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

1.5022568269014
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5020311442112
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5012976754683
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011848341232
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5010719927782
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5009027307606
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007898894155
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007898894155
Madly MariaLux
1.5006206273979
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5006206273979
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006206273979
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005642067253
Sex Desigual
1.5003949447077
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003949447077
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003385240352
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002821033627
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002256826901
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002256826901
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001128413451
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5001128413451
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5001128413451
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.5000564206725
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000564206725
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000564206725
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000564206725
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
1.4999435793275
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999435793275
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999435793275
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4712650480704
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.4707008413451
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618201033627
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4546378269014
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4479030408486
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449517860528
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447261033627
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4354036273979
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296695287745
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4296429927782
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290223653803
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287402620176
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287402620176
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286838413451
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286274206725
Gelsomino Galimard
1.421899310088
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4185919661476
Do Son Diptyque
1.4168926826901
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167234206725
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4056891825773
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4013540961408
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4002256826901
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3932223028662
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3919564301512
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3860445095915
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3829528677499
Gold Michael Kors
1.3822917810878
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3760155721056
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3674004687429
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3660213333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.3647913845633
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3647079927782
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3638616826901
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628868341232
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.355685310088
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551211033627
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546900408486
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533359447077
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529974206725
Inveja Abinoam
1.3512371442112
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3500561990521
Michael Michael Kors
1.3490041995035
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3478824206725
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3477600816971
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3471131514331
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3445607138343
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3421776562853
J`adore Dior
1.3415182085308
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3399066273979
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3378356754683
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3353641442112
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3347999374859
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3343485721056
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341228894155
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3338972067253
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337843653803
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335022620176
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3335022620176
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334458413451
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334458413451
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3333894206725
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333894206725
Frisson Galimard
1.3333894206725
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.330545399007
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3227502620176
Shalini Shalini
1.3216577307606
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3193668341232
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3187413003837
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3177389927782
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.312883930264
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.312096399007
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3106278645904
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3097998555631
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3085947307606
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3072584951478
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3050814687429
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3047080336267
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3010155721056
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3007742306477
Fleurissimo Creed
1.3002821033627
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002256826901
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2984797761228
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2975150069962
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2943436826901
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2930779447077
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2922876273979
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2919169158204
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2907743653803
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2893071995035
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.2890304951478
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2867295721056
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2867003455202
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2866167307606
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2860525240352
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859961033627
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2859961033627
Day Sarabecca
1.2859961033627
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859396826901
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2859311369894
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2858832620176
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.2858832620176
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2857704206725
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.2857704206725
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2856575793275
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.2856199277815
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2851483437147
So Nude CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2845012787181
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2840759374859
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2808190408486
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2769693195667
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2763133653803
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.2758772931618
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2755077860528
Tuberoli Space NK
1.2752998361544
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.2736861514331
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2732912067253
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.2730091033627
Saraab Gold Syed Junaid Alam

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