Antaeus it seems, never really took of for Chanel. While it could have been for the maison what Coco became, Antaeus was a hit of the moment, spawning a short lived Antaeus Sport flanker, and then took refugee in the back. Few use Antaeus, even today, and even though Chanel has kept it for its followers, it hasn’t bothered to promote it; the vintage enjoys cult status, while the current, stripped by laws and cost cutting could have benefited from a newer flanker if only for the spotlight to shine on the original.
Review based on a 200ml splash from 1982.
Antaeus is one of the few perfumes that always brings two specific movies to my mind every time I use it; Cruising with Al Pacino, discovering his wild side in the meatpacking district leather clubs. Given the fact that Antaeus was rumored to be a huge success with the gay collective circa 1980’s, I wonder if this association isn’t that far fetched.
But Antaeus is so much more than that. Less popular, less in-your-face than the popular brute Kouros, launched the same year, Antaeus always maintained a more suave appearance, a distance, just like Richard Gere in American Gigolo; is he really a killer in disguise, or has he always had the instinct all along?
Herbal, dry chypre, rich in woods, leather and castoreum, with a beautiful beeswax note that got lost through the years. A deep rose, N°5 in a way that links it to the house and the grand dame.
This is what the vintage smells like. Antaeus opens with herbal accents of myrtle, sage, coriander, basil... Polge’s intention was of a classical composition. But it’s 1981 and whether you like it or not, the market and tastes dictate power and strength. So Polge played with the oakmoss and the leather and the castoreum with maybe just a smidgen of civet to give the base all the power and longevity that men and women demanded, and gave the heart a more somber treatment. The rose and jasmine that glow in the background smell distinctly Chanel; there is a brief link to N°5 in this beautiful floral vein that runs among the more classic herbal/chypre feel, and the more contemporary animalic growl. The leather, abundantly rich creates the signature of Antaeus. And it’s the deep tanned leather, Cuir de Russie meets Peau d’Espagne. Classic gentleman meets his dark side. Was it there all along?
Antaeus is always a pleasure to use, and a challenge to the senses. While it is unequivocally Chanel, the treatment of the notes is the work of genius. Polge created something that was in the realm of classic and respected but he also played his brutal animalic side, playing with shadows and contrasts to create something bigger than the sum. Class, elegance, sexuality, debauchery. Was Antaeus a killer all along?
The longevity is outstanding, pulsating from the skin like a heartbeat in the heat of the night, while the sillage is mellow and discreet. In this sense, it doesn’t shout, but he’s always lurking in the shadows. And when he comes out, there’s no escaping.