Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chanel Antaeus & Antaeus Sport Cologne: fragrance reviews & comparison

Should anyone were to purchase a masculine Chanel fragrance off the mainstream, department store circuit, Antaeus would top the list. Beyond the easy-to-like-factor of  Égoïste, Antaeus is at once satisfyingly full-bodied and perversely challenging to pin down, like a porcupine run amok. It both feels as ambitious as Gordon Gecko and is sexy as hell at the same time. In fact "shexy" is more accurate of a description; it was the first, purring exclamation my girl friend blurted out when presented with a blotter sprayed with it. Her eyes all sprakled up, I swear! And she's a gal to wear floral musks and light woodies herself, no potent stuff by any stretch of the imagination.

As to Antaeus Sport Cologne, such an outfit not only exists, it's totally hawt itself! Contrary to what might be expected of the name, it's neither new, nor shy, sporty-smelling cologne. Instead Antaeus Sport was conceived just 4 years after the original as a rather less chest-thumping version; in contemporary terms, that's as polite as Gordon Ramsay and as meek as Simon Cowell and I just love it. I've  made myself crystal clear, I hope? Good! On to the more analytical description.

Chanel Antaeus Scent Description & Contradictions
Antaeus hails from Greek mythology, though it was Jacques Wartheimer who decided to name his company's new masculine thus after the shop name of one of his friends (don't ask!). The handsome hero with the hostile name (the Greek "Antaios" means opposing, it survived as Änti in the Berber tradition, since the hero was supposedly born in Libya) was a giant (the son of Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaeia, and of Poseidon, the god of the sea) and the fragrance would be just as powerful. His advantage, in true Dracula-style millenia before the Stoker hero, was touching the sacred earth-mother for regaining his strength, and classical sculpture presents him in wrestling poses with Hercules lifting him in the air in a crushing bearhug. No wonder Chanel Antaeus soon became a cult gay favourite! As would have been expected, Antaeus is a beautiful, classically handsome earthy chypre scent, woody-baritone in timbre with glorious animalic, leathery and herbal accents. Not only that, but it's classically built into an arc of progressing accords which keeps one engrossed till the very end.

Composed in 1981 by in-house Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge, in-house Chanel perfumer after Henri Robert and Ernest Beaux before him, it brings back the 80s as surely as Doc Martins, suspenders on men, and jackets with shoulderpads. The fragrance is so complex, nuanced and well-blended, I seem to sometimes pick up notes that aren't even listed in the official notes given by the company, such as chamomille, smooth amber, some subdued rose beneath the patchouli, even a hint of fruit...then I can't quite catch them again, and on and on. It's also funny that it gives the impression of being oakmoss-rich, while in fact neither of the boxes are stating even as small a percentage as 0,1% as allowed by IFRA directions. Not only that, but its perfumer, Jacques Polge, has been put on record in French paper Le Figaro, a propos the launch of "nouveau chypre" 31 Rue Cambon as not a great fan of oakmoss anyway, because he" finds the smell too bitter". A self-proclaimed oriental lover, mr.Polge "had to search for exotic varieties of patchouli growth to substitute the moss element that is needed in a chypre composition". Yet surely such reasons had no resonance back in 1981 and Polge has used oakmoss before (even in keepsaking the other Chanel fragrances he didn't author). But smelling Antaeus besides similarly veined leathery woody-oriental Yatagan by Caron, one sees how it might just be possible.

The opening blast of Antaeus is arid and very memorable; sharp citrusy notes (clary sage, bergamot and lime with its sharp yet lightly sweet profile) meet the unique aroma of myrtle, but at the very same moment we're buoyed by the deathly pungency of castoreum flowing from the depths. This gives a leather note of impossing character, smoothed thanks to woodier nuances and herbs (thyme mostly). Perhaps this is why Antaeus can justifiably stand as the masculine version of Chanel No.19 and thus finds its lineage in the Chanel portfolio. But whereas No.19 is powdery with a glimpse of flowers, Antaeus is manly as a "French key" and bitter-dark with a somewhat soapy note (which reminds me of chamomille, rose, patchouli and vetiver combined). The woody fusion of patchouli and sandalwood reminds of formidable virile masculines of the same era such as Cartier Santos and Givenchy Gentleman..and yes, Kouros by YSL! What asserts the Chanel's irresistible charm, stopping it from appearing desolate and bone-dry, is the delectable, sweet and decidedly "animalic" (aka animalistically sexy) labdanum and beeswax absolute base; the two materials are pheromone-like, erotically full of vibrancy, full of hushed gropping in the dark. The contradicting enigma of total id in a total class package.

Notes for Chanel Antaeus: Clary Sage, myrtle, bergamot, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum, beeswax absolute.

Antaeus seems to have passed through two reformulating periods, as far as my memory serves. The first deducted some of the opening pungency and upped a somewhat aldehydic character in the opening. The second lightened the potency and lasting power, but seems to have re-established some of the arid and distrurbing top note which makes it what it is. It's perfectly good as it is, for now.

Chanel Antaeus Sport Cologne Scent Description, History & Comparison with Original Antaeus
Antaeus Sport Cologne (1985) came on the heels of the original, making it a "sport vintage" which is an oxymoron to write history with. It's now discontinued for no good reason other than it might have given convulsions to the type of guy who is seeking fragrances tagged as "sporty" because in reality he wants a limp-wristed thing to not offend other guys at the office. Exactly contemporary to Guerlain's exquisite Derby, this old-school fragrance shares some of the latter's facets imbuing the heart with an irresistible pull. Namely the green bitterness of the artemisia, some of the spice (the nutmeg and pepper in Derby become pimento, mace -from which nutmeg is extracted- and pepper in Antaeus Sport), and certainly the woody and leather core. This is an aromatic woody chypre like the original and it packs a punch. While Derby is firmly poised on Perfumed Olympus, Antaeus Sport languishes in limbo due to its unknown status. It's true that Derby is plusher in typical Guerlain style and rather more polished (the way Diorling is super-polished in the feminine leathers stakes), while the Chanel is a bit rough at the edges, but by no means an unworthy contestant.

The two Antaeus verions are clearly related, yet they do persent their differences. The Sport variant is smoother and less herbal than the original Antaeus, with a less dissonant harmony and a more luminous -rather than darkish- trail. It's totally lasting and rich, however, belying its perception as a "lighter" edition. This is seriously good stuff and if you happen upon a bottle someplace (auction, estate sale, back of moving out apothecary) grab it and hold on to it for dear life. On the plus point, since it faced the fate of discontinuation, it profited from having its depths non disfigured and its potency preserved intact.

Notes for Chanel Antaeus Sport: Bergamot, lemon, artemisia, peppermint, pimento, rose, pepper, mace, jasmine, leather, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss.


  1. Antaeus was always a challenge for me. I try to like it, but i simply hate it. Something on it for me smells like old feminine fragrance, but one that i don't like since in general i like this style. It has something oppresive, something almost animalic that i truly dislike.
    The Sport Version is much better for me, it makes me think of Cartier Santos Sport, which is also another sport fragrance very different from the current sport trend, a intense galbanum sport frag.

  2. H,

    old feminine fragrance, LOL, maybe this is why I like it so much? It's animalic all right. :-)
    I do find the Sport version magnificent and now I want to try Santos Sport too! (I love Santos in its vintage form, but find it too butch)

  3. I love to wear Antaeus from time to time even though it's not really me. Sport sounds eminently try-worthy! :-)Thanks for the review, E!
    *waves to Rick*

  4. Never heard of Antaeus Sport till now! Kind of curious I must admit.
    I keep a pre-reformulated all metallic square bottle of Antaeus in my car since last summer. I found it in a shop in Corinth and bought it for old times' sake..
    I know many women LOVE it but I am not a huge fan of it. It always feels like a heavy meal I have difficulty to digest if you know what I mean.
    To me it is the male version of "Magie Noire" due to its complexity and the way it develops over time.

  5. Great review. As you said the drydown ist the best. I even wear Antaeus in summer.


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