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

1.5065256427101
Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5014890728332
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5013576840538
Soliflore Tuberose Dame Perfumery Scottsdale
1.5012262952744
Jolie Fleur Bleue Tory Burch
1.5012262952744
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.501094906495
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5007445364166
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5006131476372
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5006131476372
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.500437962598
Tubéreuse Trianon Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5003065738186
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5003065738186
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5003065738186
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5002627775588
Essence No. 9 Tuberose Elie Saab
1.5002627775588
Jasmine Renee
1.5002627775588
Tuberose TerraNova
1.500218981299
TNT PK Perfumes
1.500218981299
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5001751850392
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5001751850392
No. XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001313887794
No. XV Pink Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5000875925196
Pastoral Severnoye Siyanie
1.5000875925196
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000437962598
Tuberose Mary Chess
1.5000437962598
Tuberosa Di Notte Voluspa
1.5000437962598
Ruby Hervé Domar
1.5000437962598
Capri Night Profumi Capri
1.5000437962598
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Night Blossom La Via del Profumo
1.5
B.B. Chic Clash
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.4999124074804
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4929827214558
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4919374242106
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.4876589980292
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4830975157448
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.480218981299
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.4765403700784
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.4742971476372
Tuberose Flash Tauerville
1.4740343700784
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.4716486968423
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4706755925196
Monbloom Ramon Monegal
1.4618883700784
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4615817962598
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4552284616126
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4535307401568
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4445753887794
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4444877962598
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4424293513774
Hauto Jeroboam
1.4310277214558
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4287461850392
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4287461850392
Pearl Silver Novae Plus
1.4287023887794
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286147962598
Dalliance She Who Dares
1.4275355058906
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4264890728332
Le Beau Parfum Maison Francis Kurkdjian
1.4243032952744
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4220889232252
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.4211405925196
Taersìa Maison Gabriella Chieffo
1.4121154803136
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4096165551176
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.406376887794
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.4001313887794
Mini Liberty Ulric de Varens
1.4001313887794
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4000437962598
Carrera Femme Carrera
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.391741962598
Chic Michael Kors
1.391304
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.390929733237
Do Son Diptyque
1.3902852519599
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3852879153418
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3835045551176
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3816965364166
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3810833887794
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3791663326764
Io Hilde Soliani
1.3779093887794
Tenebra Royal Crown
1.3753065738186
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.375218981299
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.375218981299
Anjali Reminiscence
1.3751313887794
Osa Zeromolecole
1.3750875925196
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.375
Intensia Prime Collection
1.3734223001796
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3729531476372
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3723689232252
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3709593333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3703180915342
McQueen Eau de Parfum Alexander McQueen
1.3684647962598
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.365873794289
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3643394429116
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.3634100541322
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3626143100337
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3611727362151
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3593655364166
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3588413700784
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3573731102352
Madly MariaLux
1.3571867962598
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3558187775588
Tubéreuses Castane Lancome
1.3551893700784
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.354839
Tres Chic Vivienne Sabo
1.3532913700784
Tuberose Vertigineuse Molinard
1.3529847962598
Inveja Abinoam
1.349358869093
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.3478697962598
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3462853887794
La Dame Blanche Le Cercle des Parfumeurs Createurs
1.3446448808304
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3438521249945
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.338337682083
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.334427906495
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.334208925196
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3341651289362
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.333989943897
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.333770962598
Golden Tuberose Daniel Josier
1.3337271663382
1910 Bésame Cosmetics
1.3336243847939
Michael Michael Kors
1.3335957775588
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335081850392
Moroccan Tuberose Illuminum
1.3334205925196
Theosiris Classique Guy Bouchara
1.3334205925196
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3334205925196
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334205925196
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.3334205925196
Cerimonia Pour Femme Pal Zileri
1.333333
Yubiley Severnoye Siyanie
1.333333
Jasmine Soap & Paper Factory
1.3303582873911
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.328674850392
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.3270147509745
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3265357027548
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3261284970438
Gold Michael Kors
1.3260326840538
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.325656943897
Dolce Tuberose 43 Krigler
1.323018962598
Tuberose Angelica Limited Edition Jo Malone
1.3207007401568
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.317510962598
Hanako Syed Junaid Alam
1.3159641850392
An Ideal Wife Lise London
1.3142956466518
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3133296847983
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3125875925196
Edenwood Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3122335738186
Tuberose Renee
1.311767943897
Shantoung Galimard
1.3108225177156
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3092633681076
Tubereuse Caron
1.307910981299
Oasis La Via del Profumo
1.307692
Art Nouveau Iris Brocard
1.307692
White Lies Agonist
1.3058527529453
Jour d’Hermes Gardenia Hermes
1.304348
Fleurs de Lys Art Deco Perfumes

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