Anthracite pour l'Homme opens with a blast of aromatic lavender spiked bracing greens supported by bitter grapefruit. An odd slightly indolic jasmine led aromatic accord comprised of florals and herbs leads off the early heart development as it melds with powdery makeup-like iris and slightly sweet supporting sandalwood rising from the base. As the composition moves though its heart the awkward florals and powder dissipate though are still detectable, with the composition turning towards an oakmoss laced mix of slightly sweet and dry woods. During the late dry-down the early florals finally vacate as relatively dry amber mixes with slightly sweet sandalwood remnants through the finish. Projection is above average and longevity average at 7-9 hours on skin.
Anthracite pour l'Homme is a bit of an enigma... The aromatic open smells incredible, with the lavender and green accord providing quite the eye opener. After the open things get a bit weird and unsettling as the composition turns just a hair indolic with a jasmine-led floral accord that smells different than anything I have encountered to date, pairing with powdery iris. The combination is definitely strange and not particularly enjoyable. This stage represents somewhat of an inflection point, as the wearer wonders if this oddity is the beginning of what amounts to overall disappointment, or a potential turn around opportunity. Luckily for the wearer the latter scenario is the case, as the powder and indolic florals tone down to a whisper as a fine sandalwood and cedar duo moves in to take control with solid oakmoss support solidifying the turnaround. The late dry-down is a bit uneventful after the roller coaster middle, but the relatively dry amber led finish is quite pleasant, coming off very smooth as it melds perfectly with the remaining natural smelling sandalwood. The bottom line is the sadly discontinued $100 per 100ml bottle on the aftermarket Anthracite pour l'Homme really challenges the senses during its early mid-section, but its aromatic open and late heart seal its place in the winner circle, earning it an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rating and a solid recommendation.
Anthracite is a sturdy, spicy fougère that opens on a flourish of lavender, herbs, and bergamot and shifts quickly to a core of clove and floral notes, grounded by sandalwood, oakmoss, and powdery amber. An accord of cloves and woody rose deep in Anthracite’s heart is vaguely anticipatory of Michel Roudnitska’s Noir Epices for Frédéric Malle, released nearly a decade later. The balance achieved between sinewy woody notes and more sumptuous floral notes like rose and ylang-ylang is remarkably well-judged, and the mossy-woody drydown is especially smooth and gratifying.
In terms of composition Anthracite is something of a relic: restrictions on oakmoss and eugenol (clove) and the current shortage of natural sandalwood leave me doubting whether it could be composed again today. Those familiar with the muscular fougères of the 1980s and early 1990s may find that Anthracite breathes some of the same atmosphere as the roughly contemporaneous Lauder for Men and Havana. Anthracite, however, is a far leaner, clearer composition, without the leather and tobacco notes that add weight to many of its contemporaries. In Anthracite’s relative spareness one can perceive faint pre-echoes of Mark Buxton’s later work for Comme des Garçons. The extreme transparency and industrial chic sensibility are not yet apparent, but Anthracite’s clarity of structure and relatively streamlined contours portend the move away from the heavier, baroque elements of 1980s masculine style. Still available online at relatively reasonable prices as of this writing, Anthracite is worth seeking out if a slimmed-down version of the traditional spicy fougère sounds appealing.
An aside: amusingly apropos of the name, the one ounce spray bottle bears a passing resemblance to a charcoal briquette, or perhaps the lumps of coal that naughty children receive in their Christmas stockings.
16th August, 2014 (last edited: 17th August, 2014)
The opening is traditional in its use of bergamot,galbanum and tarragon, but the addition of angelica adds a nice somewhat boozy twist. The drydown encompasses violet, ylang ylang and on my skin a garlicky mix, with a gorgeous oakmoss dominating the base. A touch of musk is present toward the end. This is an archetypical classic fougère that has just a touch of sharpness, is overall smooth, incredibly well blended and made of high-quality compounds. For those on search of a well-balanced chypre for spring or autumn. Good silage and projection, and a brilliant longevity of over ten hours.
This scent is as smooth to the nose as the bottle is on the fingers. In the realm of bartending there are certain counters one can employ to take the bite out of citrus drinks, vodkas, and general low shelf liquors. Anthracite deftly uses a counterweight to literally all of the more spiky ingredients, and it is ingeniously done. Most noticeable here is the exceptional use of pineapple, to which I am not usually very partial. Angelica, again, is ingenious; I have made absinthe before, and angelica is key in that it not only lends its trademark color to the liquid, but it tones down the unreasonably bitter taste of wormwood.
What this creates is a restrained green floral with a touch of fruit, but there's more. The cypress and pepper are immediately noticeable and work in concert with the clove and rose to create a semi-sweet cinnamon accord. The drydown is a soft, mossy musk, and is mercifully light despite just barely missing the 80's. Projection is polite - small but there. This is a Swiss-Army, all-occasion self-pleaser for a classy guy, combining 'inoffensive' with 'interesting,'
which is uncommon. If only the opening accord would stay longer I might hoard this little gem like a greedy dragon.
What I get from Anthracite is a floral fougère with a bit of spicy fruit sweetness. Very nicely put-together, shows great evolution and has a coherent dry-down. I know that Luca Turin has referred to this as one of the artful late 80s-early 90s men’s fragrances that that were influential critically, but not commercial successes. Given the others similarly noted (Insensé, Heritage, Ténéré) I looked forward to trying Anthracite. While the florals here (mostly rose to me, but also something tropical, or is that the fruit?) are interesting for the fact that they eventually replace the lavender in the fougère accord, Anthracite falls into the category of harmonious fougères for me. I prefer starker, rougher fougères, so I don’t mean this as a compliment. When a fougère is blended to removed the sharp edges left by the collision of lavender and coumarin, it seems too restrained. Reserved in a way that might suit a chypre, but not a fougère .
Stark: Rive Gauche pour Homme, Azzaro pour Homme, Paco Rabanne pour Homme, PR Ténéré, and Caron's Troisième Homme (the last two stark despite their florals.)
Harmonious: YSL Jazz, Drakkar Noir (loud, yes, but focused on blend) and Anthracite.
I’ve left out Cool Water deliberately. Despite its identification as the iconic fresh, aromatic fougère, it just does’t seem like a fougère to my nose---its innovative water fruit vibe made it qualitatively something different from a fougère.
So where does this leave Anthracite? It’s got some of the fruit that Cool Water has. It’s got a non-lavender floral, like Ténéré. In execution of the fougère accord, it’s a little meek like Jazz. In some ways it’s similar to Givenchy’s Xeryus, a floral with a healthy nod to the fougère. But Xeryus’s use of florals and coumarin is much ballsier than Anthracite.
I could argue with myself here that Anthracite is in fact the best use of all the various elements I’ve mentioned above. It certainly is my bias that I want a rough ride from a fougère and I could just be blind to Anthracite’s charm. But both floral and fougère, Anthracite does seem cross-bred like a mule. Close enough for the parents to reproduce, but Anthracite is sterile and leaves us with no direct descendants. I guess I’m left undecided.
18th December, 2010 (last edited: 03rd May, 2012)