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.

Loading...

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

1.5026008492569
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5022292993631
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5019108280255
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5013269639066
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5013269639066
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5012208067941
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5009554140127
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007961783439
Sex Desigual
1.5007430997877
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007430997877
Madly MariaLux
1.5006369426752
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005307855626
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5003715498938
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003184713376
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5003184713376
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5003184713376
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003184713376
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5002653927813
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002123142251
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5002123142251
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5001061571125
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001061571125
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000530785563
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000530785563
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999469214437
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999469214437
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999469214437
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.4998938428875
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4930857494692
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4855327622081
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4791102569002
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.476497163482
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4647106284501
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4620157070064
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4618033927813
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4549784352442
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4547042356688
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4488598641189
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4448155498938
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.429579492569
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4289956284501
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287302356688
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4287302356688
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286240785563
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4221882505308
Do Son Diptyque
1.4220084140127
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4211591571125
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4169323927813
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.4169323927813
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4168793142251
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4147401571125
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4002546963907
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3932148280255
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3858358067941
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3852106921444
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3826218917197
Gold Michael Kors
1.3803587664544
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3801321316348
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3792641995754
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3787834267516
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3753715498938
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.3679308641189
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3677285711253
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3672340424628
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3671977855626
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3645573333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3637421571125
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3629228067941
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3586041825902
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3556351783439
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3554759426752
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3551043927813
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546395138004
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534187070064
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529940785563
Inveja Abinoam
1.3516454352442
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3511699065817
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3497102632696
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3481444713376
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.3478790785563
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3471094140127
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3457982144374
Michael Michael Kors
1.3426960573248
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3418165456476
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3352969065817
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3343945711253
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3342353354565
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3340760997877
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3339168641189
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3337576284501
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335983927813
Tubereuse Le Galion
1.3335453142251
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3335453142251
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.3334922356688
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334391571125
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334391571125
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334391571125
Maram Al-Rehab
1.3334391571125
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333860785563
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3286475711253
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3250255541401
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3227998343949
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3227402356688
Shalini Shalini
1.3192966496815
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3174100997877
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3164827282378
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3163949639066
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3128396921444
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3126061571125
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3121707367304
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3109166687898
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3085943354565
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3077285711253
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3058025329087
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3050380212314
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.304700163482
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3042774352442
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.3030344076433
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.3002653927813
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3001061571125
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.3000530785563
Skin Couture Summer Pink Armaf
1.3
Rozy Extrait de Parfum Vero Profumo
1.3
Shandrani Farfalla
1.2985866348195
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.2979291061571
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.2969360318471
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2967206284501
Divine Issime Ulric de Varens
1.2960682993631
Flowerhead Byredo
1.2958897409766
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.2943833927813
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2928953142251
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2923421210191
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.2922508641189
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2908007070064
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2905860063694
Ikat Jasmine Aerin Lauder
1.2895687770701
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2866816326964
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2865101783439
Shantoung Galimard
1.2860324713376
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2858732356688
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2858201571125
Memories Emper
1.2857670785563
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery

Popular brands and perfumes: