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

1.5022823033708
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5017556179775
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5012289325843
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5012289325843
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5009948501873
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5008778089888
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5008192883895
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5006437265918
Madly MariaLux
1.5005852059925
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005266853933
Sex Desigual
1.500468164794
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5004096441948
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003511235955
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5002926029963
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.500234082397
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.500234082397
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.500234082397
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001170411985
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5000585205993
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000585205993
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000585205993
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000585205993
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.5000585205993
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.4999414794007
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998829588015
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4998829588015
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4803511235955
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.474854411985
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4738010411985
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4707050411985
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618306029963
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4479681385768
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.444912164794
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447951235955
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4351926441948
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4322565543071
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.429039164794
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287465617978
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287465617978
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286880411985
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286295205993
Gelsomino Galimard
1.4231012209738
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4200499213483
Do Son Diptyque
1.4189493033708
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.4186811198502
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.416901082397
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167255205993
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.412467247191
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.401404494382
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.393176659176
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3925462322097
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3829264007491
Gold Michael Kors
1.378019411985
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3759948501873
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3752926029963
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3685380411985
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3646308501873
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3642773333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.363870082397
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3629309325843
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3624056479401
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.357377082397
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.355541247191
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3546380973783
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533506441948
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529995205993
Inveja Abinoam
1.3486452883895
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.347826
Cowgirl Grass DS & Durga
1.3469732883895
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3468177003745
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.345663082397
Michael Michael Kors
1.3455809026217
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3412405580524
J`adore Dior
1.3393671123596
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3367002696629
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3364345917603
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.335439741573
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.334737494382
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.334737494382
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3343863707865
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341522883895
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3339182059925
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.333801164794
$ DS & Durga
1.3334500411985
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334500411985
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334500411985
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3333915205993
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333915205993
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3300480599251
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3254096441948
Zohar Ayala Moriel
1.3226395205993
Shalini Shalini
1.3215742883895
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3207607677903
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.312919906367
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.311867071161
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.31010782397
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3067284419476
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3061440224719
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3051087677903
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3047576441948
Heavenly Gingerlily Eau Fraîche Molton Brown
1.304695988764
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3010533707865
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3004096441948
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3002926029963
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.300234082397
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2980426067416
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2967056441948
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.29569117603
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2956080524345
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2916589588015
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2913066629213
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.290791164794
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2875444007491
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2868258913858
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2860651235955
Day Sarabecca
1.285948082397
Via Veneto I Santi
1.285948082397
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.285948082397
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2858310411985
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2857725205993
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.2857725205993
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.2857263108614
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.285714
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2840720149813
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2833697677903
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.2808841385768
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2807192097378
PG17 Tubereuse Couture Parfumerie Generale
1.2786558089888
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.2783288726592
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2777078913858
Sundance Memo
1.2755266853933
Tuberoli Space NK
1.274966659176
Radiance Britney Spears
1.2741105655431
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2737803707865
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2733594531835
Tease Paris Hilton
1.273195164794
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.2729025617978
Cutting Garden Royal Apothic
1.2715838426966
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.2704912509363
Douglas Hannant Robert Piguet
1.2675656217228
Lys 41 Le Labo
1.2671638651685
Miss Dior Cherie Extrait de Parfum Dior
1.266667
Trapeze Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.2652303820225
Fragile Jean Paul Gaultier
1.2648421123596
mark White Vetiver mark.
1.2628675093633
Glam Kim Kardashian

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