Sunday, July 05, 2020

Vintage Formulation Devin by Aramis-Review

picture swiped from internet.

I was wary. I'm about 50/50 with the perfume creations of Bernard Chant. Cabochard, Azuree, Aromatics Elixir-yes. Aliage, Estee, Lauren-oh, hell no. Looking  over the notes I reasoned that oakmoss, pine, vetiver, and leather can only smell so bad. Yes, Devin has been compared to my nemesis, Aliage but there were enough other notes listed that might make it a bit less of an onslaught.  If Aliage is the screaming harpie of the perfume world, perhaps Devin more of a singing siren even if it crashed me straight into the rocks. In the end, Devin was neither.

Devin is somewhat tame. Typically, it is best to avoid reading comments at Fragrantica before buying something to facilitate forming my own opinion. Overwhelmingly, the comments complained of how strong it is, and how impossible it would be to wear something like Devin today. Perhaps I've got a better-than-most tolerance for oakmoss, but I wouldn't call Devin strong. If anything, it could benefit from a bit more projection.

Like so many people stuck at home during the pandemic, I've been taking walks around my neighbourhood and doing a bit of gardening to get some outdoor activities. Our neighbourhood stinks. There, I've said it.  There's only so much you can attribute to geosmin in the environment, and I'm sure it is a combination of rotting mulch, ongoing sewer/infrastructure work, and shrubbery that smells like a wet dog. It seems to cling to synthetic fabrics worse than cotton, but for at least an hour after coming indoors I can smell it strongly. I'm bothered by it more than my family, but I've also found it is worst in summer,  on hot days and that sweet fragrances just make the overall effect more nauseating. As a result, I save the sweeter, floral fragrances for the cold weather,  and go for the herbal/leathery/animalics in summer. It sounds counter intuitive ,but it works. Devin holds up nicely to my neighbourhood's "Dog in the rain" scent profile. 

I didn’t know anyone that wore Devin in the 70s, and that’s probably for the best as there aren’t any associations interfering with my enjoyment of it. It doesn’t feel dated, but it also doesn’t smell terribly original. Perhaps in 1977 combining leather and galbanum would have felt more daring than it does today. Really, it is overwhelmingly oakmoss, leather, and pine notes with some amber and musk to keep it from going wild. There’s caraway, cinnamon, and carnations there as well for some spice, but the spices feel restrained.

The reviews on Fragantica are rather focused on the animalic notes in Devin but to my nose they weren’t overwhelming. Keep in mind that I rather like fragrances like Kouros, so I might not be the best person to judge if animalic notes are overwhelming. 

There have been comparisons of Devin with Halston Z 14. I live with someone that wears Z14 in all the various formulations and I cannot see even the slightest similarity. Z14 has to be the most boring men’s fragrance ever made. It's true. Sorry. I don’t even dislike it because there’s nothing there to find offensive. If you splash on some Devin it might not be enough to clear a room but it is at least noticeable. Z14 is a fragrance for men that want to perform the act of aftershave so they can be like their male role models, without committing to smelling like anything. So no, Devin does not smell like Z14. For the record, it is my fault he's so devoted to the stuff as I gave him half a bottle I bought at Goodwill and didn't like. I didn't expect to start my husband on a pursuit of vintage bottles of the world's least exciting fragrance. I mean,wearing Z-14 is like buying one of those pre-packaged cheap dress shirts with the matching tie they used to sell at Sears. It gets the job done, but without much imagination. 

Devin would be a good, "starter leather" fragrance for someone that isn't sure how they feel about the note. If someone who had always worn fougeres took Devin out for a spin, even if they didn't necessarily enjoy the fragrance, it likely wouldn't send anyone racing to the sink to scrub it off. Devin occupies that space somewhere between being dusted with talc at the barbershop, and handing out towels at the bathousešŸ˜. 

So what's in Devin? 
Pine, galbanum, aldehydes, oakmoss, carnation, cinnamon, artemisia, labdanum, jasmine, patchouli, caraway, musk, bergamot, amber, lemon, orange, cedar, lavender. 

Devin is classified as a chypre which feels wrong to me, though I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe the lack of vetiver? Too much aldehyde? No civet? It isn't one of those, "Absolutely not" reactions, just more a sense that chypre isn't quite right, though in all honesty I don't know what would be a better way to classify it. Kinda green, kinda woody, with an animal that runs through said woods but so quickly you barely catch a glimpse-and then you have some Earl Grey tea? Yes, most of the elements are there, but perhaps I just want it to be stronger. 

Is Devin any good? Well that's an impossible question as taste factors into reviews, but overall it is a quality fragrance. There's nothing bad about Devin unless you're a white musk sort of person and then anything beyond fabric softener is going to seem challenging. I do wish the green notes were a bit stronger, and perhaps that the woods didn't wait until an hour in to start showing up. The top citrus notes are quite pleasant, but they're awfully short lived. The aldehydes are mild in Devin, rather than the caustic hairspray type that I associate with mid-70s fragrances. 

Of the fragrances in the Aramis line that I've smelled in their vintage formulations, I'd have to say Devin is the most wearable. The original Aramis, which I adore is going to be difficult for most people to feel comfortable with in 2020. Now that we're all isolating, or wearing masks when out (and if you're not, shame on you) I feel free to wear it whenever, but under ordinary circumstances I probably wouldn't. Devin is different, and although the Fragrantica comments are filled with people arguing the contrary, I do think it is wearable with respect to modern tastes. I recently tried a vintage bottle of Aramis Tuscany and well...that will be another review. Two words by way of preview-Not. Good. 

Devin was marketed as a "country" fragrance. OK, I think perhaps that's more of an idealised "country" than the smell of manure, hay that is going mouldy after a week of heat and rain, or sulfurous well water. I spent 12 years on a farm, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to smell like it. But in the idealised pastoral, the bucolic sense maybe Devin evokes something. Perhaps wealthy Harris Tweed wearing hobbyist farmers rather that someone in Carhart overalls artificially inseminating a cow. Or castrating a bull with one of these...

That's not the Devin vibe at all.
More like Constable, I think.

Yeah, that's Devin.

The good news (for us, not the cattle) is that Devin is easily found all over the internet for very little money. I haven't tried the new formulation, but that is widely available as well. Sometimes it can be nice to wear something that just smells good. Is it the high point of Chant's career as a nose? Absolutely not, but it does remain consistent with the style of his better creations (by "Better" I mean the ones that aren't Aliage). While it is doubtful anyone will stop you in the street wanting to know what you're wearing, it probably won't send anyone  scurrying away either-unless you're closer than 6ft, which you shouldn't be...and that's no bull.


Beth Waltz said...

When it comes to dissecting scents with words as sharp as the instruments on a surgeon's tray -- you have no equal. Not only do my eyes squint when you scrape off your "neighborhood's 'Dog in the rain' scent profile," but also my lips curl when you classify Z-14 with "one of those pre-packaged cheap dress shirts with the matching tie they used to sell at Sears."

Thank you, too, for the wonderful Thelwellian cartoons comparing Harris Tweed wearing hobbyist farmers with someone in Carhart overalls. Something pricey for Basil from Caswell-Massey, something cheaper from CVS for Burt?

Vix said...

For someone with no knowledge, understanding or appreciation of perfume this was a cracking read.
What a dreadful advert though, it looks like it's trying to sell grass seed! x

bahnwƤrterin said...

wonderful wonderful post!!!!
loooove your writing and humor. very very much.
(i read it in the original english as translator would kill it)

maybe i should see if i can get a bottle for the BW - he´s on a long time search for a new scent, but the modern ones do not appeal - him and me. and he loves wearing a tweed jacket and an english country gentlemen habitus ;-D

stay save, my dear! xxxx

Bibi Maizoon said...

Not a Bernard Chant fan myself either. I do love 70s musks better than modern musks with their very realistic animal overtones. I recall there being a trend of "country" fragrances in the mid to late 70s starting with Irish Spring soap featuring pine, lavender & a lot of musk. My midsummer Himalayan valley smells less than idyllic with all the tropical heat & damp - fetid, fishy, yeasty, and beasty!
As always, love your writing!

Polyester Princess said...

I don't know the first thing about perfume, but reading your reviews are always a treat. They're absolutely brilliant and your sense of humour is unparalleled. xxx

SeƱora Allnut said...

Totally agree with previous comments, your writting is so enciting and brilliant!. It has been fab to read this post and enjoy the magnificent description!
I'm a simple tastes woman concerning perfume, I prefer classic eau de cologne, citrics and lavender. But I had a different taste back in the 80's and wore Poison by Dior!
This is an amazing and interesting universe!

Emily said...

I loved your review! I'd never heard of geosmin before, so I looked it up and learned something new. If I love the smell of petrichor and hate the smell of geosmin, does that make me a city slicker and not a country girl? Because I will take the smell of cold, wet pavement any day over the smell of wet dirt and mulch and root vegetables. : )

I do remember a trend in "country" fragrances in the late '70s and early '80s. It felt very aspirational, like if you were the kind of person who wore Polo or Lauren, you wanted to be the kind of person who owned multiple horses and you owned real estate in the Hamptons. Or so the marketing would have you believe.

Let us know if you figure out what category of fragrance Aramis fits in. The word "fougere" popped into my mind as I read your review, but that doesn't sound like a good fit. Quite possibly you are dealing with a hybrid type of scent that doesn't fit neatly into any single category.

Goody said...

It took some serious googling to find an image of an angry bull that was so clearly devoid of reproductive anatomy! He seems adequately outraged, I think.

Thank you. It doesn't seem like they were making much of an effort with that ad.

Thank you. Yes, some things don't translate well through Google. I find some of the Spanish translations border the absurd.

I used to enjoy Irish Spring's scent but the soap itself didn't like to cooperate with our hard water. Dove had a line of men's care items and the Minerals and Sage scent is just fantastic. It feels so throwback. I stocked up on shower gel for myself (the boys prefer Dial Gold)before it gets discontinued.
Your description doesn't sound like something they put in the Nepal tourist brochures ;)
Hang in there.

Thank you! I appreciate that.
I suppose I write about perfume they way people review film, or talk about sports.

It smells so bad in Omaha during the summer! I lived next to a fishery in East Boston for a decade and although that smelled pretty bad, at least it blew out over the water from time to time. This just hangs until the first frost.

You might be right-some fragrances just defy classification.

Goody said...

@Senora Alnut
I could never wear Poison, but I loved it on other people! I sort of miss the 80s fragrances. Lavender and citrus will always be classics as they smell so pleasant. I have a bottle of Guerlain Aqua Allegorica Lavender Velours that I use to spray my linen when I change the sheets. It is such a pleasant, comforting, scent.

SeƱora Allnut said...

Guerlain Acqua Allegoria 'Herba Fresca' is my favourite one!

Mim said...

I'd never heard of geosmin, so that's me educated. Park Street smells of weed; it's so strong some days I think someone must have a growing operation in an attic.

I've created a monster in Pete; he's now building up a fragrance collection of his own. His latest fave is Caron Yatagan - probably a far cry from Z14!