Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
While recently exploring dark, oriental roses, I realized that I have never reviewed the sultriest of them all, the original Agent Provocateur. It is an omission on my part because this fragrance not only posseses a fantastic aura—an explosive mélange of everything dark, seductive and hypnotic — but it also manages to strike a great balance between provocatively flamboyant and classically elegant. The usual route for sexy, deep cleavage perfumes is the oriental genre with its warm, opulent notes of vanilla, spices and balsams, but Agent Provocateur chooses the mysterious allure of chypre and its mossy woods to convey its passionate character.
Created by perfumer Christian Provenzano in 2000 for the saucy British lingerie brand, Agent Provocateur blends the richness of rose, patchouli and leather with the austere darkness of oakmoss and smoky amber. The initial fiery flourish of cardamom, coriander and pepper sets a smoldering sensation which is maintained from the top note to the last chord. This warmth runs through the voluptuous form of Agent Provocateur, lending it a very pleasant sparkling sensation. After all, the fragrance is built around notes that are quite heavy and rich, and a spicy accent serves to dispel some of the heft. The main floral theme of Agent Provocateur is rose, and here it is developed as a lush, full-bodied crimson flower. It blooms on the skin and unfolds in layers of honeyed, sweet petals.
As the composition develops, its chypre character becomes more obvious. The flamboyant opulence gives way to a moody, dark character as the mossy, leathery notes come to the forefront. The characteristic chypre juxtaposition of warm and cool materials is explored beautifully in Agent Provocateur in order to convey a sensual, teasing effect. The dramatic and bold sillage of patchouli and moss wrapped roses reminds me of the strong signature commonly found in classical grand parfums. For this reason, Agent Provocateur seems much more than a passing trend and may in fact become a future classic. After all, the desire to seduce, which it evokes so successfully, is timeless as well.
Agent Provocateur (fragrance family: chypre, or as Michael Edwards refers to it, mossy woods) includes notes of cardamom, ylang-ylang, coriander, saffron, gardenia, Egyptian jasmine, magnolia, Moroccan rose, cedarwood, leather, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, amber, and musk. There is also the Eau de Toilette version, Agent Provocateur Eau Emotionnelle. For those wanting to explore similar dark, moody roses, I would recommend Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady, Jean-Couturier Coriandre and Parfums Grès Cabaret. They each offer a dark rose dominated by a strong patchouli-leather note.