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.