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

1.5079759217457
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.5036619011788
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5023576624028
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.501956358164
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5017055430148
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5012039127163
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011537496865
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5010534236268
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.5009029345372
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5008026084776
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5008026084776
Madly MariaLux
1.500652119388
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.500652119388
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5004013042388
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003511412089
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003511412089
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5003009781791
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003009781791
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5003009781791
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002006521194
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001504890895
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5001003260597
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.5001003260597
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001003260597
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000501630298
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000501630298
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000501630298
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.4999498369702
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999498369702
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4998996739403
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.476666499373
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4710394672686
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4660417060446
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.464719238776
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.4619894672686
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4617888151492
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4546954890895
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4502774557311
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4487776302985
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4447951412089
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4341356084776
Sex Desigual
1.4321254454477
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4295240975671
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290726302985
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287716521194
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.4287214890895
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286713260597
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286211630298
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4222067496865
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4212536521194
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4186535071482
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4168676521194
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4097113082518
Do Son Diptyque
1.4074742914472
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.4002006521194
De La Marque Rouge Armaf
1.4001003260597
Love Milton Lloyd
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3935114018059
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3856684236268
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.381906618761
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3810523260597
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3792327278656
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.377058811387
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.375
Isabey Perle de la Route d`Emeraude Panouge
1.3743724083271
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3731312272385
Gold Michael Kors
1.3725444672686
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3694744236268
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3678987933283
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3652143333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3637363260597
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628055866566
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3618058690745
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3605401733133
Gold Flowers Montale
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3555914454477
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3554803774768
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3554409563582
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3550898151492
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3544458908954
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533924672686
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529911630298
Inveja Abinoam
1.3529002054176
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3504514672686
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.3480266521194
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.3478761630298
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3473869425633
Michael Michael Kors
1.3470067715074
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3431847745172
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3401904431904
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3342860975671
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3340352824179
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3337343042388
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335838151492
Varensia White Ulric de Varens
1.3335336521194
Oros Pour Femme Oros
1.3335336521194
Caron Lady Caron (2014) Caron
1.3335336521194
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3335336521194
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3334834890895
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334834890895
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.3334333260597
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334333260597
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3333831630298
Addiction Blackglama
1.3333831630298
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3311000539253
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.326304238776
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3256089102082
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3239799345372
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3197036072235
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3186836302985
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3182823260597
Voyance Baruti
1.3176200975671
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.316619238776
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3128531514924
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3125501630298
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3122969179834
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.308912025834
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.3085949345372
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3079750313519
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3076200975671
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3063452621018
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3052007715074
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3051359229997
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3037322824179
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3030599448207
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3007002593429
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3002508151492
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3001003260597
Rozy Extrait de Parfum Vero Profumo
1.3001003260597
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.3000501630298
Skin Couture Summer Pink Armaf
1.3
Shandrani Farfalla
1.2966973042388
Divine Issime Ulric de Varens
1.2956054890895
Karolina Kurkova LR
1.2952215866566
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.2943688151492
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2925785071482
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2922634018059
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.2922187933283
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2920683042388
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2917439987459
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2907744672686
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2906018550288
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2890137933283
Rome 1963 4160 Tuesdays
1.2883806302985
Flor Azteca The Exotic Island Perfumer
1.2878299744169
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture

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