9/28/13

Macy's Surprises Me



I still have a cold, so I'm not quite ready to review anything yet, unfortunately. But I recently received a Macy's gift card, and whenever that happens I do a little inner eye-roll and wonder what the hell I'm going to spend it on. $25 at Macy's is a generous gift, but the store is devoid of options when it comes to fragrance. The only quality options are the original Polo, Polo Sport, Drakkar Noir, and the original Allure Homme (and maybe Bleu de Chanel, if you're forgiving). Last time I used a gift card, which was back in January or February, I bought a 1.7 oz bottle of Bleu, just to give it a fair shot, and so far I rarely find myself reaching for it. I don't mind it when I wear it, but its heavy reliance on iso-E Super, and its bland woody-amber characteristics don't make much of an impression on me. It's also one of the few Chanels that garnered negative comments. One woman asked if I was wearing Axe. Ouch.

I trudged back to the mall this morning, expecting to find the usual Macy's fare - some of the Allure Sport line, Bleu, Platinum, and maybe Pour Monsieur's "concentrate," which would actually be the best option, given the circumstances. At least it has a barbershoppy vibe that wouldn't be out of place in my collection, although truth be told, I'm perfectly happy without it. Lately in Connecticut I'm not even seeing the American version of Pour Monsieur in stores anymore. I'm doubtful it sells well, with its drab grey packaging and unusual scent. American guys are likely to pass over it in favor of The Water of Joe. So imagine my surprise when I approached the Chanel counter, and within five seconds spotted one lonely 3.4 oz bottle of Antaeus standing shoulder to shoulder between Allure Homme Sport and Bleu. WTF?

The saleswoman approached me and I abruptly said to her, "I'll take the Antaeus, please." I didn't give her time to say anything to me. She stopped before she could roll out her "can I help you" thing, and switched right to, "Oh, wow. Ok, you really know what you want! That's nice, for a change." I nodded and smiled, probably a Cheshire cat smile, and five minutes later walked out with it, at a steep discount thanks to both the card, and a 16% rewards card membership. Without fully comprehending what had happened, I drove away with a brand-new bottle of Antaeus.

I reviewed Antaeus back in 2011 after smelling it a few times in European airports, and I was generally unimpressed with it. Judging by the fact that airports often have older bottles of older fragrances on their tester shelves, the version I smelled in Czech Republic (which was the last place I smelled it) was likely a slightly older formula, perhaps before Chanel pared all the oakmoss and castoreum out of it. To sum up, Antaeus has always smelled very good to me, but it's up against stiff competition, and I think the competition beats it. Luca Turin calls it a "cigar-box woody," and it's definitely cast from an 80s mold. Still, I don't fully agree with his assessment, as it's a fairly citric, floral chypre, with a pleasant twist of vetiver in the base, and the heavier Bois du Portugal-like, lavender/woody-amber quality of 80s boxwoods isn't really what Antaeus is about. There are, however, distinct woody notes in its heart, and there's no denying it's a woody fragrance for Chanel, so I guess I see Turin's point. Compared to Kouros and Balenciaga Pour Homme, Antaeus is rather staid and unadventurous, albeit well-composed, classy, and likable enough.

Smelling it again today, in its current formulation, brings to light one new realization: its quality of materials is a cut above the usual Chanel department store fare, and right in line with Chanel's Les Exclusifs range. In fact, I'd say Antaeus is a better buy than anything in the Les Exclusifs line, simply because it's stronger and more durable than those surprisingly weak fragrances. Of course there are the "vintage fanatics" who feel that IFRA regs have ruined the scent altogether and rendered the current stuff unworthy, but it's a load of hogwash - if you put Antaeus up against things like Prada Luna Rossa and Polo Double Black, you'll find its complexity, depth, and smoothness are all miles better. The fact that it no longer contains oakmoss or strong animalics isn't a big deal, especially when Kouros still contains stronger animalics, and still smells better, and not to mention Balenciaga, which smells better than all of them.

I've included a few photographs of my bottle, just so Antaeus fans can see what markings to look for, what cap shape to look for, and can compare mine to older and/or counterfeit bottles. I understand older bottles have markings on the bottom of the bottle - the new stuff has nothing on the bottom. The final question is, how did Antaeus end up at a Macy's? I would have asked the saleswoman, but she didn't look old enough to know what the hell she was talking about, and even if she did know, it would be impossible for her to account for how a Chanel that isn't stocked by Macy's could wind up there. Nevertheless, I'm glad someone screwed up.










10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. This is one that I would like to eventually buy. I agree that Kouros and Balenciaga are bolder. From the photo, it looks like the batch is 5303 which according to checkcosmetic.net says that your bottle is from July 2012. You were lucky to find it in the USA as it is getting more scarce. It appears that Chanel no longer makes internet sales. One must go directly to one of their boutiques, I guess e.g., NYC where it would be available. Today after I read your post, I was out with the family at a mall (Warsaw, Poland) and I decided to check the availability and price. I stopped briefly at Sephora and it was available... 100 ml for 422 PLN which is approx. US $132. I have noticed that it seems to be more readily available here in Europe than in the US.

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    1. Hi Kris, thanks for the batch info, looks like a pretty recent formula then, which I suppose is good. Here in the States Chanel sells Antaeus & it's entire perfume range on their home site. It's only $84 here for the large bottle, puzzling that it's more expensive in Europe where exporting from France is no big deal.

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    2. Yes, that is puzzling. Of course, it runs somewhat cheaper in different stores, like Douglas. I have noticed that Sephora wants ridiculous prices for the fragrances e.g., Esencia de Loewe 100 ml @ US $ 350+ ...???? They must be smokin' something! I can only say that perhaps the excise tax on luxury goods like perfume can vary from country to country and also that pesky VAT.
      The Chanel website for the US also has prices listed, but not so for the European counterparts. Luckily, I have purchased 99% of my fragrances in the US.
      Just had a thought. Could Chanel be cheaper in the US because some of the fragrances have been produced there on the spot? I remember that you had mentioned that Chanel had had facilities in Hoboken, NJ long ago at the time of WWII (though I had not ever seen nor heard about this; I grew up not too far from there.) Nonetheless, you had mentioned that Chanel still produces fragrances in the US (e.g., Chance). Could this be why they run cheaper their because of lower excise tax?

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    3. The division of labor is split between the US and France, for some reason. Most of Chanel's recent stuff is "Made in the USA" but not Antaeus, Egoiste, or Pour Monsieur, which are all marked "Made in France," as in the pictures above. I can't help but feel some snobbery from the brand in doing that and then severely limiting US distribution of their French-made frags. Like we Americans can't have Pour Monsieur at all because we're not sophisticated enough to appreciate it, which sadly is probably true.

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    4. Just got a bottle. According to the batch # on mine, was produced in May 2013. Noticeably weaker in both projection and longevity, even as little as 4 years back when I had last earnestly tried it. Back then, just 2 sprays on the neck and my wife noticed it immediately when I got home. Today,8 sprays - 3 on neck points, one on chest one on each top of wrist and one on each wrist pulse point. Points of application were pretreated with a fine odorless body lotion in order that skin be not that dry. Wife did not notice when she got home! Gone is the bee's wax. Castoreum very faint. Likewise, Oakmoss. However, most memorably missed....the leather drydown. True some of the woodiness persists, but that is not enough to justify the price tag. Chanel must really have loath for its clientele. Boooooooo ! Just when I have the urge to whip their management across the snout with the cat o' nine tails, I manage to wave it off. Luckily, I can still drown my fragrance sorrows in good ole Kouros (chrome shoulders). Like you mentioned above, it is better! It hasn't let me down yet! Two sprays are all it takes!

      How are you faring with your Antaeus? Get much wear in the colder season? Any compliments? I am thinking VCA pour home might be the better substitute. I am wondering...would layering Antaeus with VCA work? Ever try that?

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    5. Sorry to hear your Antaeus experience is sub-par. I don't recall it as ever being very "leathery" in the prior formula, which is the only other one I'm familiar with, but the current version has a pretty prominent castoreum note to me. I haven't been wearing it very much, not in over a month. Not my favorite by any stretch, although good once in a while. Do not smell any similarity between Antaeus & VC&A PH, so can't comment as to it being a good substitute. Definitely would not layer the two. With regards to kouros, it's superior to the others - and I think I'm liking the reform a bit better than the overly floral prior chrome shouldered version. Feedback from others on the reform has been way more positive also.

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    6. Not my favorite by any stretch as well, but sometimes when one is in the mood for it...nothing else will substitute. I am wondering if the careful addition of oakmoss absolute, castoreum and leather accord on the skin application sites from http://shop.perfumersapprentice.com/default would bolster Antaeus. If one could dilute those three (in the right amounts) in perfumer's alcohol, spray and then layer Antaeus on that. What do you think?

      I did find a decent fragrance oil knock-off of Antaeus from thefragranceshop.com. It goes under the name of famous French designer 0199 for men. In my assessment, it is about 80% accurate, especially in the drydown. However, there is something off in this; hard to describe like something metallic/plastic which takes away from it. There is at least one more from saveonscents, but I have not tried that one.

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    7. You could fiddle around with the fragrance oils and create an aftermarket "throwback" tune-up of Antaeus, sure. I personally like the drydown of Antaeus as it is currently. I read somewhere that this was a popular scent in the gay community back in the day. Something about its having a bit of a "butch/femme" vibe. I get that in the current formula, because it dries down to a pleasant, slightly rosy, floral-powder base. Decent use of patchouli and orris with a fair degree of feminine floral synthetics pulling their weight. Again I have to state for the record that I rarely smell "leather" as a real note in any perfume, and just as rarely do I come away from a supposed "leather fragrance" with an impression of leather. Antaeus is no exception. As far as leather goes, I really don't get it, although I guess in a rather abstract way this could approximate the bittersweet smell of super-luxe car-interior leather. I actually like the history regarding the use of Antaeus as an olfactory cue for gay men because it zeros in on the aspect of masculine perfumery that I find so fascinating - unlike feminine fragrances, masculines are often far more ambiguous about their target gender. The current formula of Antaeus, despite its faults, manages to maintain that ambiguity quite nicely imo.

      There are tons of these inexpensive fragrance oil knockoffs out there, also for things like Santos, Kouros, Lagerfeld, etc. Some are really good, and some suck. This is not directly related to Antaeus, but have you tried any of the Al-Rehab oils? Their roll-on called "Silver" is surprisingly similar to Creed's Silver Mountain Water, although it certainly fails to replicate the complex fruit notes in the Creed. "Al-Fares" is another knockoff, this time of Eternity for Men (with hints of the original Aspen by Quintessence in there as well). "Secret Man" is, humorously enough, a clone of Tommy Girl by Hilfiger. The only other one I've tried was called "Fruit" and it didn't seem like a clone of anything, but it was interesting and smelled good. Look into the Al-Rehab line and see if anything approximates Antaeus, or any other excellent classic masculines that are either discontinued or changed beyond repair.

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    8. Thanks for the reply, Brian. Although I haven't tried any of the Al-Rehab oils, I remember not only Pour Monsieur's blog posts, but also your own regarding Al-Rehab. I had also discussed some of the knock-offs on Shamus's blog where he had also tried some of the knock-offs not only from Al-Rehab, but also from thefragranceshop.com. Just like you mentioned, he also came to the conclusion that with these imitations it is either hit or miss. We had also discussed what you had mentioned above that sometimes, the 'imitation' is a unique fragrance in itself rather than a mimic of something, e.g. 'Fruit.' Funny you mention the knock-off of Kouros, Shamus and I came to the same conclusion that thefragranceshop version is pretty close, but it is 'dirtier.' I think that it is too dirty. If they should suddenly discontinue Kouros, it could serve as a very near copy...though your idea of Paco Rabanne pour Homme as a substitute (not imitation) also might be a good alternative.

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  2. I went back to read this review after recently trying out a few sprays from a fragrance counter for the third or fourth time; something's clicked. It may be that this is the purportedly-slightly-gutsier 'black sprayer' reform (post 2015 I guess), but I was struck by the quality of the notes and blending, and a little haunted afterward by a funny mixture of sophistication, worn-in comfort and vaguely gothic (more as in English Lit than black fingernails) moodiness. With my 46th birthday looming, I guess I find the range of things I really (really) want to wear is narrowing, while at the same time the degree to which I want them to be something separate from my persona, like some new piece of technology one takes out and shows to a coworker, is waning. And there aren't that many good, heavy darkish old school-type things out there anymore that come with a matching aftershave, etc. and in which I trust the company not to just keep cheapening things (RIP Azzaro), and I just can't live with the little polo player on the Polo Green bottle anymore. Life is just *that* much more intolerable, now, and the taste for absurdity (I used to enjoy absurdity!) that much more curtailed, so that, if this gets a little powdery in the heart, that's fine, I probably need it, truly: a big pillow stuffed with sage and thyme and oakmoss and Canadian riverside smells and a leather jacket you loaned to your girlfriend in your early twenties and a hint of incense-stick ash, and just the right amount of imaginary beeswax. Perfect.

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