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

1.5023329445092
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5019441204244
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5018330278287
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.5014442037438
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5012775648503
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5012775648503
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5011664722546
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5008887407654
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007776481697
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007776481697
Madly MariaLux
1.5007221018719
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006110092762
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005554629784
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005554629784
Sex Desigual
1.5003888240849
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003888240849
Tuberose TerraNova
1.500333277787
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.500333277787
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002777314892
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.5002777314892
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002221851914
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5002221851914
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5002221851914
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001666388935
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.5001110925957
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001110925957
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5001110925957
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.5000555462978
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000555462978
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000555462978
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000555462978
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Kissable Fierce Katie Price aka Jordan
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.4999444537022
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999444537022
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999444537022
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4761835834028
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4706990925957
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618157314892
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.447875935233
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449439166806
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447217314892
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4353940092762
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296263796589
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4295541113148
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4290709166806
Hawaii Milton Lloyd
1.4290153703827
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287376388935
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287376388935
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286820925957
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286265462978
Gelsomino Galimard
1.4219972870633
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4214799728379
Do Son Diptyque
1.4169447314892
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.4168891851914
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167225462978
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4119871851914
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4106575559073
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3933036667222
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3872119448425
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3859453523302
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3852711297006
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3830018797423
Gold Michael Kors
1.3793332963395
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3758887407654
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3752777314892
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.3681246481697
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3676668333611
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3652703333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3648024722546
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3637470925957
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3629795648503
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3569773612731
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3556721944676
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551167314892
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3547184815309
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534409166806
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529965462978
Inveja Abinoam
1.35196271327
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3516108426373
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3512612130201
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3497475661834
Michael Michael Kors
1.3479280556574
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3478815462978
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3471538333611
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3471055347442
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3419689647281
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3400081018719
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3377044722546
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3353882130201
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3347772037438
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3344439259568
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3342772870633
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341106481697
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3339440092762
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337773703827
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3337773703827
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3334996388935
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334440925957
OH ± Denim UER MI
1.3334440925957
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334440925957
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334440925957
Frisson Galimard
1.3334440925957
Maram Al-Rehab
1.3333885462978
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333885462978
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Flora de Mare Voluspa
1.3329924445926
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.3289799259568
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3229034353163
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3227476388935
Shalini Shalini
1.321694592679
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3216437407654
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3203483056157
English Dawn White Gardenia The Body Shop
1.3192929259568
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3186958799089
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3176668333611
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3158507338221
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3128445834028
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3126110925957
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3111767131034
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3104202315725
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3086362870633
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3080525098595
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3050795741265
Flowerhead Byredo
1.3050701018719
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.304664314892
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3010907969227
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.3002777314892
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002221851914
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2994229638949
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2967748333611
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2943401851914
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2942973241682
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2929607314892
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2922780092762
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2920259817808
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2907673703827
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.289635648503
Fleurissimo Creed
1.289392935233
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.2890143427207
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2865471944676
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2863740944287
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2861028240849
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.286047277787
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859917314892
Day Sarabecca

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