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

1.5022933149868
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5019493177388
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5013186561174
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5012039903681
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5010893246187
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5008599931201
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5008026602454
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.500687994496
Madly MariaLux
1.5006306616214
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006306616214
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005733287467
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5004586629974
Sex Desigual
1.5004013301227
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5004013301227
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5002866643734
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002293314987
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002293314987
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002293314987
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001146657493
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5001146657493
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000573328747
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000573328747
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000573328747
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000573328747
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
1.4999426671253
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999426671253
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998853342507
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4707026657493
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618246643734
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4545023163628
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4479313191148
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.444959995872
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447306643734
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4422936065818
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4351843301227
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296603246187
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290296629974
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.428742998624
Anjali Reminiscence
1.428742998624
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286856657493
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286283328747
Gelsomino Galimard
1.4218556602454
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4169278362573
Do Son Diptyque
1.4168963314987
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167243328747
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4070005708061
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4014333218668
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3931386519895
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3921872172916
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3860273136108
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3830749669763
Gold Michael Kors
1.3795448610251
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3760319917441
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.370713997248
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3674123273707
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3650853333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.3646679917441
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3638653314987
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3629059903681
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.362597294347
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.355526994496
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551256643734
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3545463204908
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533423301227
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529983328747
Inveja Abinoam
1.3512699834881
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3478833328747
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3469566602454
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3467052763445
Michael Michael Kors
1.344455577686
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3435581648893
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3434646884532
J`adore Dior
1.3399166616214
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3394749738562
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3391053204908
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3364289752322
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3353969834881
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3348236547414
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3343649917441
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341356602454
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3339063287467
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337916629974
$ D.S. & Durga
1.333504998624
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.333504998624
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334476657493
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334476657493
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3333903328747
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333903328747
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3226383328747
Shalini Shalini
1.3216723259947
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3202293314987
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3129823122348
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3119773081069
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.311517584566
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3099650080266
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3096878293774
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3069892984749
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3050933273707
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3047536437335
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3010319917441
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3002866643734
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002293314987
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2999532296755
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2966973301227
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.2944298252494
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2943473314987
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2942230700608
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2922403287467
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2917059642243
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.291458877537
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2907816629974
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.289105295723
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2867414674923
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2866313259947
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.286057997248
Day Sarabecca
1.2860006643734
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2860006643734
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859433314987
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859433314987
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2859433314987
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2857713328747
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.2857713328747
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.285714
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2856946437335
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2855639146887
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2851503039789
So Nude CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.285093294347
PG17 Tubereuse Couture Parfumerie Generale
1.2842578954248
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2840423218668
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2835836588694
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.2808473191148
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2786953259947
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.2786789091847
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2779633465199
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.275515995872
Tuberoli Space NK
1.2746919573443
Douglas Hannant Robert Piguet
1.2737589917441
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2737016588694
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2733003287467
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.2730379462218
Radiance Britney Spears
1.2730136643734
Saraab Gold Syed Junaid Alam
1.272898998624
Cutting Garden Royal Apothic
1.2708165336544
Tease Paris Hilton
1.2695743259947
Luci ed Ombre Masque
1.2674006451095
Miss Dior Cherie Extrait de Parfum Dior

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