Tuberose

lat. Polianthes tuberosa

Group: Flowers

Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa
Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa
Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa
Odor profile: carnal, creamy and fleshy floral note which can present mentholated facets when blooming or even rotten meat off-notes when ripe; extremely polarizing and yet popular in fragrances



No note in perfumery is more surprisingly carnal, creamier or contradicting than that of tuberose. The multi-petalled flower is a mix of flower shop freshness and velvety opulence. Which is why it is the perennial polarizing flower note having as many ardent fans as passionate detractors. The Victorians must have been among the latter: they forbade young girls of inhaling the scent of tuberose in the fear they might have a spontaneous orgasm! Roja Dove is right when he says that tuberose is really loose, the "harlot of perfumery".

THE PLANT,  THE OIL, THE SCENT PROFILE

Polianthes tuberosa doesn't have any botanical or olfactory relation to roses, despite the name. This small white blossom flowering plant is its own thing, a "white floral" (in the same class as jasmine and orange blossom) with an intensity and creaminess beyond any other: Though the scent can be likened to that of orange blossom and gardenia, tuberose has interesting facets of camphor in the opening (comparable to - but not quite that green - as budding gardenias), of dewy mushroom and earth when in bloom and then of rot and bloody meat when browning. Buttery, rubbery and even metallic facets also emerge if one searches for them. The natural blossoms are so powerful they can fill a room and continue to exude their scent for days after picking.

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In fact this is why tuberose had been a prime candidate for the enfleurage technique ever since its introduction in Grasse, in the south of France in the 17th century ("Enfleurage" is the traditional and now almost defunct technique of enrobing flowers in fat, letting them wilt in it for days, releasing their scent, and then treating the resulting pomade with solvents to render a very precious absolute).  The tuberose blossoms are actually still in bud when picked, so that they can give off their full spectrum of scent as they wilt. It takes over 1200 kilos of buds to render 200gr. of tuberose absolute, which makes tuberose one of the most costly natural raw materials to use.

NATURE vs. NURTURE

It therefore comes as no surprise that most tuberose in commercial perfumery is synthesized in the lab rather than natural. Though this cuts down on the cost factor and facilitates picking up one facet over another in the context of a given concept (say, emphasizing the creaminess over the camphorous, or the sweet floral over the indolic rot), the synthesized aroma is removed from the complex and at once fresh and carnal natural.

Thus a tuberose note in perfume can appear sickly and almost sticky, cloying, sledgehammering you over the head with its intense message. We can trace this as far back as 1980s if not before, as Giorgio, one of the defining perfumes of the decade, was using tuberose with all the subtlety of nails on a chalkboard. The effect was bombastic, powerfully floral, appearing as showing off one's affluence, just held in check by a base of vetiver that muted all the neon brightness. In contrast the natural oil rendered from good Indian tuberose varieties (or from the now very small fields left in Grasse) brings out all the base notes: ranging from buttery to leathery, from menthol to rubber and earth, all the way to woman's skin and even Chamonix orange cake! A good example of tuberose oil being used with naturalistic effect is Carnal Flower in the Frederic Malle niche line Editions des Parfums. This is the fragrance with the highest percentage of tuberose in the formula currently in the market.


THE HISTORICAL MILESTONES

The uber-classic reference for tuberose fragrances has always been (and will always be, it seems...) Fracas by Robert Piguet: the tuberose against which all other tuberoses measure up, influencing as diverse things as Chloe by Karl Lagerfeld, Jardins de Bagatelle by Guerlain and Amarige by Givenchy

Fracas, a transliteration of effect in name if there ever was one, judging by the derisive reception it has on people smelling it, came out in 1948, composed by Germaine Cellie; this maverick and iconoclast of a perfumer considered carefully conceived disruptive effects more important than over-ornamentalisation in her craft. The mastery of Fracas is that it achieves the creamiest, most calorific and lush floral effect (combining jonquil and orange blossom to tuberose to give a green and cleaner edge) while at the same time retaining a modicum of balance through a herbal top note and an abstract drydown of powder and woods. It's striking, dramatic, overpowering even sometimes, like a Callas aria, but it is full of beauty and emotion all the same. It takes a diva to carry it off successfully, which is why lesser mortals fail and attach a stigma to the fragrance; it's not the fragrance's fault!

It's fun to consider Amarige by Givenchy (1991) the other face of Janus: the two fragrances form two neat bookends; one loud but beautiful, the other loud and over the top. Givenchy enrolled Dominique Ropion to the task and he seems to have been so intent on at least matching the drama of Fracas (and his own godmother, Germaine Cellier) that he produced the highest-pitched tuberose in existence. The radiance of Amarige is felt for miles, a fact that is not always appreciated and the creaminess and greenery of tuberose is substituted by the popular for the time frame synthetic base of cassis (a big element in 1980s perfumery) and a cluster of -right about that time emerging as soon to be popular- fruity notes. If tuberose is a diva overshadowing a full symphonic orchestra, Amarige put her on speakers too. But Ropion didn't match Fracas with Amarige, nor did he surpass it artistically. He fared much better when he was free of commercial restraints for his stint for F.Malle and Carnal Flower; this solar floral is choke-full of all the natural elements inherent in the living flower itself. The camphor qualities are exploited to the max via a eucalyptus note to render a life-like hologram, while the coconut tinge and the salicylates (ingredients that appear in some tropical flowers and also in suntan lotions) remind us that tuberose is really a tropical flower coming from warm climates and pelvis-tilting-friendly cultures. 

But there's something for everybody and where there's noise and animated conversation there can also be some quiet and silken promises whispered in the dark. Serge Lutens, aided by his perfumer ally Christopher Sheldrake, composed the most gothic tuberose in existence and a historical landmark in the treatment of this capricious note: Tubereuse Criminelle is an etude in the polished facets of the flower with a most disconcerting top note of Vicks vapo-rub, an aberrant chill which takes you by surprise but subsides in the first 10 minutes. The contrast between the camphor and the flower are echoed in Carnal Flower (F.Malle), its successor, but the shadowy, menacing character of the Lutens perfume is not poised as natural as in the Malle, but as a solidly, cleverly manufactured effect that you perceive as a vignette of Expressionism or the fangs of a vampire slicing through vibrant flesh. This fire & ice game is as good as a thinking woman's (or man's) kinky romp in the bedroom.

Rounding the attempts at competition, attrition and infatuation with Fracas, there's nothing left but a sincere homage and the one who paid her respects more convincingly was none other than perfumer Calice Becker for the niche brand By Kilian in her Beyond Love. It admittedly smells close to Fracas, but on the other hand its more refined trail of the best Indian tuberose and Egyptian jasmine absolutes presents something new. The perfumer's reference was not only the aromatic oil but also the living flower and in her perfume composition she tried to bridge the two into an harmonious melody. The womanly skin like note marries to the gourmand note of Chamonix orange cake and the effect is nothing short of truly beautiful and, curiously enough, more natural smelling than Fracas. Perhaps a pixelized installation of the Mona Lisa at the MoMa and not the prototype, but still a work of art on its very own. 
 

OTHER WORTHWHILE TUBEROSE-HIGHLIGHTING FRAGRANCES:

Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia (more of the gardenia part, for those reluctant for the full dosage of tuberose)
Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion (traitorously to the name, this is actually a tuberose)
Annick Goutal Tubereuse (a very high percentage of natural tuberose in this one)
Diptyque Do Son (a diluted but fresh and naturalistic tuberose for the shy)
Madonna Truth or Dare (another homage to Fracas, surprisingly pleasant and grown up for a celebrity scent)
Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle (a fantasy of a garden with prominent tuberoses and other white florals)
Honore des Pres Vamp a New York (the most playful tuberose on the market and a great one to wear even casually)
Calvin Klein Beauty (a delicate and restrained, yet non timid tuberose with a polished sheen)
La Prairie Life Threads Silver (razor sharp pitch over buttery base notes)
Guerlain very rare Marie-Claire (a beautiful tuberose fragrance with lots of ylang ylang)
Balenciage vintage Michelle (a very elegant and complex tuberose blend)
Dior Passage No.9 (a creamy tuberose with sparkly qualities)
La Via del Profumo Mona Lisa (an animalic and sexy tuberose with skin-like properties)

Photo of the blooming plant in the slider by Swami Stream, conbon33, jayeshp912
 


Author: Elena Vosnaki is a historian & perfume writer from Greece and a Writer to Fragrantica. She is the founder and editor of Perfume Shrine, one of the most respected independent online publications on perfume containing fragrance reviews, industry interviews, essays on raw materials and perfume history, a winner in Fragrantica Blog Awards and a finalist in numerous blog awards contests. Her writing was recognised at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and she has been contributing to publications around the world.
 

 

Perfumes and Colognes With Tuberose

1.501579778831
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5011968021447
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5011489300589
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5008138254584
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.500670209201
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.500670209201
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5003829766863
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5003351046005
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003351046005
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5002872325147
Jasmine Renee
1.5002393604289
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5001914883431
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001914883431
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5001914883431
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001436162574
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000957441716
N° XV Pink Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5000957441716
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000478720858
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5000478720858
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000478720858
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000478720858
Capri Night Profumi Capri
1.5000478720858
Tuberosa Di Notte Voluspa
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Tuberose Mary Chess
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Night Blossom La Via del Profumo
1.4999042558284
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4866671392599
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.4778514763751
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.473934197233
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4738754883431
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.4725118254584
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4644793598066
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.4619209766863
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4615858720858
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4598419766863
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.4552835230025
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4550081499832
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4519520926325
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.4473355929437
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4445876162574
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.437479416535
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4319442904878
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.4287624883431
Pearl Silver Novae Plus
1.4287624883431
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4287624883431
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287146162574
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.424417418402
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.419945418402
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.4167627441716
Tenebra Royal Crown
1.4164935696299
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4027101701853
Do Son Diptyque
1.4022272545838
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.4008138254584
Amarena Bvlgari
1.4001436162574
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4000957441716
Love Milton Lloyd
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3935452904878
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3919838002777
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3917827208579
Chic Michael Kors
1.391304
Tres Chic Vivienne Sabo
1.391304
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.388889
La Dame Blanche Le Cercle des Parfumeurs Createurs
1.3847586162574
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.3835534650294
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3815828834315
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3811434883431
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3795799508832
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3792875696299
Io Hilde Soliani
1.3753829766863
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3752393604289
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3750478720858
Isabey Perle de la Route d`Emeraude Panouge
1.375
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.375
Intensia Prime Collection
1.3743556975442
Madly MariaLux
1.3728665929437
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3692223333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3684688720858
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3640319067452
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.3638274883431
Times Square Demeter Fragrance
1.3635690113457
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3614454530614
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.359644209201
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3577653371152
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3575389294365
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3571908720858
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3567643364929
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3529888720858
Inveja Abinoam
1.3522349766863
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.3511788015223
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3485431625736
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.3478738720858
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3464187449375
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3426459867873
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3424224644071
Jour d’Hermes Gardenia Hermes
1.3406761858873
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.335314841304
Michael Michael Kors
1.3342425696299
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3341946975442
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.334003209201
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3336681046005
Golden Tuberose Daniel Josier
1.3336202325147
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3334287441716
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334287441716
Theosiris Classique Guy Bouchara
1.3334287441716
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.3334287441716
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3334287441716
Moroccan Tuberose Illuminum
1.3331415116569
Vetiver OUD Illuminum
1.3292978821868
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3262671506056
Gold Michael Kors
1.3261590346594
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3256223371152
Dolce Tuberose Krigler
1.3253772785198
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3248153138015
Tagete Profumum Roma
1.3224979647183
Tubereuse Caron
1.3210901046005
Tuberose Renee
1.3203351046005
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3177496602039
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3142712671741
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3126239300589
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.3125957441716
Edenwood Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3124042558284
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3118290812868
Shantoung Galimard
1.3091748363253
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3075765696299
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3024965696299
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3015918021447
Sundance Memo
1.3001436162574
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.3
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.2994033717746
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.2990168720858
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2982349067452
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2978916975442
Sedbury Parfums de Marly
1.2962300548614
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.2961307208579
Hanako Syed Junaid Alam
1.2955874870985
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.2947173950883
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.292337209201
Tubereuse Eau De Parfum Kat Burki
1.2916375873426
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2904680693188
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.2902560926325
Iris Tubereuse Creed
1.2900750346594
Life Threads Silver La Prairie
1.2900005929437
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.288549209201
Flor Azteca The Exotic Island Perfumer
1.288462
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2861448487721
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.2860012325147
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859533604289
Le Parfum d'Odette Neil Morris

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