One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Going Strong: Chanel Antaeus

Six years. I have been doing this for six years.



I have been reading a book called The Secret of Chanel No. 5, despite the fact that it's not particularly well written: at the least, it could have used a ruthless editor who would have pruned out some of the many, many tedious and redundant foreshadowings such as this:

When she left Aubazine to make her fortune, the girl who was not yet Coco Chanel had no idea that she wanted to create a perfume. She had no idea yet even of becoming a fashion designer.

And this, just a few paragraphs later:

Gabrielle Chanel had no thought yet of creating a signature perfume — no thought yet even of creating her innovative fashions, let alone a couture fragrance.

And this, a few paragraphs after that:

One day she, too, would open a shop and give the world its most famous fragrance. In her early twenties, however, that idea hadn't yet occurred to her.

Honestly. "As a schoolboy in Rome, young Enrico Fermi had no idea he would grow up to be the father of the atomic bomb." Parts of "The Secret of Chanel No. 5" are fascinating, but there's too much speculation, too much padding (you get the sense that the book was originally half as long), too much dogged insistence on the notion that every event in Chanel's life somehow led inexorably to Chanel No. 5, and much too much foreshadowing.

I was going to write about Chanel No. 5 until I discovered that I don't seem to have any. I was pretty certain that I had a spray vial of the EDT or EDP lying around somewhere, and I still think I do, but I can't find it, and I'm not going to go out and buy some (and if I were, it would be the extrait, which is by far the best of the three versions). In fact, the only Chanel I have in any quantity that I haven't written about yet is Antaeus.

It won't take much writing, either. Antaeus was launched in 1981 as an herbal leather chypre, and those three words define it completely. The top is briefly green and immediately supplemented by a big horsey leather, all saddles and spurs, which gradually gives way to a classic leather-patchouli-oakmoss chypre base. It is not in style any more, but it is flawless. It lasts for hours upon hours, and it radiates confidence and charisma. The world would be a better place if a lot more men smelled like Antaeus all the time.

Antaeus was a giant (or half-giant) of Greek myth whose superpower was that he was undefeatable as long as he was touching the Earth: because there is always a catch in Greek mythology, he was killed by Hercules, who picked him up off the ground and crushed him like a milk carton. This explains the ad above.

As usual, I don't know how old my Antaeus is (it's certainly ten years old), and so I don't know what you would smell if you went into a store and sprayed some on your skin today. It's surely been reformulated to delete the oakmoss: maybe what's out there right now is good, but I doubt it can compare to the original. If you can get some of the older stuff, you are in for a treat.



  • I am a fan of this scent. I like it as much as I DIDN'T like that book. I think your estimate that it was 1/2 as big before the padding is generous. I was giving it about 1/3 prior to the repetition being added in.

    By Blogger jensun, at 10:01 PM  

  • Well, I'd only gotten about halfway through when I wrote that. I'm still reading it, and it doesn't get any better, does it?

    Maybe it was originally meant to be a long New Yorker-style magazine article and when it didn't sell, the author fluffed it up to book length.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 9:02 AM  

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