If the name historically evokes secret agents sent to stir up trouble among the population in order to justify the recourse to force by law and order, it is employed here to conjure up the ages-old association of women, perfumes and seduction allied with the idea of a provocation for men of an erotic nature. The breast is weaponized. Not so surprisingly then - but we must admit that we were actually surprised initially - the perfume turns out to be a classic and potent traditional floral chypre underneath the surface of hip and niche scent aesthetics. The scent smells like a close cousin or even a twin sister of Sisley Eau du Soir, except that the sillage is more subdued while it remains a strong perfume - and it is powdery, which Eau du Soir is not.
Top notes are advertised as being pure saffron oil from India, coriander from Russia, the heart being composed of Moroccan rose oil, Egyptian jasmine, French magnolia oil, ylang, and white flowers from the Comoros. Its base notes are vetiver from Haiti, amber, and musk.
Despite the accent put on the exotic origins of its essences, Agent Provocateur does not suggest any of these far away locales. It is blended to smell urbane and sophisticated and to us, it evokes the 50's, the New Look, a young Lauren Bacall smoking a cigarette with an extra-long cigarette-holder, the rustling of a Dior dress, all ample skirt and slim waist. Agent Provocateur exudes confidence and maturity, it is made for a woman in control, chic, in a 50's sense - not a 40s or a 60s sense - a 50s sense when all what women deeply wanted was a return to glamor at the end of WWII. This is maybe why some people have characterized it as "old-ladyish." It is not; it is rather to our nose, revivalist in style, and so more to the point, it feels slightly retro, without smelling dated.