Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fascination Perfumery - Part 2: L’Agent Provocateur L’Agent, Elie Saab Le Parfum, And Boudoir Scents That Are Basque-ing For Trouble

So...back to Fascination Perfumery, and the second instalment of my sniffing report.

Next up Lynne had me trying drugstore brand Alyssa Ashley’s 2009 launch, Essence de Patchouli. Alyssa Ashley I associate with her 1968(!) fragrance, Musk, which I am not even sure I have tried. It always seems to fetch up on those clearance tables in my local department store, along with the weirder shaped Anna Sui bottles and unloved scents from various Elizabeths (Arden, Taylor). Now Alyssa Ashley could be the reference musk for all I know, yet I had studiously avoided the brand till Lynne pressed me to try Essence de Patchouli in its admittedly rather sleek white canister.

Notes: rose, geranium, iris, cashmeran, cedar, guaiac, patchouli, musk, labdanum, coumarin, vanilla

The initial burst of patchouli struck me as rather loud and rough, but it softened considerably into a poor man’s L’Ombre Fauve or Labdanum 18. Oh yes... A very indigent man maybe, but there was a resemblance. I wish I had tried it on skin. I mean, don’t those notes look lovely to you? (Okay, maybe not the coumarin.) And doesn't the bottle remind you a little of the Tom Ford White Patchouli one? Er...chopped into three, lengthways, say? Oh, and if Alyssa is thinking of going on the pull wearing this scent, she might want to consider losing the beanie.

Staying with our emerging theme of geranium – you don’t see it emerging? Trust me, it will! – Lynne gave me a sample of the new Agent Provocateur L’Agent to try.

My immediate thought on smelling this dark, brooding, powdery diva of a scent was that it was as though regular Agent Provocateur had provoked Strip to strip, and the resultant love child was L’Agent.

Without further ado, the notes are as follows:

Top: davana oil, baies rose, ylang ylang, rosewood, angelica

Heart: geranium bourbon, rose de Mai, jasmin sambac, tuberose absolute, osmanthus

Base: patchouli, sandalwood, amber crystals, tonka beans, rock rose, myrrh, black incense, musk

Additionally, Lynne explained that L’Agent contains pheromones! I found this titbit reported on both Now Smell This and Fragrantica (see quote below), so I am going to take it on good faith – after all, if it is good enough for Escentric Molecules...but hold on, didn’t that turn out just to be Iso E Super in the end?

“In addition to the pyramidal structure, the perfume composition also contains a new secret ingredient of pheromones, guaranteeing heart-winning excitement.”

Wow, guaranteeing heart-winning excitement - it must be really something, then...

Returning to my love child theory again, having cross-referenced the notes, I can confirm that L’Agent shares amber and ylang-ylang with both original Agent Provocateur AND Strip, then rose and jasmine with original AP and geranium bourbon with Strip. So that looks like a fair old helix of common DNA to me.

As with Strip, L’Agent kicks off with a “Geronimo!” of a geranium opening, however, it subsides more quickly, and the scent doesn’t majorly change after that, beyond getting quietly powdery. If the character I would associate with original AP is a Betty Boo, Benefit make up-using 50s starlet perched demurely on her dressing table stool, the person I would associate with L’Agent is wearing two-tone black and pink lace underwear under a black silk kimono - while the wearer of Strip is wearing a red basque under a black nylon peignoir...and carrying a whip.

Now the keen-eyed reader will spot nuances there on the “lingerie louche-o-meter”, but in truth Strip and L’Agent are very close in persona, if not in scent. L’Agent is more feminine and girlish, but still packs a hefty seductive punch. It is definitely more of a hard hitter than regular AP, which I know a number of people think nothing of wearing to work!

Would I wear L’Agent out? Sure I would, and I am not saying that just because someone once indirectly referred to me as a “pious old fluffer” (in a debate loosely about sex in advertising, in case anyone's curiosity is overwhelming!).

Which leads me finally to Elie Saab Le Parfum, the new signature fragrance of the Lebanese designer of that name, of whom I must confess I had never heard till the other day.

On Wikipedia I learnt that Saab – whom, given my history of automotive component projects, it is hard not to think of as a Swedish car - became an overnight success after he dressed Halle Berry at the Oscars in 2002. His other celebrity clients now include Catherine Zeta-Jones (whose name is weirdly starting to look like the new Andy Tauer scent...), Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, Queen Rania of Jordan, Beyoncé, Christine Aguilera and Angelina Jolie.

Elie Saab Le Parfum isn’t due to be launched in the USA till July, according to Now Smell This, never mind here, and Lynne didn’t have a tester of it yet, or even a manufacturer’s sample. However, she had squirrelled away some of the lovely stuff in her Travalo atomiser at the recent Milan fair, and let me test it on skin. The perfumer is one of my very favourites, Francis Kurkdjian, and the rather thin note listing tells us that it contains orange blossom, jasmine, patchouli and cedar. I have read elsewhere that there is a honeyed rose note in there too.

I am just going off my memory on the day, but Elie Saab was simultaneously bold and pretty, powdery yet shot through with a radiance that must have been the orange, while the patchouli grounded it and added depth. This one was like the offspring of APOM pour Femme - whose equally evasive note listing merely concedes orange blossom, cedar and ylang-ylang(!) - and the new L’Agent, say. Or if we could make it a three way love child – it’ll be a right mutant, granted, but in good company on this blog – I'll add a splash of Jo Malone Orange Blossom for a bit of brightness, as APOM pour femme is quite heavy on the old cedar, much as I love it. Ah, Elie Saab was lovely, and I would probably have bought a bottle there and then if one had been available. Not as "provocative" as L’Agent, but prettier and more of a statement scent than APOM pour Femme.

So there you have it - a few foxy scents to suit the whole gamut of seductive styles, from peeping-under-your-fringe-coyness at a film premiere a la Princess Diana back in the day (Elie Saab), to the full-on basque and suspenders raunchfest of Strip. Which all feels a world away from the quiet week I am spending at my desk, ringing an assortment of European users of polyurethane (PUR). I have yet to do a job in PVC, but fancy it might lead down some exotic lines of inquiry...

Photo of L'Agent from fragrantica.com, photo of Alyssa Ashley from Facebook, photo of bra from mentionables.co.uk, photo of basque from rainbowdecorative.co.uk, photo of Elie Le Parfum from saratavasolian.onsugar.com, photo of Halle Berry from stylelist.com


  1. This guy "dresses" Beyonce well at least his fabric costs won't be high ! I must be no 2 old fluffer because just Argent's bottle puts me off. As for Francis Kurkdijian I sent for a sample pack and they all turned out to be big scrubbers on me !

  2. Hi Angela,

    LOL re Elie Saab's fabric costs!

    I don't mind the bottle shape, but I wish L'Agent looked a bit more different from original AP. It reminds me of one of my saucepans - I am forever leaving them on the hob to burn dry, and the soot creeps up the edges exactly like this!

    Sorry you haven't had any luck with FK's creations - I don't care for all his own range, but love a lot of the stuff he does for other houses.

  3. Calling "Pious old fluffer"!

    What did you say to cause such a phrase to issue from another person's lips/keyboard? I'm intrigued (nosey?) because the mind just boggles.

    I'm loving Alyssa's beanie - puts me in mind of the indestructible elasticated fabric turbans that Ladies of a Certain Age wear. Fab.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  4. I am so far out of the fragrance loop these days. Hadn't heard about l'Agent, Ashley or Saab...just found out about those new l'Artisans, Mon Numero, today as well. Where have I bin? Lost in dirty diapers???

    So it appears to me that not only are you an ylang-lover, but also a patchouli one too! Eeek! I think you'll need to knit yourself a beanie :-)

  5. I'm one of those people who's quite happy to wear AP to work. Not because I'm particularly AP-ish. I'm afraid it's because I'm simply to provincial to recognize a bit of skank, when it's right under my nose. And I'm currently happily sniffing Iris Ukiyoe on one arm and finding it rather sexy, a fragrance that is apparently supposed to be an exercise in japonesque minimalistic understatement.

    Generally, I'm really puzzled about the whole what's-sexy-what's-not in fragrances. Perhaps I should start asking people (trusted ones). Or maybe not.

  6. Hi Anna,

    It was actually a combination of things - someone made a number of unpleasant sexist comments about me and another woman in a forum and in the end I complained and that was the backlash...

  7. Hi lovethescents,

    Well, I wouldn't say that I am that up to speed on new releases myself - I have heard about the new L'Artisans, but not tried any, same script with the latest PGs.

    And I am a ylang and patch lover, it is true! And vanilla of course, another supposed aphrodisiac note. Yes, I need to knit myself that beanie and pull it well down over my eyes...

    : - )

    And guess what - I got a compliment on Ajne Printemps last night at a friend's leaving do. The person in question (a musician friend of Mr Bonkers) came back for a second sniff when he saw me going. That was a turn up for the books!

  8. Hi Marie,

    I am with you on original AP and don't find it noticeably skanky, though it has a bit of a femme fatale reputation. Vivienne Boudoir (powdery and in broadly similar vein) is quite another matter - pure pyrotechnical filth to my nose!

    That Hermes you mention does apparently behave very differently on different people, I am hearing. And maybe sexy is one of those ways - so far I have heard this one described as "plasticky", "shampoo-y", "pretty floral" and "minimalist water colour". : - )

  9. Oh_my_goodness!!! A second sniff! I don't think that's ever happened to me. Congratulations, you patchy hippie!

  10. I will dig out that sample of L'Agent I have somewhere and see whether it fits my undergarments. ;)

  11. I will be on the lookout for Elie Saab Le Parfum when it comes out: thanks for the advance sniff report on that one, Vanessa! July sounds like a good launch date for it, as by your description, it sounds like the perfect summer scent.

  12. Hi lovethescents,

    It was miraculous, for sure. But now Printemps doesn't have patchouli in it, does it? Or is that just an expression for someone wearing noticeable sillage! : - )

  13. Hi Olfactoria,

    I'm agog to know if it does! ; - )

  14. Hi Suzanne,

    It was simply lovely - possibly a bit too va-va-voom to make the cut as a wedding scent, for anyone considering such things at that time of year, but I'd be inclined to give it a go myself (theoretically!)

  15. I'm a fan of the original AP, and have been meaning to seek out a sample of L'Agent... I think that I will actively pursue it the next time I'm in Portland, because it sounds really nice.

    (dee was here) LOL! :)

  16. Hi V, no Printemps contains NO patch, thankfully for my poor nose :-) I just called you that because I'd only just clocked you were a patch-lover.

  17. Hello Dee,

    You're here again - I saw you! Goodness me, yes, do actively pursue L'Agent in Portland - you could also try Beaverton, maybe. (Sorry, that was a bad taste joke. : - ) )

    It is really nice, possibly my favourite of the line now.

  18. Hi lovethescents,

    Sorry, I ran those two comments of yours together and adulterated Printemps with patchouli, though it didn't sound quite right, I'll admit!

  19. "Pious old fluffer"? What does this person mean by fluffer? Where I come from, the word "fluffer" generally does not end up in the same sentence as "pious".

    I think I'll give that Saab frag a sniff when available. "Honeyed rose" gets me every time!

  20. Hi lovethescents,

    Very funny!!

  21. Hi JoanElaine,

    Where I come from the word "fluffer" doesn't end up in the same sentence as "pious" either...

    In fact I think the person managed to cram a whole bunch of insults in there, implying that I was old, ostensibly moralistic but really...how shall I put it?....a good time girl. So yes, you could probably add "hypocritical" to that little lot!

  22. Ah! Woman with Backbone, calling out a misogynistic eejit, equates to POF. Some people!

    The Saab (not a car, not a car!) sounds good to me too.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  23. Hey Bonks - do you think it would be silly for someone who loves the original AP to purchase L'Agent? Are the different enough to warrant the outlay of cash?

  24. Hi Anna,

    I know - it is tough to be a Woman with Backbone, even now and again. When I used to be a product manager for assorted chilled foods many moons ago, I remember "calling out" a Depot Mgr in Bristol for picking the orange juice with the shortest code life left on it to go on the longest journey to market (to N Ireland, as it happened). My (male) boss told me off for my "emotional" outburst. And there's me thinking I was just giving him a piece of my mind.

  25. Hmm, BF, good question, which - as a Strip owner! - I am also asking myself at the moment. I haven't taken the plunge yet, more because of the similar bottle design actually than the juice. So the answer is probably yes on the perfume end of things. I would test it first, though.

    I'd be open to splitting a bottle with anyone who is also semi-interested!

  26. Dear Pious Old Fluffer (hilarious, I love it!)
    You are responsible for me blind-buying a bottle of Strip.
    Just now. Ebay.
    Damn but I hope it's as sexy as you say!

  27. Oh my, Wordbird, the responsibility!!

    I hope you got a good deal... : - )

    You like Kenzo Amour so I know you are okay with powder, and the other main requisite is a liking for geranium, then you are good to go!

    Here's TS on it in The Guide (****)

    "Dear Cartier, take note: this upstart panty firm just had your Baiser du Dragon for lunch."

  28. Hi Vanessa
    I've gotten myself into trouble a number of times as well in the Woman with Backbone department. One of the most memorable was some 7 years ago when I told the boss of my future boss (we were hiring and I was on the committe for that) that I didn't appreciate it much that he referred to my colleagues (who were mainly women) as "the crying women", the situation being that he was asking (during the interviews)the applicants how they would cope with conflicts between staff members. He
    told me not to be sensitive. I told him that I wasn't being sensitive. I was being sensibly aware of gender related issues and that that was another thing altogether.

    Suffice it to say that he came down hard on me for that one. I found another job. And still think of him as a prize fool.

  29. P.S. How would one go about splitting a bottle?

  30. I'm with Marie - can we split one three ways!? Or would the postage make it a non-good-deal

  31. Hi Marie,

    Yours sounds like a very similar experience to mine - another male authority figure, another misrepresentation of women as emotional...

    Glad you found another job. Sounds like a good move!

  32. Hi Marie and BF

    A three way split is feasible - or maybe a 15ml, 15ml and 20ml split, given that these bottles are 50ml.

    The cheapest price in the UK is £45 - can anyone better that? I could host it but not till I am back from my trip. : - )

    There again, I am not attached to the bottle particularly, so happy to come in on someone else's deal, if a better price than £45 can be found anywhere...?

  33. L'agent is not available where I live yet, so probably the UK price would be the cheapest.

    What would we be doing payment wise?

  34. Paypal is usually the easiest way, if people have that?

  35. I have a Paypal account, haven't used it yet, but it still exists and is being activated, so that's fine by me.

    I'm still interested in a split. Whether we split it evenly or 15 + 15 + 20 doesn't matter to me, whatever is more convienient for the person having to deal with it. It's also perfectly fine to wait until your back from your trip.

  36. Hi! Where did you find Alyssa Ashley Patchouli in the UK? I really want to try it as a fan of patchouli scents.. but I've not seen it anywhere here...

  37. Hi TatjanaK,

    Fascination Perfumery, as per the title of the post! ; - )

    They have an online store too, if you are not anywhere near Lytham St Annes.


  38. Hi Marie,

    Okay, then! I will also look out for it on my travels, though the continent tends to be dearer, as you know.

  39. Hi Vanessa
    Clearer is a diplomatic way of putting things :-)

    Happy trails on the old continent.

  40. I think you may mean "dearer"...? : - )

  41. Dearer, of course! oh, man, she says, nose close enough to her computer screen to leave marks! I'm slowly coming to terms with the circumstance that not only am I having trouble reading text on my laptop computer, I'm also having trouble reading what I myself write - in other words, it may be time for reading glasses! Or computer glasses, anyway. I have a prescrioption for computer glasses lying around, but haven't done anything about it yet. But I probably should before I end up in some unfortunate situations brought about by my declining eyesight! :-)

  42. Hi Marie,

    Don't worry - you are in good company with your declining eyesight! I didn't know there were such things as computer glasses, but I see reading glasses - or varifocals more like - are in my near (-sighted) future.

    My long distance glasses are perched so far down my nose now when I want to read, that it can only be a matter of time before they fall off the end altogether.

  43. The direct translation from Danish would be "screen glasses", not necessarily being the same as reading glasses, because the distance from book/paper to nose is not the same as the distance from screen to nose. I can still read most of what I need to read (paper back novels are now selected not only based on content but also on print size) with the glasses I have (near-sighted), but the rather small screen of my laptop is beginning to cause problems (notice that I place the problem outside myself). Ultimately, I will have to let the optometrist take a look at the problem. I'm scared of bifocals, or varifocals, for that matter. Some people I know have had a lot of problems adjusting to them. My optometrist is quite calm on the subject: "The day will come where you will come begging for bifocals", she said. Cheerful woman.

  44. Hi Marie,

    I am also scared of bi- and varifocals, but my optician sounds just like yours, haha, and is convinced I will come crawling back some day. Possibly because the long sight glasses did indeed fall off my nose in the end, leaving me on my hands and knees looking in vain for the darn things. ; - )

  45. Been there, too. I wear unrimmed glasses and they blend exceptionally well with whatever surface they choose to hide on. One dark winter morning the only spare glasses I could find were my prescription sunglasses, so there I was in semi darkness looking for my glasses wearing shades - cooool! ;-)

  46. Bonks, I love love LOVE L'Agent!! It's my new favorite va-va-voom perfume. It's a fascinating smell. Even though the pheromone stuff has got to be horse-puckey. (BTW, did you really mean "Betty Boo", the 80s pop star?)

    And Bloody Frida, L'Agent is a completely different composition to Agent Provocateur, so you are entirely justified in owning both.

  47. thanks Katie!! gotta go find some - oh wait, I think I'm abstaining from perfume purchas... oh nevermind.. I'm such an addict

  48. Hi Marie,

    Love the "vision" of you looking for your specs in sunglasses - I guess dark and defined is better on balance than bright and hopelessly fuzzy?

  49. Hi Katie,

    Very glad to meet someone else who knows and loves this one! I am of course a confirmed ylang-o-holic, so somewhat predetermined to like the AP line generally.

    And Bloody, Marie (oh, look - that is almost Bloody Mary!), Katie has spoken - we are justified in owning L'Agent as well as regular AP, or in my case, Strip.

    So yes, we can go forth and split with a clear conscience....

  50. Let's split! That's what I say.
    I've decided that I need a bit more va-va-voom in my perfume collection (along with a couple of other good things). Am already looking forward to smelling L'agent.

    Vanessa and Frida, would you care for a sample of AP Eau Emotionelle at some point? I've been a bit critical of it because ot its lightness. But it's really unfair, I'v realized that. It's actually quite nice - light and woody and pleasant. More of a skin scent.

    Bloody Mary - I like that.

  51. hehe I like "Bloody Mary" too!

    I'm in for the split - let me know what I should do next.

    And the EE sounds nice!

  52. Frida, as a part of the whole AP experience I'd be happy to send you a sample. I think it's quite fun to try and do a 360 on the AP range.

  53. Hi Bloody Mary,

    Am placing an order with Fascination Perfumery tomorrow - they can match the House of Fraser best price of £45, and I would like to put business their way! The actual splitting will have to wait till after my trip, if that is okay?

    Thanks, Marie, I would like to try EE too - I think I smelled it once in store and liked it, but have never had an in-home sample.

  54. Hi Vanessa, it's perfectly ok to wait until you're home again - no hurry at all. Always good to provide business for smaller, independent sellers.

    Two samples of EE coming up.
    Frida, just email me your address at your convinience.

  55. Thanks, Mary - sorry, Marie!

    : - )

  56. That's quite OK, I'v been called worse names ;-)
    And my maternal grandmother's name was Mary.

  57. Hi Vanessa,

    Firstly I should re introduce myself as Sharon's friend whom you met last year at her house in Bispham. Ring any bells ?

    I guess I'm about 6 months behind the drag curve but.....I was soooooo happy reading your blog about the Elie Saab perfume as I've been rather impulsive and bought it today (in the Debenhams sale) without first smelling but now can't wait for it to be delivered!

    Thank you and hopefully see you sometime in April for Sharon's birthday celebrations x

  58. Hi Anonymous,

    I know you - you are the woman who rocks Lady Million, if I am not mistaken.

    I am full of trepidation as to your impressions about Elie Saab, for blind buying is a high risk strategy we fumeheads always warn people against, whilst occasionally succumbing to such impulses ourselves! I hope you got it for a good price in the first place. Hmm, just had a thought - I could send you a sample of it, and if you didn't like it you could return it intact in its packaging. That might not be a bad plan. I will message you on Facebook!

    See you on Sharon's birthday, yes. : - )

    I was just deliberating what to have on the menu - the soup of the day might be good, but I would need to know what it is! - and as regards the mains I am all over the map but will have to make up my mind shortly...

  59. Oh I'm honoured well remembered Vanessa you got me in one !!

    Believe me I'm not usually so frivolous but being off work with sciatica has really got me down and retail therapy always lifts my spirits.

    I appreciate your offer but would like to reassure you that I'll be hot footing it into town as soon as I can to sniff and apply before opening my much anticipated purchase...that's if I can resist the temptation.

    I haven't seen the menu as yet so wait with baited breath....

    Take care and see you very soon.

    Angela x

  60. Hi Angela,

    I have since clocked that you are in fact my 113th follower, but I promise I did guess who you were before that, hehe!

    And I quite understand the appeal of a spot of retail therapy - also without having the very reasonable excuse of sciatica to justify it. Sorry to hear you are laid up with that.

    Let me know if you can't get to sniff this one in a tester, but good for you for having had the same idea of trying after you buy, but before you open it!

    I wore Elie Saab a lot last summer, and spent some weeks concertedly tracking down samples in stores across Europe. I amassed about six in the end, and a fellow blogger has since given me a sizeable decant on top of that.

    So if you decide you like Elie Saab, but don't LOVE it, ie if it doesn't make the cut of being FBW (Full Bottle Worthy) as we say, take it back and I can sort you out with a smaller decant for occasional use!