Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tuberose Project

The scent of tuberose is heady. It is potent, fleshy and sweet. I realized recently that long before I understood what a tuberose note smelled like, I’ve always gravitated toward tuberose-laden perfumes. Givenchy Amarige is usually considered a tuberose bomb. I don’t think of it that way, it seems equal parts tuberose, orange blossom and mimosa over a sultry oriental base, but given that there’s a hefty dose of tuberose in it, it makes sense that I found it and clung to it back in the mid-90’s and wore it as my signature scent for about five years. I mean every single day for five years. I recall sniffing all the available Miller Harris perfumes in a little boutique in New Hope, PA, one afternoon. After spending an inordinate amount of time standing and sniffing (the shopkeeper was giving me looks) the one I selected was Noix de Tubereuse. And, even though I now think it’s one of the most worthless tuberose soliflores on the market, I recall standing in Neiman’s one day and after smelling every Jo Malone fragrance on the counter, I walked away with JM’s Tubereuse in hand.

For the most part, I don’t seek out tuberose soliflores. I prefer my tuberose prominent but mixed with a blend of other white florals over an oriental type base. My favorites are, as mentioned above, Amarige, as well as Roja Dove Scandal, Divine, Noix de Tubereuse and Annick Goutal Songes (which, for the record, doesn't list tuberose among the notes, but seems tuberose-esque to me). These are all love or hate scents, I don’t think there are too many people on the fence about the fragrances I just listed.

I do occasionally wear tuberose soliflores, namely Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tubereuse, Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia and Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture. It’s usually during the warm weather months when I want to wear something that smells realistically and wholly like a tuberose plant.

Here’s my take on the tuberose fragrances I have in my collection. Not all are soliflores, but most are:

Annick Goutal Tubereuse: raw, realistic, unrelenting, unabashedly tuberose. Naked tuberose. For the tuberose connoisseur. Quite a bold fragrance, really.

By Kilian Beyond Love: A gorgeous tuberose. Sultry, sweet and perfect. I can’t explain why I don’t wear this one more often. I guess I must admit to being biased against By Kilian as a line. Their prices pissed me off initially and I never got over it. Since I obviously purchased this one I guess I decided it was, in fact, worth the price tag. It’s just perfect. Not especially sweet, a touch of freshness, just perfect.

Caron Tubereuse: This probably isn’t fair, because I’ve heard so many say this is a fabulous tuberose, but on me it smells like dill pickles. It just never changes from a sour, marinated vegetable into a pretty floral. It’s a pity because I just know there’s something good here.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Tubereuse: sheer tuberose softened by vanilla. My favorite tuberose for wearing in public because it’s not strange, it’s simply beautiful. It’s manages to be an obvious tuberose yet doesn’t display too much of the flowers' carnal nature. DSH Tubereuse is a virgin, not a slut, like most of the other tuberose soliflores. But don’t get me wrong, this pretty virgin is worth checking out, she’s a gorgeous maiden.

Diptyque Do Son: a nice beginner tuberose or perhaps better classified as a tuberose for those who dislike the “challenging” bits of other tuberose scents. Do Son is a beautiful white floral, somewhat fresh and not especially indolic with good longevity and a little pepper.

Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia: This is another tuberose virgin, like DSH Tubereuse. Here the tuberose is gorgeous, luminous, bright and fresh, but it downplays the fleshy, carnal characteristics. I think this is beautiful and worthy of a space in anyone’s tuberose collection.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower: the queen of all tuberose fragrances. Carnal flower is ultra green and realistic. Powerful, sexy, sultry, fleshy, sweet, lush and long lasting. Carnal Flower makes me imagine a gigantic Georgia O’Keefe painting of a tuberose (if she were to have painted a tuberose, that is). This O’Keefe tuberose is erotic and exaggerated.

Guerlain Mahora / Mayotte: Some say these are different, I say it’s too close to call. Both are slightly powdery, tropical tuberoses. Not my favorites but nice. I imagine these would appeal to those who want something more ‘perfumey’ as opposed to something strictly realistic. Mahora/Mayotte are impressionistic as opposed to photographic.

i Profumi de Firenze Tuberosa d’Autunno: This is a cool tuberose. Cool as opposed to warm. It isn’t particularly bright or fresh but simply a smooth realistic tuberose. It strikes me as an alternative to Tubereuse Criminelle which has always seemed a cool metallic tuberose to me. Wait for the dry down, because this shows it’s best side after 30 minutes. This is a great one which not enough people seem to know about.

Jo Malone Tubereuse: weak tuberose. The words “blah” and “waste of money” come to mind.

L’Artisan Tubereuse: weak tuberose with a medicinal sharp edge. Reminds me a bit of Caron’s Tubereuse, though not quite as much pickle.

Le Labo Tubereuse: mostly orange blossom, bright, fresh and sunny. If you want tuberose don’t look here.

Miller Harris Noix de Tubereuse: sweet oriental floral with emphasis on tuberose. Warm, spicy and old school. Not a photographic or realistic tuberose by any stretch but a floriental.

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Tubereuse: Lush, deep realistic tuberose with a soft ambergris dry down. This is a great one.

Parfumerie Generale Tubereuse Couture: sugary sweet tuberose with some green and a vanillic base. This one doesn’t receive enough fanfare for it’s beauty. I think it’s gorgeous. Some similarity between this and Kilian’s Beyond Love, in it’s take on tuberose.

Prada Infusion de Tubereuse: sheer beginner tuberose, fleeting, but pretty while it lasts. Seems like a "Martha Stewart" tuberose.

Roja Dove Scandal: big warm white floral with emphasis on tuberose. Not a tuberose soliflore but an impressive white floral for those who love tuberose.

Robert Piguet Fracas: white floral with emphasis on mostly orange blossom though it strangely gets billed as a big tuberose scent. It just isn’t so much about tuberose. It’s still gorgeous, but tuberose is a minor player.

Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle: dries down to a exquisite cold tuberose beauty if you can last through the horrific moth balls at the start. And I mean *IF* because the first 20 minutes are awful.

Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia: very realistic tuberose which emphasizes some of the most unusual elements of tuberose; some say mushroomy, others say moldy, I just think it’s quite fleshy and not particularly wearable for me. It has been discontinued so perhaps most people smelled these off putting notes.

So, what are your favorite tuberose scents? I am always interested to smell a new tuberose...


Monique said...

I love Daphne by Comme des Garcons, it has a great lasting powder!!

Monique said...

Of course I mean lasting power ;-)

kathleen said...

Well, as you know, I'm right behind you, when it comes to tuberose. You mention a couple that I haven't tried yet, ie: Amarige. So I'll be on the hunt for some samples today. I quite enjoy the Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse Trilogy. I like #1 Capricieusem irisy tuberose & #3 Animale, which isn't really animalic. I haven't given 2 Virginale a fair chance yet though. I think 1 & 3 suit me, more, in the cooler weather.

Anonymous said...

...and yes! What Monique said, very much

Scentomatic said...

how about Dior's Poison?

Unknown said...

I just tried Honore des Pres's Vamp a NY. It reminded me of a girl wearing a tuverose perfume, but she's also chewing bubllegum and recently smoked a menthol cigarette.

Anonymous said...

I love Blonde by Versace and Fragile EDP, they are my favourite tuberose fragrances.

Mals86 said...

HA HA HA HA! Tuberose on the brain! I went all Christopher Smart on tuberose in January (you know, insane but in such an expressive, life-affirming way) and reviewed no less than 14 tuberose and tube-dominant fragrances. I still have eight samples in my little red wooden sample box that I hunted up in the winter but have yet to review, and three - no, FOUR! miniatures of tuberose scents in my cabinet that I've worn but not commented upon. In the past two weeks I have received a decant of the L'A Nuit de Tubereuse and a generous sample (from the giveaway at Grain de Musc) of Honore des Pres Vamp a NY. And sometime I'll be snagging samples of the HdP tuberose trilogy, too. (Where's that emoticon for the little guy with his eyes bugged out?)

Chloe was my signature scent for about ten years - and while the vintage stuff still smells GREAT to me, I can't wear it. It's too entwined with high school.

Fracas is a bit too formal for me, and as you say, there is a ton of orange blossom in there. I do prefer my tuberose a bit greener.

I have a 1/4 oz travel bottle of Beyond Love which I paid $20 for - and while I love it and wear it and find it worth every penny, BK's pricing structure annoys the heck out of me.

Tuberose Couture I liked but did not love (too sweet), Tuberosa d'Autonno the same. Didn't like L'A's at all, and Tube Criminy just KILLED me with that mothball/rotting meat opening. The heart is just gorgeous, but I can't forgive it for the half hour's worth of rotting raw chicken of death. DSH is lovely, but I wish it had less citrusy raspiness in the opening.

Amarige escaped my notice when it was new. And I know P:TG hates it, but I didn't think it was as bad as all that although I didn't love it.

The Queen? Carnal Flower, of course. I love how green it is. It sparkles like ice crystals in cold weather, and becomes quite blooming and sensual in the heat.

A few others for you to consider: (abdes salaam attar) Night Blossom - tuberose amid very grassy, jungle-y patchouli, Panthere de Cartier (big tuberose/white floral composition with oriental base), and Il Profumo Eclair de Tubereuse, which was very similar to Tubereuse Couture with those cool green notes and the sweetness - but I liked it better.

I'm intrigued by Scandal.

Elisa said...

My favorite tube is Beyond Love and I also love CF and ELPC TG. But my outside pick for tuberose is Carolina Herrera. Not really a soliflore as it also has jasmine. One of those huge '80s scents but triggers pleasant memories for me.

Anonymous said...

oh, i hate daphne, totally disappointing! my favorite tuberose is killian's tuberose, of course. just a masterpiece.


violetnoir said...

I agree with you on all counts, Abigail, except I think L'Artisan Tubereuse is rich and buttery and lovely, at least on me.

What do you think of the new Nuit de Tubereuse?


Tara C said...

What do you mean? The first 20 minutes of Tubereuse Criminelle are the best part! I keep spritzing it to relive that wintergreen blast. :-)

Nathan Branch said...

Oh Tara -- You *would* love that awful, perverse foghorn of a mothball blast at the beginning of TC. :)

I don't know how you deal with it, though. I've attempted to get to know Criminelle numerous times, but I run screaming and sobbing from its intro every single time.

I think I remember Shalini as incorporating a gorgeous, buttery smooth tuberose.

Tara said...

I love Tubereuse Criminelle!!!! I love weird freaky stuff in the beginning and dry down...its perfect.

I just tried Honore Pres Vamp a NY (thank you to Denyse at Grain de Musc..) , which I have truly enjoyed...the bubble gum note is awesome and a while later I get some lime (I'm sure its crazy, but I do get a marguarita made with real lime.. )..its another odd amazing tubereuse..

Marko said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention CREED TUBEREUSE INDIANA, as I purchased a bottle after your glowing review not too long ago. All in all, Malle's CF is my go to Tuberose. I will be in Boulder this summer, so I hope to stop by DSH shop and I'll DEFINITELY check out her take on can never have too many.

Abigail said...

Well, you know I love Creed's Tubereuse Indiana, but it doesn't come off like tuberose on me. It's mostly a carnation scent so when compiling this list I didn't even think of it!

And, Mals, all because of you I'm now wanting il Profumo Eclair de Tubereuse. Of course one can only get it in Europe...

Elizabeth said...

Have you tried Tuberose Diabolique by Ava Luxe? I'm not sure she still makes this, but I enjoyed it very much. Then again, I'm not much of an expert on tuberose scents.

ScentScelf said...

I'm just sitting here watching the parade go by. It's entertaining and all.

Y'all do know that tuberose is BIG, right? ;)

( Panthere a tube? Cause I might be riding one of those floats. In a mask, but of course.)

Off to spritz some Carnal Flower and see if we can do a different dance this time...

Mals86 said...

SS, Panthere seemed a very tuberose-heavy composition to me - not a soli, of course. Like... like the tuberose was Esther Williams surrounded by palm branches and feather fans and lit sparklers and other girls in spangly swimsuits and those stacked trays of wide old-fashioned champagne glasses where you pour into the top glass and keep pouring, and it cascades down into the lower glasses... a HUGE production.

Of course, I only liked it until the tolu balsam showed up.

ScentScelf said...

{bonks head} Tolu!

I have a mini of Panthere, but haven't visited in a while. Now that I'm marginally better at recognizing notes, and have a larger reference net, it would be fun to go back for a dance with Panthere. Unlike the way it plays with you, tolu is nice to me.

Funny, I guess I don't like the heady whites unless they enter what Tur-chez refer to as screechy. Meaning that if I like Panthere, they could say I have beer taste on a champagne budget. :-D

Nina Zolotow said...

I don't have a favorite tuberose--yet. But I just wanted to say I loved this post (and am adding many more fragrances to my must try).

Abigail said...


You know, as much as I love Ava Luxe, I've never tried her Tubereuse Diabolique. If she is making this again I'll definitely take it on a spin.

Yes, we know tuberose is HUGE! :) Have you tried Carnal Flower again today? You know, CF starts with a roar but dries down to a softer purr if you give it the chance. You've got to love tuberose, though. If you don't, you will never enjoy most of these on the list!

I've never thought of Poison as a tuberose gem but I bet you're right. It figures that I've always loved it if in fact it's got a lot of tubey in there. I happen to have some vintage in my collection and may try this out tonight.

I love HdP Tubey 3 but the first 2 were so weird on me. #3 is amazing but so little tube I have a hard time thinking of it in this category.

And for the record I haven't tried the new L'Artisan Nuit de Tube yet. It's on the way. I'm a little nervous about this one for some reason, we shall see...

Scentomatic said...

by the way, Kilian's juice smells more like a synthetic (I had a chance to compare it to the real flower absolu and a synthetic reproduction). The most real of all seems to be the Malle's one.

Martha said...

You've covered all of my favorites and more, but I _love_ (lovelovelove) the mothballs-soaked-in-gasoline opening of Tubereuse Criminelle. I'm sad when it's mostly gone and I'm back to mostly just tuberose.

I love Tubereuse Couture, I'm on the verge of getting DSH Tubereuse, it's only a matter of time before I buy Fracas, and I have a shopping cart full of more tuberoses at The Perfumed Court.

Carnal Flower hasn't worked for me yet, but I've only tried it at Barney's, with an armful of other scents. I'm going to get a decant to try it properly.

Velvet Gardenia, to me, is neither a gardenia or a tuberose scent - it's the best beeswax scent I've ever tried, but only one out of three/four/five wears. I went through much debate and gnashing of teeth before I decided that unreliable beeswax just wasn't worth the price.

guerligirl said...

I really love Madeleine de Madeleine, a great tuberose scent, available through This is the original scent, not a reformulation. Madeleine de Madeleine was a niche, boutique scent in the late 70's and early 80's. It was impossible to find for many years until longlostperfumes came around. I hope you try it. sometime.

carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

Count me as another lover of the opening notes of Tubéreuse Criminelle: I find them deeply addictive.
I agree Fracas is not truly a tuberose: it's just that it was only the second fragrance to use it predominantly (after the Le Galion) as it was shunned before that.
I've recently added L'Artisan's Nuit de Tubéreuse (which isn't entirely a tuberose either) and the lovely Vamp à NY by Honoré des Prés to my tuberose pantheon of Tubéreuse Criminelle, Carnal Flower and Beyond Love. I love the rawness of Goutal's Tubéreuse Absolue. And I would certainly add Poison to the collection if the bottle I bought recently didn't betray the current LVMH IFRA-ing and cheapening of formulas...

Karin said...

I wouldn't call myself a tuberose fan, but I just fell head over heels for Nuit de Tubereuse...

Flora said...

Isn't it funny how different noses can be! I would be tempted to chew my own arm off if Amarige were on it, but I adore Tubereuse Criminelle!

Carnal Flower is probably my favorite of those you can actually get hold of - I recently acquired a little bottle of Le Galion's Tubereuse soliflore from about 1939, in Parfum strength,and it is beautiful beyond words. I shall be in both denial and withdrawal when it's gone.

I can't believe you get pickles from Caron's Tubereuse - I smelled it just once and I almost passed out it was so gorgeous - I dream of having some! Why that one is an Urn scent only is a crying shame.