Sunday, 13 June 2010

Chanel Antaeus

If anyone has been reading my blog articles, one might have noticed that I have reviewed very few (if any) mainstream perfumes, concentrating mainly on niche releases. That probably says more about my current perfume journey rather than a possible perception of my snobbery. I won't lie to you, a lot of mainstream releases leave me stone cold, but I do sample a fair amount of non-niche perfume and Antaeus is a stand-out example of how in my opinion a designer/mainstream perfume ought to be. Ok, this was released in the early eighties, a long time before marine/acqua/sports fragrances hit the scene, but it still smells incredibly good. I've read that Antaeus has been reformulated, and those who owned it prior to that swear that it has changed, and not for the better, but to be honest, I doubt I've even tried the original and I still think it is amazing. I've also read that many people find Antaeus dated; very much an eighties fragrance. Again, to me it doesn't really come across as powerhouse eighties at all. Granted, it isn't a wilting flower, but it doesn't smack you across the head and say: "look at me, I'm a banker-wanker with loads of dosh who does blow and power lunches" either.

The notes for Antaeus, according to fragrantica, are lemon, lime, coriander, myrtle, clary sage, bergamot, thyme, basil, rose, jasmine, patchouli, castoreum, labdanum and oak moss. although more commonly, I've also seen beeswax absolute listed and even cedar and sandalwood. To me, Antaeus smells primarily like a lead pencil, pencil shavings and that smell you used to get at the bottom of an old-fashioned pencil case. To me therefore, this is all about cedar, and a pencil note that smells like lead or graphite. However, most sites that list the notes don't mention cedar at all, but I thought that this is possibly the best rendition of cedar (without resorting to men's cliches of cedar) in a perfume that I've encountered. So if Antaeus doesn't contain cedar, then am I clearly confused and deluded? Anyway, that is what I smell and I'd love to know if any of you who are familiar with Anteaus also think it contains cedar. 

Moving on, that smell of pencil case and pencil shavings is an incredibly evocative and nostalgic trip down memory lane. It takes me right back to early primary school (not sure what you call it in the US) and memories of being handed out our quota of pencils for the school term, and the smell of sharpening pencils in those big old rotary sharpeners that used to be fastened to the desks (at least in my school they were - if this dates me, so be it!). I loved those early school days, the thrill of learning to write and draw, before it all got too serious. The beeswax smell is very noticeable to me too and it blends beautifully with the warm woods smell. I do detect patchouli (which I think may be that lead/graphite accord I get) and I think a touch of sandalwood, which adds to the woody vibe. I must admit, looking at the list of notes above, I don't detect half of these, and I do test Antaeus quite often. I don't detect even a sniff of jasmine, rose or basil, but there is a slight herbal powderiness to Antaeus that I think is the oak moss. A question to you all - how well do you know labdanum? Because again, I don't know if I can detect it, although perhaps it is so well blended that it is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There is a distinct leatheriness to Antaeus as well, particularly later in the dry down, but it is not overwhelmingly leathery.

I don't know if this post does Antaeus any justice. Perhaps my confusion about its notes detracts from how good it actually is. I think if I was to buy any of the mainstream Chanel Men's fragrances, Antaeus would top the list. I know there are some others of note, particularly     Pour Monsieur and Egoiste (actually I own Egoiste, but anyway) but I think what I like most about Antaeus is that for me certainly, it smells like nothing else on the market. It is distinct and compelling.


  1. In my collection, there is a VERY small number of fragrances for which I must have always have 'back up' bottles and Antaeus is one of them; one of my absolute all time favourites.

    I confess the cedar doesn't make itself terribly obvious to me, but the beeswax, leather, spice combo is highly prominent.

    I don't think I've ever tried to the original formulation either, but I love the scent in its present state, so I hope they never mess with it again.

  2. Thanks Persolaise. I agree, it is a wonderful men's fragrance. Makes me wonder why Chanel keeps churning out version after version of Allure (well it sells I guess). Yeah, not sure about the cedar - it might just be my nose. I think it's my strong association with that smell of freshly sharpened pencils that's creating this impression.

  3. Hi Michael,

    REALLY interesting post. I get that pencil/graphite smell a lot - first noticed it in Tom Ford's Black Orchid - and pretty sure that you're right - it's patchouli.

    I love trying to identify notes in fragrances. Over the last six months my nose has learnt such a lot. When I first tried J'Adore I found it a refined elegant scent. Now all I get is melon, which is way too pungent for me.

    Think I have tried Antaeus - but the name has put me off. If names are difficult to pronounce or spell or hard to remember it just turns me off. Ridiculous I know. But I must go and revisit it having read your description.

    Would be interested to know if you get the same pencil sharpenings smell from Black Orchid.

  4. Thanks MPL. I haven't tried Black Orchid in a while, so need to revisit and see if I get that same accord. Will let you know. I'd urge you to try Antaeus again. It is very masculine, but very well done IMO.



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