Tuberose

lat. Polianthes tuberosa

Group: WHITE 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.
 

 

Tuberose Perfumes

1.5030277622508
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.5014905906465
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5012111049003
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011645239426
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.500791876281
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5006521334079
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5006521334079
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5003726476616
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5003260667039
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003260667039
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5002794857462
Jasmine Renee
1.5002329047885
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5002329047885
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5001863238308
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001863238308
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001863238308
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5000931619154
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000465809577
Tuberosa Di Notte Voluspa
1.5000465809577
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5000465809577
N° XV Pink Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5000465809577
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000465809577
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000465809577
Capri Night Profumi Capri
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Tuberose Mary Chess
1.5
Night Blossom La Via del Profumo
1.4999068380846
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4995254196013
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.4887736573505
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.4835974572387
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4778322098006
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4765626476616
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.4738703238308
Herrera Tuberose Carolina Herrera
1.4680178477734
Marlowe Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.4619106476616
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4615845809577
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4552383335197
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4551237628098
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4520686955469
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.4473213905347
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4445837428731
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4383850381964
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4327819634805
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4319068477734
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.4287573238308
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4287573238308
Pearl Silver Novae Plus
1.4287107428731
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4243812668157
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4035520985653
Do Son Diptyque
1.4001397428731
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3955354110304
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3935078477734
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.391769809577
Chic Michael Kors
1.391304
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3848479047885
White Tubereuse Eau de Toilette Reminiscence
1.3835379714925
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3816972953233
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3811383238308
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3792630381964
Io Hilde Soliani
1.3789380866406
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3778711619154
Tenebra Royal Crown
1.3753726476616
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3752329047885
Anjali Reminiscence
1.3752329047885
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3750931619154
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.375
Intensia Prime Collection
1.3746476972238
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3743790381964
Madly MariaLux
1.3729455524502
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3723082383082
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3720160193777
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3700283333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3684675809577
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3641769144774
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.3638223238308
Times Square Demeter Fragrance
1.3635186573505
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3622803910937
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3587704857462
Tuberoli Space NK
1.3577075815167
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3571895809577
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3552582286193
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.354839
Tres Chic Vivienne Sabo
1.3529875809577
Inveja Abinoam
1.3503952953233
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3485975906465
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.3478725809577
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3462282084964
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3423006482206
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3373027821874
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3350963676169
Michael Michael Kors
1.3341714572387
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3341714572387
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3340317143656
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3336590667039
Golden Tuberose Daniel Josier
1.3336124857462
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335193238308
Moroccan Tuberose Illuminum
1.3334261619154
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3334261619154
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334261619154
Theosiris Classique Guy Bouchara
1.3334261619154
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.3333795809577
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3331000952115
Vetiver OUD Illuminum
1.3262608956587
Gold Michael Kors
1.3261190096888
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3256789429849
Tagete Profumum Roma
1.3256055524502
Dolce Tuberose Krigler
1.3254188956587
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3252434201602
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3214989526737
Tubereuse Caron
1.3210810667039
Tuberose Renee
1.3200928768399
Jour d’Hermes Gardenia Hermes
1.317538809577
Hanako Syed Junaid Alam
1.315789
La Dame Blanche Le Cercle des Parfumeurs Createurs
1.3148422280604
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3142234954351
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3125931619154
Edenwood Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.311902876281
Shantoung Galimard
1.3075520381964
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3074767810695
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3025186191541
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3024879429849
Me Myself & I Egofacto
1.3023408760947
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3021459714925
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2993931430967
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.2992979047885
Karolina Kurkova LR
1.2991087428731
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2990607262903
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.2981470096888
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2964357428731
El Otro Tigre Fueguia 1833
1.2924122953233
Tubereuse Eau De Parfum Kat Burki
1.2917618010061
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.2901727143656
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.2896288289547
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.2893574954351
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.2885311334079
Flor Azteca The Exotic Island Perfumer
1.288462
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2881575906465
Life Threads Silver La Prairie
1.2877855729458
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2871180614869
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2861332286193
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.2859941430967
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.2859934857462
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859003238308
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.2857605809577
Les Bohemes: Lil' Nico Opus Oils
1.2856208380846
My Cherry Apple Parfums
1.2838869047885
I Love Tango Dzintars

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