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