Image from Chanel.com
Antaeus is eau de toilette for men launched in 1981 for the men of 80’s, who “were more prepared to assert their masculinity, but were no longer afraid to admit to their softer side.” It looks like Chanel sees a symbol of a “powerful, but not invincible” hero, who is “masculine without being macho” in the name of Antaeus (quotations from Chanel website).
According to Greek mythology Antaeus was a son of Gaia and Posseidon – a very strong and invincible hero, who could draw his power from his mother Gaia (earth) by touching her. Antaeus challenged men to wrestling matches and killed them collecting their skulls to build a temple for his father Poseidon. Heracles who was another ancient hero had puzzled out the secret of Antaeus and conquered him while holding in the air without chance to touch the earth.
The duality of Antaeus as a symbol of powerful but not invincible masculinity can be found back in the fragrance. It’s a contrast between tender sweet floral accord and bitter aromatic leather. Although the fragrant pyramid is very common to describe a fragrance I don’t think it will be suitable for Antaeus. Two contrasting layers seem to be a better option.
The tender layer has a heart of classic jasmine-rose bouquet freshened with myrtle and just some citrus, warmed with a touch of spice like coriander and sweetened with honey and basil.
The masculine leather consists of aromatic herbs like lavender and sage on a base of patchouli, labdanum and oak moss. Its bitter character has some resemblance with clean men’s sweat. Within the contrast of those two layers is the perfume pretty linear. There is no fresh citrus opening – you smell the competition between sweet floral and aromatic leather from the begin till dry down. They play with each other seeking for the limits of balance and contrast.
I do agree with Chanel classifying Antaeus as leather aromatic. I do also understand why it’s classified as woody chypre on Osmoz (www.osmoz.com). It has the resemblance with the contrast between dark mossy notes and fresh bergamot notes that is very characteristic for chypres.
After the launching in 1981 it becomes very popular within the gay community. It was a number one gay man scent. Was it because of its name creating two naked muscled Greek heroes wrestling with each other? Or because of the time when the prejudice of being gay if you are not hide your feminine side was still alive? The metrosexuality was in its infancy…
The modern public opinion is positive about Antaeus. Luca Turin gives it four stars and calls it woody masculine. Although he finds it more appropriate as a woman’s fragrance these days. The opinion on the basenotes are mostly positive. My personal opinion about this one is positive two. I do like its classic floral accord without sweetened with honey instead of vanilla. I do like its aromatic leather, although I’d prefer fragrance with soft smoky suede as a leather note. I do like the balance between both accords. It has an interesting resemblance of it’s aromatic notes with clean men’s sweat. It’s a nice dark elegant perfume, but it has got easily tamed on my skin and I stopped recognizing it very soon. It’s still a nice finishing touch, but at the same time it’s too common, too routine for a dark leather perfume lover these days. No doubts it is worth to try a couple of times more before I make my own verdict.
The perfumer: Jacques Polge
Fragrant pyramid according to Chanel:
Top: Myrtle from Esterel, Alpine Lavender
Heart: Clary Sage from the Caucasus
Base: Cistus Labdanum from Esterel, Beeswax absolute from France, Indonesian Patchouli