If certain notes are defined by particular eras, tuberose belongs to the Forties. Think of Rita Hayworth in Gilda, who inspired the category-defining Fracas by Robert Piguet, against which all other tuberose scents continue to be measured. Unfortunately, in contemporary perfumery the powerful headiness of tuberose too often devolves into what you smell on fat ladies in mink.
That’s why Bond No. 9 Saks Fifth Avenue, which pairs tuberose with its classic cohorts—gardenia, jasmine and coconut—gives me the shudders. Maybe it’s supposed to smell retro-classy, but it ends up being a headache-inducing museum piece. Leaving behind the slop of watery coconut, some perfumers are now using new and unexpected notes to reframe the carnal opulence of the tuberose in a way that resonates with 21st-century consumers. Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle is perhaps the most extreme example of this, with top notes that have been described as a cross between moth balls and sewer gas. Love it or hate it, critics agree that it casts the tuberose in an alluringly original and dangerous light.
Along the same lines, French fragrance house Histoires de Parfums has given tuberose three contemporary personalities with the launch of its Tuberose Trilogy, which combines the perfume of the flower with different middle and base notes to create three distinct scents.
TUBEREUSE 1-CAPRICIEUSE (capricious) is an ultra-femme powdery floral that combines bergamot and saffron with iris and ylang-ylang. The base notes of opulent suede and cocoa leave a positively addictive trail. Romantic in the best sense of the word, it’s a white floral that even a non-floralista like me would wear.
TUBEREUSE 2-VIRGINALE (virginal) mixes mandarin orange, cherry, frangipani, Tahitian tiara flowers and jasmine with base notes of patchouli leaf, blond wood and vanilla. Your inner vixen will definitely respond to the sassy sensuality of this floral oriental.
TUBEREUSE 3-ANIMALE (animal) is a floral and tobacco-leather scent that opens with a bath of fresh kumquat and neroli, leading into a strong combination of plum, herbs and dry grasses. Blond tobacco and Immortelle flower leave intense base notes that linger. Oozing power, this one takes no prisoners.
TUBEREUSE 1-CAPRICIEUSE, TUBEREUSE 2-VIRGINALE and TUBEREUSE 3-ANIMALE are available for $185 each at vivre.com and beautycafe.com.
– Jill Maynard