Chanel Antaeus ~ fragrance review

My friend Carmen, who’s a nurse at a big Seattle hospital, recently said to me: “I’m turning into a man.” This being Seattle, I thought she might be thinking of having a sex change operation. When I asked her to explain herself, she said she’d noticed as women age they become more masculine looking (and men start to look more feminine). Females “toughen” — males “soften.” In perfume years, Chanel Antaeus is an elderly “guy”: 30 years old…and unless my nose is fooling me, Antaeus has become more feminine with age.

Antaeus*, developed by Chanel house perfumer Jacques Polge, begins with the scents of aldehydes, moss and a vibrant “green” note (part sage, part pine needle?) As the aldehydes/moss burn off, I smell a mild leather aroma blending with a wonderful honeyed tobacco note. The base of Antaeus smells of sweet, soft (almost powdery) woods and musk. Antaeus is smooth and rather linear; it has minimal sillage and decent lasting power. (Antaeus reminds me a bit of Estée Lauder Azurée without the floral notes.)

The majority of people I let smell Antaeus thought it was “old fashioned” and “for women.” I remember Antaeus in the Nineties being more ‘masculine’ (powerful, complex, “tougher”) than it is today. I don’t mean to suggest women are less powerful, complex and tough than men, but Antaeus smells more womanly than it used to smell. (Or has the rise of niche perfumery and “unisex” fragrances, and my non-stop sampling of hundreds upon hundreds of new fragrances over the years changed my perspective…and perception…of what’s masculine and feminine in perfumery?) Antaeus is a great cologne, and it can certainly be worn by men (as can any fragrance); but I imagine there’s a large number of women who would love Antaeus if they ever gave it a chance, especially women who enjoy wearing “retro” perfumes full of moss, aldehydes, soft woods and a dash of labdanum-tobacco.

Chanel Antaeus is widely available (though perhaps in limited production — every year my Nordstrom runs out of it for several months and creates customer waiting lists). Antaeus retails at $72 for 100 ml Eau de Toilette.

*fragrance notes: moss, cedar, sandalwood, tobacco, pine, Russian leather and citrus; older lists of fragrance notes for Antaeus also mention clary sage, patchouli, myrtle, and beeswax absolute.

Note: top image of Gloria Swanson via Wikimedia Commons.

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35 Comments

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  1. kaos.geo says:

    I agree that this has been reformulated, and this happened around 2000 (this is just my opinion, I have no data to back this assumption)

    But I clearly remember smelling it in the mid to late nineties and it smelled the same as in 1989 when I first tried it.

    And then in 2003 I smelled it at a really brand new perfume store in Mar Del Plata, that had all new-new stock of everything as they had just opened, and it was shockingly different (to a perfumista that is, perhaps the general populace thinks it is a “subtle change”)
    At first I blamed it on the weather, my sense of smell being askew for some reason, etc. I mean all the things we do to rationalize when we find out that a perfume we love has been tinkered with.

    But some months later I realized the truth. I will test it again, perhaps I could find something to remind me of the old Anteaus if I squint really hard.. :-D

    • Kevin says:

      K.G…do you still wear it even with the “change?”

      • kaos.geo says:

        I hate to be a debbie downer… but no, I probably won´t.
        Still let´s give it the benefit of the doubt, and I will try it again. :-)

        • sheltisebastian says:

          I wore Anteaus all threw high school, and some of college. At first its very strong but when it dries down iit is so sexy!

          I was told they stopped making it but have found that it is available at Chanel Boutique. LOVE IT

  2. FragrantWitch says:

    Excellent review, Kevin, as always. I adore Antaeus – I originally bought it as a gift for my father about 15 years ago and when I found myself huffing the nozzle and having a small squirt each time I visited, I figured I should get some for myself too. Its all soft leather with a whisper of citrus and a bourbon-like note on me- delicious! I still have 2 bottles from that time frame and have not smelled any new bottles.

    • Kevin says:

      FragrantWitch: it would be interesting to see what you think of it today with a new bottle. I tried a brand new bottle for this review…it’s still nice, but different than I remember.

  3. Joe says:

    Funny, Kevin… a couple years back, in my nascent perfumania, I bought a 30ml bottle of vintage Antaeus on ebay. Far too masculine for me. I had to swap it away eventually because after sampling a few times, I knew I’d never wear it. Too bitter, too harsh, too brash… too much.

    Now I’m curious to try a new tester if I ever come across one. Our local departments stores have notoriously bad fragrance departments. If indeed Antaeus has been a bit feminized, I might just like it better. I can see a comparison to Azuree somehow; I can wear a tiny spritz of Azuree, but the leather is also brash and loud, and it also has a “bitter” feel to me (for lack of a better word).

    Thanks for revisiting this one.

    • Kevin says:

      Joe: look up “new” Antaeus next time you’re in L.A. or S.F. You know me…I LOVE that brash stuff. HA!

  4. kjanicki says:

    The list of notes remind me of one of my favourites, Bandit. I wonder if I would like Antaeus as well?

    • Kevin says:

      Kjanicki…if you love Bandit you just might like Antaeus

  5. rosarita says:

    I had a large sample of this years ago, which my husband tried. It smelled divine on him but for some reason, I never tried it or bought him a bottle (this was long before perfume became my passion.) So I think we’re both long overdue! Thanks for the review.

    • Kevin says:

      Rosarita: you’re welcome

  6. wondermelmo says:

    If it has indeed been reformulated, I am a newcomer to Antaeus. I enjoyed sniffing it so, demonstrating it for customers, that I bought some for myself about five or six years ago. I do receive compliments everytime I wear it. I’m very curious to smell the original.

    • Kevin says:

      Wondermelmo: sometimes you can find “oldsters” at online discounters or eBay…I think the bottle used to be squatter and squarer than it is now.

  7. Dolly2 says:

    Great article as usual Kevin. I do agree with your friend about how women as they age tend to look masculine and men feminine. Wonder why that is.

    • Kevin says:

      Dolly2: perhaps a nature-made “power shift?”

      • Joe says:

        To me (and this isn’t meant to sound offensive), it often just seems like there’s a melting into androgyny for both genders. I think lots of hormones just dissipate… I feel mine dissipating each day. Ha!

    • Tama says:

      I used to go to the anatomy lab with a drawing class to draw the cadavers. The cadavers were mostly older folks and all had their heads shaved. There was nothing to really distinguish men from women until you looked under the sheet. Pretty interesting.

  8. platinum14 says:

    When I began university (in the 80′), all of my male friends were wearing Polo and Dakkar Noir. I was never one to follow the crowd– I wore tweed suits and italian shoes to class when others were wearing jeans, tshirts and loafers (I was going to say sneakers, but this was the 80′).
    So, I ventured to a perfume store and I decided upon Antaeus. At the time, the name Chanel, to me, seemed more “respectable and classy” than Ralph Lauren or Guy Laroche.
    For a couple of years I wore Antaeus only… the only time in my life when I had “a” signature scent. (it was quickly joined by my other favorites of the period: Eau Sauvage Extrème, Ho Hang Club, Trussardi Uomo, and Krizia Uomo)
    I still have that original bottle with a few drops in it. I still wear it from time to time and it seems so much dryer that I remember. I have been meaning to buy another bottle. I will have to compare the old with the new to see if it has indeed become more womanly. It it has, oh well! It can keep company to my bottles of Ivoire and Diva.

    • Kevin says:

      platinum: you’re well armed to do a comparison…though the older juice has no doubt changed over the years.

  9. mikeperez23 says:

    A few weeks ago, I pulled out a sample atomizer I have of vintage Antaeus and sprayed some on my husband’s arm. He immediately said it smelled like ‘old lady’ and I was shocked. I told him it was a masculine powerhouse, very 80′s, etc. He didn’t seem convinced and proceeded to go over to the sink to scrub it off.

    So reading your review only confirms, I suppose, what Ray said.

    I am still trying to figure out if I like Antaeus. Like Azuree, which you mentioned, leather chypres and I are rarely friends (well, except for vintage Tabac Blond parfum).

    Something that I thought I’d mention: Those aficionados of vintage Antaeus talk about the wonderful honey note that is absent in the ‘new’ juice. I think fans of this note should definitely try to get some vintage juice to smell.

    • Kevin says:

      Mike: I love honey notes and just found a great honey-themed fragrance I hope to review week after next. Honey is always great mixed with tobacco too….

  10. VanMorrisonFan says:

    I think Chanel has been phenomenal with women’s fragrances, but I have always been enormously underwhelmed by their men’s fragrances. Dior’s first men’s fragrance was, I believe, Eau Sauvage, which is still great, and Armani’s first (original) Eau pour Homme is still great after all these years.

    • Kevin says:

      VanMorrison: My father wore Pour Monsieur and it was great…not so mossy these days…but I do still like Egoiste. I’ll have to try the Armani…to be honest, I didn’t know they made it anymore! I never see it in the shops.

      • VanMorrisonFan says:

        Kevin – be careful when buying the Armani. There are a bazillion Armani fragrances for men, but in my opinion none has equalled the very first Armani Pour Homme…made in 1984 I think. It is difficult (but not impossible) to find in dept. stores. They usually only have a few bottles 50 ml. and 100 ml. It’s actually easier to find on line. I have been wearing it every day for quite a while. I also like Christian Dior – Eau Sauvage – but not as much.

  11. Bear says:

    Vintage Antaeus has a wonderful beeswax/honey accord that complements the leather note perfectly. I’m glad I still have a bottle and a half purchased twenty years ago. This is a perfume that I love, but only wear occasionally because it really isn’t an ‘everyday’ type of scent.

  12. donanicola says:

    Interesting review, thanks Kevin. I remember loving Antaeus on my then bf back in the day but when I have sniffed it casually recently from a tester it doesn’t resonate so I think you’re probably right about a reformulation. I like your comparison with Azuree, a scent I own and love though don’t often wear, it being rather powerful. Speaking of tobacco/honey notes did you see the news Robin just put up about the next A*men Pure?? Sounds right up several people’s alley including mine!

    • Kevin says:

      Donanicola: YES! I immediately added AMen Pure Havane to my “list.” Unfortunately, the Malt one never came to any store near me…hope this one will.

  13. OperaFan says:

    Kevin – you posed an interesting question. Before my journey into “perfumista-hood,” I believed in the boundary between scents made for men and for women. An AG SA opened up the concept of the blurred boundary line for me 17yrs ago.
    After a few years of playing with a wider array of fragrance families and expanding my personal tastes and collection, I can readily find feminine aspects in fragrances targeted for male and vice versa in the so-called “womens” fragrances. Does that make me more “male” than I was a few years ago? I don’t think so, but I find observation about aging intriguing.
    I’ve never tried Antaeus, but I did date a guy in the ’90s who occassionally wore Pour Le Monsieur. I loved the smell and wouldn’t mind wearing it myself. The other one that I remembered loving about 20 yrs ago was the original Ralph Lauren Polo and wish that I had bought it for my dad in his lifetime. I would have ventured into his bathroom to steal a spritz if he had it today.

    • Kevin says:

      Operafan: I still like Polo too…and I need to revisit some other fragrances from the early 80s

  14. Nile Goddess says:

    Antaeus was the fragrance of choice of my former fiance. To me it always smelled masculine and aromatic and powerful but whether it was the fragrance or him wearing it, I couldn’t tell. For once I refrain from describing the evolution of this fragrance, because it feels too intimate. Plus, I doubt my impressions would be publishable. :-)

    I lost that wonderful man to cancer. Apart from me and all the memories, he left a decent stash of Antaeus behind, and in my grief I sprayed it on the pillow I cried myself to sleep on every night, until all bottles were finished. That took some time. Then I had one big final cry and threw the pillow away too.

    Kevin, if you say Antaeus became more feminine over the years, I take your word for it, and I am glad because it means that if I come across someone wearing Antaeus, I just might, mercifully, not recognize it.

    It’s mostly a fond memory now, so thanks for reminding me :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Nile Goddess: yes, best you avoid Antaeus in all formulations in order not to revive those memories. I hope you never encounter it unless YOU want to at some point.

  15. thomkallor says:

    What a coincidence – wearing it today.

    Met Antaeus in college, had a tiny mini in glass – I’ve bought it twice in the time since then and it has never smelled the same.

    My first full sized purchase came in a metallic flask, my second in the black container pictures – and even though the latter came with a guarantee of “vintage,” neither smelled like that first tiny bottle. There IS a powdery essence hat wasn’t there before….and the first tiny bottle had a hypnotic winelike sweetness. I did pay a smart price for both on eBay – and then see it at stores when I least expect it.

    Does anyone know – is there really a way to get older bottles????

    • Kevin says:

      Thom: don’t know where you live but I’ve had some luck in OLD, STUFFED-to-the-Ceiling, independently owned perfume shops where the owners never throw out anything and cram perfumes in boxes, in the attic, in shoeboxes. If you have a place like that in your area you may want to check with them…just don’t let them know how DESPERATE you are!!!!

  16. jbr says:

    I’m wearing Antaeus today, first time in a little while, and I’m reminded of how great this stuff is. I have a decant which I’m pretty sure came from a brand new bottle (since I personally requested that the decanter in question purchase the scent and I’m guessing he didn’t go hunting for a vintage bottle on eBay). Some say the honey note in new Antaeus is weakened or not present at all but for me it is very noticeable here and one of the things that drew me to the scent. If vintage Antaeus has an even stronger honey note I would certainly like to try it. Interestingly, to me the Antaeus I have tried still reads as fairly masculine, not macho but something I would sooner associate with a man than a woman.

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