Perfume Directory

Chevalier d'Orsay (1911)
by D'Orsay


Chevalier d'Orsay information

Year of Launch1911
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 58 votes)

People and companies

PackagingRené Lalique

About Chevalier d'Orsay

Reintroduced in 1995

Reviews of Chevalier d'Orsay

Not a lot is really known about Chevalier d'Orsay (1911), as it was a fragrance quietly released during the earliest years of Parfums D'Orsay, before esteemed perfumer Henri Robert came on board as house perfumer from 1925-1934 (later to work at Coty then replace Ernest Beaux at Chanel in 1952). Purportedly, Chevalier d'Orsay is one of several early perfumes the house claimed to be based on formulas by Alfred Guillaume Gabriel Grimod d'Orsay himself, and is for most of it's wear time on skin an early example of a chypre in a style appealing to men. There isn't a whole lot to say about Chevalier d'Orsay than that, and the scent would eventually be revived in 1995 when the classic perfume house was resurrected after a slow decline (in similar fashion to Houbigant). I don't think this one will have much appeal outside those who love turn-of-the-20th-century perfume houses like The Crown Perfumery, but it's a very interesting if moderately light-wearing scent that feels mostly as if it was made for lavatory or casual use more than as day-long wear.

Chevalier d'Orsay is most definitely a perfume of its time, having a sour animalic bergamot, lime, and civet opening that follows with a garrigue assortment of herbs like tarragon, basil, armoise, and sagebrush. A dry lavender creeps in from the heart to establish a similar effect as the later Crown Perfumery Sumare (1925), but with muguet, angelica, carnation, and dusty spices. The sourness of the opening is very reminiscent of, and probably inspiration for, Moustache by Rochas (1949), and even the base notes share some similarity. Oakmoss, sandalwood, and a touch of sharp iris comprise the base, giving a bit of a cross between the aromatic masculinity of the typical men's citrus chypre that would emerge in later years, and the bracing clean powderiness of something like Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840). This seems appropriate considering those kind of powdery smells were enjoyed by men of high society in the mid 19th century, and merged with chypre elements which were at the time cutting-edge, makes Chevalier d'Orsay feel like a missing link between florals and aromatic chypres. Projection and sillage are a bit more than an eau de cologne and longevity is only about 5 hours.

Being a scent out of time as most things over a century old, Chevalier d'Orsay is best worn just as personal enjoyment, but feels most relevant when worn in summer after a shower due to its bright aromatic and sharp woody/mossy profile that lingers transparently after the intial sour hit fades. The house of Parfums D'Orsay has since ceased operations again, so technically all versions of this are once more discontinued, but the relative obscurity and somewhat high original price point of Chevalier d'Orsay when Parfums D'Orsay relaunched as a niche perfumer guarantees that there will be little interest in hyping it into a collectable "unicorn" for the guys out there brandishing their 15 backup bottles of Gucci Nobile (1988) or Guerlain Derby (1985). Vintage specimens from before 1995 do exist, but you'll contend with the likelihood of faded or turned top notes. I like this because I'm a nerd for the style, but Chevalier d'Orsay is otherwise mostly of historical interest due to being a precursor to something like Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme (1971) or Gianfranco Férre for Man (1986). Thumbs up.
22nd October, 2019
Vintage Chevalier and his son - the reformulated version - are like two rooms in the same house. They both have the same citrus, aromatics and woody shape, but the decor in each one is different.

The old Chevalier's taste is traditional, with dark wooden metre-high panelling round the base and a muted, old fashioned, nicotine stained colour on the walls. By contrast the young Chevalier is much more in line with modern tastes. Admittedly, there is a heavy bergamot tinge to the citrus, but gone is the brown wood panelling, and the colours are generally brighter with fizzy powdery highlights which loosely suggest reflections of glass and chrome. The colour scheme is still the same, yellow, aromatic blues and brown, but the brown in the base is now pale, a creamy woody coumarin and musk.

Although the younger, being brighter and more modern is more engaging, they both suffer from the same structural problems. Excessive sourness in the citrus. A vagueness in the aromatic heart accord, which lacks definition and exacerbates the third fault of the Chevaliers, poor longevity. The odour yield drops to little more than a skin scent in the first half hour or so.

Of the two, the younger Chevalier is better. Not only because it doesn't feel as queasy-sour as the elder does, but because it has better complexity (although this may in part be due to degradation of the old juice). The younger is in turn sharper sour, and it shares - in common with the vintage version - the same synthetic feel and lack of clarity in the aromatics.

If you want to smell this type of citrus-aromatic-woody hybrid in good form check out either of the versions of Monsieur Balmain - which are infinitely better than these two.

Chevalier the Elder */*
Young Chevalier **

31st May, 2018 (last edited: 09th June, 2018)
I never tried the vintage version of this scent, but the current one I just received today smells nothing short of dreadful. It's truly the nightmare of a toilet janitor - or the wet dream of a pervy one. Both the citrus-neroli accord, the spicy pine-herbal accord and the musty, lavender-ish woody accord smell all like three different cleaning sanitizers mixed together. Aseptic, sharp, acrid, flat and artificial to the bone, with no evolution whatsoever except for a sligthly more prominent presence of the cheap musky-woody foundation on the drydown. You'll smell clean, that is for sure, just like a bathroom which has just been cleaned and sanitized with three or four differently-scented products.

Poor d'Orsay...

15th February, 2017
Genre: Citrus

Chevalier opens with a marvelous blend of citrus, herbs, and lavender that soon makes room for very airy floral notes. The persistent herbal accord keeps the flowers from getting either stuffy or too sweet, and as some subtle spice emerges Chevalier’s heart falls into perfect balance. The base of moss, amber, and wood is firm, yet light and clear, leaving the entire composition exquisitely poised and elegant. A cool, subtle pine note plays throughout, leaving an impression of aloof nobility.

True to its name, Chevalier is sophisticated and refined. It’s complex enough to hold interest, and confident enough that it never needs to shout. As foetidus points out, it’s also highly versatile, and would make a great scent for those who want to keep a limited wardrobe. The lasting power is quite reasonable, thanks to the lingering pine and amber in the base, and the moderate projection is just enough to be noticed but never offend – a truly well composed and well executed scent.
11th June, 2014
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
A traditional scent

The vintage version: The top note is a pleasant floral-citrus mix with a bit of neroli, that in the drydown adds lavender and later a woody notes. Towards the end a light and not unpleasant powdery tone is added. An interestingly blended quite complex composition, that develops well but in the later stages does fail to inspire me. Projection is all right initially, and the longevity was about two hours.

18th May, 2013
A very nice dry, almost bitter (in a nice way) citrus, that does not develop on me.

I so wanted to like this - for the packaging and bottle alone - but it must take a back seat to my citrus of choice - Borsari's Acqua Classica.
01st October, 2012

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