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 for AdG. 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.