It’s rather funny that the great house of Chanel feels the need to label Antaeus, one of their foremost masculine fragrances, “Pour Homme.” There is no female version of Antaeus and never has been as far as I can tell. One sniff tells you that you are dealing with some serious vintage man juice, not a modern unisex concoction.
Created by the great Jacques Polge way back in 1981, the dawn of the powerhouse era, Antaeus is one of the key colognes in that period of “more is more” in fragrance construction. Auspiciously named after a Greek demigod who fought Hercules, this powerful potion is so beautiful it could well be something an immortal deity might choose to wear. A classic woody chypre, Antaeus opens with an unmistakable blast of castoreum (aka beaver musk), pleasantly sharp and stimulating but never Anchorman-like. Coming forward to join that heady, animalic vibe are healthy doses of labdanum, slightly fermented citrus and a very deep rose, as well as some spicy notes of coriander and precious myrrh. The overall effect is intoxicating like the smell of a church in the Mediterranean when it s very hot, the flowers, orange and lemon groves are ripening and incense is burning on the dais. The dry down is just as lovely as the sharper notes recede but don’t disappear and warm oakmoss, deep green sage and basil and a subtle but insistent jasmine begin to play their parts. And throughout there is the most elegant and opulent patchouli note running through the whole thing, much lusher and less dry than the one that is the centerpiece of Givenchy Gentleman. One of the true masterpieces of masculine perfumery, the first time you try Antaeus you will know its transformative and devastating power. If you’ve got the stones to pull it off, you’ll be a changed man going forward.
If that sounds a bit like a religious experience that’s because Anateus is just that sort of trip for the uninitiated. It is totally old school and unlike anything that has been created in the last 15 years or so. And yet it is still being produced, thankfully, which must mean there is a market for it above and beyond aging Gen Xers. As with many classics, I’ve heard a lot of complaining that it’s not as good as it used to be, that it’s been watered down and is thin. Especially a few years back there was a despairing chorus that under strict new regulations issued by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA, the controlling body for perfumery worldwide), which banned certain previously widely used organic and chemical ingredients due to conservation and allergy & health concerns, Antaeus had been completely neutered along with some of its other contemporaries like Kouros and Bel Ami. But I honestly feel that perfumers have now come to grips with these limitations and after an undoubted rough patch and are now recreating their classics as well or better than ever. Continue reading