! I do love Turkish steam rooms though. The best in Edinburgh is at Portobello swimming baths which is an old Victorian style building with a domed ceiling painted deep indigo blue, with small star shaped skylights. It has a series of rooms with different temperatures and a freezing plunge pool, so it’s a proper steam experience, wonderful!

  4. This definitely needs to be printed in the collected works of The Perfumed Dandy… as to tipping in the tisane to the tub… remember those bath bombs from Lush? So much less appealing after the bath when you had to pluck out the dessicated rosebuds so they wouldn’t clog the drain 😉 .

    • Dearest V
      Heavens to Betsy…. Lush is my bete noire.
      Individual items I can more or less take (the perfumes are actually rather good), but en masse…. affreuse!
      I swear I can smell a store from a mile away.
      As to the bath bombs… highly destructive.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy


    this is so deliciously sensual, I got permanently distracted from reading, dear dandy. first I checked where my champagne truffles were, and then if there’s enough cointreau… but then I stopped dead in the tracks. are you and team gloria siblings? 🙂

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