I spy a Chypre
In a pink porcelain flask
I spy lingerie
For an unconventional task
For reasons I do not have the liberty to reveal here, I was always intrigued by anything that had to do with secret agents. And as a result, it may not be a surprise that my signature perfume is called Espionage
My grandfather had an extensive library of John LeCarre books, the original, first print hard-covered copies. I always live in fear that John LeCarre will die before it’s time, like my grandfather did, but thanks God – he is still in good health and writing books and even likes their film versions for reasons other than money (which I do hope makes its way to him as he deserves it!). For some reason, filmmakers have been always quite careful with adapting his marvelous novels into film and TV – and although some of the detail is always being left out, it always feels authentic (the ones that I watched, anyways, which included Little Drummer Girl
, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
, and the most recent, mesmerizing heartbreaker, The Constant Gardener
And so my interest was peaked as soon as I got the word about this alleged Femme Fatale.
It is therefore not a surprise that my interest was teased by the thought of an alleged Femme Fatale perfume named Agent Provocateur
conspiring in some remote olfactory regions. I pondered it for quite a while before I dared to approach it. It sounded like such a grandiose ambition, almost intimidating in a way. The fact that the scent was nowhere to be sniffed until very recently helped the denial process. Out of sight, out of mind.
I first smelled it in London, it’s birthplace, I suppose, and immediately dismissed it as being too bold and loud as well as old fashioned, and was rather convinced that it smelled like other perfumes I smelled before (if indeed I smelled something like it that was when I was a little girl, and I have no way to track it at the moment besides, perhaps, relying on your suggestions and guesses – and these are more than welcome!). Than one day, it showed up at my doorstep one day (thanks to Pamela Hettrich - thank you, Pam!), and I decided to grant it with my bare skin. What may have smelled sharp, bitter, spicy, acrid and dry at first – with a dash of aldehydes for a good measure of old-fashionedness – turned into a quite interesting yet very wearable fragrance.
It is not as soft as the smooth egg-shaped (a symbol of fertility, claim the marketing masterminds behind the scent; fertility and espionage, interesting combination...) porcelain flask may suggest. But it does have the contrasting effect, reminiscent of the black lace through which the pale pink shade skin tone peeks, as if blushed.
The spicy, sharp opening of coriander and saffron exudes confidence more than it is exotic or Arabesque as may be expected. It does, however, mellow quite quickly with an explosion of roses laced with hints of complementary flowers, their softness undermined by the dry, acrid tones of cedar and Vetiver. The dry down is actually softer – there is still cedar, roses and Vetiver, but they crubmle into a dry yet soft, powdery presence underlined with musk. Despite the dryness and because of its warmth, Agent Provocateur is like a sexy coarse voice from a mouth dry from heat and excitement. But it can also be other things.
Agent Provocateur is allegedly the scent that will provoke upon you inconceivable naughty crimes that you would have never thought of before. But really it is just one solidly constructed perfume for a change, in a fragrance world that often seems to dissolve into an awkward redundancy and offers unreliable olfactory fantasies. It has all that I like about Ivoire (roses, dry woods and leather), but without the sharp greenness. One could easily drop the sexy image and wear it to a formal occasion without ever being accused of sexual harassment or any other provocations. Even Mata Hari needs to go for lunch sometimes.
I would not pretend that Agent Provocateur does not have any of the Femme Fatale allure to it. It is a sensual, bold and daring in its own way. But I am not so sure about the espionage component… My feeling is that if it indeed provoked anything in that direction, it is the re-definition of Chypre. There is no oakmoss in it to make it a Chypre, yet this is its official classification. As a perfumer and a Chypre admirer and expert I would classify it as a woody floral, or a spicy oriental. If there is a perfume to blame for the introduction of the concept of “Pink Chypres” in modern perfumery, let it be Agent Provocateur. But I will get into this conspiracy theory at another time…Top notes: Saffron, Coriander
Middle notes: Moroccan Rose, Jasmin, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang, White Gardenia
Base notes: Cedar, Vetiver, Amber, Musk