Agent Provocateur perfumes always manage to surprise me by never conforming to what I expect them to be, and usually (not including some of the flankers) for the better. The ad campaigns are often somewhat tacky (yes, we get it, you make raunchy lingerie), but the fragrances are quite grownup, smart and in most case correspond with earlier ages in perfumery. Pétale Noir, Agent Provocateur's release from late last year, takes me back to the massive florientals of the late 80s, a category that's heavily represented in my personal perfume collection.
The note list of Pétale Noir is huge and looks like it's trying way too hard. In reality, the fragrance opens with a massive bouquet of spring flowers-- I can definitely smell some favorites like magnolia and green-tinged hyacinth. The pollen fest is gently tampered with sweetness-- it's not quite fruity or juicy, just barely so. There's a hint of powder, a makeup table in a large boudoir decorated with a vintage porcelain vase full of fresh flowers. Pétale Noir is very femme in the way some older Annick Goutal perfumes can be in their bow-decorated bottles in the pink or gold pouch. It's a little retro and very pleasant for this child of the 1970s-80s.
The dry-down of Pétale Noir promises a lot of "noir" in the way of leather, amber, tobacco leaf and such. I have no idea where most of these notes are hiding. Definitely not on my skin. The leather is a faraway whisper, blended into a very creamy and ambery base that feels soft, friendly and utterly harmless. My beloved florientals of yore are far more daring and assertive than this pretty girl, which I guess makes Agent Provocateur more modern in its approach.
Whatever. I just wish that for once someone will actually deliver on the Noir promise.
Notes: mandarin, water lily, bergamot, violet leaves, hyacinth, magnolia, rose otto, rose absolute, ylang ylang, muguet, orris, osmanthus, neroli, cassis blossom, ginger, leather, sandalwood, vetiver, tobacco leaf, amber, musk and sandalwood.
Agent Provocateur- Pétale Noir ($87, 1.7oz EDP) is available from Nordstrom.
Beauty editorial by Albert Watson for Vogue UK, May 1985.
Photo from Agent Provocateur Pétale Noir launch party at a members’ club in Mayfair, London, 2012.