Tuberose is the most legendary out of all of perfumery’s white flowers. It is quite a mythical beast, and it’s often said that virgins were warned against walking the tuberose fields at night for fear that the flower’s heady, beguiling blooms may corrupt their innocence. That’s obviously a load of old tosh – people are well equipped to corrupt themselves without the influence of flowers. Still, it speaks to the intense and erotic nature of the tuberose, which seems to create quite the scandal wherever it goes.
Despite the name, tuberoses have nothing to do with roses. The name comes from the flower’s tuberous roots (the more you know, eh?) For centuries, the flower has been used in perfume and has a rich heritage in Grasse, the modern homeland of perfumery. It’s also a respected part of the culture in countries such as India. And in many places in the world, it is also used as wedding and funeral flowers.
Tuberose has a complex smell that can be described as: lush, green, cool, almost camphorous, buttery, rubbery, exotic, sweet, tropical, and like white hot flesh. Yes, you read that right; I said, “white hot flesh”, and if you’ve ever smelled tuberose absolute, you might be shocked at just how meaty it is. You’d also be shocked that anyone would ever want to put such a thing in a perfume (tuberose absolute is quite the experience, I tell you). Still, it goes to show the magic of perfumery – in small doses and with the right accent materials, even the strangest of materials can smell beautiful.
Here are some reference tuberose perfumes you need to try (and yes, they were all the stars of the show of April’s #EscentualScents box)!
Scent A: The Classic Tuberose
Amouage Love Tuberose Eau de Parfum
Love Tuberose is an excellent place to start for tuberose because it feels like the perfect rendition of a classic tuberose fragrance. It has everything you expect from tuberose: a deep, fruity sweetness, a fleshy warm dose of white petals, a dash of green, and a touch of camphor. What brings this all together is a crystal mixing bowl filled to the brim with freshly whipped Chantilly cream. You can’t eat tuberose, it’s true, but Love Tuberose will make you desperate to try.
Scent B: The Brassy Tuberose
Giorgio Beverly Hills Giorgio Eau de Toilette
Giorgio was the first fragrance to be advertised by a scent strip in a magazine, which made it so popular that some restaurants banned people from wearing it. Why? Well, much like the tuberose at its heart, Giorgio is an infamous character that takes no prisoners. It’s a big, bold, and brassy blend of crisp aldehydes (the material that makes Nº5 feel fizzy) and a bouquet of hot white flowers, the shining star of which is the sweet, attention-seeking tuberose. It’s honestly one of the most fun perfumes you can wear, and it comes flying out of the atomiser in a puff of big, hairsprayed hair, silk blouses and statement eye makeup. Giorgio is a tuberose that wants you to be looked at.
Scent C: The Modern Tuberose
Prada La Femme Eau de Parfum
Trust Prada to tame the tumultuous nature of tuberose and turn it into something completely elegant. That is exactly what La Femme is: golden, sparkling tuberose made modern, sophisticated, and chic. Perhaps the floral accents of frangipani and ylang ylang lend a tropical freshness to the bouquet, or maybe it’s the honeyed feel of vanilla blended with beeswax – it could even be the aromatic slices of vetiver. Still, whatever it is, Prada has found the secret to spinning tuberose into pure, brilliant gold.
Scent D: The Green Tuberose
Histoires de Parfums 7753 Eau de Parfum
One key facet of tuberose as a raw material is an intense greenery that almost feels like stepping into a florist’s refrigerator. It’s cold, dewy, and reminiscent of freshly cut plant stems. In 7753, Histoires de Parfums took the earth tones of the Mona Lisa as inspiration, creating a tuberose painted in soft auburn and verdant shades. Ivy, vetiver, and heliotrope combine with the white petals to create an everlasting pool of tuberose stems floating in ice-cold water. Having worn this fragrance extensively over the last two summers, I highly encourage you to dive right in.
Scent E: The Stealthy Tuberose
Prada Les Infusion de Prada Fleur d’Oranger Eau de Parfum
I know what you’re thinking: “this isn’t a tuberose; it’s an orange flower”. And yes, you are technically correct, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say there was a touch of our good friend tuberose in here amongst all the other white flowers. You see, tuberose is often the starlet of the white floral world, and she is rarely happy to take a back seat, but sometimes she must.
Fleur d’Oranger is a great example of how the rich, heady, waxy and fruity tones of tuberose can be tamed to support other beautiful flowers. With a generous dash of tuberose amongst its orange flowers and jasmine petals, Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger smells soapy and fresh with hints of honey, served in that fizzy “Prada” way. Tuberose may not be the star here, but she makes a wonderful supporting act.
Scent F: The Fruity Tuberose
BVLGARI Splendida Tubereuse Mystique Eau de Parfum
Tuberose is often pushed in the fruity direction and, as a result, tends to present a bubblegum vibe (see Givenchy L’Interdit Eau de Parfum for the perfect example). In Splendida Tubereuse Mystique, however, a much darker and unique sense of fruitiness is courted by the tuberose: cassis, or blackcurrant bud absolute, as it is also known. In Splendida Tubereuse Mystique, two equally intense, heady, and beastly materials in the form of cassis and tuberose clash and in what should result in utter carnage, beautifully syrupy and exotic tuberose with addictive qualities if formed. Tubereuse Mystique is a wonderfully deep and intense showcase of the fruity aspects of tuberose, where the flower and fruits mix in a carnal exchange, softened by the resinous warmth of vanilla and myrrh. It’s enough to make you purr.
Scent G: The Bubbly Tuberose
Stella McCartney POP Eau de Parfum
Tuberose doesn’t always have to be about desire and danger though, it can also be a lot of fun, and Stella McCartney’s bubbly POP is the perfect example of that! POP amplifies the juicy sweetness of tuberose but blends it with the freshness of leaves (tomato and violet) to create a watermelon bubble gum vibe that would make even the most grinchiest of people smile. It’s light and airy, with a silk-like feel, evoking transparent fabrics stamped with vibrant tropical prints in a vivid shade of fuschia. I told you it was fun!
Scent H: The Vampish Tuberose
Cacharel LouLou Eau de Parfum
LouLou is one of those fragrances that has been around so long and worn by so many women that it often gets overlooked. Whilst it may be old school now, it’s a fantastic example of how tuberose can be used in perfume as a supporting act rather than the star. In LouLou, the sweet, heady nature of tuberose is one element of an abstract bouquet (orange blossom, mimosa, iris, lily, heliotrope, ylang ylang) that is accented by the warmth of cinnamon, the tartness of plum and the intense, plush quality of vanilla and incense. Smelling LouLou now, 35 years after it launched, it’s not difficult to see why it was so popular.