SIX TUBEROSES

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It is cold, it is icy, and like many perfume lovers, I cannot only limit myself to the cosy and the spicy in winter: I find myself dreaming of summer, fast forwarding in my mind to that moment in May here (can’t wait) when everything goes ballistically pink and green; an explosion of lush life after the cherry blossom petals get blown and washed away from the trees by the last ferocious squalls of Spring and everything heats up; jungle like; humid, moist and fragrant. Sometimes I just want to branch out, rip myself out of the January mindset and let hot flowers bloom; I find myself dousing my skin in the ylangs and noix de coco that make up a sizeable part of my daily collection; the tuberoses, gardenias, the vanilla and the frangipani. I can’t just remain dormant and docile and huddled and feasting on gingerbread.

So today, though the subject has been done to death by every perfumista under the sun, let’s revel in the alabastrine lust of these floral beauties, let their noxious transulence asphyxiate us with their lone, sensuous purpose…..

 

THE TUBEROSE.

 

 

 

EAU DE TUBEREUSE by LE JARDIN RETROUVE

 

The tuberose is no rose. It is a voluptuary: a night-blooming flower from India and Mexico with white, fleshy petals and a sweet, unavoidably carnal aroma of hot skin and stamens. Victorian girls were forbidden to adorn themselves with tuberose toilet waters for fear they would swoon with certain discomforting thoughts (so difficult to avoid with a scent of such delirious candour), and the classic tuberoses,  such as this gorgeous creation by French house Le Jardin Retrouvé ( a perfume I found at the flea market) up the ante of this luscious facet to glorious effect. I am very partial to the billowy soft insinuations of perfumes like the dreamy original Chloë by Karl Lagerfeld, and Tubéreuse is of the same template, only stronger, more lush, more medicinal, more…..tuberose.

 

 

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CARNAL FLOWER / EDITIONS DE PARFUMS FREDERIC MALLE (2005)

 

A friend of mine, Yuta, lives down the hill from me in Kamakura with his wife Mikako. She has the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen: as translucently smooth as white porcelain. One Sunday in spring they came round to the house, and naturally, like all dinner party guests, they had to be found a perfume from the collection. This is usually fairly easy, as I have an idea what people will like and what will suit them. But Mikako wasn’t having any of it. My instincts towards grey-blue iris scents were rebuffed, as were all perfumes over five years old.

Determined, I kept thinking. And then, as I was looking into the living room, my eyes rested on the amaryllis flower that had just bloomed: giant, translucent pale-pink on a milky green-white stem.

‘I think I have found it’, I said.

‘What does it smell like?’ she replied.

‘Like that’, I said, pointing to the plant.

 

Carnal Flower is very original. Its creators wanted to make a classic perfume that actually resembled the living tuberose but which would be the antithesis to the standard, butter-saturated model set up by Fracas. The project was two years in the making while perfumer Dominique Ropion perfected the formula: a green, petal-centred perfume with florist-fresh top notes – the least sweet of the genre. It is a very unusual fragrance, like watching a plant growing in a sealed-off white laboratory. Crushed stems and eucalyptus leaves begin the scent, over light floral essences (jasmine, ylang), cradling the highest percentage of natural tuberose absolute used in any perfume (hence its rather extravagant price.) On me it smells wrong, but on Mikako, with her cool white skin, incredible. The coconut-milk/white musk finish, the tuberose stems, the green leaves, turned her quite simply into a cold, living flower.

 

 

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FRACAS / ROBERT PIGUET (1948)

 

Mention tuberose and most perfume lovers immediately think of Fracas, the benchmark to which all others of the type must match. A dense and potent woody floral with blasts of the most flamboyant white flowers, this is a perfume for women who like to make an entrance.

The bottle in my own collection was given to me by a friend, who in turn was given it by the late Isabella Blow, doyenne of fashion and extravagant headwear, muse of Philip Treacy, and stolid socialite of the art and fashion world. She wore so much Fracas, and carried so many little bottles about with her, that she could just hand out the perfume like sweets. Wherever Isabella Blow went, so did Fracas; to the extent that for her friends, the smell was her (isn’t that what we all secretly want from a scent?). At her funeral in September 2007, the air was ‘redolent with the scent of Fracas’, according to the Guardian, Alexander Mcqueen having decided to scent the air with her presence.

Though Ms Blow’s signature, Fracas is the preferred scent of many a diva and always has been. It is gorgeous, headstrong and sexy, which is perhaps why it is also loved by Madonna. In the Reinvention Tour documentary ‘I’m going to tell you a secret’, the singer is seen backstage, flustered and sweaty, liberally spraying her Rococo pink corset with what she refers to as her ‘Italian whore’s bath’. A huge bottle of Fracas stands in pride of place in front of her dressing room mirror.

 

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TUBEREUSE / CARON (2003)

While some tuberose perfumes verge on sickly sweet (Versace Blonde I am talking to you….) Caron judiciously allows the full sensual bloom of this flower to open without letting it cloy, tempering the florality with a delicious, creamy base; just a hint of truffle-like darkness. The result is a supremely wearable tuberose; delicate, beguiling, with an underlying texture of cool, white leather, and one I would wholeheartedly recommend for the true tuberose lover who wants to keep it close. Possibly my favourite.

 

TUBEREUSE CRIMINELLE / SERGE LUTENS (1998)

 

Until Carnal Flower came along, it was this cult creation by Serge Lutens and his wildly talented perfumer Christopher Sheldrake that had taken the crown of ‘most original tuberose’, principally due to a medicinal note of wintergreen that braced the florid top note with a shocking sensation of gasoline, rubber and Vicks Vapour rub. This highly unconventional (‘criminal’) beginning you either endure patiently because you love the beautifully petalled, fresh tuberose flowers that await beneath, or it is the principle reason you are obsessed with the perfume. I personally love it in all its perverse, ugly-beautiful glory, but understandably there are many who don’t.

 

 

 

 

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MICHAEL KORS / MICHAEL KORS (2000)

Sharpness of metal: a glinting blade slices clean through ripe, lustrous tuberose flowers to a backdrop of blue lagoon. The sky is brilliant. A fresh, watery accord of flowers cuts the air, leaving a sensuous trail in its wake. A vivid, widescreen floral: notes of fresh tuberose, ‘dewy freesia’, and ‘white wings peony’, with an interesting twist of tamarind for piquancy. It is this more androgynous note, contrasting with the sweet wetness of the tuberose, that gives the perfume its character.

A future flower is on the screen, sharp focus: near enough, almost, to make you wince. A new tuberose: shot; cut; frozen in time. And there the image stays, on pause; for this perfume is unchanging. What you see is what you get with Michael Kors. It is modern, sexy, but not up too close: I prefer the outer limits of its aura, meant to draw you up in as it tingles the air. Though not devoid of tenderness, there is perhaps too much harshness, as though the tuberose were revealing truer, chillier colours.

51 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Tuberose

51 responses to “SIX TUBEROSES

  1. Gorgeous! I wish I had my Carnal Flower with me in the country, you made me miss it so badly! 🙂

    • ginzaintherain

      I was thinking that I might have to save up and buy a bottle for myself, to wear secretly to work. I think just one spray on the wrist under a shirt cuff might work….

  2. Lady Jane Grey

    Oh, Tuberose – I cannot think of any other note which I would be so antagonistic with. I perceive it as aggressive, unfriendly, brutal… (and it makes my head ache…).
    When in France with my husband sometimes I can find tuberose in flower shops – you can smell it immedietely when you step into the shop. And then I have to flee !

    • ginzaintherain

      We all have our hates: mine is synthetic sandalwood which I DESPISE; but I can imagine that if you really dislike tuberose ( and I can totally understand why ) it must be vexing to have that smell thrust in your face. What flowers do you like incidentally?

      • brie

        New caledonia sandalwood ABSOLUTE essential oil from Eden Botanicals you would LOVE…..rich and woody yet exquisitely creamy (almost vanilla-esque) and a perfume unto itself on my skin….

      • ginzaintherain

        I don’t doubt it: I don’t hate sandalwood per se at all you know….just that foul synthetic shit that is found in the base of so many ‘perfumes’…

      • Lady Jane Grey

        Neil, that’s the strange thing : I love all flowers, if smelly or scented – but the tuberose… I’ve been waiting to get used to that scent for years now (after all our tastes change), with no success. It’s almost like an allergy. I think I have to give up.

      • ginzaintherain

        We don’t have to like everything! I am not massively keen on lilies either! I like them, but never LOVE them in perfumes…

  3. brie

    It must be something about petite alabaster skinned women but Carnal Flower had the same effect on my wrist. Unfortunately my hubby (like your Duncan) is too much of a pragmatist to allow the expense of a FB! Just doesn’t understand why I would want to spend money on something as “frivolous” as perfume (but then again Duncan did run out to get you Lady Gaga’s Fame so he isn’t nearly as bad as my significant other!)

    • ginzaintherain

      He understands how essential it is to me and appreciates it himself, but would definitely frown upon some of the exorbitant creations that are out there!

  4. Renee Stout

    With the exception of Caron’s Tubereuse, I either have, or have tried all of the Tuberose scents you’ve mentioned and pretty much agree with your take on all of them. However, my favorite tuberose scent is Guerlain’s Mahora (reformulated and renamed Mayotte), which you didn’t mention. Personally I think that this scent is greatly under-appreciated and is one of the better Tuberose scents while Fracas, especially in it’s later formulation, is candy sweet, thin and overrated. It would be interesting to know your impressions of Mahora.

    Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2013 05:19:22 +0000 To: mme_ching@msn.com

    • ginzaintherain

      I love Mahora! I think of it more of a busty, take no prisoners frangipani, but that is one hot tropical bombshell!

  5. ‘And when he comes, to lay me down, in a garden of tuberoses….’ from the song Are You Here by Corrine Bailey Rae. Mr Ginza, I smelled Fracas for the first time last week and found it utterly gorgeous. Wonderful review. You are a truly a star.

  6. Thank you for an entertaining and DELICIOUSLY fragrant review! It is so lovely to think of roses at this dreadful time of year. I grow roses and cannot wait for Spring to chase away that naughty Jack Frost so I can be out in the garden again with my floppy hat and pruning shears! I am glad you mentioned Fracas, though I was astonished at its celebrity connection! Lord! Madonna. Not a fan I’m afraid – she ducks! (LOL). My aunty Bertha wore this, and tuberose and gardenia were the key flowers in my wedding bouquet! So I am most definitely a fan. For myself, I prefer Estee Lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia. Have you sampled some of this? It is a beautiful scent, very light and classical. It is awfully pricey, but well worth putting a few quid in the linen closet for.

    • ginzaintherain

      Next you’ll be telling me you are about to go off to a meeting at the W. I.

      • Goodness no! Though I do enjoy their Winter fair, and there are some lovely, very busy ladies at our local one. Ours is full of mums in their thirties with toddlers, and rather sweet young girls learning to knit. I run a printing business and we sponsor their various charities. Hard-working bunch – but not for me! I am busy enough with my business and some rather headstrong offspring who persist on staying in the nest despite my best efforts to nudge them on!

      • ginzaintherain

        I see. I recommend M + S Tudor Roses talc: this post was about a very different species; the tuberose

  7. Oh I LOVE M&S. A rose is a rose is a rose as they say. Whether it’s grown in a tube or a garden!

  8. Love tuberose and I love all the ones that you mentioned that I have smelled. Which means that I will probably also love the ones that you mentioned that are new to me. On the list they go 🙂

  9. ginzaintherain

    However, NYC has VASTLY more perfumes available to buy! Oh think of what I could review if I had access to Aedes and so on…..(sigh….)

    It is true that I have snatched me some fabulous vintage stash though…

  10. ginzaintherain

    And Baconbiscuit: NEVER a fragrance jackpot? Have you never truly fallen in love with a scent?

  11. I’m with Lady Jane Grey on this: I hate tuberose – both in real flowers and in perfumery. I keep trying different perfumes with it – and I dislike them proportionally to the tuberose concentration in them.
    And still I’m not willing to part with my travel spray of Carnal Flower (which I got by mistake): other than me hating the scent and getting a headache from it, I think it’s beautiful 🙂

  12. Dubaiscents

    I love tuberose and have tried most of the ones you mention here. My favorite though might be Beyond Love by Kilian. This is one of the freshest, most realistic tuberoses and definitely worth trying if you haven’t already. I also recently smelled Arquiste’s Flor y Canto which is another really great and new tuberose. I would have bought it if I didn’t already own so many others 🙂 I also really want to try Treazon by Ayala Moriel since so many bloggers say this is the new really strong and great tuberose for 2012.

    • ginzaintherain

      I tried Flor in London and it struck me as utterly stunning: delicate, magical: I would like to own it. I also love Beyond Love though it is almost TOO perfect somehow for me: a beauteous android…

  13. bluegardenia

    This is so beautifully written and so informative. I have a question actually. I’ve often heard people say that Carnal Flower has the highest percentage of tuberose absolute of any perfume on the market…I wonder, what is that percentage? Is it 2 percent of the formula? 30 percent? I ask not only out of plain curiosity but also because I wonder, if the percentage of natural absolute is high, how Malle and company manage to keep it smelling the same batch after batch. (I’ve found naturals can really vary from year to year.) Or perhaps it doesn’t?

  14. Except for the Le Jardin Retrouve and the Caron, I own full bottles of the other Tuberose fragrances you reviewed. I think I have always loved tuberose fragrances (for the most part). Serge Lutens version is my favorite.

  15. Katy

    I love Fracas, especially in the depths of winter. It holds the creamy and tender promise of spring in its Diva heart.

  16. vertitas

    Picture this…..organic tuberose essential oil, lavender absolute, angelica root CO2, cocoa absolute, coffee oil, bourbon vanilla essential oil and a hefty dose of organic bergamot oil….absolutely divine and my new signature scent…….

    • No!

      too busy!!

      ( i want to try it anyway….)

      • vertitas

        I have so many blends I have wanted to send you including a yuzu, pink lotus and osmanthus absolute which is amazing (but not as good as the one above)…one of these days…..I have to hunt down your address again! And I hope by the time you read this you are in better spirits…..

      • I already am.

        A Sagittarius optimist at heart despite my wild fragility. You know how it is: I think you are not dissimilar. Teaching and the whole thing can just make me feel like I will explode sometimes. But at least I’m not bored…

  17. Heya! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone
    4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Keep up the outstanding work!

  18. I love how Tubereuse Criminelle feels unlike any tuberose I’ve known! It is like one of those molecular gastronomy dishes where a different fruits and vegetables have been stripped into its components and put back into something that looks like a tomato, tastes like a tomato and yet has almost no tomato in it.

    The quiet, silky early drydown of this fragrance is my favourite part. It feels like a the rustle of a white silk gown, as it’s owner comes back into her dead quiet house at 4am in the morning and the gown falls to the floor as she changes. There is a quiet sort of eroticism about it- far removed from the va-voom “look at me” nature of most tuberoses. With this one, all the looking, dancing and kissing has been done a while ago and all that remains is the taste of your lover’s kiss on your lips.

    Back home, we used to say that snakes wrapped themselves around tuberose bushes. This is one of the few interpretations of the note that feels like the sensation of a snake wrapping itself around a tuberose rather than the tuberose itself.

  19. Lilybelle

    My favorite is Caron Tubereuse. Though I have a soft spot for Gardénia Passion because it’s what I wore when I met my husband and he always complimented me on it. By Kilian’s Beyond Love is nice, too. It has a hint of coconut and I think you would like it.

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