I learned a lot from the real tuberose flowers I encountered last year in Indonesia. Mainly, that the slovenly, skirt-hitched, snow-white she-devils – sloe-eyed, tropical, sultry – tuberose: that classic, buttery tuberose you either love or hate, sickening and stench-breathed to some; voluptuous and heart fluttering to others, is a very loose interpretation of the natural reality of the flowers I regarded and smelled before me, which I found, rather, to be more chaste; green : contained. Quite innocent, almost. Pretty. White. Yes, as I wrote in my piece on those Malang tuberoses, as the day wore on, the flowers did release vague olfactive reminiscences of all those classic tuberoses at different hours of the day; a reality that fascinated me, as I name-checked favourites that I got brief perfume snatches of; but which did nothing, all the same, to detract from the fact that tuberose, despite that lactic, pink- fleshed, come-on, is a lot lighter and fresher in reality than we have been led to believe. She has been tarnished as a harlot, the dirtiest of all flowers, with just one thing always there on her mind, but I have to say that I sensed something different. And while Carnal Flower definitely comes closest to the actuality of the tuberose flowers, at least the ones of the Javan variety that I experienced personally, there is still, though, perhaps something overly studied about that scent; a certain ‘bite of seriousness’ that is dense, clinical, abridged, despite its airiness. Having said that, I do love it, as I do practically all tuberose perfumes – I just can’t help myself – they break through the boring barriers of the everyday mundane, somehow, these flowers – my favourites including Tubéreuse Caprieuse by Histoires de Parfums (a scent to lose my mind to); Moroccan Tuberose by Illuminum (tropical, clear and dreamy); Balenciaga Michelle, withs its deep, Sapphic secrets; and Tubéreuse de Caron (which I think is just about perfect). I also retain, still, a soft spot the original tuberosian Chloé by Parfums Lagerfeld as well: so soft, gauzy, bodied….
Sensual Tuberose, a limited edition scent from Bois 1920, is a worthwhile addition to the ever-expanding tuberose canon, a scent in the classic, fresh and creamy vein, with a sweet and fruited tuberose accord (peach, coriander), wedded to skin-tracing moments of orris butter, heliotrope, and coconut, and undernotes of patchouli, musk, and benzoin. It is quite sexy and alluring, flighty – flirtatious, if perhaps lacking that magical something – that unifying, secret ingredient that might have made it more unique. I would need to spend an evening with someone wearing Sensual Tuberose to come to any further conclusions about its qualities – I fear there may be a thinness in its heart – but that might just be the way my skin is interpreting it.
Honour Woman is a very un-Amouage perfume in many ways (light, tuberose/gardenia, slightly ozonic), and a welcome respite from all those spiced, heavy, sweet ambered unguents, oudh and woods that the famed Omani house is so well known (and rightly loved) for, but which I tend to get sick of quickly. Honour, to me, smells a little like a hi-tech remix of Chanel’s Gardénia reformulation; a fashionable tuberose/gardenia hybrid freshened with pepper, rhubarb, coriander and metallic sheen to beat the desert heat, but nothing to lose your heart (or indeed, honour) to. The alleged base notes of frankincense, vetiver, opoponax and leather are so subtle as to be quite unobtrusive, but do allow the scent to fade quite nicely, a finely tuned balance of the sweet and its opposite. No Arab tuberose, then, Honour is essentially a fresh, blameless, modern white floral – quite nice, but, again, for me at least, lacking in some essential twist.
Mona Di Orio’s perfumes and I are not natural bedfellows. While I came, eventually, to understand the appeal of her Vanille, and have also come to appreciate Musc and Cuir, on the whole I find that I have to really brace myself for the arrival of any perfume from this house on my skin. What other people find idiosyncratic, sensual, dense and uncompromising, I just, on the whole, find unpleasant and weird: there is a perverseness there that I can’t ever really understand, as though the perfumer were purposefully making the scents unpleasant and difficult just to make a point. As a non-conformist type myself I respect this standpoint, this bucking against expectations, but from a personal, straightforward and essentially hedonistic smell perspective I am afraid I just don’t enjoy these perfumes at all. And Tubéreuse I find almost nightmareish. The beginning of the scent, by far the worst and most unacceptable stage, has a sour, woollen dustiness, replete with what smells to me like a suffocating powder of turmeric, some citrus, and some barnyard animalics (with echoes of her former mentor, Roudnitska and his decaying Diorella melon barely keeping the lid on the decadence beneath), before the timely arrival of a natural heart of Indian tuberose absolute. The perfumer, however, as always, deliberately confounds our expectations of the title note by obscuring the tuberose floral scent with swathes of cashmeran and bergamot, a fuzziness that, once settled, does eventually develop into a sweet exotic aura that I can imagine might be pleasing on the right person (or someone who understands this perfume better), but to me, personally, this is possibly the worst tuberose perfume I have ever smelled. I hate it.
A more readily comprehensible tuberose by far (if one that is still somewhat difficult to take), is Blu by Bruno Acampora, a scent I had never heard of until recently when a friend living in New York told me that she had been to a fantastic perfume emporium called MiN (who provided these samples), and had fallen for Bois 1920 Sensual Tuberose as well as Blu by Bruno Acampora. Now this one is a full on, in-ya-face, poolside tuberose: bright, alive, like an outtake from a Californian David Hockney painting. Tuberose as shameless bonne viveuse. The blue of the pool dapples. She suns herself; dreaming, drink empty by her side, and, hearing footsteps, slaps herself awake from the daydream as sunbeams dot her eyes and her vision clears. She lifts up her sunglasses, blinking, nonchalantly sprays on some Blu, before rising, lazily, up to meet her visitor, fixing his eyes with her gaze. The tuberose scent she spreads throughout the air – mature, womanly, rich – is frank and unapologetic; sleazy, almost – a rank, and salacious tuberose essence underscored with sandalwood, orange and ylang ylang and a plethora of naturally blue ingredients that colour the perfume oil with their pigment. Rasping, engorging, almost fungal……….ladies and gentlemen, make way for Blu. With her sex, sheer strength, and floral bravado, she has simply mown down the competion in today’s bout of four tuberoses.
Our flower’s reputation remains unchanged.