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

1.5028459070682
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5022249818897
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5017592880058
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5013453378868
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.501241850357
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011901065922
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5009313877678
Sex Desigual
1.5009313877678
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007244127083
Madly MariaLux
1.5007244127083
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5006726689434
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5003622063541
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5003622063541
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003622063541
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5003104625893
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003104625893
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003104625893
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002587188244
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002069750595
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001034875298
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001034875298
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000517437649
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000517437649
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000517437649
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999482562351
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999482562351
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.4999482562351
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998965124702
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4860743084963
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4789841633033
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4716228752975
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.4660452880058
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.464699950119
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4620036938839
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4617967188244
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4554544943599
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4547002312946
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4487934376488
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4448062063541
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4321491564731
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4295541315327
Io Hilde Soliani
1.428984950119
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287262312946
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4287262312946
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286227437649
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4219843877678
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4211564875298
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4176979412191
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4169913880782
Do Son Diptyque
1.4169257188244
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.4168739750595
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4013719706095
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.4002069750595
De La Marque Rouge Armaf
1.4001034875298
Love Milton Lloyd
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3935540816517
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3858051065922
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3835107823657
Gold Michael Kors
1.3828186938839
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3819489320087
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3810554875298
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3772824174687
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3753622063541
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.3750652791059
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3678644376488
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3671993378868
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3649523333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3637394875298
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628403628273
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3618627755355
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3612579343889
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3590575193004
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3580477823657
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3556151564731
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3554599251785
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3550977188244
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.354596800476
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534066938839
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529927437649
Inveja Abinoam
1.3514309818897
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3481364625893
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.3478777437649
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3473886630446
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3470853877678
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3461702206354
Michael Michael Kors
1.3435020816517
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3434964591742
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3343678752975
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3343161315327
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3340574127083
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.333746950119
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335917188244
Oros Pour Femme Oros
1.3335399750595
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3334882312946
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.3334882312946
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334364875298
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334364875298
Maram Al-Rehab
1.3334364875298
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3334364875298
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3333847437649
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3309250317707
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.3285173877678
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3264004967401
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3229156374832
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3228397188244
Shalini Shalini
1.3186994376488
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3176501315327
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3166085941219
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.313741850357
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3128287007141
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.312711145193
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3125517437649
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3117948990997
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3096218821277
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3086233877678
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3076501315327
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3061877102349
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3050206689434
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3037026689434
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3002587188244
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3001552312946
Rozy Extrait de Parfum Vero Profumo
1.3001034875298
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.3000517437649
Skin Couture Summer Pink Armaf
1.3
Shandrani Farfalla
1.2989076077823
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.298789875608
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2979458322467
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.2966582063541
Divine Issime Ulric de Varens
1.2943767188244
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2932004376488
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2923060816517
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.292285635103
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2922361814136
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2907886938839
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2907627030943
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2905696757736
Ikat Jasmine Aerin Lauder
1.2905452381248
Flowerhead Byredo
1.2879374331988
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.2865328913381
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2864901564731
Shantoung Galimard
1.2860762063541
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2858692312946
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2858174875298
Memories Emper
1.2857657437649
Les Bohemes: Lil' Nico Opus Oils

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