Agent Provocateur Perfume : Fragrance Review

Agent provocateur1

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.



  • maria: I really must try this it sounds like a winner for me. January 5, 2011 at 1:44am Reply

  • Lily: This one was a little too musky for me, I remember feeling like the musk base note lasted for days!

    Very much enjoying your regular posts though 🙂 January 5, 2011 at 4:45am Reply

  • hongkongmom: love this and also “strip” which is more feminine,powdery, musky, ambery (if this is possible) than it’s sister January 5, 2011 at 4:56am Reply

  • Carrie Meredith: You sure have made this perfume sound tempting! I often struggle with rose as a note, but have not given up. I’m particularly taken with the base notes here, especially with the inclusion of cedar (which I’ve found to be the perfect note for my body chemistry). Do you find the cedar to stand out much? January 5, 2011 at 1:16am Reply

  • Olfactoria: You had me at “Chypre”. I never smelled this one and didn´t desire to, but you sure make this sound very interesting. January 5, 2011 at 6:59am Reply

  • Marina: I love the coriander in it. Love that note in anything really (food first of all :)) January 5, 2011 at 8:32am Reply

  • bloody frida: I absolutely adore this scent! January 5, 2011 at 9:34am Reply

  • dee: B; I’ll send you some, since this is on my “Eros” list! January 5, 2011 at 11:50am Reply

  • dee: This is a favorite in my household; the husband loves to wear it even more than I do, and we often wear it as an evening scent… 😉 January 5, 2011 at 11:52am Reply

  • Victoria: It is a very good fragrance, definitely very sensual! January 5, 2011 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find that rose can be very different, depending on what other notes are used to frame it. Here, it is certainly obvious, but the main players are patchouli, leather, spices. Cedarwood is part of the woody accord, so while I notice it, I would not say that it dominates. Patchouli is much stronger! January 5, 2011 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lily, thank you! 🙂 Yes, it is quite musky, you are right! January 5, 2011 at 12:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, Strip completely slipped from my mind, so thank you for reminding me about it. Such a nice sister fragrance to Agent Provocateur! January 5, 2011 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is worth exploring! Definitely! January 5, 2011 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: Do take up Danielle on her offer! 🙂 I think that you will enjoy it. January 5, 2011 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Me too, I am a coriander fiend, and this is one of the first fragrances, in which I noticed this note upfront and very clear. Such a nice effect with roses! January 5, 2011 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, so good to see other fans of Agent Provocateur! I always keep returning to it. January 5, 2011 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh la la! Such a clever strategy! 🙂
    I can imagine AP smelling great on a man, just like Portrait of A Lady. The rose there definitely takes a step back to let patchouli and leather shine. Seductive scent, whether on a man or on a woman. January 5, 2011 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Olfactoria: Perfect! Thank you so much, Dee! 😀 xoxo January 5, 2011 at 1:58pm Reply

  • Victoria: And I already look forward to your review! 🙂 January 5, 2011 at 2:32pm Reply

  • minette: when i first smelled this one years ago, i was taken aback by its dirty-underpants quality – something out of a busy boudoir. it took me a while to come to appreciate it, but now i love it. although, to be honest, AP maitresse is even better on me than this on. THAT is truly a bombshell scent – totally va-va-voom. i also like AP strip, but it’s in a completely different vein – powdery spices and wet incense. they do a darn fine job with their perfumes, considering they are a lingerie house. January 5, 2011 at 7:42pm Reply

  • March: Wow. You know, I can’t remember ever giving this any serious attention at all, which now sounds like something of an oversight. I also want to add that it’s fun reading reviews on here of older things and scents that I don’t think of as especially “niche,” however we define it. January 5, 2011 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: March, you are right, AP is not as unknown as some other brands we tend to like, but especially when I wear it now, 10 years since its launch, I am enjoying it more and more. I will take it over many niche and so-called luxury brands anytime! January 5, 2011 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: You know, I cannot recall Maitresse that well now, but I think that when I tried it around the time it was launched, I was not impressed. I need to go back and resmell it. I felt about AP the same way you did, it struck me as such bold, dirty fragrance, I was not sure how anyone could wear it. Now, it seems just right! January 5, 2011 at 8:14pm Reply

    • Laura Donna: I tried it ten years ago when I was 51 and thought I was not old enough to wear it. Found a sample the other day and wore it to a dance (just two sprays — it is strong). Finally, I am old enough. Just bought a full bottle and the cream. August 19, 2018 at 7:35pm Reply

  • minette: was trying to think of how to describe maitresse – it has a very femme, lipsticky feel, a little like la mome (which i adore) – but it’s also juicy somehow. like a juicy rose lipstick. there’s some powder, but not that disgusting baby-powder powder. i actually need to pull it out and wear it – it always perks me up. there is something sunny about it. if it had a color, it would be a glorious geranium cranberry. if it were a fabric, it would be a plush silk velvet.

    strip, by contrast, is tones of browns and greys in heavy metallic gauze. it’s the one most unlike the other APs. again, i think the AP line is pretty darn good. January 6, 2011 at 7:51pm Reply

  • Lindaloo: Although the lingerie in my city’s year-old Agent Provocateur store doesn’t come in my size, I think I’ll have to drop in after all, because this fragrance sounds like it may be juuust right. Rose, patchouli and leather — I’m heading for the tester. Thanks so much for the review. January 6, 2011 at 10:02pm Reply

  • Joan: I have Agent Provocateur Strip, and it smells deliciously crisp, like spices mixed with menthol. I should try this one! And I love Agent Provocateur’s underwear too! January 6, 2011 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: Strip sounds very good, I am tempted to dig out my sample. I have tried it previously, but have not really smelled it properly recently. January 6, 2011 at 6:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: You totally pushed me over the edge! I am going to dig through my boxes to find the sample. It just sounds so marvelous, and since our tastes are similar, I know that I might like it.
    Thank you for inspiration! 🙂 January 6, 2011 at 10:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: I go to the store mostly for perfumes too! AP is so gorgeous, dark, bold, rich. I also love the bottle–even the feel of that heavy ceramic in my hand is seductive. I cannot believe I have not reviewed it sooner, it is one of my favorite fragrances. January 6, 2011 at 10:46pm Reply

  • brian: I love AP. It’s so moody and compelling. Strip by AP is very good too. It was limited but available online. But AP is the favorite for me. January 7, 2011 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: Brian, aha, this makes sense now. I was sure that Strip was available for a limited time only. I spotted a tester at Bendels last month, but then the sales rep told me that they no longer sell it.
    The original AP is definitely one of those fragrances for me that become almost addictive as I wear them. January 7, 2011 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Sandy: Oh. My. I ordered an affordable, oil-based knockoff because I didn’t want to spend lots of $$ for something I might not like. If this lower-cost version is even just a shadow of the original, I’ll be investing!

    I scour estate sales looking for vintage Rive Gauche, but AP has that metallic blast that I loved in the original RG. It could be my new favorite.

    Can’t wait to try the Maitresse and Strip versions. June 29, 2011 at 4:36pm Reply

  • judith tropes: I have been using Agent Pro ocateur since 2003 I just love the scent and always. Get compliments on it! June 18, 2014 at 5:30pm Reply

  • Adriana: This is a marvelous creation, I love it deeply and I pray they’ll keep producing it. God that bottle is to die for, so simple yet so luxurious, I hope I would be able to buy it for ever. I have a tendency to use this one light handed, more than anything else, like we do with very precious things, for fear one day it may not be available. Yes, it is about roses, but not only, it is so complex and so rounded, it can compete with many many on a more prisy cathegory and win! August 13, 2015 at 12:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t agree more! It’s so dramatic. August 13, 2015 at 4:47pm Reply

  • Jacquie: Is this anything like Red Door or Paris?
    I love roses….
    I cant try it so wanting to blind buy it.
    I do love strong perfumes, my fav being Rive Gauche, Poison, Opium, Youth Dew, Shalimar, Eternity etc
    Thank you July 6, 2017 at 6:28am Reply

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