Perfume Review: Agonist The Infidels

Agonist is a Swedish perfume house launched in 2008 whose focus seems to be the close interplay of perfume and sculptured art within the context of Norse culture. As the company’s website explains:

AGONIST creates pure 100% natural fragrances inspired by the Nordic climate and culture. Raw materials and product give form to a Swedish but even more Nordic clarity, – fresh with a vigourous weight and beautiful low tones.

In close collaboration with prominent perfumers, unique Eau de Parfums are created according to the traditional art of fine perfumery. The fragrances are then artistically sculptured  in handcrafted Swedish glass created in collaboration with glassartist Āsa Jungnelius at Kosta Boda.

Agonist The Infidels Refill BottleIn the case of The Infidels, it seems to be the second in a series of perfumes that began with The Infidel, singular. (Fragrantica says The Infidels is the third, but doesn’t give the name of the second in the series.) The issue of The Infidel, singular, seems to be a confusing one since it is a perfume with fundamentally different elements. And, yet, many reviews of The Infidels, plural, bring up the notes (black current or cassis, green cumin, lavender, etc.) of its predecessor.

The Infidels, plural, is an oriental perfume which Agonist describes as follows:

The Infidels. A deep 100% natural perfume inspired by the exact moment when the bud is about to burst. The heart of the rose with a deep and sensual ambience.

Top Notes: Pink Pepper Corn, Sicilian Lemon, Cloves, Indian Davana and Elemi

Body Notes: May Rose, Turkish Rose, Sambac Jasmine, Egyptian Jasmine, Burmese Magnolia, Iris, Comoros Ylang Ylang, Somali Myrrh, Opoponax

Base Notes: Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Cistus, Peruvian Balm, Lebanese Cedarwood, Virginia Cedarwood, Indian Amber, Bourbon Vanilla.

Between the notes and the perfume name which conjured up images of The Crusades and the Middle East, I was enormously excited to try The Infidels. I was certain I’d be taken to the desert, to Constantinople, to North Africa, to a land filled with molten resins and frankincense. Given that long list of heady notes, it was a sure bet it would be something deliciously ambered and oriental. Imagine my utter disbelief then when I was taken to a 7-11 filled with… Juicy Fruit. Yes, Juicy Fruit gum, only in solid syrup form. Hours and hours of Juicy Fruit syrup without end….

The Infidels opens on my skin with lemons and cloves, backed by pink peppercorns and apricot-infused florals. From what I’ve read, Davana is a flower native to India with an apricot aroma — and it is a heavy component of the Infidels. In the opening seconds, it is backed by some other fruity note that is tart, almost like green plums or cassis, but not quite. There is also some sweetly nutty smoke, elemi pepper, velvety magnolia, jasmine and rose. It’s an extremely unusual combination, and it sits atop a subtle booziness that feels almost like a melony-lemon liqueur. Not Midori, but some sort of odd, fruity cocktail liqueur that goes far beyond the usual rum-like nuance to many ambers.

As the minutes pass, some notes deepen while new ones join the party. The magnolia becomes significantly more pronounced: lovely, lush, smoothly buttered and rich, but never sour or over-ripe in an indolic way. There are soft, flickering touches of iris that add to the overall velvety creaminess of the florals. Sweet patchouli and lemon-nuanced vetiver lend a small voice in the background. And, at the base, the myrrh overshadows the frankincense with its nutty, sweet, almost vanillic warmth; its smoke tendrils are soft and muted. Then, suddenly, a strong banana aroma, undoubtedly from the ylang-ylang, comes barreling through, joining the dominant apricot-lemon-pink peppercorns fruity aspect of The Infidels.

Juicy Fruit gumWithin twenty minutes, all subtle nuances in the perfume disappear, and The Infidels becomes a solid wall of one thing and one thing only: Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Imagine the scent of the chewing gun, then concentrate it down by a thousand, put it above the faintest iota of sweetened vanillic amber, and that is The Infidels. The scent is thick and, in its nauseatingly cloying sweetness and richness, feels almost more like the sort of highly sweetened but artificial cough syrup that one gives children to lull them into thinking they’re not having actual medicine. It is one solid, immovable, unshakeable, unwavering wall. Nothing else flickers underneath it; nothing else has the remotest chance of competing against that barrage. And it never changes for the 10.75 hours that The Infidels lasted on my skin. It only becomes softer and, at the very end, a tiny bit musky but, no, it was Juicy Fruit until its dying breath.

The Infidels had very good longevity and moderate sillage. It was strong at first, wafting about 5 inches above the skin, before dropping around 40 minutes into the perfume’s development to hover an inch or two. Within that space, it was forceful. I actually felt my stomach churning at times wearing it. So much so that when I tried to make dinner, the sheer cloying strength of that Juicy Fruit syrup completely put me off eating.

In reading the reviews on Fragrantica, one thing is clear to me: a number of people are really writing about The Infidel, singular, perfume with its notes of black currant and green cumin. The rest…. well, the comments are all over the place from references to powder to a few who smelled cough syrup and general weirdness.

Even Now Smell This seems to have confused the two fragrances, writing:

The Infidels contains notes of blackcurrant, green cumin, bergamot, magnolia, tonka bean, lavender, patchouli, labdanum and amber.

The Infidels is a beautifully blended leather fragrance with spicy and floral accents. The Infidels goes on soft and smooth with lots of  “silky” labdanum; don’t expect a “shock” of blackcurrant or green cumin (each of these notes has been “blunted” in the composition — I think even cumin-haters won’t mind the sweet/powdery cumin in The Infidels).

The Infidels, plural, original bottle.

The Infidels, plural, original bottle.

Making matters more confusing, they even show the red bottle of The Infidels for a discussion of notes from The Infidel, singular, which has a blue bottle (with something resembling a bloodied hatchet). And, speaking of the bottles, that is all that a lot of people initially discussed when The Infidel (singular) and, then, The Infidels (plural) were released. You see, the bottles are somewhat of a big deal. As in a huge, ridiculously over-priced, artsy-fartsy deal.

The Infidel, singular, bottle.

The Infidel, singular, bottle. Original, non-refill version.

Initially, back in 2010, each perfume bottle seemed to cost almost $500 because they were only available in those hand-blown, sculpted shapes from the famous Swedish Kosta Boda glass works factory. Now Smell This’ review for The Infidels spends more discussing the bottle than it does the black currant and green cumin in the perfume. (It’s in the other one! The singular one!) The Infidels (plural) red bottle supposedly has steel pins which you use to apply the scent — which just makes me think of a grenade wielded by someone into agony and S&M. (Given the bloodied hatchet look of the Infidel bottle, I’m really starting to wonder about whomever chose “Agonist” for the brand’s name.) On Luckyscent, almost two-thirds of the comments focus on the cost of the bottle.

Well, Agonist must have heard the outcry because the perfume is now available in “refill” bottles which cost $195 for 1.7 oz/50 ml. That is the affordable, cheap version for poor people. The original, main bottle costs — now, today, in 2013 — almost $1500 at Aedes and over 20,000 rubles in Russia’s Lenoma. (See Details section below.) Yes, for a 50 ml/1.7 oz size. Agonist is clearly very, very serious about the whole concept of perfume as art….

Honestly, even if The Infidels cost the price of a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, I wouldn’t wear it. I’m not even sure how I managed to last almost 11 hours with it. Pun intended, it was an agonizing experience.

Cost & Availability: The Infidels is an eau de parfum that comes in a 1.7oz/50 ml “refill” bottle for $195 or €125. Agonist’s website offers both the “refill” bottle and a handmade “sculpture” art bottle from the famous Kosta Boda glass works factory. It costs €980 or a crazy $1,470 from Aedes in New York. (It used to be over $500 from what I’ve read.) Agonist also sells a Sample Set of 6 perfumes, each in a 2ml vial, for €24. In the U.S.: The Infidels is available in the 1.7 oz bottle from Luckyscent for $195, along with samples. Other vendors are Aedes and HirschleifersThe Perfume Shoppe (which has a store in Canada) sells “1 Travel & Trial Size Spray Atomizer filled w/ Your Choice” of Agonist perfume, including The Infidels, for $65 but it seems a little high for a measly 4 ml spray bottle. Outside the U.S.: I’ve struggled to find websites that carry Agonist fragrances overseas. In the UK, The Infidels is available at Liberty London and The Conran Store for £125. The only other two online sites that I’ve found are First in Fragrance, and Essenza Nobile which sell the 1.7 oz bottle for €125. Elsewhere, and relying on Agonist’s Facebook page, it appears that Agonist is also carried by the Paris department store, Printemps, in its exclusive “Scent Room” and, in Sweden, by the NK Department store. In Australia, apparently Agonist is carried at the Assin concept and high-fashion store. In Kuwait, it is carried by Parfumerie d’Exception. In Russia, Lenoma has the art bottle for a huge price (over 20,000 rubles). Beyond that, I have no clue. The company has no store locator on its website. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t carry Agonist. Your best bet is Luckyscent at the link above.

37 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Agonist The Infidels

  1. I have tried the Vanilla Marble from Agonist line and when I tried it I thought it was very weird vanilla, not a typical, sweet, powdery or pudding like but much more custard, somehow “watery” if you know what I mean, but generally it was really lovely.

    • Watery but custardy all at once? Perhaps sheer in weight while also being custardy vanilla? Whatever it is, Vanilla Marble sounds better than The Infidels, plural. I believe Mr. Hound tried The Infidel, singular, and was not impressed one bit.

      • Yup, it was sheer and custardy vanilla at once.
        Wha? I thought The Infidel and The Infidels is the same perfume.
        Tell me stupid.

      • Yup, it was sheer and custardy vanilla at once.
        Wha? I thought The Infidel and The Infidels is the same perfume.
        Tell me stupid.

  2. This review was hilarious and made my morning, though I am sorry you had to go trough the agony (couldn’t resist) of Juicy Fruit. Safe to say I can cross this off my list, and what is it with the blackcurrant craze? I like it in tea but it really doesn’t smell all that great in most fragrances.

    • I blame Bertrand Duchaufour for making black currant popular (even though it really is NOT in this one). It seems to be a new addiction of his, note-wise. LOL. As for the Juicy Fruit cough syrup, man, Nancy, I have no words. None at all. And it just kept going, and going, and going…..

  3. I feel sort of relieved you didn’t like this. I was SO excited to try this. For a name so…I don’t know, provocative, the perfume sure was a boring one! Maybe my expectations were too high, but it was just so forgettable and mediocre. I don’t think it lasted nearly that long on me either (thank Goodness). No love lost between me and this one. Like Nancy, I too would rather avoid blackcurrant. Enchanted Forest was abysmal and was enough to put me off any perfume where it’s a prominent note.

    Although I think there is one perfume I have and wear regularly that has blackcurrant, but it’s driving me crazy trying to remember what it is.

    But alas, the Infidels was a total pussycat not worthy of the name at all.

      • No, thank goodness. Then I would have outright hated it instead of just being bored to death. 😛

        • God, The Enchanted Forest really did a number on you, didn’t it?? ROFL. I didn’t like it either, but I don’t think I was traumatized in the way that you were, you poor thing. 😛

          • Well it didn’t help that I dropped the decant on my hardwood floor, so my room smelled like cat pee for a few days. I think that’s what did me in – the overdose (against my will!). Damn my clumsy hands!

    • I am so glad to hear someone else not love Enchanted Forest. I got it free, in a draw and I was so excited by the write up, and list of notes. It was so boring. Black currant pastilles, no more.

      • I got a lot of pine trees, along with that cassis. Endless pine trees and cassis. Dreadfully dull and far, far too much like some sort of concentrated evergreen room spray. But I think I got more pine tree notes than many others. As a whole, I was astounded by the over-hype for the perfume at the time. Amusingly, not a pip squeak of a word about it now. Not one. And I don’t think it’s solely because of the wintery aromas….

        • The bottle was kind of pretty – so maybe that has something to do with it. But yes, the hype seems to have died as quickly as it came. I will try not to gloat about that, but that was the biggest case of over-hype I’ve come across in a while.

  4. Kafka, the thought of smelling like Juicy Fruit gum is so abhorrent! But you make me laugh, sorry it is at your expense. I know that I tried The Infidels at one point, based on the gorgeous bottle on the Luckyscent website. I totally have forgotten the smell, it went straight to my No box. I hope you are wearing something lovely today to cancel out the gum experience.

    • The fact that you can’t even recall what it smelled like says something! At least you weren’t in agony….. (Can we talk about the S&M undertones to the bottles? I think the one for The Infidel, singular, calls to mind The Guillotine!!! Sheesh.) As for today’s perfume, it’s infinitely better, thank God. I couldn’t take another day of perfume-caused starvation. 😉

  5. As I live in Sweden I’ve jumped at the opportunities I’ve had to try the Agonist line and, unfortunately, I’ve been underwhelmed by each and every scent. It’s such a pity that the energy going into creating the bottles is not equaled out to help better the juice!

    • Well, I’m glad to know that even a Swedish perfumista isn’t too impressed with the fragrance. Now I’m dying to know if it smelled like Juicy Fruit to you as well. lol

      • Yes, my impression was very similar to yours, the opening was ok, I remember it waxy and bright-feeling, but then just uninteresting fruity gum. Such a disappointment!

  6. What is worse, you’re getting the juicy fruit vibe or my sweet and sickly skank vibe. I guess neither of them are anything either of us want to smell like!!! Fun review as always my dear K!

    • Did you try The Infidels, plural, as well? Oh dear, I had thought your experience with the Infidel, singular, was bad enough. Or am I mixing up your reviews in my mind? Either way, sickly sweet SKANK sounds particularly atrocious. Gah!

  7. Glad to know I can just chew some Juicy Fruit and get the same effect. I’ve never been tempted by this line. I think their prices and artsy aspect is a bit of a turn off for me especially since I really haven’t seen much to justify it. I always love how thorough your reviews are. You really give a perfume every opportunity possible to make you love it so it makes it easy for me to decide whether or not to try something.

    • Awww, thank you, Poodle. As for Agonist as a general line, I get the impression that a lot of people are left completely cold by it — even when they haven’t smelled the perfumes. I think there actually *is* a cold, odd vibe to it, at least judging by their Facebook page and website, which is just exacerbated by the whole artsy side and those bottles. I have one more of their fragrances to try but, frankly, I’m not holding out a great deal of enthusiasm. And if Sigrun was underwhelmed by the whole line, well, then I’m in definite trouble!

  8. Passing on the Artsy Fartsy, pun intended. I’m probably going to stop by Aedes in a few weeks (really to smell their new Iris fragrance) but if they have testers, I will certainly give it a sniff.

    • If they have the $1,500 bottles on display, let me know what you think. I’m particularly interested to know if the blue Infidel (singular) one looks as much like a guillotine as it appears to me from the photos. *grin*

  9. lol
    I’m still laughing. 🙂 Loved this review.

    I wonder if companies do this on purpose. You know, create perfumes with such similar names so you accidentally buy the wrong one and then have to go get the right one.

    • Hee, thank you! I don’t think I’ve ever come across a company give such an incredibly similar name to any two perfumes that aren’t actual flankers. But Agonist seems to be on a different wave length to other brands in general, with their strong (arguably, primary) focus on design aesthetics. And, given the prices in question, I sincerely hope no-one anywhere buys the wrong Agonist anything!! LOL.

  10. The brand describes that they want to smell like the Nordic culture and heritage, that sounds very attractive to me since I love Norse mythology and love Scandinavia in general, I also liked the description raw natural materials, only to become very confused with the Indian ingredients and even Peruvian ones? I´m confused that doesn´t sound like a fragrance Thor would be very familiar with…

    • HAHA!!! So damn true! Hilarious, Vicky, absolutely hilarious. No, I think Thor would be quite horrified by Agonist’s Juicy Fruit interpretation of things.

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