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Devin fits perfectly into the Lauder school of boy/girl pairings. The girl side of the pairing, whether it was the original fragrance or the sequel, seems generally to be the greater of the two. Larger (Aromatics Elixir compared to Aramis 900), heavier (Cinnabar to Aramis JHL), or more forceful (Aliage to Devin.) The Aramis by Aramis/Estée Lauder Azuree pairing is the exception to the pattern. Both are equally sharp, encompassing leather chypres but each takes a slightly different path. Perhaps this parity stems from their origins as descendents of the renown steamroller, the original Grès Cabochard. ‘Greater’ in this case only implies size or volume, not quality. For example I find the softened Aramis 900 lovely, but not quite as appealing as the blockbuster Aromatics Elixir. Yet JHL, with its blowsy, floral side, makes a much more interesting perfume to my nose than Cinnabar on which it’s based. Cinnabar seems to aim for richness and depth but winds up mired and weighed down.
Like JHL, Devin is a toning down of the original on which it’s based: Aliage. Aliage is sharp and direct, but also singing and smiling. Differently than JHL, which redirects the spicy/resinous quality of Cinnabar, Devin filters Aliage. It screens the brightness through a chypre-sieve, unfortunately losing the best parts in the process. Aliage is not so much bright as utterly clear, like brook in a snowy winter. It suggests briskness, even a slap of chill at times. Losing these very qualities, Devin is unfortunately a bit smudged, more room-temperature than cool. Devin feels like Aliage served as reheated left-overs. A particular point, Devin filters out the rich and expansive aspect of galbanum while keeping the sweetness, which, without the compensatory resinousness, appears saccharine sweet, like a shrill whisper.
Devin is one of the few instances where a chypre base is unsuccessful. It weighs Devin down without adding the smolder or mystery that the drydown of a chypre typically implies. It gives a dull opacity that constrains Aliage’s defining characteristic, which is an expansiveness, a clarity. Aliage’s drydown starts about 4 to 5 hours into wearing. Devin’s starts in 30-45 minutes. Devin ends quietly and stays very close to the skin, possibly a goal given its male target audience. Drydown is its best side, though, and I should add that Devin, when reactivated by a little sweat/activity hours after application, has a lovely musky closeness.
I’d prefer not simply to compare perfumes. You know, the whole ‘by comparison we suffer’ bit. But all of the Lauder twins, by nature of their parings, implicitly ask for this sort of examination. With most of the other pairs, I’ve savored both and appreciate the different statements they make. I own and wear Aromatics Elixir, Aramis 900, Azurée, Aramis by Aramis. They’re sensational and each has its place. In this case, though, I’ve never had an instance where I’d wear Devin when I could choose Aliage. Boy/girl versions cannot be easy to compose. This sort of statement about gender and perfumery requires expertise and nuance in order to succeed. While I don’t love Devin, the four Lauder pairings are a tribute to Bernard Chant who composed them all as well as Cabochard. Brilliant thinking, brilliant perfumes.
30th November, 2012