Created by Jacques Polge in 1981, Antaeus perfectly captures the spirit of a male powerhouse fragrance of the ‘80s. This potent brew, like so many of the decade’s creations, shamelessly advertises the wearer’s virility like an open declaration of blatant machismo. In fact, this juice is so strong, it easily evokes vivid mental imagery of a crazed male rubbing cologne on freshly showered chest hair in anticipation of ...what? Going out for a night of ‘pulling’? Does this ring any bells? Why yes, I think I’ve caught this scene before: Tom Selleck, in an advertizement for Revlon’s Chaz. I could not find it on YouTube, unfortunately, but the commercial is available on this site, third video on the right hand column.
Antaeus’ opening is briefly sharp and citrusy, but even during this initially fresh moment the animalic base is clearly perceptible. The slightly astringent, green coriander wilts under the pressure and then withers away into nothingness. I cannot possibly sniff too close to the skin soon after the fragrance is applied: doing so means nothing less than receiving a bold smack, or perhaps even a punch in the nose, which ends up delivering a mighty, stinging sensation behind my eyes. Had Antaeus been able to wear a drop of his namesake fragrance, surely he’d have had an advantage against Hercules. The heart of the fragrance is a slightly herbal, spicy rose, which keeps getting infused with the rising base notes. It is a rose wrapped in leather and oakmoss, and if it wasn’t for the distinct and very obvious...”maleness” of this fragrance I know this would be something I’d enjoy. If I close my eyes, I can, if only briefly, smell the inspiration behind it. I perceive this inspiration to be the hugely successful at the time, prickly, thorny, heavy as a paperweight dropped on the head, “here I come!”, female fragrances of the era. A surprising realization, considering Chanel never released such an obvious choice for women. The box does not mention oakmoss. Having said that, it is oakmoss that I smell so clearly at this perfume’s base. Oakmoss, labdanum and patchouli. How can this be? It is entirely possible of course that I am fooled, but I swear, after some point, this is all I can smell. Yes, the drydown of Antaeus is a definite leather chypre, to my nose at least, and this is its saving grace. A nasty, putrid opening, a far too strong, oppressing heart...But then, a beautiful reward in the end. I still wouldn’t be able to call this chic, or sophisticated. Its obviousness forbids me to venture that far. Yet, the thoughtful drydown does make up for the horror I suffer every time I test this on my skin. I cannot claim to like something so strong, so abrasive. But let me put it this way: Antaeus might seem like nothing more than one of many, many others initially. A little patience though, proves that he is actually, rather unique. A giant –much like the mythological being he owes his name to- that trod a road others still refuse to follow. And yes, if only for that, he deserves to be featured as part of Forget me Not.
Please also visit For the Love of Perfume to read TMH's pick for this month's Forget me Not.
Images: www.kimcm.dk and commons.wikimedia.org