L'Anarchiste (Caron)

L'Anarchiste was released in the year 2000, a fitting end to the 1990s, and the year I graduated from high school. The decade was bookended with spiced-apple orientals on one end, things like Balenciaga PH, Aubusson PH, Boss Bottled, and Tommy, and on the other with weird, fresh-green curiosities like Green Valley, Snow, S.T. Dupont, and this offering from the relatively obscure house of Caron.

Its theme is like some of the fragrances mentioned. I get woody sweetness marinated in aldehydes and muted lavender, gauzy vetiver root, and a medley of aromatics (neroli, coriander, orange rind, apple, cinnamon, cedar, you get the idea). While the fragrance is soft and pleasant, its diffuse profile and carefully harmonized accords rob it of potency and backbone, making L'Anarchiste a bit nondescript. I'm glumly reminded of seasonal potpourri, the kind you see in those little bags labeled "Bright Autumn Day" or "Forest Fantasy." It's as subversive as a trip to Ikea. 

This has been compared to sixties aftershave on Badger & Blade. Meh. I don't know. Maybe, but how is that an endorsement? Rumor has it the formula in the copper bottle was denser, louder, and better articulated, with a sparkly mint top note absent from this recent reformulation. While likely true, I'm not interested in hunting down that version. The idea behind this one is uninspired for a Caron, and I vastly prefer Yatagan (1976) and Le Troisième Homme (1985).


Devin Country Cologne (Estée Lauder)

Devin was recommended to me recently by a faithful reader, who called it "the best in the Aramis family," and I see his point - this is an excellent fragrance. It's one I've been meaning to explore for years, but never got around to, until now. I've read enough about it to formulate a pretty good idea of how it smells, before actually smelling it. Well, now that I have smelled it and worn it, I'm ready to pitch in my two cents.

First, let's discuss the ironclad goodness of Devin. In a world of "designer frags" and "niche perfumes," it's refreshing to smell an American classic that conveys a natural, earthbound character. Released in 1978 as yet another humble masterpiece by Bernard Chant, Devin smells simple, relaxed, and timeless. It reminds me of Yatagan and Z-14, with the resinous wormwood of the former, and the crisply coniferous spine of the latter. Missing in Devin is any hint of bitter citrus, which I've come to expect in the top notes of forgotten classics. Instead there's a judicious dose of galbanum, which breezes nicely through the scent's forested heart. Beautiful stuff.

It transitions to artemisia and caraway, then fennel and cinnamon (Devin's box smells of cinnamon), balsam fir, labdanum, and oakmoss, with a sweet woody amber in the far drydown. True to form, I can't detect the leather note in Devin. Newsflash: I never detect leather notes. In anything. Leather has to beat me over the horn for me to recognize it (hello, Clubman Special Reserve). I'm glad I don't smell it, because I think it would weigh things down. Chant worked in an era when blatantly unnatural synthetics weren't yet a thing, and thank god for that. Devin smells like it was conceived by a man in touch with nature. I smell resins and herbs. I smell evergreen needles. Crushed leaves. Bitter florals. Woods. Patchouli. Even a hint of gardenia. I smell a walk through a dry forest in late October, with the ornaments of a gentle floral perfume.

Mechanics can gauge if an engine passes muster just by listening to it, and I can tell that Devin more than passes by how good it smells. With that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few quibbles. While it's certainly everything I hoped it would be, Devin is a little too on the mark, in that I've smelled this ensemble before in countless other masculines of equal quality. Devin doesn't surprise me, and thus it leaves me wanting a bit. Yes, it elicits the sanguine imagery of people picnicking next to station wagons in campgrounds, amidst trees and grasses and wildflowers, but this sedate experience could benefit from some excitement, like a raunchy musk, or perhaps an unconventional edible. A lick of apple? Maybe a mélange of dried fruit? Hard to say.

There's a "guilt by association" factor. I associate Devin with perfumes that aren't Devin. It smells like two parts Yatagan, sans the intensity, and one part vintage Z-14. I can't get through a full wearing of Devin without thinking of those two scents. Also, the wormwood note is handled similarly in countless classics. Alain Delon's "AD Classic" comes to mind, and that isn't even a wormwood-focused fragrance. Balenciaga PH comes up, as does Witness and Red for Men and Jil Sander Man Pure. I've heard that Devin closely resembles some feminines Chant did for Lauder at the time, which might be true, but I have more experience with the aforementioned scents, and think of them instead. Sue me.

Nevertheless, this is something a true connoisseur of fine fragrance should get their nose on. Any vintage fragrance lover will fall for it helplessly. I'm glad I have a bottle, reformulated as it is (still has oakmoss, so whatever), and look forward to wearing it through the fall months. It might not be a groundbreaking scent, but it's comforting to know I can wear a walk in the woods, even when there isn't time to take one.