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

1.5022579734688
Velvet Desire Dolce&Gabbana
1.5019192774485
Tubereuse L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.5012983347446
Bolt of Lightning Jar Parfums
1.5011854360711
Dior Passage No.9 Dior
1.5010725373977
Tubereuse Annick Goutal
1.5009031893875
Tuberosa L`Erbolario
1.5007902907141
Spiced Tuberose and Orchid Potter & Moore
1.5007902907141
Madly MariaLux
1.5006209427039
Eclair de Tubéreuse Il Profvmo
1.5006209427039
Mi Corazon Oscar de la Renta
1.5006209427039
Tubereuse Rosee Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger
1.5005644933672
Sex Desigual
1.500395145357
Black Tuberose Michele Bergman
1.500395145357
Tuberose TerraNova
1.5003386960203
Soliflor Line Eclair de Tubereuse Il Profvmo
1.5002822466836
Tinta Roja Fueguia 1833
1.5002257973469
Artisan Collection Belle Route Sarah Horowitz Parfums
1.5002257973469
N° XV Tubereuse Mad et Len
1.5001128986734
Tuberosa d’Autunno Il Profumi di Firenze
1.5001128986734
La Belle au Bois Dormant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5001128986734
Sensuous Vanilla JoAnne Bassett
1.5000564493367
Eau de Tubereuse Le Jardin Retrouve
1.5000564493367
Tuberose Royal Hawaiian
1.5000564493367
Nocturne Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.5000564493367
Roll-On Perfume No. 11 Melange Perfume
1.5
Tuberosa Imperiale Officine del Profumo
1.5
Midnight Shadows Neil Morris
1.5
Marie Claire Guerlain
1.4999435506633
Muse Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4999435506633
Delight Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
1.4998871013266
L'Eau de Tubereuse Mathias Paris
1.4712653920406
Gateways House of Matriarch
1.4707008986734
Razala Ayala Moriel
1.4618202466836
Leilani's Lei Stand Maoli
1.4545825241321
Tuberosa Profumum Roma
1.4479039294383
Coconut Tuberose No. 821 Gap
1.4449520440305
Tuberosa Agave Voluspa
1.4447262466836
Tuberose, Hyacinth & Lily of the Valley Antica Farmacista
1.4354039427039
Carolina Mazzolari
1.4296733124471
Mirror Mirror Collection - A Travers Le Miroir Thierry Mugler
1.4296435373977
Io Hilde Soliani
1.4290225946938
Sexy 4 Gardenia Trish McEvoy
1.4287403480102
Anjali Reminiscence
1.4287403480102
Day Project D by Dannii and Tabitha
1.4286838986734
Tuberose Elizabeth W
1.4286274493367
Gelsomino Galimard
1.4218997400508
Jasmine & Tuberose Henri Bendel
1.4186589065763
Do Son Diptyque
1.4168927973469
Dos Gardenias Fueguia 1833
1.4167234493367
Palermo Don Corleone La Via del Profumo
1.405638810048
Narcotic Venus Nasomatto
1.4013547840813
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.4002257973469
01 02 Vapeur de Tubereuse Fragrance Republic
1.4
Epice Orientale Kristen Michele
1.3932232774485
L.A. Style Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
1.3919636821902
Infusion de Tubereuse Prada
1.3860457708157
Flor y Canto Arquiste
1.3829549029071
Gold Michael Kors
1.3785383516794
Beyond Love By Kilian
1.376016088061
Tubereuse Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
1.3674008413774
Michael Kors Gold Luxe Edition Michael Kors
1.3660213333333
Hypnotic Poison Dior
1.3647085373977
Four White Flowers Marilyn Miglin
1.3646812376517
La Vie La Mort Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3638617973469
Sita Nina`s Nature
1.3628874360711
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3556857400508
White Tuberose Anthousa
1.3551212466836
I Love Tango Dzintars
1.3546909294383
Bouquet Blanc Le Labo
1.353336145357
Chic Michael Kors
1.3529974493367
Inveja Abinoam
1.3512381761219
Nectar of Love April Aromatics
1.3500808789162
Michael Michael Kors
1.3490050307649
Gold Flowers Montale
1.3478824493367
Cowgirl Grass D.S. & Durga
1.3477618588767
Bubblegum Chic James Heeley
1.3471136387242
Un Air de Damas Tubereuse Dorin
1.3445664180073
Gardenia Passion Annick Goutal
1.3424456587638
J`adore Dior
1.3420843144228
Carnal Flower Frederic Malle
1.3399069427039
Blu Bruno Acampora
1.3378363347446
Floral Veil Grossmith
1.3353651761219
Dreaming Pearl Tommy Hilfiger
1.3348006827547
Fatale Gloria Vanderbilt
1.334349088061
Cepes and Tuberose Aftelier
1.3341232907141
Dianoche Night Daisy Fuentes
1.3338974933672
Moon Garden Strange Invisible Perfumes
1.3337845946938
$ D.S. & Durga
1.3335023480102
Very Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.3335023480102
Castillos Fueguia 1833
1.3334458986734
XIX Spirituelle Verte Mad et Len
1.3334458986734
Golden Hour Artemisia Natural Perfume
1.3333894493367
Feromone pour Femme (Pheromone for woman) La Via del Profumo
1.3333894493367
Mini Varens 31 Ulric de Varens
1.3333894493367
Frisson Galimard
1.3305470615298
I Love New York Earth Day Bond No 9
1.3227503480102
Shalini Shalini
1.3216581893875
Jardin de Bali Isabel Derroisne
1.3193674360711
Forbidden House of Matriarch
1.3187464312729
Fire Island Bond No 9
1.3177395373977
Francesca House of Matriarch
1.3128852201524
French Kiss Tokyo Milk Parfumarie Curiosite
1.3120980615298
Kiss My Name Ramon Monegal
1.3100632782952
Fracas Robert Piguet
1.3098107479537
Flora by Gucci Gracious Tuberose Gucci
1.3085951893875
Perry Black for Her Perry Ellis
1.3072608456111
J'Adore L'Absolu Dior
1.3050818413774
Mood Yearn Victoria`s Secret
1.304709466836
Brilliant White Diamonds Elizabeth Taylor
1.301016088061
No6 Tubereuse Prada
1.3002822466836
Angels Trumpet DL & Co
1.3002257973469
Agua de Jazmin Angel Schlesser
1.297526386678
Tubereuse Criminelle Serge Lutens
1.296691145357
Me Myself & I Ego Facto
1.2966893113181
La Chasse aux Papillons L`Artisan Parfumeur
1.2943437973469
Tiare Flower Beach Ulric de Varens
1.2940861007621
Fleurissimo Creed
1.293078145357
Destiny House of Matriarch
1.2922879427039
Tubereuse Essential Kat Burki
1.2919192949478
Tubereuse Indiana Creed
1.2907745946938
So Nude Eau de Toilette CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2893080307649
Flower Market Maison Martin Margiela
1.2890328456111
C for Women Clive Christian
1.2867338252893
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture
1.286730088061
Encore Alfred Sung
1.2866171893875
Gigi Jardins d’Ecrivains
1.2860526960203
Via Veneto I Santi
1.2859962466836
Little Miss Panda Gets Lei’d Smell Bent
1.2859962466836
Arabesque Arabian Oud
1.2859962466836
Day Sarabecca
1.2859397973469
Frangipani Ava Luxe
1.2858833480102
Tuberose Keiko Mecheri
1.2858833480102
Roccobarocco Per Lei Roccobarocco
1.2858198148462
Moon Bloom Hiram Green
1.2857704493367
Notes from Michael Glenplaid Michael Kors
1.2857704493367
Songbird Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
1.285714
Exquisite Corpse Smell Bent
1.2856575506633
Lanvin Me Limited Edition 2014 Lanvin
1.2856253739769
Velvet Tuberose Bath and Body Works
1.2851502068868
So Nude CoSTUME NATIONAL
1.2844515941293
Michael Kors Michael Kors
1.2840766827547
Saks En Rose Bond No 9
1.2808199294383
Tuberose Jo Malone
1.2781473830087
Douglas Hannant Robert Piguet
1.2769769729043
Eau de Couture Juicy Couture
1.2759394180073
Sand & Sable Coty
1.2755080440305
Tuberoli Space NK
1.275320130398
Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia Estée Lauder
1.2736866387242
Tubereuse DSH Perfumes
1.2732914933672
Lierre Rose Parfums 06130

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