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

1.5026021337497
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5022898776997
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5017694509498
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5013531095498
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5012490241998
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011969815249
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5009367681499
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5009367681499
Sex Desigual
1.5007285974499
Madly MariaLux
1.5007285974499
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5005724694249
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.500364298725
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.500364298725
Tuberose TerraNova
1.50031225605
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.50031225605
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.50031225605
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.500260213375
Amarena Bvlgari
1.500260213375
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002081707
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.50010408535
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.50010408535
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.500052042675
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.500052042675
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.500052042675
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.499947957325
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.499947957325
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.499947957325
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.49989591465
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.485911273224
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4789482617747
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4657405120999
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.4647023413999
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.4641653655998
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4620063840749
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.461798213375
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4581838534999
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.454701128025
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.4487964267499
Carolina Mazzolari
1.444808298725
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4295598108249
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4289873413999
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.428727128025
Anjali Reminiscence
1.428727128025
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.428623042675
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4261675789748
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.4219897681499
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.42115708535
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4209272464221
Do Son Diptyque
1.416927213375
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.4168751707
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4065444126984
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.40010408535
Love Milton Lloyd
1.4
Frederic Frederic Haldimann
1.3865405789748
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3858119815249
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3851620057247
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3835852432995
Gold Michael Kors
1.3828213840749
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.38105608535
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3792351948998
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3787632063492
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3772261254228
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3759138636482
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.375364298725
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.3679160241998
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3678674267499
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.3672071095498
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3645583333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.36374008535
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628469388499
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3618735362998
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3612689617486
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3591206216498
Gold Flowers Montale
1.357143
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3556196401249
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3555155547749
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.355099213375
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546063655998
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534093840749
Chic Michael Kors
1.352993042675
Inveja Abinoam
1.3512356643247
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3497969872495
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.34813825605
Donna Margherita Pantheon Roma
1.347878042675
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3472442825917
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3470907681499
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3462709253188
Michael Michael Kors
1.3435101522248
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3423507730939
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3343738534999
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3343218108249
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3340615974499
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3337493413999
$ D.S. & Durga
1.333593213375
Tubereuse Le Galion
1.333593213375
Oros Pour Femme Oros
1.3335411707
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.333489128025
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.333489128025
Ekstasis Re Profumo
1.33343708535
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.33343708535
Maram Al-Rehab
1.33343708535
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.33343708535
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.333385042675
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.3285227681499
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3248724923237
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.322737128025
Shalini Shalini
1.3176037681499
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3166160668748
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3162201522248
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3128430483997
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3126360541244
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.31260408535
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3125328808223
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3106557920895
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3085767254749
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3077078534999
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.3057631043456
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.3050245547749
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3044534936248
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.3042172248244
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.3037065547749
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.302942374447
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.300260213375
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.30010408535
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.300052042675
Skin Couture Summer Pink Armaf
1.3
Shandrani Farfalla
1.3
Rozy Extrait de Parfum Vero Profumo
1.2984734751496
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.2978617738746
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.2967123413999
Divine Issime Ulric de Varens
1.294378213375
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2930993413999
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2923141522248
Tuberosa Santa Maria Novella
1.2922589674733
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2922394694249
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2907913840749
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2907728337237
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2905852190997
Ikat Jasmine Aerin Lauder
1.2904537069997
Flowerhead Byredo
1.2879765904241
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.2864946401249
Shantoung Galimard
1.286078298725
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.285870128025
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.28581808535
Memories Emper
1.285766042675
Les Bohemes: Lil' Nico Opus Oils

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