Tuberose

lat. Polianthes tuberosa

Group: WHITE 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.
 

 

Tuberose Perfumes

1.5015386588024
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5014104372355
Soliflore Tuberose Dame Perfumery
1.5012822156687
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5010685130572
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5007265888789
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.500598367312
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.500598367312
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5003419241783
Tuberose TerraNova
1.500299183656
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.500299183656
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5002564431337
Jasmine Renee
1.5002564431337
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5002137026114
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002137026114
TNT PK Perfumes
1.5001709620892
No. XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001709620892
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5001282215669
No. XV Pink Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5000854810446
Pastoral Severnoye Siyanie
1.5000854810446
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000427405223
Tuberosa Di Notte Voluspa
1.5000427405223
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5000427405223
Tuberose Mary Chess
1.5000427405223
Ruby Hervé Domar
1.5
Night Blossom La Via del Profumo
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
B.B. Chic Clash
1.4999145189554
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4988392097705
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4948426672223
Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.4936515509681
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4863838045476
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.4834446849169
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4769165888789
Tubéreuse Trianon Le Jardin Retrouve
1.4765319241783
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.4740686647006
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.4738122215669
Mini Liberty Ulric de Varens
1.4706734810446
Monbloom Ramon Monegal
1.4690277371458
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Mugler
1.4618799241783
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4615807405223
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4536848104458
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4445722215669
Capri Night Profumi Capri
1.4445722215669
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4444867405223
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4369373614139
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4289609553362
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4287419620892
Pearl Silver Novae Plus
1.4287419620892
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286992215669
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286137405223
Dalliance She Who Dares
1.4256095829807
Le Beau Parfum Maison Francis Kurkdjian
1.4242737346241
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4203760202163
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.4120816967133
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4100312914904
Tuberose Flash Tauerville
1.4093474431337
Essence No. 9 Tuberose Elie Saab
1.4065919241783
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.4037115888789
Hauto Jeroboam
1.4009830320127
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4001282215669
Taersìa Maison Gabriella Chieffo
1.4001282215669
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4000427405223
Carrera Femme Carrera
1.4
Woman Pure Marbert
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3943315374621
Do Son Diptyque
1.3921726967133
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3917314052229
Chic Michael Kors
1.391304
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3867092855922
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.3863927312476
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.384615
Fleurs de Lys Art Deco Perfumes
1.3838505391717
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3834918862675
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.3834918862675
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3827869351199
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3810802215669
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3801338045476
McQueen Eau de Parfum Alexander McQueen
1.3791900699235
Io Hilde Soliani
1.3763676967133
Jolie Fleur Bleue Tory Burch
1.375299183656
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3752137026114
Anjali Reminiscence
1.3752137026114
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3751282215669
Osa Zeromolecole
1.3750854810446
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.375
Amber Notes Palette No. 2 Melange Perfume
1.375
Intensia Prime Collection
1.3749572594777
Ala Moana Antica Farmacista
1.372938367312
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3709124692482
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3706993333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3686666899603
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3684637405223
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3633688803693
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3625187489422
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3601709620892
La Dame Blanche Le Cercle des Parfumeurs Createurs
1.3594758104458
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3589184052229
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3574046731205
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3572712215669
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3558647725349
Madly MariaLux
1.3551809241783
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.354839
Tres Chic Vivienne Sabo
1.3532829241783
Tuberose Vertigineuse Molinard
1.3529837405223
Inveja Abinoam
1.3478687405223
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3453544590759
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3450344894645
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3344442535795
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341450699235
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3339741078343
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.333931367312
Golden Tuberose Daniel Josier
1.3335894431337
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335039620892
Moroccan Tuberose Illuminum
1.3334184810446
Theosiris Classique Guy Bouchara
1.3334184810446
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.3334184810446
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334184810446
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.333333
Jasmine Soap & Paper Factory
1.333333
Yubiley Severnoye Siyanie
1.33275739005
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3317487228277
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3309776208916
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.3290168601103
Michael Michael Kors
1.3287181019361
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.3268990699235
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3262566849169
Gold Michael Kors
1.325999956191
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3256411078343
Dolce Tuberose 43 Krigler
1.3230084052229
Tuberose Angelica Limited Edition Jo Malone
1.3216240606488
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3176657287259
Very Sexy Now 2015 Victoria`s Secret
1.3175004052229
Hanako Syed Junaid Alam
1.3173727346241
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3161572914904
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3159599620892
An Ideal Wife Lise London
1.3130128862675
Tubéreuses Castane Lancome
1.3129182306279
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3125854810446
Edenwood Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.312226183656
Tuberose Renee
1.3117521078343
Shantoung Galimard
1.3116032215669
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3107565509681
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3093688744711
Tubereuse Caron
1.3088887346241
Me Myself & I Egofacto
1.3079484431337
Oasis La Via del Profumo
1.307692
Art Nouveau Iris Brocard
1.304946367312
Fleur09 Maria Christofilis

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