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

1.5078720032715
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.5029647804529
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5023002606962
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5017890916526
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.501277922609
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5012268057046
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011756888003
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5011756888003
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5010223380872
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.5009201042785
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5009201042785
Sex Desigual
1.500715636661
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.500715636661
Madly MariaLux
1.5006645197567
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005111690436
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5003578183305
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003578183305
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5003578183305
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003067014262
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003067014262
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002555845218
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002044676174
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001022338087
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.5001022338087
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001022338087
Caron Lady Caron (2014) Caron
1.5001022338087
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000511169044
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000511169044
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000511169044
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5
Enticing Anya`s Garden
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999488830956
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999488830956
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.4999488830956
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4998977661913
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4790014297398
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4766592606962
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4660239747482
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4646949352349
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4619980521392
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4617935845218
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4546983507131
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4487871690436
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4448018183305
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4321397535654
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4295422211828
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4289799352349
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287754676174
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.4287243507131
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4287243507131
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286221169044
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4220242211828
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4212574676174
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4178479275162
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4168714676174
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.413908178858
Do Son Diptyque
1.4015491975668
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.4002044676174
De La Marque Rouge Armaf
1.4001022338087
Love Milton Lloyd
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3935371564177
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3856884549916
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.383463767827
Gold Michael Kors
1.3820703128355
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3810031169044
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3792603902264
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3766951629607
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3753578183305
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.375
Isabey Perle de la Route d`Emeraude Panouge
1.3749433825078
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3725530521392
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3678581690436
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3645123333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3637382338087
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628265718959
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3618913254613
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3610745499157
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3604799099831
Gold Flowers Montale
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3570918830956
Kamasurabhi Lorenzo Villoresi
1.3556057535654
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3554524028523
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3550945845218
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3544745071308
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534010521392
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529921169044
Inveja Abinoam
1.3504600521392
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.3480815845218
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.3478771169044
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3475018982774
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3470229873741
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.345605767827
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3435362733221
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3432806888003
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3425240777999
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3374973846036
Michael Michael Kors
1.3343553380872
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3343042211828
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.334048636661
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3337419352349
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335885845218
Varensia White Ulric de Varens
1.3335885845218
Oros Pour Femme Oros
1.3335374676174
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3335374676174
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3334863507131
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334863507131
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.3334352338087
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334352338087
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3333841169044
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3333841169044
Addiction Blackglama
1.333333
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3285061042785
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3255517315851
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3228365845218
Shalini Shalini
1.32132533364
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.318913208557
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.3186931690436
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3176382211828
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3166440395134
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3149583397229
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3129519621224
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3125511169044
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3086661907683
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3086121042785
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3082469499566
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3076382211828
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3051998325921
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3051147535654
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.303745636661
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3029905197567
Lace Garden Teo Cabanel
1.3029647804529
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3007136464755
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.3002555845218
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3001022338087
Rozy Extrait de Parfum Vero Profumo
1.3001022338087
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.3000511169044
Skin Couture Summer Pink Armaf
1.3
Shandrani Farfalla
1.2991497425753
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2966538183305
Divine Issime Ulric de Varens
1.2955572338087
Karolina Kurkova LR
1.2946005213924
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2943735845218
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2922891564177
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.292229285948
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.292225512038
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2920759352349
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2912063951337
Michael Kors Michael Kors

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