Tuberose is a bewitching white flower that perfumers have learned to tame over the years and interpretations. Behind its apparent innocence lies a true sensuality. This long-unloved ingredient may have been frightening because of its strong fragrance. But its multiple facets have managed to charm noses in search of originality and subtlety. Discover all the mysteries of this sulphurous flower.
The history of tuberose
Origin and botanic
In the land of white flowers, among jasmine, orange blossom or frangipani, we find the tuberose, an herbaceous perennial plant with a bulb. The tuberose has a long stem on which come to bloom beautiful tubular flowers in the shape of star. The plant blooms throughout the summer until early fall. Native of India and Mexico, the one which was formerly called hyacinth of the Indies would have been brought back in 1530 in Europe by a French missionary. It is said that the Aztecs used it to perfume chocolate. The first bulbs were planted in Grasse in the 17th century to exploit the perfume of its thick and waxy flowers. From now on, the tuberose is cultivated in the south of India, in Egypt, but also in Morocco and in Tunisia, as well as in China and in Comoros.
Known to be very fragrant, white flowers are renowned for their olfactory power. Tuberose is said to be the most fragrant plant in the plant world. And for good reason because its opulent scent continues to exhale even 48 hours after picking. And this smell is like that of other white flowers such as orange blossom or ylang-ylang, with a creamier and even “deeper” aspect. This already powerful perfume has the particularity to become even more intense once the night falls. Moreover, in Italy during the Renaissance, young girls were forbidden to walk in the gardens at night, at the risk of succumbing to this narcotic fragrance which would have given them some ideas that would not have been very chaste!
In France, Louis XIV, a great lover of perfume, had more than 10,000 bulbs brought back to bloom the Trianon. This sensual smell perfumed the corridors of Versailles. In India, tuberose is used as a decoration in weddings and in the bridal room of the young couple. Its erotic scent would thus promote the love connection!
The use of tuberose in perfumery
Cultivation & extraction
Picking the tuberose requires a lot of patience and know-how. The flowers are picked one by one by hand, every morning when the sun rises and the corollas open. It is at this moment that the odorous compounds are the most concentrated. This flower is fragile and cannot be extracted in any way. In the past, the cold enfleurage process was used. The flowers were placed on large wooden frames which were covered with animal or vegetable fat. After maceration of fresh flowers, the fat loaded with essences was “washed” and then extracted with volatile solvents to obtain an absolute. But this long and tedious technique was gradually abandoned.
Today, we proceed to an extraction with volatile solvents of the flowers which delivers the so much sought-after absolute. This perfumed product is very expensive because it takes more than 1200 kilos of petals to obtain barely 200 grams of absolute!
The olfactory profile of the tuberose
Just like other white flowers, tuberose has a very feminine scent. Its absolute releases a multitude of nuances. We find milky accents with very sunny and orange notes, and also a honeyed and almond side, like a fruity jasmine. But tuberose has another aspect, greener, camphorated, almost medicinal. It also exhales a very sensual and carnal smell with its animal side. Because of its high price, the scent of tuberose is often recreated through synthesis. Perfumers can then play on its different facets in order to accentuate them or on the contrary to attenuate them. By dosing the different synthetic molecules, sometimes naturally present in the plant, the nose will be able to push the animal nuances, the solar and creamy aspect almost coconut, or the more vegetable profile of the flower.
This powerful flower has long frightened perfumers who did not dare to use it for fear of covering the rest of the composition. However, Germaine Cellier, a rare feminine perfumer of her time, took up the challenge and launched a soliflore at the beginning of the 1950s. Fracas by Robert Piguet is still a reference in the field today. After falling into oblivion, the tuberose will emerge again during the eighties with their fashion of powerful and heady perfumes. For several years now, the tuberose is interpreted in a more subtle way. It raises floral bouquets or oriental fragrances by revealing its powdery and sensual notes.
Carrément Belle and the tuberose
The sensual tuberose invites itself in our mythical perfume, our very first creation, the timeless ippi patchouli. In this oriental fragrance, your nose is transported to a bohemian world alongside a generation addicted to patchouli. The woody, resinous scent of this iconic ingredient is combined with sweet and floral notes. Tuberose is revealed uncompromising, playing on all its facets. Its creamy and solar aspect is expressed with coconut and peach. The more flowery and green nuances of the flower are also revealed associated with a touch of orange blossom, rose and jasmine. Finally, its more animalized aspect harmonizes perfectly with a musky base. An addictive fragrance that will make you travel in a few drops!
Now that you know more about tuberose and its fragrant interpretations, will you recognize its bewitching notes?
Discover the fragrances mentioned in the article