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

1.5023521505376
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.501960125448
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5017921146953
White Tubereuse Reminiscence
1.5012880824373
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.501232078853
Cologne Intense Tuberose Angelica Jo Malone
1.5011760752688
Dior Passage No.9 Christian Dior
1.5011760752688
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5008960573477
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007840501792
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007840501792
Madly MariaLux
1.500728046595
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006160394265
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005600358423
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005600358423
Sex Desigual
1.5003920250896
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003920250896
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5003360215054
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5003360215054
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5003360215054
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002800179211
Tuberosa Miller Harris
1.5002240143369
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5002240143369
Couture Tuberose Versace
1.5002240143369
Amarena Bvlgari
1.5001680107527
Tuberosa Les Voiles Depliees
1.5001120071685
Tuberosa d’Autunno I Profumi di Firenze
1.5001120071685
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.5001120071685
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000560035842
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000560035842
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000560035842
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5000560035842
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5
Tuberose CB I Hate Perfume
1.5
Tubereuse Les Sens de Marrakech
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Kissable Fierce Katie Price aka Jordan
1.4999439964158
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4999439964158
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999439964158
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4824081541219
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4712040394265
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.4707000071685
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618180179211
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4478341075269
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449480322581
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447240179211
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4353990394265
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296350681004
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4295584695341
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4290750322581
Hawaii Milton Lloyd
1.4290190286738
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287390107527
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4287390107527
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286830071685
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286270035842
Gelsomino Galimard
1.4220050609319
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4209343835125
Do Son Diptyque
1.4169470179211
Gelsorosa Farmacia SS. Annunziata
1.4168910143369
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167230035842
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4058807777778
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4001680107527
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3933201290323
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3892249103943
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3859701541219
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3850400896057
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3830352616487
Gold Michael Kors
1.3759520609319
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3752800179211
Heart of Glass Ava Luxe
1.3698210896057
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3677310681004
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3655913333333
Hypnotic Poison Christian Dior
1.3647000681004
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3638600143369
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3636920035842
OH ± Denim UER MI
1.362934078853
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3569693727599
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3556790537634
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551190179211
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546771111111
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533330250896
Chic Michael Kors
1.3532770215054
Yin And Ylang Sonoma Scent Studio
1.3529970035842
Inveja Abinoam
1.3517361111111
Gold Flowers Montale
1.351166125448
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3487071541219
Michael Michael Kors
1.3478820035842
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3477342222222
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3471060609319
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3454879390681
J`adore Christian Dior
1.3446457240143
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3417050681004
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.340014046595
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.337770078853
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3354051326165
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.33478909319
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3344530716846
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3343410645161
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341170501792
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3338930358423
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337810286738
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3337810286738
Tuberosa Do Egito Phebo
1.3335010107527
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3335010107527
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3334450071685
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334450071685
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3334450071685
Frisson Galimard
1.3333890035842
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333890035842
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.333333
Flora de Mare Voluspa
1.3289330681004
Poison Extrait de Parfum Christian Dior
1.3239373261649
Jeu d’Amour Kenzo
1.3227490107527
Shalini Shalini
1.3217762043011
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3216510573477
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3204781469534
English Dawn White Gardenia The Body Shop
1.3193580752688
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3185546344086
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3177310681004
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3135303512545
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3132342939068
J'Adore L'Absolu Christian Dior
1.3128651612903
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3105032150538
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3086440609319
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3081793655914
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.305076046595
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3049831146953
Flowerhead Byredo
1.3046871792115
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3009754408602
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.3002800179211
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002240143369
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.2994511397849
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2943420143369
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2930190215054
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2922830394265
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2921623154122
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.292002688172
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2907710286738
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2896848207885
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2894071111111
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.289052297491
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2875622078853
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2868712508961
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2867220645161
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2861060250896
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2860500215054
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859940179211
Day Sarabecca
1.2859940179211
Arabesque Arabian Oud

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