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

1.5022530134054
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5019713867298
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5012954827081
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011828320379
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5010701813676
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5009012053622
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007885546919
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007885546919
Madly MariaLux
1.5006195786865
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5006195786865
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006195786865
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005632533514
Sex Desigual
1.500394277346
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.500394277346
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003379520108
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003379520108
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002816266757
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002253013405
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001126506703
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5001126506703
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5001126506703
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.5000563253351
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000563253351
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000563253351
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000563253351
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.4999436746649
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999436746649
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999436746649
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4823093387406
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4712639040216
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.4707006506703
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618196266757
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4479000853892
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449509280162
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447256266757
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4354025786865
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296569442379
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4296411813676
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290216026811
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287399760054
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287399760054
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286836506703
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286273253351
Gelsomino Galimard
1.421897880027
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4195780246705
Do Son Diptyque
1.4168923013405
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167233253351
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4055563203785
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4013518080433
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4001689760054
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3932190613946
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3918759844542
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.386040314746
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3829460987946
Gold Michael Kors
1.3823759258759
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3760138560324
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.367511880027
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3658923333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.364782232173
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3647061813676
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3638613013405
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628848320379
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.355683880027
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551206266757
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546870853892
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.353335277346
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529973253351
Inveja Abinoam
1.3511773867298
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3501994148924
Michael Michael Kors
1.3490014347189
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3478823253351
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3477541707784
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3471115306973
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3444854163569
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3419867145432
J`adore Dior
1.3415794233412
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3399055786865
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3378334827081
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3353607120649
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3347974587135
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3343468560324
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341215546919
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3338962533514
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337836026811
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335019760054
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3335019760054
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334456506703
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334456506703
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3333893253351
Frisson Galimard
1.3333893253351
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3333893253351
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3227499760054
Shalini Shalini
1.3218508694379
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3216562053622
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3193648320379
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3186679096542
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3177371813676
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3128796400811
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3120908694379
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3108965679847
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3098199526867
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3085932053622
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3072506774811
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3050802293568
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3047032667568
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3010138560324
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3002816266757
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002253013405
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2986489237355
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.297533483384
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2943433013405
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.293077277346
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2922865786865
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2919090028163
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2907736026811
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2895895257407
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2894170853892
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.2890226774811
C for Women Clive Christian
1.286757967444
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2866152053622
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2860519520108
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859956266757
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859956266757
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2859956266757
Day Sarabecca
1.2859393013405
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2859258934325
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2858829760054
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.2858829760054
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2857703253351
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.2857703253351
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2856576746649
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.2856018136758
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2851421467838
So Nude CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.284478779092
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2840734587135
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2808160853892
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2769438644812
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2763126026811
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.275914741692
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2755069280162
Tuberoli Space NK
1.2745203372761
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.2736845306973
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2732902533514
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.2730086266757
Saraab Gold Syed Junaid Alam
1.2728959760054
Cutting Garden Royal Apothic

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