Chanel Antaeus

Posted: Nov 16 2015

First up is Chanel Antaeus, a seemingly forgotten men’s leather released in 1981, one of Jacques Polge’s first works as its new in-house perfumer. It was a smash hit when it was released, but has largely faded into obscurity since the mid-90s, when it experienced what was supposedly a disastrous reformulation. As I haven’t had a chance to obtain a vial of the vintage stuff, here’s my take on the current formula.

Antaeus is a leather chypre in the same family as Bandit and Givenchy III. It’s musky, dusty, and animal, but curiously well-behaved at the same time. It’s pretty heavy on the castoreum on paper, but if you put it on skin the animal notes fade a bit and allow more of the oakmoss to come through, which gives it a character not dissimilar to a dusty old leather coat my father once owned. It later picks up this sharp, soapy note that’s pretty typical of chypres in general (for a model soapy chypre, check out Halston Z-14).

The castoreum eventually fades a little bit and smoothes out, melding into a rose-and-patchouli accord that on paper makes the fragrance smell a little bit like an old woman’s handbag, but which works relatively well once it's actually worn. It’s rather cleaner and quieter than I would have expected from its note profile. I found that it hugs the skin fairly closely for most of the time I wore it and I only managed to get 4 hours’ of longevity from it before it faded completely. A liquid powerhouse this is not.

Regardless, though Luca Turin says that Antaeus would smell dated on a man these days, I’m not entirely sure I agree. It’s one of those scents that could be worn quite easily by a guy with a lot of self-confidence and style. It’s definitely an evening scent, but is far better suited to a quiet, upscale bar than to a club or restaurant. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece by any means (and it’s certainly not on the same playing field as something like Bandit or Knize Ten), but it’s a good solid choice that’s worth trying if you’re in the market for an understated, confident leather scent. You can find it at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Love leather fragrances? Check out our Leviathan Shaving Soap and Aftershave!

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  • Posted by Joshua Byrd on November 20, 2015

    As a fragrance novice, reading your thoughts on these classic scents is both educational and entertaining. I hope to be able to read more.

  • Posted by Patrick on November 19, 2015

    Yes Will, the modern formulation of Antaeus is pretty much a disaster. The opening is spot on, but it fades away in minutes to what is basically a weak skin scent. The original was a powerhouse with awesome sillage and longevity.

  • Posted by eric burgos on November 17, 2015

    there aren’t many fragrances i relish in more than my vintages antaeuses. stuff RULES.

  • Posted by Mark Carmody on November 16, 2015

    Hi Will,

    delighted to see you posting your thoughts on fragrances. I hope that this will be a regular occurrence!

    Kind regards,


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