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

1.5021971668112
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5018502457358
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5013298641226
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5012142237641
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5010985834056
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5008673026886
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5008094825094
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5006360219717
Madly MariaLux
1.5006360219717
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005782017924
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5005203816132
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5005203816132
Sex Desigual
1.5004047412547
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5004047412547
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.5002891008962
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.500231280717
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.500231280717
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.500231280717
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001156403585
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5000578201792
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000578201792
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000578201792
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000578201792
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.4999421798208
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999421798208
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998843596415
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4737996403585
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4707036403585
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618271008962
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4479464255565
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449065614339
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447909210755
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4422418031223
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4351877412547
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296695834056
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290335614339
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287444605377
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4287444605377
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4286866403585
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286288201792
Gelsomino Galimard
1.423192346632
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4218624825094
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4177524963862
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.416898280717
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167248201792
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.4156438829141
Do Son Diptyque
1.4014455044811
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3931542457358
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3923683255276
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3831100529055
Gold Michael Kors
1.3792877730558
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.3759829430471
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3755046273489
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.368652280717
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.3675343026886
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3647573333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.3646189430471
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.363867280717
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3629162237641
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3626387152356
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.357374280717
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3573164605377
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.3555328421509
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551281008962
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.354617785198
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.3533457412547
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529988201792
Inveja Abinoam
1.3478838201792
Cowgirl Grass DS & Durga
1.3469634825094
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3467938860942
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3465995909222
Michael Michael Kors
1.3444922945938
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3440271448395
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3434506926857
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3429014460827
J`adore Dior
1.3395027502168
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3363974694999
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3354145264527
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3348363246603
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.3343737632264
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341424825094
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3339112017924
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337955614339
$ DS & Durga
1.3335064605377
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3334486403585
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334486403585
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3333908201792
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333908201792
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3226388201792
Shalini Shalini
1.3215644825094
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3206938421509
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3203311856028
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3202891008962
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.3128890878867
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3120041098583
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.311257891009
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3100712729112
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3067950529055
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3050996623302
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.3047201887829
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.3046949210755
Heavenly Gingerlily Eau Fraîche Molton Brown
1.3010407632264
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3002891008962
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.300231280717
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.3001211806881
Fleurissimo Creed
1.2967007412547
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.2954205021683
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2946154882914
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.2922452017924
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2913577071408
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2907855614339
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2891452546979
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2866391228679
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2862346666667
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.2860609210755
Day Sarabecca
1.2860031008962
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.285945280717
Via Veneto I Santi
1.285945280717
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.285945280717
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2857718201792
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.2857718201792
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.2857190089621
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.285714
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2856545533391
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2851347152356
PG17 Tubereuse Couture Parfumerie Generale
1.2843111806881
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2840545044811
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2834763026886
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.2808624255565
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2787031228679
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.2786019349523
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2782418161318
Douglas Hannant Robert Piguet
1.2755203816132
Tuberoli Space NK
1.2742307941602
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2740403622434
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.2737677632264
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2737677632264
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2731895614339
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130
1.2730161008962
Saraab Gold Syed Junaid Alam
1.2729004605377
Cutting Garden Royal Apothic
1.2726870318011
Tease Paris Hilton
1.2720964111015
Radiance Britney Spears
1.2674235484244
Miss Dior Cherie Extrait de Parfum Dior
1.266667
Trapeze Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.2646886493206
mark White Vetiver mark.

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