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

1.5017486734202
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5012059816691
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5010250844187
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5008441871684
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5008441871684
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5008441871684
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.500663289918
Madly MariaLux
1.5006029908345
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5004220935842
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003617945007
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5003617945007
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5003617945007
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5002411963338
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5002411963338
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002411963338
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002411963338
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5001205981669
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5000602990835
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000602990835
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000602990835
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000602990835
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.4999397009165
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998794018331
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4998794018331
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4748899816691
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4738045981669
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4707085981669
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618394954173
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4480232715871
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4463132715871
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.4449263926676
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4448057945007
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4446851963338
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.4352050935842
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4325373854317
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4289327945007
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4288121963338
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287518972504
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286915981669
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.423042869754
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4206192276893
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4201508186204
Do Son Diptyque
1.4169081963338
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167272990835
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4124885890014
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.401989869754
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.4014471780029
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3951631413411
Gold Michael Kors
1.3949674679209
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3875454809455
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3850370935842
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.3847355981669
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3760250844187
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3753014954173
Sex Desigual
1.3720593506995
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3646693333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.3638771963338
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3604567896768
Michael Michael Kors
1.3573841963338
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3551547578389
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3545690752533
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3534233926676
Chic Michael Kors
1.3530012990835
Inveja Abinoam
1.352677579836
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3503014954173
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.3490001321756
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3487304862518
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.347826
Cowgirl Grass DS & Durga
1.3469448962856
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3469378880849
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3448956825856
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3432074751568
J`adore Dior
1.3399116550892
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3358655615051
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3354335451037
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3353831688374
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3347801780029
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3341771871684
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.333996289918
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3338153926676
$ DS & Durga
1.3335741963338
Via Veneto I Santi
1.3333932990835
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3333932990835
Barocco Esther P
1.3333932990835
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3333932990835
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.333333
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3299918847082
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3297028330921
C for Women Clive Christian
1.3254220935842
Zohar Ayala Moriel
1.3226412990835
Shalini Shalini
1.320663289918
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3192070844187
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3170724249879
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3147134587554
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3120154862518
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3083960496864
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3051318880849
Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3045891963338
Heavenly Gingerlily Eau Fraîche Molton Brown
1.3009044862518
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3003014954173
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3001205981669
Moroccan Tuberose Illuminum
1.2972367009165
Gigi Ayala Moriel
1.2957483285094
PG17 Tubereuse Couture Parfumerie Generale
1.291720523396
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2914166550892
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.2906847945007
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2888263029426
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2865581871684
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2864375890014
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.2862566917511
Extraordinary Roccobarocco
1.2860154954173
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2859551963338
Day Sarabecca
1.2857742990835
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.2857742990835
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.285714
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.2839958789194
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2832254331886
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2809723945972
Noix de Tubereuse Miller Harris
1.2809392715871
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2804591688374
Glam Kim Kardashian
1.2794621321756
Douglas Hannant Robert Piguet
1.2788030844187
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.2785740853835
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2770070130246
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2769225359383
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2761380752533
24K Jivago
1.2755426917511
Tuberoli Space NK
1.2754404587554
Miss Dior Cherie Extrait de Parfum Dior
1.274668154848
Radiance Britney Spears
1.2738137303425
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2738123835022
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2737791452002
Tease Paris Hilton
1.2731432021225
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2728475981669
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.2728475981669
Cutting Garden Royal Apothic
1.2711018644477
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2702374573082
Fragile Jean Paul Gaultier
1.2699657216594
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.266667
El Otro Tigre Fueguia 1833
1.266667
Trapeze Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.2663340752533
Osmo Scents Gardenia Royal Il Profvmo
1.2648265981669
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2646457009165
Incarnation Ayala Moriel
1.2622605340087
Petit Fracas Robert Piguet

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