Viewer Mail: Help Us Smell Like Badasses!

Dear Katie,

My friend and I, perfume novice-types, were pen-palling recently about perfume and Agent Provocateur came up. I said something about how I was curious to try it, since I heard it was a little skanky.

I wrote: “I think skanky in a DIRTY-UNDIES way, which is my favorite way. I'm not going to even pretend that's not true.”

And then she wrote: “I hope so! I saw 'dirty' and 'skanky' used NUMEROUS TIMES. WE NEED TO VERIFY THESE ALLEGATIONS. I need something truly skanky for those days when I need to add a little shot of BADASS before I leave the house. Something that smells like being on tour with the Stones in the 70s.”

So of course, the first thing I thought was, "You know who would know how to smell like the dirty underwear of a roadie from a classic Stones tour? Katie Puckrik!"

So I'm counting on you, oh my favorite-est perfume blogger! Lay on the KNOWLEDGE.


Heidi -- I’m going to lay lady lay on the knowledge like no groupie’s business -- perfume-wise, that is. And regarding your metaphor, I’m sticking with groupie underwear, because roadie underwear is just a gusset too far, even for this filth-lover.

I describe Agent Provocateur as “a slutty rose: intensely feminine, intimately female”. AP goes for full-on, old-fashioned rose-skank, daring someone to call her "Old Lady" -- then ready to sit on their face when they do. AP blends rose with indolic jasmine naughtiness into a saffron, coriander and woody musk mix. The effect is one tough, smart bombshell.

Even though Agent Provocateur was released in 2000, it shares an unwashed-in-close-quarters vibe with vintage dames like Jean Deprez Bal à Versailles and Rochas Femme. Other “neuvo-retro” contenders in the Dirty Panty category include Jubilation 25 by Amouage, The Party in Manhattan by The Party, and Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio.

I can suggest two other olfactory approaches to earn your access-all-areas pass for the classic 1972 STP tour:

Approach One: head for the head shop. Any self-respecting boho freak from the late-60s/early 70s regularly marinated themselves in mystical oils of patchouli and musk. Open your third eye in style with fine fragrance interpretations of these earthy, sensual notes.

I like Intrigant Patchouli and L’Ombre Fauve, both by Parfumerie Générale, as well as Bruno Acampora Musc. All three share a furry, animalic accord, almost “scalpy” (a term coined by my Perfume Pen Pal Dan, meaning a borderline dirty hair smell). Without dwelling too much on the scalpiness, I find them all subtly sexy and effective enough to put a tiger in (70s-era) Mick and Keith’s tanks.

Approach Two: wear “classic Stones”-contemporary perfumes. The Rolling Stones’ women would have been in the forefront of every trend: fashion, hairstyles, drug-consumption. And you just know they’d be wearing the hippest new fragrances, too.

There are a number of early 70s scents that growl with basenote beastiness or oakmossy menace:

Réminiscence Musc (1970)
Réminiscence Patchouli (1970)
Clinique Aromatics Elixir (1971)
Christian Dior Diorella (1972)
Jean Patou 1000 (1972)
Jovan Musk (1972)
Jean Couturier Coriandre (1973 -- and the mother of Agent Provocateur!)

Fumeheads -- lay on YOUR knowledge of badass perfumes, please!


  1. Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d'Orange. It may trigger a part of your brain that has never before been roused from its state of disuse. Of course, you may wish that part of your brain had remained dormant. I like dirty things too, but SM is a bit too guts&glory for me. It's too bloody, literally. A scent for the pit, perhaps.

  2. 2 more in the "florals covering up dirty panties" category: Etat Libre d'Orange Putain des Palaces and Vivienne Westwood Boudoir. I can't say I'm a fan of this category as a whole. It's really not dirty-enough-smelling for me, more like a perfume's idea of "skanky".

    Miller Harris L'Air de Rien smells to me like a woman who has been having a lot of sex but hasn't showered yet. An ambery floral musk. I think of it as the couterpoint to SL MKK, which to me smells like the perfection of an unwashed male body. They are both beautifully skanky.

  3. Yeah, some friend you are, nadine - recommending the truly revolting Sécrétions Magnifiques that you quite rightly wouldn't even wear yourself. There is so much unholy violence in that smell!

    Heidi, steer clear. Sécrétions Magnifiques will get you kicked off the tour faster than Mick'n'Bianca's love fizzled. (Bianca's quote is: "My marriage ended on my wedding day.") But nadine is absolutely correct in matching it to a roadie's dirty underwear!

  4. ahsu, I second your emotion on all of those suggestions. And the L'Air de Rien is a perfect melding of "personal" with a whiff of hippie joss sticks, so it covers all the 70s Stones bases.

  5. Heidi, if you can find it (search second-hand stores and ebay), Faberge Tigress is a good 70's Lady options. It's a lovely amber scent, and even the most decrepit, spoiled bottles I have found still dry down to a nice warm skin scent.

    To add to the skank list, Penhaligon's Amaranthine. It may be more Proper English Whore than Stones Groupie, but the skank is definitely there. Maybe consider it a blend between Stones' Wife and Stones' Groupie.

  6. Found myself nodding in agreement at many of your recs (Bal à V? Femme? Nuit Noire? Hell yeah!), until I reached Reminiscence Musc. Are we talking about the same Reminiscence Musc? That wholesome, vanilla-almond-white-musk-powder thingie in the starry bottle? I pegged it as the nicer smelling sister to Narciso Rodriguez: a floral-woody-musk at its best.
    Personally, I like Kiehl's Musk for that groupie-ish haven't-washed-in-days-and-loving it effect.

  7. Arachne, I included Réminiscence Musc more as early-70s-appropriate choice than anything else. You're correct, this musk has all beasty basenotes scrubbed right out of it. Let's consider it a "groupie wannabe" starter musk.

    Oh yeah - Kiehl's Musk is a perfect suggestion, and I didn't realize that it dates from (gasp) 1963. So Stones women could be wearing this from back when the Stones were just pebbles...

  8. Angi! Angi! (that's me singing your name in a Jagger yelp) Love the pegging of Amaranthine as a blend of groupie and rock wife. A razor-thin line to tightrope tip-toe, but a line nevertheless.

    And I'm chuckling at your Tigress suggestion, but I do believe Pen Pal Dan was traumatized by an over-exposure to Tigress in his childhood. Perhaps he'll drop in and elucidate.

    Here's a Tigress ad from the 70s featuring the foxy Lola Falana:

  9. Thanks for remembering, Katie. Yes, Angi, Tigress was my mother's perfume in the '70s. Growing up, I was under strict orders to buy a new furry-capped bottle every birthday. And having smelled it for a good many years, I'm not surprised old bottles maintain their power. After a nuclear bomb, only cockroaches and Tigress will survive. And my mother.

  10. Oh man, Heidi is lucky! I'd love to snail-mail with a fellow novice...

  11. Secretions Malheur-ifique is defo more roadie than groupie. A roadie who spends their time licking shards of cold metal and then spitting blood on to the trash littered floor.

    But oh! I can already smell all the hot groupies wafting of patchouli and amber. Mmmmmm!

  12. PS: Katie, please do a review of L'Ombre Fauve. I'm dying to try it out, but it's only reserved for the in-PG-crowd. Boo!

  13. xaryax, we can all be your stand-by pen pals - I'm just feeling my way through this stuff for the first time myself...

    nadine, you mind-reader, you! I'm working my way up to a review of L'Ombre Fauve, which I just purchased 2 days ago!

  14. Well, I don't know if I want to go as far as an unwashed roadie scent (thinking just waaay to much BO) but for a healthy dose of retro-skank I somehow came up with TDC Rose Poivre. Unwashed undies with a vegetal rose touch. Hmmm, hippie chick with a wilting rose crown?

    Oh and what about Paco Rabanne La Nuit? Haven't thought about this one for years. It's an eighties scent but it certainly has a dirty vibe.

  15. Excellent write-up and suggestions! I wear a few of these already (Bal, Coriandre, Aromatics Elixir, 1000) because of their delicious skank. Well, I don't get much skank in AE (maybe my version is reformulated?), but I put 1000 on and it's pure, sweaty ass. Which is also what Cuir de Russie smells like to me before it deepens into leather.

    Now I just want to say, besides skank, sometimes perfume has a quality that reminds me of...well, clean-girl-whose-just-broke-a-sweat. I don't know how else to describe it. But I'm always surprised no one else mentions how Parfums DelRae's Debut has that slightly bleachy/spicy, clean sweaty girl smell to it. It's just barely musky underneath pretty, dewy-fresh white florals. I love it.

    Anyway, thank you Katie P! And you were right, I totally meant GROUPIE not roadie. But um, if anyone ever wants to smell like a roadie butt, they should try ELDO's Fat Electrician. What a dirty-ass stench that is! All low-riding, sweaty wranglers and halitosis. Delightful.

    (OH, this is Heidi btw)

  16. m61, Rose Poivre is right there on the personal tip, possibly more pit than pant, stank-wise. I don't know Paco Rabanne La Nuit. I shall file that one away for future investigation.

    Heidi! Some "novice-type" you turned out to be, with your 1000 and your Bal à Versailles! Well, it's good to know that we're all pitching in the right direction.

    I know what you mean about "clean-girl-who's-just broken-a-sweat", and you can add Amaranthine to that list, along with Debut-alikes Diorella and Jubilation 25.

    Y'know, I don't find Fat Electrician skid-markish in the slightest, despite the suggestion of the cartoon ass-crack on the bottle. To me, it seems an easy and likable vetiver.

    I do have a nomination for a "roadie-in-a-bottle" fragrance, though: Liquid Ass. One of my viewers wrote to suggest I review it, and yes, it does exist. Thinking of doing a double-header video on Liquid Ass and Secretions Malheur-ifique.

  17. OH WELL, by novices, I meant we've just begun to read perfume blogs this year. I'm pretty sure my nose needs a little refinement. Fat Electrician is proof! I smelled it and said "Blech!" I think I've been spoiled by sanitized vetivers like Tom Ford's Grey Vetiver.

    Liquid Ass! I don't believe it! That sounds like something you might find in one of those stores open all night in WeHo.

  18. I for one would love to see a video about Liquid Ass Secretions. Bottoms Up!

  19. Okay - one steaming serving of Liquid Ass, comin' up!

  20. Oh, and Heidi, I include Clinique Aromatics Elixir in the "oakmossy menace" group, rather than the straight-ahead skank club.

  21. How about Corso Como? To me it smells like sweaty post coital dirtiness with a punk chick who still wears the same headshop perfume she's used since highschool.

  22. 10 Corso Como? Perfect suggestion, PS! It has a beguiling female personal-ness to it.

  23. I received Femme in the mail today after ordering it unsniffed - I had only read the reviews on Fragrantica etc. and a few comments on this blog.

    Given 10 minutes Femme is easily one of the most satisfying fragrances I've ever had in the sense that it seems so well rounded, no hollow pockets where one note or another should have been. I often get that sense of disappointment with fragrances that are supposed to be a bit risque and very womanly. There's often that sense of let down, often in the base notes where they go flat and a bit simple. I don't think I will have such an experience with Femme. Is appears to be a scent that walks you all the way home and tugs you in before leaving. I love the peach and plum notes in combination with the woods. There's supposedly a rose somewhere too, though I can't detect it just yet. I suspect that the cumin note contributes to what I perceive as depth. I don't really get tmuch of the so-called personal aspect of the scent (it seems quite "civilized" for lack of a better word) - not yet, anyway - but maybe that aspect of it comes from wear throughout an entire day - I've just been sitting in my sofa sniffing my arm.
    I do find it sensual, and it seems to blend well with skin.

    Femme could be the overtly erotic and expressive cousin of Boucheron. Boucheron has very little, if any, of the sensuality of Femme - it's classy, but it seems relatively body-less, more head and style than flesh and inclination. For that reason I'm very happy to own Femme. Now I can have it both ways depending on my mood and the occassion - though I'd love to wear Femme to a meeting at work, just for kicks.....I wouldn't go the other way round - wearing Boucheron for a come-hither moment, I wouldn't want B to just sit there and analyze and evaluate and not take part in the fun.

  24. Junelady, what a gorgeous review of Femme! Thank you very much. I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to read this, so I will re-post as a "Guest Nose" column.

  25. oh so too late but
    L'Eau d'Ambre L'Artisan
    Air de Rien
    Halston (original)

  26. I just discovered L'Ombre Fauve and I'm loving it. Hard.

    I ordered a decant of it and ordered the full bottle within 24 hours of the first spray. Yummy.

    My question here is whether you think Agent Provacateur and Midnight Oud from Juliette Has A Gun smell very similar? To my nose, they are quite alike, but I'm curious what you think.

    1. Hard love is good love.

      AP and Midnight Oud are in the same rather large ballpark (The Rosy Oriental Stadium), but they are two entirely different balls. AP is more nuanced and has more high notes than Midnight Oud, which is thuddier, bassier, heavier with that thick oud. MO smells leathery to me, and AP is more about the florals and spice.