Now and then – Chanel Antaeus

When Chanel launched Antaeus, their second masculine fragrance, in 1981, I bet there was a lot of buzz around it. This composition is 9 years older than me and was probably one of the boldest fragrances introduced at that time. If not, it was definitely an olfactory shock for male Chanel customers after a well-behaved and elegant Pour Monsieur, created few decades earlier. In this post I will have a closer look at both vintage and current formulation of the scent. Will I see the difference?

Chanel Antaeus now…

It begins with a woody and dry wave of oakmoss combined with almost fecal and greasy castoreum that after 15 minutes evolves into something more subtle but still powerful. When castoreum changes it loses some of the animalic edge and develops this very interesting dusted and powdered vibe. At 30 minutes mark the leathery accord appears. In fact it’s not the real leather but the resinous galbanum of a smoky style combined with earthy patchouli. Together they make an impression of a fine leather in a craftsman atelier. It’s masculine and alluring for sure. Some time later the leathery vibe subsides and now galbanum is presented on its own, diffusing the sultry smell of incense blended with something I would call a man body odour. There’s a small portion of sweat and slightly bigger portion of testosterone in Antaeus. The sweaty aroma was probably created thanks to clary sage. After 1 hour a balmy rose sensation appears. The rose is not bright and clear, it’s rather dirty, covered with earth and mud. And then there’s the oriental balmy quality of myrrh which luckily didn’t induce a headache. Later on the perfume turns more and more aromatic. The initial wilderness is gone and now the dominating accord is the spicy smell of coriander combined with a salty and herbal aspect of thyme. There’s also a little bit of jasmine to add sex-appeal and basil for a little bit of green quality. In the end there’s also a tiny juicy and zesty chord created by lime, lemon and bergamot. Antaeus is a completely developed perfume after 3 hours and it shimmer on the skin for another 3-4 hours before it fades away. Initially it has a great sillage but that quickly drops to the level of few inches above the skin.

Chanel Antaeus then…

Vintage formulation of Antaeus begins very similar to the current formula of a fragrance but is stronger. There’s the same woody and dry oakmoss accord but it’s 2-3 times more intensive. Very soon the balmy and fruity aroma of cherry cough syrup comes to the fore, which didn’t happen in current formulation. It is slightly medicinal for a second but this feeling quickly fades and reveals the castoreum note. I was expecting something very wild from this note in an aged perfume composition and to my surprise the note was much softer than Antaeus has it nowadays. It’s greasy and kind of sweaty too while the fecal part is skipped. After 30 minutes I get the dusty and powdery vibe which announce the arrival of leather accord, also created with patchouli and galbanum. Once again the feeling it has is more smooth and tender. The perfume is not that obviously masculine, as the leather is softer. Unfortunately this feeling doesn’t last long and very shortly the resin is left on its own, spreading the incensy aroma around the wearer. At the mark of 1st hour the herbal notes come to the front – there’s a clary sage combined with the gooey scent of myrrh. When a rose accord appears it’s possible to notice that it’s stronger than in current formulation but it also lasts shorter. The dirty manner accompanying the note remained practically the same. At some point jasmine becomes quite prominent and shining with somewhat indolic molecules. Coriander aroma is especially dry and a little bit pungent here, mixed with the herbal aspect of thyme and basil. The citric notes of lemon, lime and bergamot that ended Antaeus as it is now, were in practice impossible for me to notice. The perfume lasted total amount of 8 hours with just one spritz. The sillage was intensive and bold at the beginning and started shrinking after 2-3 hours.

I believe it was worth getting a chance to try both vintage and current formulas of Chanel Antaeus. As much as it’s still the same perfume, some noticeable differences cannot be denied. I had an assumption that vintage composition might be bolder and stronger on the whole while it turned out that only some notes were stronger in the past. The interesting observation is that animalic aspects of the scent were more restrained in the earlier formulation. Perhaps the time (and IFRA) forced the animal materials to be picked out of the composition and they had to be replaced (at least partially) by synthetics – these are usually stronger than natural raw materials from animals so this could explain while castoreum accord is stronger in the current Antaeus.

The composition was created by Jacques Polge in 1981. Are you familiar with older and newer formulation of Chanel Antaeus? Even if not, does one of them appeal to you more?

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38 thoughts on “Now and then – Chanel Antaeus

  1. Jordan River says:

    I cannot remember how this smells. Interesting about the synthetic castoreum accord Lucas.

    • lucasai says:

      You can give it a try any time, can’t you?
      Well, I haven’t smelled the essence of synthetic castoreum but synthetics tend to be stronger than naturals so that less is needed for the formula.

  2. jilliecat says:

    I remember this so well! There was a chap where I worked who used to wear Chanel Pour Monsieur (which was lovely), and who switched to Antaeus as soon as it was released. I was so shocked – boy, it was powerful (I could smell him a long time before he appeared), and different to any of the other male fragrances at that time. I could not believe that someone would willingly wear a perfume that made them smell like they were sweaty! Worse still, he would go to the gym at lunchtime, shower and then re-apply Antaeus copiously.

    I wonder if your vintage sample may have mellowed a bit over the years? Of course it was a long time ago, but I bet it was probably stronger than the current version, although I haven’t smelt this so perhaps I shouldn’t comment until I do so! And as you say, the synthetics may make it very strong.

    • lucasai says:

      Oh, thanks for bringing up that story Jillie! You have a different perspective as a person who experienced Antaeus in it’s old form. Didn’t anyone around complain about that chap using to strong perfumes?
      It could have mellowed I think. I don’t even know exactly the age of it (it was a gift sample). You’re probably right – it should’ve been stronger than the version now available.

      • jilliecat says:

        Yes, people did complain behind his back! But he was a very nice, handsome young man so he could get away with it. Not so one young woman who wore Poison – she was asked not to. The Dior was also very innovative when released (some years after Antaeus), and I think that people would find it hard to believe now how much it divided opionion.

        I am very happy to report that I often wore Caron’s Infini during that time, and had the opposite reaction. I had fallen in love with it at college and it became my “go to” fragrance. Collegues would come into my office just to smell me. And that even included the Antaeus wearer!

        • lucasai says:

          You were admired for your scent taste! How great is that. And even handsome mr Antaus was interested. Those are some memories you’ll never forget I suppose.
          Nowadays there are not so many perfumes that would polarize the crowd so much as you say Dior Poison did back then.

  3. rosarita says:

    Oh, this brings back memories. When Antaeus came out, I was at that party girl stage and spent lots of time dancing in clubs where Antaeus was definitely a presence on the dance floor. It smelled great as I recall, but there was also a lot of YSL Opium, Obsession, Giorgio etc in competition. Recalling this, I feel it’s a miracle I can smell anything now!

  4. hajusuuri says:

    Dearest Lucas, I think Now and Then should be a regular series at Chemist in the Bottle. Anyone who agrees, say “Aye!”

    Now onto Antaeus – this must be firmly entrenched in the masculine side of the house and probably in boutiques only as I don’t recall ever seeing this in a department store. Now I am curious enough to stop by the men’s fragrance departments. I also have to stop by a Chanel boutique anyway as I have to check out the perfume bottle bags that Rhihanna cheapened by wearing two at the same time! I doubt I will ever wear this as I don’t want to smell sweaty.

  5. Antaeus and the original Γ‰goΓ―ste are two of my very favorites from Chanel. I love and wear them both. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a vintage version of Antaeus though. Sounds like it is worth checking out! Thank you for the side-by-side comparison!

  6. Undina says:

    I’m not into masculine perfumes so I might tested it at some time or might not. But it’s always interesting to read the comparison posts (different formulations, versions, etc.)

  7. I can’t recall what this smells like, but I venture to say that I wasn’t a fan because I never owned a bottle of it and like most mainstream men’s colognes back in the 1980s and 90s.

  8. blaise says:

    antaeus vintage was beautiful one of my most beloved frags

  9. Andre Moreau says:

    this is a GREAT article about one of my fav fragrances. Incredible to say, a few days ago I wrote an article about the “Art of Layering” modern fragrances with vintage ones (i.e. Antaeus modern EdT layered with Antaeus vintage Aftershave) in order to obtain something very similar to those good old pre-reformulated perfumes.
    http://raidersofthelostscent.blogspot.it/2013/11/the-art-of-vintage-layering.html
    Compliments for the article again!

  10. Christos says:

    I was lucky enough to have been offered a bottle of vintage Antaeus my uncle had kept and I find the fecal note much more subdued in my vintage bottle. But then one can never be certain with vintage bottles. I mean were they supposed to smell like this or time has taken its toll on them….?
    Great post Lucas

    • lucasai says:

      Oh, you were really lucky!
      And you’re absolutely right. When it comes to vintage scents you’re never 100% sure if what you smell is what you were supposed to smell or if time affected the juice in this or that way

  11. Cytherian says:

    Thanks for such a nicely concise yet informative review on a milestone masculine fragrance.

    I have corresponded with people on fragrance forums about Antaeus and often when I say something about the current version being a lighter version of the former one but still worthwhile, I get shoved out the door with a boot on my @ss. It’s amazing how defensive people can get over something as benign as a cologne.

    I somehow didn’t find the castoreum note all that much stronger in the newer version. For me, the prominent difference was the weakened oakmoss and barely perceptible “cherry cough syrup” about as intense as with YSL M7. Still a worthwhile fragrance on its own. Best to own both. You layer first with current and apply vintage on top. This basically helps extend the life of the vintage.

  12. dave says:

    READ YOUR B 4 AND NOW…..SO WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE….I LOVED 1981 ANTAEUS AND AM NOT SURE ABOUT NEW FORMULA….I WOULD BUY A GALLON OF THE OLD AND SKIP THE NEW ??????? DAVE CLINE 405.306.7782. …..PLEASE REPLY ASAP….

  13. I have just found this article. I’ve been a fan of Antaeus since 1981 – I was probably wearing it on our wedding day in December that year.

    I think Antaeus has been through more than one reformulation. But that’s simply based on how it smells to me and could be due to the difference between the aftershave and the eau de cologne. Also, I am not a connoisseur of perfumes, remaining loyal to Antaeus – although I do, occasionally, wear others when given to me as a gift, Antaeus is the only one I’ve purchased since 1981.

    I teach ballroom dance and have hundreds of ladies in my arms every week. A lot of them tell me how much they like Antaeus. Some ladies seem to love it so much I give them the nearly finished bottle and they are delighted to have their “little bit of Andy in a bottle”.

    Some time ago I managed to pick up a bottle of the vintage aftershave on ebay – paying much more than the price in 1981! It was like a trip down memory lane and, to my mind/nose, much more manly smelling than the current formulation.

    Given the choice, I would buy the vintage version and it would be the Apres Rasage, not the Eau de Cologne. But that isn’t an option.

    As an aside, one of my students recently gave me a bottle of Antaeus to show her gratitude for the bar of Antaeus soap I’d found on ebay and given to her. She said the saleswoman at the Chanel counter tried to persuade her to buy something else!

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