Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle : Perfume Review

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Riza_abbasi_sensual_painting

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

While tuberose can be restrained by a masterful blending, its sensual dark side reigned in, the true beauty of the flower is best evident in the dark fragrances. One such example is Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, a lush, unusual creation. It includes notes of tuberose, orange blossom, hyacinth, jasmine, musk, vanilla, styrax, nutmeg, and clove.

If one tries it on expecting sweet creamy tuberose, the reaction will be that of pure shock since the top notes are not unlike a mix of menthol and gasoline. It is completely unexpected and almost disconcerting. And then cutting through the icy veil, tuberose grows brighter and hotter. It is a rather representative rendition of tuberose, complete with its unique unpredictability, sweet creamy layers, rubbery accord and warmth of human skin.

If one judges fragrances by the top notes, this is a perfect example of the need to rectify that practice. Weathering the initial opening is worthwhile, since the ugly duckling can turn into a beautiful swan. Personally, I find the petrol redolent opening accords beautiful, much like I enjoy atonal compositions by Schoenberg. They provide a cool backdrop, against which the tuberose unfolds its dark sensual beauty. If I were forced to have only one tuberose, Tubéreuse Criminelle would be that selection.

Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle is at Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, at sergelutens.com, Aedes, Barneys and Luckyscent.

Painting: Two lovers by Riza ‘Abbasi, Isfahan, 1630. An examplary piece of Safavid dynasty art, featuring a favorite subject of the time–human body and its sensual expression.

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40 Comments

  • MC: Tuberose Criminelle’s depart reminds me of a substance called Deep Heat (or Wintergreen) we British schoolboys had to rub on our legs when playing rugby in cold weather. Which was pretty much every time we played rugby, at least where I went to school.

    Despite this unfortunate association, it is a fantastic perfume. I like how the petrol note you describe acts as a bridge between the sharp opening and the creamy flowers at the heart of the scent. At this stage it reminds me of a mature riesling – sharpness, minerality, petrol and white flowers. In any case, it is no bad thing for a perfume to smell of petrol: Fahrenheit is still one of the biggest sellers here in France and it’s honeysuckle and petrol fumes! June 17, 2005 at 8:09am Reply

  • Victoria: Mike, it is a great comparison of Tubéreuse Criminelle to Riesling. That sharp mineral note that unfolds on your palate is not unlike a petrol note of Tubéreuse Criminelle. I love juxtapositions and I like florals to be strange, otherwise they quickly become too precious (I admit liking some pretty florals, but they rarely excite the musings as much as some of the more memorable scents). June 17, 2005 at 8:55am Reply

  • LaureAnne: When, oh, when will tuberosity be over? ;D June 17, 2005 at 10:11am Reply

  • Robin: Now L, you hush and wait your turn 😉 June 17, 2005 at 10:42am Reply

  • Liz smellslikeleaves: This is a fragrance I’ve been dying to try for the longest time, since it provokes such strong reactions of love or hate. I have a great fondness for quirky, ugly-pretty florals, and this sounds like it fits the bill perfectly. Hopefully (fingers crossed) I will return to Paris sometime soon, so I can finally experience this!

    I love the artwork you include in all your reviews, particularly this one, by the way. It certainly captures the lush sensuality of tuberose! June 17, 2005 at 11:01am Reply

  • Diane: Oh dear, why did I pop in now? Although I’m going to have another insane day, I have to say something here because I absolutely love this scent. This is a tuberose without peer. My favorite tuberose thus far, one of my favorite Lutens, and one of my all-timers in general. I think the opening is, sure, strange at first, but I grew more accustomed to it with each testing, and now I genuinely like it. The best part of TC is when that amazing juxtaposition is evident. Menthol/petrol note has quieted and it’s now maintaining a glacial balance. But in the distance, one spies the emerging hotness of tuberose. I think this visual is amazing. And how it works wonders during cool weather. It really warms me up. Although fantastic any time, I especially love it during the evening for uniquely beautiful allure. June 17, 2005 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: L, Oh, why do I torture you so? 🙂 Maybe, next week will be more palatable.
    R, thanks for reigning in the impatient one!

    Liz, as I said in my email, I love Safavid period art, its uses of details like folds and precise lines to indicate shape and texture. The MET has some interesting pieces, by the way.

    D, I love the image you have created. It is indeed the most amazing aspect of the fragrance–the birth of something beautiful out of the petrol fumes. The juxtaposition of cool and warm is just brilliant. June 17, 2005 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Tania: That picture…what filthy smut! Pornographic images now? I am reporting you to the authorities! 😉 June 17, 2005 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: Great! Stop my forays into pornography at their very inception. lol Actually, the first time I saw the copy of the picture was at the house of my boyfriend’s aunt. It was right next to the pooja mandir (a little Hindu home temple). Their mandir also had a little statue of Virgin Mary, and I thought that it was the coolest thing I have seen! June 17, 2005 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Sarah: Just received a small decant of this evocative, unique fragrance.

    Interestingly: it is very, very true to the plant. They’ve added in some spicey bits, but the cloying/metallic/”rubbery” top notes smooth easily into the sweetest, softest, gentlest fragrance you could hope for. Absolute perfection.

    This one reminds me of Grand Dames (in the good old 40s way) who smelled of je ne sais quoi, but it was goooooood.

    This is one of the fragrances/auras I’ve been looking for for about 45 years now.

    And I will ASAP dump anything that comes from a drug store or (in most cases) a department store.

    Serge Lutens is a keeper … A la Nuit is on order … 🙂 August 9, 2005 at 12:23am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear Sarah, I agree with you. Tuberose really does have that rubbery accord that makes it such a unique and complex scent. Tubéreuse Criminelle capitalizes on this uniqueness–albeit, exagerrating it somewhat, and the result is one of the most beautiful tuberoses I have tried. I am glad to see another fan! 🙂 August 9, 2005 at 9:42am Reply

  • Sarah: Une question … are there any places to purchase Tubereuse and some of the other scents from Lutens that are not available stateside? Kublai Khan … and the likes. August 12, 2005 at 8:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: In the States, I would imagine that the only place would be Ebay, because no retailer carries them outside of Paris. Or, if you have friends who live in Europe, you can place an order from Salons and have them ship the package to your friend. Then your friend can mail it to you. August 12, 2005 at 8:06pm Reply

    • Kaya: Lovely to discover (for the time in words only) this Lutens parfume (I am an absolute fan of Feminite du Bois). You suggested to order it through “salons” and as I live in Europe I was searching for an Internet company called Salons maybe, where I could order this parfume, but I did not find any such a firm. Can you please help me further which would be the best option for ordering Tubereuse Criminelle as somebody living in Europe?
      Many thanks, Kaya August 20, 2012 at 9:56pm Reply

      • Victoria: Kaya, I updated the review with the purchasing info! August 21, 2012 at 7:54am Reply

  • julien: It is one of the Lutens i HATE the most.
    Too hard to wear,it has something medicinal at first which disgusts me.
    I really prefer FRACAS by Piguet,the most narcotic and beautiful tubereuse to me. August 13, 2005 at 10:24am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: It appears to be a love or hate scent. It is definitely very unusual, especially in the beginning, which is why many are repulsed by it. I love the opening notes, because they remind me of what tuberose has in reality–a scent of something dark and rubbery underneath the petals.
    I agree, Fracas is beautiful, another big favourite of mine. August 13, 2005 at 11:15am Reply

  • Sarah: Sounds like a trip to Paris is in order then … oh the sacrifices one must make … August 13, 2005 at 5:05pm Reply

  • Anya: Sarah, you hit the nail almost on the head — go twenty years earlier for the ladies who had the attitude, and a similar scent. Here’s what I’m posting on several boards, including my perfumery group today:

    I adore this — V sent me a sample, since she knows I love tuberose. I was all ready for the medicinal, rubbery top note that is so famous. I love that note! It was exciting, edgy, fresh and just a lot of fun 😉 I have some rank tuberose concrete with that same note, so I immediately wanted to see if I can duplicate it in a blend for myself.

    My mother, who is 86 years old today (b’day dinner at Red Lobster, her favorite, lol) loves heady florals, too, so I asked her to sniff my wrist, giving her fair warning that this is an edgy, trendy, new kind of perfume, where the perfumer isn’t afraid to take chances, maybe even jar the senses a little with his intro.

    She sniffed, and exclaimed “Aunt Bessie”. Huh?

    Seems that she shared a cabin on the cruise liner in the 20’s with her father’s sister (the whole family went to England several times), Aunt Bessie, and Aunt Bessie had an identical perfume. Except, my mother noted, the opening notes lasted a lot longer!

    After I pulled myself up off the floor, and questioned her further (no, she could not remember the name of the perfume) she said that heady florals with such unique top notes were common in the 20’s and 30’s.

    Bessie Abrams Hessler, a legend in the family for getting ferklempt at funerals, swooning at the casket, and on more than one occasion, almost pulling the casket over as she fainted, looked like the lady in the Marx Bros. films, the straight foil that they always goofed on. (Mrs. Dumont?) Ample size, matronly dress, tight little cap of hair — you get the picture.

    All these associations are on the brink of ruining the cachet of TC for me — but not quite. I adore the scent, but can’t get the wiggle back over the excitement of the first sniff.

    Too funny!

    Oh, BTW, I find the drydown pleasant, and quite ordinary and uneventful. September 24, 2005 at 4:39pm Reply

    • Notturno7: Thank you Anya,
      I loved hearing about your mom and her aunt. I hope your mom is still alive and well. I can’t stop wondering what were those great old classic scents with so much personality , the ones your mom’s aunt loved. February 14, 2016 at 5:18am Reply

  • julien: “It is one of the Lutens i HATE the most.
    Too hard to wear,it has something medicinal at first which disgusts me.
    I really prefer FRACAS by Piguet,the most narcotic and beautiful tubereuse to me.”
    Do you remember those words?
    Well,just imagine….now,i am a TUBEREUSE CRIMINELLE addict…i used a roll on a friend gave me…one night i smelled it again…and now i just can’t go to sleep without smelling it…Time can do so much…
    😉 October 14, 2005 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Notturno7: Thanks for letting us know, Julien. That’s so funny?. February 14, 2016 at 5:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, Julien has been converted! Welcome to the club. 🙂 October 14, 2005 at 12:44pm Reply

  • julien: yes!
    I am part of the club…i guess i have the right to be kissed now?;)
    lol
    The only fragances i really can’t love,even though i try them every time are MUST by cartier and ARABIE by Lutens. October 14, 2005 at 1:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: LOL! Will an air kiss do?

    I like Arabie in principle, but it ends up as rich dry fruit melange that is a bit overwhelming.

    BTW, have you tried the new Cerruti 1881 Collection? I know that it is already available in Paris, and when reviewing it today I thought of you. October 14, 2005 at 1:14pm Reply

  • julien: Well…everything from you is a gift,an air kiss is enough to die happy,my dear.

    About Cerruti,i must confess i never smelled anyone…maybe shall i try to smell them just to have another kiss…
    😉 October 14, 2005 at 1:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Clever, aren’t you? 🙂 October 14, 2005 at 1:23pm Reply

  • julien: I hope so…
    lol
    Very good evening to you…i must go and see a friend of mine who says i am the person who smell better on earth!lol
    Well,if one day i can help you smell one product,don’t hesitate…for example,i have a sample of MONTALE velvet flowers,which is just simply divine.
    jasmin with peach,very hard first,then softer and it lasts on your skin forever…

    😉

    Kisses Dear.
    Julien. October 14, 2005 at 1:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you for a kind offer. I shall keep it in mind.

    Have a great evening! October 14, 2005 at 1:36pm Reply

  • joanne: I know I am late to this party, but I just got a sample of this in the mail and wanted to share my notes:
    wintergreen, rubber, burning rubber, menthol, spice gumdrops, grandma, mothballs, something dank, like rotting— but not unpleasant. weird. a bowl of spice gumdrops, but with an ice cold, sharp steel pin in the middle of it. a fresh out of the box plastic christmas tree that someone doused with christmas tree spray. still not unpleasant. then it’s like stuffing your nose into a flower in between drags of a menthol cigarette. or sitting in the last row of a bus that is belching fumes with a bouquet in your lap. you realize too late that you are on the wrong bus. this perfume tells a story. this is twin peaks: the perfume. December 9, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Anne-Catherine: For all Tubéreuse Criminelle lovers: it will be available in Belgium in a limited edition (spray bottle) from February.
    at
    Parfuma (Antwerp) delivery in Europe, excellent deliveryservice (www.parfuma.com),

    Senteurs d’Ailleurs Brussels http://www.senteursdailleurs.com January 24, 2015 at 4:59am Reply

  • Adriana: This is dramatically beautiful and the most realistic tuberose fragrance I have come across in my little experience. First time when I made my husband smell it on my wrist, he exclaimed: “wow, love cuts deep, this is a winner”, and he asks me time to time to put it on just like that. And well, considering that opening, yeah, love does… “cut deep” indeed, but I enjoy that feeling and it keeps catching me off guard which I actually enjoy ever and ever again. Heard it is discontinued, can it be? October 31, 2015 at 3:54am Reply

  • Anna: This dramatic fragrance is definitely hate to love experience for me. The opening note is exactly the smell of a Chinese medical oniment which is used for headaches, stomaches, etc. I hate the smell as I associate it with discomfort but it does has a wake up effect which one would welcome in the hot humid summer in Asia. The purfume then quickly transform, probably because of the heat, into a beautiful sweat soft scent lingers all day. I went to Les Salons du Palais Royal with getting Iris Silver Mist for summer time on my mind and ended up leaving the shop with this wonder parfume. 🙂 December 16, 2015 at 4:59am Reply

  • Notturno7: Dear Victoria, what a great review! I just love the comments on this thread. Julian’s conversion to the club of TC lovers!! So glad he wrote to let you know and what a great story from Anya. Except now I can’t stop wondering about those great perfumes from a century ago and what that could have been!? February 14, 2016 at 5:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! February 14, 2016 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Surbhi: Ha ha. I finally got to smell it for the first time and my instant reaction was YUCK. I had heard so many good things about this perfume on this blog that I didn’t say anything and waited few minutes to try it again. Unfortunately, it still smelled like medicine or varnish or so balm or anything but floral. I thought may be my nose is the issue and I gave up. Came to write a comment and ask why such a lovely fragrance (loved by so many) smelled so bad. And I was amused to read the review and the comments. I guess I shouldn’t have refused the sample. May be I will try it again some day. February 21, 2016 at 9:06pm Reply

    • Karen (A): Have you given it time? It takes at least 20-30 minutes on me before turning into a beautiful, intoxicating….. cloud? Dream? It’s definitely not one to put on and dash out the door, at least for me. Also, was your sample good? Only because I’ve had some that weren’t – which of course influenced my opinion (Le Parfum de Therese is one I changed my mind about after getting a sample from FM shop, first was a decant from a reputable source, but wasn’t the same as from shop) February 22, 2016 at 6:52am Reply

      • Surbhi: I tried it at Barneys in NY. So I believe the sample was probably ok. No, I didn’t give it that long. I definitely gave it 8 to 10 mins though. But I have figured out that I have generally disliked every strong fragrance at first (MR was an exception) I made face right after smelling Le Labo oud 27 infront of the sales guy not too long ago and now I love it. Didn’t even like CF at first. February 22, 2016 at 11:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Those top notes are so bizarre, but you know, you might end up falling for them too. February 22, 2016 at 3:01pm Reply

  • tại đây: Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate
    a lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done. August 5, 2016 at 12:52am Reply

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