Tuberose Series 18: Fracas

It would be pointless to review tuberose scents and leave out The Queen of Them All: Robert Piguet Fracas, of course. It would likewise be pointless to refuse to review it just because everyone else has reviewed it.

fracas adA brief history: Created in 1948 by perfumer Germaine Cellier for designer Robert Piguet, Fracas was designed as the pinkest, girliest, swooniest Big White Floral ever. It’s The One BWF to rule them all, if you will. Piguet’s fashion house closed in the 1950s, and its fragrance arm folded some time in the 1970s-’80s (a shame, really – Cellier’s gigantic floral and its butchy leather counterpart Bandit would have fit perfectly into the ’80s More Is More zeitgeist), and then the name was sold to a company called Arpel in the mid-1990s. The Piguet fragrance business was revived in 1998, with perfumer Aurelien Guichard reportedly responsible for the reorchestrations of most of the classic Piguet fragrances, from Fracas and Bandit to Calypso and Baghari.

It was the 1980s which saw restaurants banning the use of scents such as Giorgio Beverly Hills, or more correctly the overuse of that decade’s popular go-big-or-go-home bludgeoners, but Fracas is also one of those big, and I mean B I G, fragrances that can clear a room. Or a concert hall. (Or a football stadium, for that matter.) Ergo, everybody has an opinion on Fracas, and it largely depends on whether you like big white florals or not. I do!

I’m always surprised to see Fracas referred to as being THE tuberose perfume, because it isn’t just tuberose. There’s a big slug of creamy-soapy orange blossom in there, too, and jasmine and lily of the valley and half a dozen other florals, plus peach and moss and woody notes. It is, in fact, symphonic and baroque and dramatic densely constructed. I tend to see it in my mind as being one of those gigantic ball gowns one saw in the mid-1950s, made of iridescent flamingo-pink satin, with layers of ruffles. (The dress in the Piguet ad at the top of the page is far more streamlined than the one in my mind.) It’s so femme as to be almost ironic, and you will either find it intoxicating or ridiculously over-the-top.

tubeyFracas wasn’t the first tuberose-centric fragrance released (that would be Le Galion Tubereuse, created by Paul Vacher and released in either 1937 or ’39 – see Grain de Musc’s post here), but Fracas was an immediate commercial success. It has always been iconic and instantly recognizable, worn by countless women and inspiring just about every tuberose fragrance since.

I have only tested the modern eau de parfum, though I’m quite sure I smelled the old version on other people when I was a child – when I first tested my sample, it was familiar to me in a lovely way. On me, Fracas opens with a beautifully green, fresh tuberose. Hyacinth and a very crisp green menthol are noticeable, but I never get the citrus. Gradually the green notes tone down, and the white florals become very creamy and buttery. The orange blossom is very noticeable to me. Occasionally I get a whiff of jasmine and gardenia, and occasionally a tiny hit of violet. The basenotes are far less distinct than the florals, to my nose, but they are pleasant. The drydown is lovely, a sweet white-floral woody musk that smells like clean skin and goes on for hours and hours.

Sometimes when I wear Fracas, the orange blossom comes to the fore very quickly and the whole thing smells like cold cream. Other times, the tuberose stays front and center, but the orange blossom always shows up for me no matter what. This aspect is probably why I don’t adore Fracas. I like it, I almost love it – but that soapy, creamy orange blossom interferes to a degree that precludes my personal adoration. Still, it is amazing and there is nothing else quite like it. If you like tuberose, or BWFs at all, you simply must, must try it.

For further reading (see whuttimean about everybody reviewing it?): Robin at Now Smell This, Kafkaesque, Yesterday’s Perfume, Bois de Jasmin, The Candy Perfume Boy, Perfume Shrine, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Donna at the same blog, just for starters.

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BWFs: Tuberose

The Tuberose Series OpenerThe Aztecs called it omixochitl, bone flower. The Mexicans call it nardo de San José, St. Joseph’s staff. Its common name in English refers to the tuberous nature of its bulb. Everybody has an opinion on the flower’s smell! What more is there to say about tuberose that hasn’t already been said by a million people, not to mention perfume bloggers? Fragrantica says: No note in perfumery is more surprisingly carnal, creamier or contradicting than that of tuberose. The multi-petalled flower is a mix of flower shop freshness and velvety opulence. Victoria of Bois de Jasmin says: 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.

It’s funny – I don’t have an impression of tuberose as being “sexxxy” – it just smells good to me, luxurious and heady and rich but not slutty in the least. I’ve loved it from the start.

Tuberose is the Queeeeeeeen. She just is. And if you disagree, she will cutchoo. It’s okay with me; I love her. Most people either love her or hate her. For the lovers, here’s a list of BWF’s that feature tuberose, whether as a soliflore or as the centerpiece of the composition. (For the haters, you can keep this list for reference of Things to Avoid.) I’ve tried a number of these; the ones in black text I haven’t. Bolded ones I really enjoy.

glorious tuberoseSoliflores:

By Kilian Beyond Love
Le Galion Tubéreuse (newly rereleased)
DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse
Annick Goutal Tubéreuse
Santa Maria Novella Tuberosa
Caron Tubéreuse
L’Artisan Tubéreuse (discontinued)
Creed Tubéreuse Indiana
Il Profvmo Éclair de Tubéreuse
Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle (The opening doesn’t work for me, but it’s not the camphor/gasoline/menthol – it’s the rotting raw chicken note in there. Bleargh. Can NOT handle it. If you can get through without smelling that, you’re golden, because the rest of it is a wonderfully uncomplicated, simply-beautiful floral tuberose.)
Prada Infusion de Tubéreuse (infusion de boring, if you ask me)
Prada No. 6 Tubéreuse parfum (limited edition)
Parfumerie Generale PG17 Tubéreuse Couture
I Profumo di Firenze Tuberosa di Autonno
Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Tubéreuse
Hiram Green Moon Bloom (all natural)
Floris Tuberose
Terra Nova Tuberose (oil format)
Bruno Acampora Blu (oil format)

mixed flower tuberose arrangementCompositions:

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY (all natural)
Robert Piguet Fracas (There’s a ton of orange blossom in here, so much so that Fracas actually smells like tuberose-scented cold cream to me. Still the Queen. Still intoxicating.)
Robert Piguet Petit Fracas
Robert Piguet Douglas Hannant
Miller Harris Noix de Tubéreuse
Pilar & Lucy Tiptoeing Through Chambers of the Moon
Mona di Orio Tubéreuse
Versace Blonde (Huge. Somewhat synthetic. But nicer in the parfum.)
Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger (as much tuberose as orange blossom)
Ava Luxe Tuberose Diabolique
Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose (YEAH YEAH I LIKE THIS ONE FOR A CHEAP THRILL, SO SUE ME)
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture (Again, SO SUE ME. But it’s really good in the parfum.)
Frederic Malle Editions des Parfums Carnal Flower
Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia (one of the very few Lauders that doesn’t go nasty on me after 2-3 hours)
L’Artisan Nuit de Tubéreuse
Histoires des Parfums Tubéreuse 1 (Capricieuse), 2 (Virginale), and 3 (Animale)
Dior Poison
Nasomatto Narcotic Venus
Roja Dove Scandal
Giorgio Beverly Hills (It’s dead. Don’t try the new stuff – but the old, despite being huge, was rather nice.)
Diptyque Do Son
Carolina Herrera Carolina Herrera
Parfums DelRae Amoureuse
Givenchy Ysatis
Arquiste Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold and copal)
ByRedo Flowerhead (tuberose, jasmine and rose)
Parfums d’Empire 3 Fleurs (tuberose, rose and jasmine – pretty but I found it soulless)
Serge Lutens Cedre
Serge Lutens Datura Noir
Karl Lagerfeld Chloe
Givenchy Amarige
Tableau de Parfums (Tauer) Loretta (plum/grape/tuberose/PATCHOULI. A freakfest. Like Poison on acid.)
Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle
L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons (smells like perfumery linden to me, not like tuberose, but everybody ELSE says tuberose)
Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion
Balenciaga Michelle
Madonna Truth or Dare
Kim Kardashian Kim Kardashian
Michael Kors Michael
Providence Perfumes Cocoa Tuberose (all natural)
Anya’s Garden Starflower (all natural)
Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose (another all natural)
Parfums de Nicolaï Number One
Ramon Monegal Kiss My Name
Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile
Amouage Honour Woman
Jil Sander No. 4
Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica

Goodness, there are a LOT of tuberose/tuberose-centric perfumes. A LOT. This is by NO MEANS a complete listing. Rather terrifyingly, I’ve tried 48 out of the 68 listed here (that’s about 71%).

So, is tuberose your BFF, or your worst enemy?

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Perfume Review: Byredo Flowerhead

flowerhead-by-byredoI’ve had this decant for a couple of months now, but I haven’t reviewed it yet. That’s partly because I needed a break from blogging, and partly because I was wearing it the afternoon that we took Hayley to the vet, never dreaming that she wouldn’t come home with us. But I pulled it out to retry today, and I am writing with a pic of Hayley-dog on the screen, so I think I will be all right.

This is a truly beautiful floral, centered on tuberose-jasmine-rose. I don’t think Byredo has done many florals, other than La Tulipe (mixed spring bouquet) and Inflorescence (a muguet). Byredo is very much an art-directed outfit, very visual, and typically the notes lists/art inspiration for their fragrances don’t encourage me to purchase samples. What I remember Byredo for is the sticky, melting, frozen-fruit-bar of Pulp, and the Blanche sample a friend sent me, which was fresh-air-and-clean-laundry to my nose (and I even like aldehydes. Oh well).

This one, as most fumeheads probably know by now since I’m months behind the curve on reviewing it, was inspired by the visual of an Indian bride adorned with a floral headdress. Byredo’s creator, Ben Gorham, is half Indian and had a large part to play in the wedding of his cousin, and was inspired by the vision of her with flowers for a head.

The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don't say "flower head" to me.
The six-year-old girl in me is RUTHLESSLY DELIGHTED at these bridal hairstyles. But they don’t say “flower head” to me.

Well, okay. Whatever caused Mr. Gorham to decide to focus on the natural glory of blossoms, I don’t really care much; I’m just here for the tuberose. And the jasmine and rose. Hand over the flowers and nobody gets hurt, okay?

The tuberose does tend to dominate, in my opinion, not that I’m bothered by that. It’s kept very fresh by tart berries, angelica and green notes, and I have to say this is one of the loveliest floral openings I’ve ever smelled, a glorious explosion of blossoms with the sharpness of cut stems and leaves. I love it. It’s almost like sticking your nose in a big bouquet – that’s one of my favorite scent experiences, by the way. The only thing missing from the bouquet is a “wet” dewy note. The visual for the fragrance features marigolds, and Ben Gorham has stated that he and perfumer Jerome Epinette attempted to include marigold but weren’t able to integrate it successfully. The tart berries and sharp herbal accents, to me, seem to take the place that marigolds would have taken, and I do love that effect.  In fact, the opening reminds me very much of Arquiste’s wonderful Flor y Canto (tuberose and marigold), and it’s gorgeous.

Half an hour in, it calms down a bit and the berries retreat, and there’s a wonderful tuberose-jasmine duet. The rose flies under the radar for me, and I can only pick it up occasionally, as a counterpoint to the white floral blend. There’s a fair proportion of natural materials in this, and it smells very fresh and gentle. I wish, to some degree, that the fragrance would stay loud, but the initial blast does calm itself down to a smaller sillage. This middle stage lasts three to three and a half hours, respectable for a floral fragrance on my skin.

Gradually it begins to fade away to a very quiet drydown. The official drydown notes are “suede and ambergris,” but I’m really smelling a quiet, dry woody musk rather than anything *I* would call ambergris. It may be, as a reviewer on Fragrantica suggests, Iso E Super there in the drydown. I am not sensitive to Iso E Super myself, can barely smell it at all; what I’m getting here is a soft, barely-there presence that simply helps to extend the florals. This stage lasts about three further hours on me, so that I get about 7-8 hours of wear from one goodly spritz. I would not choose the “spray until wet” method for this one (as I typically do for lightweight fragrances like summer Eaus and Annick Goutals), since Flowerhead’s initial sillage is so big.

Notes, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, cranberry, angelica, green notes, tuberose, jasmine sambac, rose petals, suede and ambergris.

Flowerhead is a really lovely fragrance. The straight-up floral is one of my favorite genres of fragrance, and I enjoy wearing it. One reviewer on Fragrantica says that it’s “too floral,” but I say Nonsense! No such thing! The more flowers the better!  Know your own tastes, I always say, and Flowerhead suits mine very well.

I could wish that the sillage would stay at the same level, or only gradually taper off, rather than dropping drastically half an hour after application – that was my frustration with DelRae Coup del Foudre, for example. At $220 for 100ml and $145 for 50ml, it’s probably outside my price range, but I will use and enjoy my 5ml decant.

Other reviews: EauMG, The Scented Hound, Robin at Now Smell this, Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Colognoisseur.

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Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Loretta

Back in March, Brian Pera (of the blog I Smell Therefore I Am) proposed a novel fundraiser for the next installment of his film project, A Woman’s Picture: donate a certain amount of money, and choose your “reward” based on the amount you donate. Some of the choices included fragrances composed by Andy Tauer, including one expressing film noir (Dark Passage, a seriously-limited-edition thing that was only available for this fundraiser, and which did not appeal to me based on its described notes of dark chocolate and patchouli and tobacco), and one (Loretta) that would eventually become available through the film’s website, evelynavenue.com, as one of the characters’ fragrances.

You might remember that I fell very hard for the first Evelyn Avenue-Tauer collaboration scent, Tableau de Parfums Miriam. When I heard that the next one would be a tuberose, my eyes rolled back in my head. I offered some financial backing to Brian’s film, and chose as my reward the 7ml purse spray of Loretta and the tuberose soap.

I haven’t tried the soap yet, though it smells wonderful in the package. But Brian’s description of Loretta as “dreamy, moody, voluptuous, mysterious, forbidden” intrigued me. So did the notes list: “Ripe dark fruit, velvet rose, spicy tuberose, orange blossom, patchouli, woody notes, ambergris, leather and sweetened orris.”

And it was to be a Tauer tuberose! What tubey fan wouldn’t want her hot little mitts on that? I certainly did. Badly. Especially after I read Andy’s blog post on the floral essences involved in Loretta.

I’ve taken a couple of weeks with Loretta, trying to get a handle on it, before writing this review. I’ll confess right now: at first, Loretta – and this was much like my experience with Amouage Memoir Woman – confused the heck out of me. I remembered very well Brian’s and Andy Tauer’s comments on Loretta, and the notes list, and the things I was supposed to be getting out of the scent. But the smell on my skin was Not That.

Brian talks about lush tuberose and even-lusher dark fruit, as well as balsams and woods. Andy talks about the beautiful rose note and the spiciness of the tuberose, and the connection between the floral orange blossom and the woody notes. Continue reading Perfume Review: Tableau de Parfums Loretta

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Tuberose Series #22: Juicy Couture

 

Juicy Couture parfum mini from fragrancenet.com

Perfume review: Juicy Couture, in edp and parfum

Date released: 2006

Perfumer: Harry Fremont (also responsible for cKOne, Armani Sensi, Ralph Lauren Romance, and all the Vera Wang Princess fragrances, among others)

Sample provenance: manufacturer spray sample of edp given to Bookworm in 2010 (and swiped by me), parfum mini purchased in 2012

Subcategory – oh, heck, I’m going to change “subcategory” to “brief description.” There are a whole lot of ways you can do tuberose. Brief description: lightweight tuberose with fruity notes and subtle vanilla-woody base.

I don’t want to talk about the women who formed Juicy Couture and sold plushy yoga pants to Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, and I don’t even want to talk about the advisability of dressing fashionable women in plushy yoga pants and slapping a could-be-naughty adjective across their hind ends. So I just won’t.

I also don’t want to talk about Barbie, the quintessential pinkified little-girl toy that was the supposed muse for the fragrance. Juicy Couture designer Pamela Skaist-Levy commented, “It smells like something Barbie would wear.” (This is an inducement to buy it? Huh.)

Bookworm’s 15th birthday present from her Nana included a little spray sample of Juicy Couture edp in very-cute paper packaging that resembled a pink purse. I had already read the four-star review in Perfumes: The Guide, praising Juicy Couture as “a nicely crafted floral incorporating that rare thing, a delicate, transparent tuberose… one of the best in the [abstract floral] genre.” So with her permission, I pulled out the spray sample and spritzed her arm. Continue reading Tuberose Series #22: Juicy Couture

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Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman

Perfume Review: Amouage Honour Woman

Date released: 2011

Perfumer: Alexandra Carlin and Violaine Collas

Sample provenance: sample purchased from Aedes.com, 2012

Sub-category: Summer-weight white floral with tuberose

The following never happened. But it could have…

Mals was having an amazing day. She was walking down a city street, the heels of her new brown leather boots tapping on the sidewalk, shopping bags swinging by her side. She was musing to herself that the cashmere sweater she’d found on sale was just perfect – simple, classic, a lovely soft shade of gray-blue. And the boots! Will wonders never cease? The boots were perfect, too. Butter-soft, the right heel, they fit her ankles, and they didn’t make her feet ache. She’d worn them out of the store. And that tablecloth, that was a wonderful find for $10… White linen with drawn-thread work, just the size for her harvest maple table, guaranteed resistant to the tiniest food stain, machine washable. Perfect.

A storefront caught her eye: The Dream Perfumery, lettered in a clean but flowing script above the door. Her eyebrows went up, and she dodged across the lanes of oncoming walkers to have a closer look. The building itself seemed to be made of marble, and the interior was softly lit. The heavy glass door swung open when she put her hand up to it, and then she realized that someone inside had opened it for her.

Thank you,” she said in faint surprise to the young woman holding the door.

Oh, do come in,” the young woman said. “Lovely day, isn’t it? I’m Graciela, and we’re so pleased you stopped by.”

Mals blinked. This was not what the kind of treatment to which she was accustomed. And the inside of the shop was absolutely luxe, with a whisper-soft carpet and walls hung with fabric in rich colors. It smelled of many mingled scents, as a perfume shop should.

Continue reading Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman

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Tuberose Series 20: Stephanie

 

Stephanie bottle, from Michael Storer website

I think I first saw a mention of Stephanie from Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, shortly after I first saw her mention Michael Storer in a review of Monk. Monk still doesn’t sound like my kind of thing, but Stephanie sounded right up my alley.

Perfume Review: Michael Storer Stephanie

Date released:2007

Perfumer: Michael Storer

Sample provenance: bottle split, 2011

Sub-category: Lush white floral with tuberose

I still don’t know much about Michael Storer, except that he has a website and sells several fragrances which are not exactly hot topics on the perfume blog circuit but are generally well-regarded. The webside tag says, “Niche fragrances for the individualist.” I’m down with that, I suppose. Besides Stephanie, the other feminine fragrances are Yvette and Genviève (what, all Michael’s women are French?); also available are Kadota and Winter Star, described as unisex, and two masculines called Djin and Monk. The website explains that after many years spent in the fashion industry, Mr. Storer began making perfumes, and that his philosophy of fragrance leads him to create scents which are somewhat linear so that the “signature accord,” so to speak, the central character, is what sticks around.

To read about each fragrance, you click on the bottle in the photo, whereupon you immediately get a brief flash of a black-and-white arty nude or partially-clad body, rolling through to a description of the fragrance notes. (Can it be a coincidence that the images of women are soft-focus and fuzzy, while the images of men are stunningly crisp and clear? No matter.)

As far as I can tell, the fragrances are all eau de parfum, and priced at about $85 for a 2-ounce bottle: a good deal compared to a lot of niche fragrances.

 

White Gardenia, from Wikimedia Commons

Stephanie is described as being a gorgeous, accurate recreation of the headspace of a gardenia flower. The notes listed, with the admission that it’s an incomplete list, are: pink pepper, black pepper, galbanum, angelica root, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose, and chrysanthemum for a green finish. I love gardenias – sweet and floral and swoony and sort of weird, too – and I think Mr. Storer has done a lovely job with this scent, although I admit that it doesn’t smell distinctively gardenia to me. In practical terms, gardenia absolute is extremely rare, produced in minuscule, ridiculously expensive quantities, and any “gardenia” scent on the market is pretty much going to be custom-built out of tuberose. Which is fine with me, really.

In my opinion, rather than being strictly gardenia, Stephanie is a straight-up, no-twists, white floral. She (I know, a cheap and easy anthropomorphization – sorry) reaches out and grabs a handful of your shirtfront and pulls you close, where you fall deeply under her spell.

Well, you have to like white flowers to fall under the spell, but still.

I smell the spiky-sharp green of galbanum and chrysanthemum right away, but it doesn’t last long before we are into white floral territory. I can pick out tuberose and the jasmine sambac, and I think there must be a honkin’ dose of orange blossom in here as well, because there is a faintly soapy aspect to the scent. I smell the black pepper, too, which is fine, I like that, and it just adds a little counterpoint to the sweetness of the florals, which is indeed pretty sweet. Underneath the florals is a quiet, unobtrusive base of wood – cedar, maybe? – and musk.

I think it’s beautiful. Stephanie’s floral notes seem to be mostly natural; I don’t get any of that astringent-yet-too-sweet quality that pops up with synthetic tuberose. And like most tuberose scents, it lasts a good long time on me, though with much quieter sillage after the first hour or so. I usually get about six hours from two spritzes (one wrist, smeared to the other, and base of throat), which is pretty good longevity for me.

Is it better than some of the other gardenia fragrances I’ve tried? Not sure. It’s not nearly as diffusive and long-lived as Estee Lauder’s pretty-pretty Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and it’s not as green as the tropical Kai. However, it didn’t feel like the throwback scent that PCTG did to me, and it seemed better blended than Kai. Stephanie is swoony, a lovely tropical vacation in a bottle, and I know I’ll enjoy wearing my small decant.

Quality: A

Grab-scale score: 8.

Short description: Lush white floral.

Cost: $$

Earns compliments? Yes.

Scent presence: Moderate, with moderate sillage. Lasts about six hours with two spritzes.

Review report: Abigail at ISTIA, Sweet Diva, Scent Signals

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Tuberose Series 19: Do Son

Perfume Review:Diptyque Do Son

Date released: 2005

Perfumer: Fabrice Pellegrin

Sample provenance: sample from The Posh Peasant, 2011

Sub-category: Atypical (green) tuberose soliflore

I admit it: I was influenced by the lackluster review in Perfumes: The Guide, and I did not originally intend to include Do Son in my ongoing Tuberose Series Reviews. However, a perfumista friend (Hi, Heidi!) or two were raving about it a few months ago on Facebook, calling it a “summery tuberose” and “full of sea air,” and I caved.

I have noticed, and probably you have too, that the reviews in P:TG are heavily weighted toward the preferences of the writers. (Which they, in all probability, would freely confess.) I don’t think it’s even possible to remove personal preferences from fragrance reviews. One of the things which seems to consistently annoy Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is the use of synthetic tuberose. Witness this review of Michael Kors: “Shrieking hair-singeing horror, probably first rejected for use in industrial drain cleaner. One of the worst ever.” Or this one, for Amarige: “…truly loathsome, perceptible even at parts-per-billion level, and at all times incompatible with others’ enjoyment of food, music, sex and travel.” Here, TS weighs in on Do Son, which she calls “alleged tuberose”: “Coming out at roughly the same time as Carnal Flower, Do Son never stood much of a chance with tuberose lovers. It didn’t have the budget: the whole thing seems chemical and empty, and, after an okay fresh floral start, alternates between cloying and stale.”

I don’t think it’s as bad as that. But I can tell you that I have now smelled a lot of tuberose fragrances – I mean what my British childhood friend Sarah used to call a whacking great lot of them. This is review #19, and I haven’t yet formally reviewed several of the ones I’ve tried. I’ll also tell you that you can get samples of tuberose essential oil and even tuberose absolute online, and the Real Deal is both fairly inexpensive and truly wonderful-smelling. The synthetic tuberose begins to stick out, the more tuberose scents I smell; it seems to have a greater sweetness level than natural tuberose, and also a… how to say this?… perhaps it’s a blockiness, a sharpness to its edges, that the natural does not have. Mind you, I still do like synthetic tuberose, but compared to the natural essence it does suffer quite a bit. Powdered nondairy creamer is definitely not the same as heavy cream.

Do Son is, like the (few) other Diptyque fragrances I’ve tried, light. This is not necessarily bad, given that the synthetic tuberose does sort of rise up and tap me ungently on the nose after the first ten minutes of soft, sweet-green floralcy. The opening is really, really pretty, and I wish it lasted longer. From there, it just settles into the straight-up, clearly-chemical tuberose angle and stays there. The drydown is a whisper of musk and a hint of vanilla, with the satiny-cool aspect that often results from iris, all of it still under a very faint veil of tuberose that finally begins to smell really, really nice. The whole thing does smell rather clean – not cleaning products, or chemical “fresh” notes, but without the milky or buttery notes you often smell in conjunction with tuberose, and I doubt it would actually offend anyone unless you drenched yourself in it (please don’t, anyway).  I like the opening very much, and the far, far drydown is also extremely pleasant.  I do suspect that there is a bit of real tuberose oil in the composition, and both before and after the center section, when the synthetic note dominates, the real is discernible.  I have seen several references to an aquatic or watery note in Do Son, but I don’t pick up on such a thing – or perhaps the synthetic tuberose is drowning it out for me.

Notes for Do Son, from Fragrantica: African orange flower, rose, tuberose, musk, benzoin, and iris.  Luckyscent mentions orange tree leaves rather than orange flower, and I think it’s probably more accurate, given the green quality.

I also wish there were more interesting things to say about Do Son. It was inspired by childhood memories of Haiphong, Vietnam, named after a resort in Vietnam, and I suspect that the real-life place smells much more intriguing, with jungle and dirt and wood and incense as well as the flowers. To be perfectly honest, I really prefer the much-cheaper B&BW Velvet Tuberose. It smells cheap and is, rather than smelling cheap and costing much more the way the Diptyque does, and apparently I’m vulgar enough to like my cheap fragrances.

I feel I ought to apologize to my friends for disliking their “light, aquatic” tuberose pick. I also notice that several perfume bloggers like it quite a bit better than I did, calling it “misty” and “delicate” and praising it for being a light and wearable tuberose scent.  I’m sorry – I tried to enjoy it. But I’m still not sure whether I’d rather have Do Son or nothing.

Quality: D

Grab-scale score: 3. Headache city.

Short description: Bare tuberose.

Cost: $$      ($88 for 50 ml at Luckyscent)

Earns compliments? No.

Scent presence: Moderate, with moderate sillage. Lasts about three hours when dabbed very generously.  Probably would last better if sprayed.

Review report: Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Smellin’ Things, The Non-Blonde, Pere de Pierre.  (As always, please point me to any other reviews I’ve missed.)

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Tuberose Series 18: Tuberosa d’Autonno

Perfume Review:i Profumi di Firenze Tuberosa d’Autonno

Date released: none listed

Perfumer: none listed

Sample provenance: sample from The Perfumed Court, 2010

Sub-category: Atypical (spicy) tuberose soliflore

Tuberosa d’Autonno opens up with the grape-candy effect that has become so familiar to us from Giorgio Beverly Hills – and from the Tuberose Monster par excellence, Dior Poison. (Elena at Perfume Shrine says this is methyl anthranilate; see her excellent post on aromachemicals and their effects here.) In fact, I have begun noticing this artificial-grape-flavor smell fairly frequently while testing tuberose/gardenia scents lately, and it always yells, “POISON!” pretty loudly in my ear. Giorgio BH may have been the first scent to pair it with tuberose, but Poison was the signature for this aromachemical, if you ask me. It’s almost medicinal in its artificiality – I think first of the Dimetapp my mother used to give me when I was a sniffly kid.

Within a few moments, a nice natural tuberose enters the room, and as usual, all attention follows, leaving the grape note off in the corner to itself (where it should be). I think there may be a small amount of orange blossom in the scent; at this stage, Tuberosa d’Autonno reminds me most of Fracas. It’s quieter than Fracas, but very creamy under the fascinating lilt of tuberose, which here has a “cool” cast. The whole scent spends a good long period in this creamy-cool-white petals mode, and I like it quite a bit.

After a few hours, the scent takes a noticeably spicy turn into warm spices under the cool white flowers, and it begins to remind me of Honore des Pres’ bombshell tubey, Vamp a NY. TdA lacks Vamp’s cheerfully trashy bubble-gum accent and overt sweetness, but it picks up on the spicy, rich, resinous goodness of the root-beer base of Vamp. This cool/warm dichotomy is enjoyable to me in both fragrances, but TdA is restrained and mysterious, where Vamp is limboing in her mini-skirt.

I’m aware that it’s probably not good form to review Fragrance X by comparing it to Fragrance Y. But this is my 18th review of a tuberose scent, and since tuberose is such a take-charge sort of note, many of these fragrances start smelling a bit alike after awhile. I apologize.

I can’t find any list of notes for this one anywhere; I Profumi di Firenze apparently plays its cards close to its chest. But if you want my guess: grape notes, tuberose, orange blossom, perhaps a hint of jasmine, a bare hint of clove, tolu balsam, myrrh and perhaps woods.  The website (Isabella Imports) says this about it:

(Floral) Bewitching tuberose scent. Enchanting, intoxicating, for late nights.
Tuberose Polianthes from Italy

Lasting power, like most white floral scents, is good on me: about six hours.

Quality: B. Good quality stuff in there, but accented in an unusual fashion.

Grab-scale score: 7. Winds up close enough to Vamp a NY that I didn’t feel I needed any (I have a decant of Vamp).

Short description: Tuberose spice.

Cost: $$

Earns compliments? Yes, once the Grape Dimetapp accord goes away.

Scent presence: Moderate, with moderate sillage. Lasts several hours; after 4 hours, the sillage is much less and the scent stays close to the skin.

Review report: No full reviews available, other than a brief mention by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, and another brief mention by Robin at Now Smell This.  Both reviewers found it “cooler” than I did.

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Tuberose Series 17: Kate Spade eau de parfum

A kind swap friend sent me a sample of this lovely, discontinued mixed-white-floral scent.

Perfume Review: Kate Spade EdP (Beauty)

Date released: 2002

Perfumer: none listed

Sample provenance: sample from swap via friend’s personal collection

Sub-category: Gentle white floral with tuberose

I’d never heard of this scent before it showed up in a swap bag. I know very little about Kate Spade herself, except that her handbags seemed to be the de rigueur purse accessory for fashionable women over the last decade or so. Since I’m not a fashionable woman, there’s where my knowledge stops.

I had no idea what to expect before I popped open the sample vial and dabbed on the fragrance, but immediately after applying it, I knew I had one of those big bosomy white floral bombs on my wrists. I went straight to Fragrantica to find the notes, which are: jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, honeysuckle, lily of the valley, and coconut. Those are the only notes listed.

And those are the only notes I get, too. There is a faint opening whiff of camphor, and then the scent sort of moves around from white flower to white flower, as if it were a handheld video camera trained on a group of debutantes in white ballgowns, focusing briefly on each girl. First the focus is on Tuberose; her fashionable gown is satin and her lipstick and precision-cut hair are perfectly glossy as she smiles and waves at you. The next ready for her closeup is Gardenia; her bouffant dress is tulle and perhaps a bit too decollete, her hair is down in soft waves and her pink lipstick is smudged, as if she broke off kissing the best-looking boy at the party to come and join her friends. The camera moves on to Honeysuckle, too shy to look directly at the camera; her lace dress is simple and modest, and then we’re on to jasmine. Jasmine is the most conventionally pretty one of the bunch in her taffeta dress, everything about her carefully chosen. Lastly, the camera focuses on Lily of the Valley, slender and regal in a tailored silk shantung gown, with a simple loose chignon and a wonderful smile. She’s got her arms around her friends, chatting happily, and the camera lingers on her, and you begin to realize that the cameraman must be a little in love with her.

The longer this fragrance wears, the less about tuberose and the more about lily of the valley it becomes. It is above all a blend of white flowers, with the lily of the valley keeping the fragrance from being very tropical and perhaps too sweet, but never too antiseptic, as muguet fragrances can sometimes get. It is not linear, exactly, but a panoramic view of a range of white flowers is not going to change all that much, and its character stays a soft floral melange. I actually do not smell the coconut, but it is probably there in small quantities, just to keep the scent from going too bathroom-cleanser (as L’Artisan’s La Chasse aux Papillons did on me).

Lasting power, like most white floral scents, is good on me, about six hours, even dabbed.

Quality: B+ Smells fresh and fairly natural, even the lily of the valley note.

Grab-scale score: 7 If this were still being produced, at the current prices of Kate Spade’s new fragrance, a fruity floral called Twirl, I’d have a bottle.

Short description: White floral blend.

Cost: $$$ or $$$$ Discontinued, and extremely rare on eBay, so that when a bottle comes up for bid, it’s quickly pushed into the over-$100 range, whether 50ml or 100ml. I could “buy it now” for $200, if I were desperate.

Earns compliments? Yes, of the “you smell pretty” variety.

Scent presence: Moderately strong, with moderate sillage. Lasts several hours; after 4 hours, the sillage is much less and the scent stays close to the skin.

Review report: No reviews available, other than brief ones at Basenotes and Fragrantica.

Image of Kate Spade eau de parfum from Fragrantica.  Image of debutantes at the Royal Debutante Ball from Artsopolis.  They actually look quite a bit sluttier than the ones in my imagination.

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Tuberose Series 16: Vamp a NY

A new scent from the Honore des Pres house, which specializes in all-natural fragrances. Vamp a NY is part of the We Love NY series, which also includes I Love Les Carottes and Love Coco.

Perfume Review: Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

Date released: 2010

Perfumer: Olivia Giacobetti

Sample provenance: sample from Honore des Pres via giveaway at Grain de Musc

Sub-category: Loud dressed-up party composition – except that it’s not all that loud.

As you might have guessed from the post title (if you didn’t already know, because I’m not quiet about it), Tuberose is my BFF. I love it, and tend to feel very comfortable in tuberose scents. When I read at Grain de Musc that Denyse was excited about another new tuberose scent, and that it was very different than L’Artisan Nuit de Tubereuse but that so well-done that she wanted both, I got excited too. Until I read her review – which mentions the Dreaded Tolu Balsam. If you didn’t already know this little bit of trivial, tolu doesn’t play nice with me. It’s not even a frenemy, it’s a Mean Girl. I sighed a little and decided not to enter the very generous drawing offered by Honore des Pres. I said so in my comments there. But when Denyse gave us the update that HdP had made more samples available and I was eligible for one, I decided to give it a shot. I’m very glad I did.

Vamp a NY starts off with the now-familiar rubber-and-camphor opening of good tuberose absolute, and then there’s a big fruity hit of something – ylang-ylang, with its banana preserves note, perhaps? (Edit: since reading Annelie’s comments about cucumber at Confessions of a Perfume Nerd, I do smell something aquatic-cucumbery in the opening, just after the mothballs. It doesn’t last more than a minute or so, though, and I’m not surprised I missed it the first six or seven times I wore Vamp.) I think there are some other tropical florals (jasmine sambac? frangipani?) in the mix too, although it smells very tuberose-y from start to finish. The heart of this scent, in my opinion, is a big pas de deux with tuberose and coconut, with all the romantic flourishes you could wish for – sweeping violins, purple sunsets, soft caressing winds, crashing waves, golden sands, the whole Tropical Honeymoon deal.

I like it very much. (My own honeymoon was spent in Maine, hiking around small lakes and up granite mountains… in early May. It was cold enough to wear sweatshirts. And on the way home, I’m not kidding here, we made a pilgrimage to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play. Well, The CEO went to see the Red Sox play; I just tagged along. You could say that Capital-R Romance, at least in terms of setting, was a bit lacking, and perhaps I’ve longed for Capital-R Romance ever since.)

Luckily, Vamp a NY delivers. Eventually, up under the tuberose-coconut heart come warm spices and a rich vanilla. I can’t identify the spices (Edit: Denyse suggests the spicy notes are coming from the balsams, so color me shocked – the Dreaded Tolu isn’t bothering me here!), but they assist in keeping the fragrance from becoming unbearably sweet. It is sweet – very sweet – but the vanilla is rich and buttery rather than sugary and marshmallowy, and I just dig this thing right down to the ground.

Back in January, I was testing Havana Vanille and enjoying the way that the very far drydown, some twelve hours after application, seems to be a clear vanilla liqueur, very intense. I dabbed some Beyond Love near the HV, intending to test it, and found that tuberose + vanilla is a gorgeous smell. At the time, I lamented, “Why-oh-why doesn’t somebody make a tuberose-vanilla scent?” Apparently, Honore des Pres already knew how terrific the combination is, and I need search no longer.

Vamp a NY lasts five to six hours with one spray, which is rather long-lasting for me. Of course, it helps that it’s primarily composed of the few notes that tend to hang around a long time on me – but that’s good. Sillage is probably biggest during that fruity stage, but with only one spritz you’re not going to asphyxiate anybody. If I’m going to be at home, I’d do two or three spritzes, but that amount would be too much for work, in my opinion.

I’ve used up about half the generous spray sample HdP sent. I don’t know how big the bottle is, but it’s bigger than the 2ml spray bottles I have on hand – my guess is 3ml? – which is a fantastic size for a sample. I’m impressed, too, by this marketing strategy. Scenario: You’re a niche company, with limited distribution outlets, and you’re bringing out a new scent. How to get cost-effective publicity? You find a way to get your fragrance in front of as many noses as possible – the more fragrance-savvy, the better – and let them tell everybody else how great it is. Genius, my friends, genius. Kudos to Honore des Pres, and I wish the company much success.

I did several testings of Vamp a NY in the same timeframe as I was testing Nuit de Tubereuse, although I did not actually do a head-to-head contest. I found NdT on the “difficult to wear” side – its earthy, rooty nature is odd and borderline unpleasant for me, the tuberose is somewhat muted, and the woody-incense drydown is lovely but not very tuberose-y. Vamp, on the other hand, is pretty much tuberose all the way through, which suits me very well. It’s comfortable and relaxed, pretty and flirty, and is capable of making pleasant conversation. Simply put, it just makes me feel happy. And what’s better than that? If I want intellectual exercises, I’ll wear Jolie Madame, not tuberose.

Quality: A Smells natural, and the notes harmonize well together. Once it gets to where it’s going, it smells the same for quite a long time, but who minds that?

Grab-scale score: 8

Short description: Tropical gourmand tuberose.

Cost: $$  Vamp a NY has not yet been released in the US; the US launch is scheduled for September. However, it is available at Colette now, at 76 euro for a 50ml bottle plus VAT and shipping. (Don’t think I haven’t been monitoring the currency exchange rate.  I’d love a split.)

Earns compliments? Yes. A coworker said I smelled “like dessert, if desserts were made out of flowers.” Three out of four of my immediate family members like it very much. However, the one that dislikes it does so intensely until it settles into its tuberose-vanilla base. The bad news? It’s Gaze that doesn’t like it, and he’s the family member with what I’d call the most discerning nose. He says that when Vamp gets to its drydown, it’s pleasant and smells like candied flowers.

Scent presence: Moderately strong, with moderate sillage. Lasts several hours; after 4-5 hours, the sillage is much less and the scent stays close to the skin.

Review report: Grain de Musc, All I Am – a Redhead, Confessions of a Perfume Nerd, From Top to Bottom – Perfume Patter, Notes from the Ledge, The Perfume Chronicles, Perfume Posse, Scent of the Day, Perfume-Smellin’ Things.

Image of Vamp a NY from Fragrantica.  Second image is “White tuberose” from Buttersweet, and third is Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla Beans from jannza; both are from flickr.

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Tuberose Series 15: Nuit de Tubereuse

I’ve seen several reviews of this scent, and at least one excellent interview (Denyse at Grain de Musc’s interview of Bertrand Duchaufour – warning, the accompanying image is a Matisse nude, probably NSFW) commenting that the reviewers are really enjoying the perfumer’s “new direction.” I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m not very familiar with his earlier work, and I can’t really address the issue. I like Amaranthine very much, however, and if this is M. Duchaufour’s future, I like it.  To be brutally honest, I like Amaranthine much better – it seems so comfortable – but NdT is fascinating.

Perfume Review: L’Artisan Nuit de Tubereuse

Date released: 2010

Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour

Sample provenance: split of fresh bottle from retailer, 2010

Sub-category: Ummmm… freaky tuberose? (I just created that one.)

 Notes for NdT:  Tuberose, mango, citrus, cardamom, clove, pink pepper, pepper, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, angelica, gorse, sandalwood, palisander, musks, benzoin and styrax.

After reading Denyse’s tantalizing “guess what tuberose scent I’ve been wearing lately that hasn’t been released yet?” teaser in December, and finding a bottle split active, I jumped right in, unsniffed. (Oh, don’t worry, it was 5ml. And tuberose. How could I go wrong?) And then the decant bottle arrived in the mail. I pulled the cap off and sniffed. “Huh. It smells like… dirt,” I said to myself. “I can tell there’s tuberose in there, but it’s mostly… dirt. Wet potting soil, actually. And maybe… is that mildew?”

(Those of you who are familiar with Duchaufour’s earlier work may stop laughing at me now.  Thank you.)

Put off by the mildew, I tucked my small decant away for several days. Pulled it back out again and smelled the nozzle… nope, still mildew, with something floral under there somewhere. Put it away again for another week. Then received an advance sample of another tuberose scent (yes, yes, review of this one on June 23, I promise) called Vamp a NY, from Honore des Pres’ new We <3 NY series, which also includes I <3 Les Carottes, and Love Coco. Vamp was so terrific that I felt I really must give NdT a real chance, instead of just sniffing the cap and getting frightened.

And the next time I picked up my bottle, it wasn’t nearly so mildewy/earthy. I could actually smell the tuberose, just a bit. So, okay, here goes: I sprayed a little on my thumb. And immediately thought of jungles. All that moisture in the air, and on the ground, and in the vegetation… so much vegetation, and every bit of it just this side of rotting.

There is at least one review that relates the opening to “Juicy Fruit gum,” and others that say, “big ripe mango,” and one that veers off someplace else with “neon and electric.” To be honest, I don’t get any of those things. What I get is JUNGLE, and it’s just that little bit scary. It’s borderline grossly overripe, and definitely weird, and I love March’s description of the opening: “The mind grasps at the smell, trying to categorize it as pleasant or unpleasant – and it’s both.” Yep. Exactically, as Tigger would say.  

The more I wear NdT, the more I discover new aspects of it.  On my first wearing, I found it nearly unbearably earthy on the open.  The second wearing revealed a green, sour mango up top.  (Neither experience was enjoyable, by the way.)  But on the third wearing, I got the pink pepper.  Now, you can whine about the ubiquitous pink pepper all you want, but in my opinion that’s like whining about the ubiquitous bergamot.  Nearly everything – particularly classical compositions – has bergamot in it, and it has the advantage of connecting notes you might not think of as connected.  Bergamot bridges fruit and floral, herbal and floral, citrus and herbal, citrus and floral, citrus and incense, floral and woods… you name it.  Pink pepper does that too, since it seems to work well in bridging fruit or citrus to floral, spicy, incense, or woody notes.  In Nuit de Tubereuse, it’s connecting that weirdly aromatic turned-earth aspect to that whanged-out mango and from thence to a muted tuberose and some jungly, moist greenery. 

A few months ago, I tested a tuberose scent from profumo.it (abdes salaam attar) called Scents of the Soul: Night Blossom. From the website: “This olfactory jewel (the tuberose is the most precious of floral essences) is set in a thick tropical night, smelling of humid underwood and strewn with scent traces of freshly trodden grass.”  What it smells like to me, though, is PATCHOULI PATCHOULI tuberose PATCHOULI PATCHOULI.  Nuit de Tubereuse, far from being the “perfume for a secret Parisian summer night,” that L’Artisan describes it as, is really what Abdes Salaam Attar was going for: a sweltering tropical night, where wafts of tuberose float over the “humid underwood.”  There’s no Paris in NdT – no wine, no baguette, no formal perfumey odors, no asphalt, no smells of humanity. 

The longer NdT is on skin, the more it relaxes. The tuberose gets softer and softer and the incense comes out on my skin, and the whole thing gets rather… pretty. It doesn’t seem to be either feminine or masculine, which I suppose is the best description of a unisex scent. The tuberose might make it seem to skew girly, but it’s not, trust me. Robin at NST struggles to define the drydown but calls it very sexy – and I don’t get that, either. I find it to be really pleasant, though, and very comfortable, although I suspect the woody-incense base just feels that way because I’ve recently experienced the hair-raising crypt dirt and jungle mildew of that bizarre-o opening. (It makes me think of the story about the cowboy who always bought his boots a size too small: “Don’t them boots pinch, Clem?” “Waal, sure they do. But it feels so good when I take ‘em off!”)

I really must address a few comparisons to other tuberose scents: the new one from the naturals line at Honore des Pres, Vamp a NY, which I am dying to tell you about but can’t until next Thursday, is another fragrance that takes certain unusual aspects of tuberose and overemphasizes them. But Vamp I found very, very easy to wear, unlike Nuit de Tubereuse. Both are intriguing and bold, tackling tuberose from new angles, definitely Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile Not Your Mother’s Fracas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Fracas, mind you.) And, of course, I’ll refer you back to my review of Tubereuse Criminelle – another tubey frag with a weird, difficult opening – with the comment that I found TC “difficult just for the sake of being difficult,” and I don’t have any appreciation for the Rotting Raw Chicken of Death that accompanies TC’s otherwise-lovely tuberose. Nuit de Tubereuse, however, is entirely wearable. Weird, difficult, funhouse-mirror freaky maybe in spots, but wearable.

Quality    A   Definitely natural ingredients.

Grab-scale score   Ummmm… 4 to 9, depending on where it is in its development.

Short description   Freaky (dirt, jungle, and incense) tuberose. Maybe mango tuberose, if you get the mango reference (I don’t).

Cost   $$$   And can I just say? I think the bottle is gorgeous.  Oooh.  But we never buy perfume for the bottle, right? 

Earns compliments?   Yes, many – even when I was saying incredulously to my husband, “How can you call that alluring? It smells like mildew!” Strangers commented positively and spontaneously, which never happens to me.

Scent presence    Moderately strong. Moderately wafty sillage, approximately a five-foot diameter. Long-lasting (6-8 hours).

Review report:    Everyone in the world: Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, March at Perfume Posse, Olfactarama, 1000Fragrances, Marla at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, you name it.

I find that the entire exercise, playing up the odd aspects of tuberose absolute, reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows.  I love the Food Network, and am positively addicted to Good Eats.  Host Alton Brown’s show is a wacky combination of Julia Child’s The French Chef (anybody else remember the time she dropped a turkey on the floor?), Bill Nye the Science Guy, Dr. Who, and middle-school plays with bad costumes and terrible puns.  I love this thing.  Where else can you learn about the coagulation of egg proteins and the history of maize, while watching cavemen in glasses eat their first mussels and a giant squid attack a boat? (Seriously, go watch it.  It’s Not Your Mother’s Cooking Show.)

And Nuit de Tubereuse?  An intellectual essay on the less-attractive properties of tuberose absolute, that somehow manages to be quirky, attractive, unsettling and fun all at once.  It’s growing on me.  I’ll mention that The CEO’s comment on it was, “Alluring,” and various unsolicited remarks included, “You smell nice,” and “What smells so good in here?”  Wearing it, I still feel a little bit like I’m wandering a Heart of Darkness jungle – but there’s a light up ahead, and if I can just get out before that creature that’s following me catches up, I can soon be wearing a gorgeous coral silk faille halter dress, sipping a Planter’s Punch on the verandah.  I have hope… there’s that light, see?

Finally got the weird font thing fixed!  Top image is from fragrantica.  Lower one is Tuberose 9517-48 from jane.siet at flickr.

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