Tuberose : Perfume Ingredients and Notes

Tuberose
Nothing captures better the essence of tuberose than its meaning in the language of flowers, used in Victorian England. Tuberose signified both dangerous pleasure and voluptuousness. The scent of the flower is a fusion of white petals and warm skin, an arresting sensual and heady fragrance. On a blotter, tuberose absolute opens up with a faint green note before warming into a sweet jasmine-like scent underscored by a rubbery accord. It vacillates between the coconut sweetness and the warm skin impression, as it dries down.

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberose) is plant belonging to the lily family (Amaryllidaceae) native to Central America. Like most night blooming flowers, tuberose is pollinated by nocturnal moths, which explains the white shade of the flowers. Like jasmine, tuberose continues to produce its scent even after the flower is picked, thus, lending itself as a perfect candidate to the traditional painstaking enfleurage method. Steam distillation with its high temperature is not a feasible way to extract the absolute. While enfleurage is a traditional method traced back to Ancient Egypt, solvent extraction using hexane is far more common. Either method is time consuming, requiring 3600 pounds of blossoms to produce 1 pound of the absolute, which is why tuberose oil is among the most expensive in perfumery, more than $2,000 per pound (as of 2005.)

Aztecs called tuberose omixochitl (bone-flower), referring to its waxy and radiant white blossoms. The tuberose tubers native to Central America were first exported to Philippines and then to the East Indies. In 1594, Simon de Tovar, a Seville physician, managed to obtain the plant, which then made its way to France and Italy (Morris 1984, 231). Thus was the inception of the cultivation of the famous Grasse tuberose. While some tuberose is still grown in Grasse, the majority of tuberose absolute is produced in Morocco, India, China, the Comores Islands, Hawaii, and South Africa.

Tracing the evolution of the flower and its usage leads one to encounter a variety of lore surrounding its white trumpet like form. In India, tuberose is renowned for its strong aphrodisiac powers, and unmarried girls are warned not to breathe in its perfume after dark. Moreover, tuberose also possesses powerful healing properties and is used for anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory purposes. In Ayurvedic tradition, tuberose is also known to stimulate serenity, creativity and psychic powers.

I have a weakness for florals like jasmine and tuberose, and not surprisingly, nearly all of my favorite florals are laced with a sonorous tuberose note. Unfortunately I have not noticed any increase in my psychic powers since the beginning of my love affair with tuberose. Perhaps, it is a subject for an experiment with my test subject as a control group. In perfumery, tuberose is frequently combined with jasmine and orange blossom, lending further opulent depth to one and dark richness to the other.

Tuberose soliflores: Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, Caron Tubéreuse, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Tubéreuse, L’artisan Parfumeur Tubéreuse, Annick Goutal Tubéreuse, Santa Maria Novella Tuberosa.

Perfumes dominated by tuberose: Robert Piquet Fracas, Chanel Gardénia, Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle, Guerlain Mahora, Chloé, Christian Dior Poison, Givenchy Amarige, White Shoulders, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Jardin Blanc, L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons, Parfums de Nicolaï Number One, Les Parfums de Rosine Mea Culpa, Creed Tubereuse Indiana, Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion.

Additional fragrances containing tuberose: Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Jean Patou Joy, Balmain Jolie Madame, Hermès Amazone, Lancôme Magie Noire, Caron Nocturnes, Givenchy Organza, Rochas Poupee, Lanvin Arpège.

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11 Comments

  • Ina: What an interesting coincidence! I just put on some Fracas and went to read your blog, and here’s a post about tuberose! 🙂 Btw, how was your NYC trip? Any new loves? June 13, 2005 at 6:10pm

  • Ina: Spasibochki! 🙂 Just got it. How exciting! Glad you had fun. I hope I can meet some MUA ppl in NYC some day. June 13, 2005 at 6:27pm

  • Tania: Tuberose-heavy scents have never been my favorites, I admit, but I do like it when it pops in as part of a chorus. On its own, it seems–well, too blonde for me! June 14, 2005 at 11:32am

  • Carole: I look forward to reading your blog every day, and I am so glad you have Caron samples. Hope someday to read your review of Coup de fouet! June 14, 2005 at 11:50am

  • mreenymo: Aaahhh…tuberose! This is my new favorite blossom, V. I love this bloom because it is so multifaceted. It has a green, almost citrus-like undercurrent, a buttery top fullness, and a fragrant heart. And you are correct, there is something almost rubbery about its opening blast.

    I have been testing the great tuberose fragrances over the past week. They are: Caron’s (of course), Serge Lutens’, MPG’s and L’Artisan’s. My sister has a bottle of AG’s that she purchased in Paris some years ago, so the next time I visit her, I will have to try that one, too.

    I will reserve judgment on a verdict for my favorite tuberose fragrance until you have completed your reviews.

    Hugs! Will email you later on in the week, my love. June 14, 2005 at 12:01pm

  • Laura/kyahgirl: Victoria, I love this post! Some tuberose is so overwhelming and cloying that I can’t bear it yet others, like Creed TI or Rochas Poupée, just speak to me. They are so beautiful. This is one of my favorite flowers.
    I really enjoy your blog. Its fabulous.
    Laura June 14, 2005 at 12:53pm

  • Victoria: Tania,
    it is interesting how tuberose elicits radically opposed responses in people. It certainly makes exchanging opinions much more fun! For some reason, I see tuberose is a dark scent, but perhaps it is because my first encounter was Fracas and my first glimpse of tuberose blossom was as a hair ornament I saw on Indian women.

    Carole,
    I am glad to hear this! Coup de Fouet will be reviewed next week (if all goes as planned). By the way, try calling the NYC Caron boutique and see if they might mail you samples ($5 for 1/16oz, # is 212-319-4888).

    Robin,
    It is interesting as you also observe that green note. Enfleurage extracted tuberose does not have it, because the flowers are treated more gently, with the oils being released directly into the lard. Solvent extraction processes a petal part as well, therefore the green note makes itself evident. I cannot wait to hear which tuberose is your favourite! xoxo

    Laura,
    Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you like my blog. I think that you are absolutely right in noting that some tuberose fragrances are too cloying. I can see how that could, especially since the flower itself has such a sweet scent. I like it best with some orange blossom. June 14, 2005 at 1:41pm

  • anon.: i have finally figured out that tuberose is one of my favorite perfume scents ever. i just received a sample of fracas, and i EAT the wrist i’ve tried it on, it’s so delicious-smelling. mmmm!!!

    by the way, “rat ki rani” literally translates to “queen of the night” as opposed to “mistress of the night” (rani = queen, rat, or raat = night). and it is true, tuberose is to me, very queenly. there is a beautiful richness to it, but it is a warm, soft buttery richness more than an animalic darkness, to me at least. it makes me want to eat it up! and layer it with musk, as i have read a suggestion of somewhere, to give it a more dark undertone to play against. July 27, 2007 at 8:05pm

  • Swati: Tuberose…is Rajanigandha (Nightscent)in India? Not Raat ki Rani… October 25, 2007 at 12:23pm

  • sandy ao: Swati is correct.
    Cestrum Nocturum is “the Queen of the Night”–“Rat Ki Rani” in Hindi
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cestrum_nocturnum

    Tuberose (Polianthes Tuberose)http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/181566/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberose February 20, 2008 at 5:39am

  • Boisdejasmin: Dear all, thank you for your comments. I believe that there is also a regional difference in terms of appelation for various flowers, because traveling through India I found it common for the tuberose to be referred to as Raat ki Rani (queen of the night is correct, of course) as well as Rajnigandha , Rojonigondha or Sugandaraja (in the south.) Just like jasmine has more than 40 names depending on variety and location. Which is why it is exciting to share and learn from each other. February 20, 2008 at 4:42pm

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