Tuberose Series 10: Beyond Love

All right, already. I am chewing diligently on my earlier words about By Kilian being unworthy of my attention due to their exclusive attitude and fancy-pants packaging, with ridiculous pricing to match. I Wuz Wrong, at least about this one. On the other hand, it would never have touched my skin if I hadn’t found a slightly-used travel refill at a deep, deep discount.

Perfume Review: By Kilian Beyond Love (prohibited)
Date released: 2008
Perfumer: Calice Becker
Sample provenance: 7.5 ml bottle, bought second hand in 2009.

Subcategory: Tuberose soliflore – but both buttery AND green.

Once again, here’s the review from PTG, by Luca Turin (and boy, is he ever the Calice Becker fanboy, isn’t he?):

**** Tuberose tuberose… Not only is the smell of tuberose flowers wonderful, it isn’t even, properly speaking, floral in the clean, vegetal sense of floral fragrances. Tuberoses smell of butter, rubber, leather, blood, and heaven knows what else. Using fresh flowers as a reference, much as Roudnitska did with muguet for Diorissimo, Calice Becker has composed a straight-up tuberose using the best absolute from India, with touches of other notes (magnolia, iris) to narrow the gap between the extract and the fresh flower. The result is the best tuberose soliflore on earth.

Oh-kay, if he says so. I’m sad to say that I have never smelled fresh tuberoses. They’re a little upmarket for the rural area I live in, and I’m unwilling to spend big bucks at the florist. I did check around. The clerks at four of the five shops within fifteen miles of my house didn’t even know what tuberose was. The woman at the fifth shop – my favorite, naturally, a little hole-in-the-wall place on a side street, with a parking lot barely big enough for three cars – knew what they were, knew where to get them, said they were gorgeous, but warned me that there would be a minimum of $75 for special order flowers they didn’t normally carry, and did I want the shop to get them? Were these for a wedding or special occasion? I explained that I was just checking around, and thanked them. (Sometimes you have to love living in a small town. Sometimes it’s a pain – and sometimes it’s both at the same time.)

In any case, I do have a small bottle of tuberose essential oil on hand. I diluted it in grapeseed oil to the proper concentration (the shop said 2-4% in carrier oil was safe for skin, so I made it a 4% solution) and tried it on one wrist. You know what? It smells great. Seriously. Of course, you have all the oil issues – low sillage, sticky skin – but it truly smells lovely, if a bit simple. I liked it better than I liked Kai, as a matter of fact, which was another fragrance I called simple. Then, too, you have to love tuberose, which I do. The little 1-dram (4ml) bottle I bought cost something like $3, which probably means that you can buy it cheaper in larger quantities, and that it isn’t terribly expensive even in small bottles, and that even the cheap version is nice. How cheap must synthetic tuberose be, if perfume houses use that instead of the essential oil? Cheapskates.

The By Kilian website lists these notes for Beyond Love (prohibited), under the label “To discover the perfumer’s formula” – and what that “prohibited” thing is all about, I don’t know, although I assume it’s more marketing hoopla about forbidden flowers and carnal love and whatnot:

Fruity Note
     Coconut accord                 10g
Floral Notes
     Egyptian jasmine absolute   20g
     Tuberose concrete            250g
     Tuberose absolute            300g
     Green tuberose accord       50g
     Tuberose petals accord    480g
Amber Notes:
     Amber gris accord            10g
     Tonkin musk reconstituted 80g

Oh-kay again. I notice they don’t bother to say what’s actually in the stuff, although they make a big deal of listing the grams of each accord. (I do understand that there’s a difference between concrete and absolute, because they’re obtained by different methods of extraction. But puh-lease. Coconut accord contains something other than coconut? Green tuberose accord and tuberose petals accord are somehow different? This is supposed to make me want to buy the stuff?)

I’ll stop ragging on the By Kilian website now, I promise. Because, really, Beyond Love is very beautiful. I admit that it is miles more gorgeous than the simple tuberose essential oil (thank goodness, or I’d start wringing my hands over the State of Perfumery). I’m going to make assumptions that Beyond Love contains at least some coconut, some jasmine, some musk and synthetic ambergris, plus a honkin’ ton of real tuberose essence – and because LT says so, maybe some magnolia and iris too.

The first five minutes of Beyond Love are like a speeded-up, seen-at-a distance film of Tubereuse Criminelle: you get a hit of camphor-menthol, and a smaller one of rubber, and about half a second of undercooked chicken, and then it’s all gone and it’s tuberose, tuberose, tuberose. Less green and florist-fresh than Carnal Flower, less buttery-creamy than Fracas*, it smells both tropical-jungle green and seductively, headily floral. The coconut is very faint, adding a dreamy, milky quality without being too sweet or reminding me of suntan lotion. And I don’t smell any basenotes at all – just tuberose. Which shouldn’t surprise me, since tuberose does tend to take everything else hostage in composition. My guess is that the ambergris-musk base simply extends the length of time I continue to smell the tuberose, without adding much to the perceptible scent.

It has been several months since I wore *Fracas (review pending), so I’m going to get it out and test it in a Celebrity Death Match, but based on my memory of it, I’d say that I prefer Beyond Love as being a tad more wearable on any occasions not requiring full-length bias-cut satin gowns, opera gloves, and diamante. Not that I’d wear Beyond Love to work – it’s too dressy-feminine for that – but I would definitely wear a discreet dab of it on social occasions. Yes, even to the theater, but just a tiny dab on one wrist. So far, Carnal Flower is half a mile in front of everything else, with Beyond Love and Fracas close together in second and third position. But the race for My Favorite Tuberose Scent isn’t over.

Side note: I’ve worn BL solo three times, and twice now have had it on next to something vanilla and been impressed with the results. First time, it was the far drydown (14 hours after application) of Havana Vanille, when it’s all deep, rich vanilla liqueur. Second time, it was the drydown of BL (7 hours after application, with just a hint of tuberose left) with a spritz of Shalimar Light Blue Juice (which is more strongly simple vanilla than the original version, IMO). Both times I couldn’t keep my nose away from my wrist: Tuberose+Vanilla = Awesome.

The Bottom Line :
Quality       Definitely A. Beautiful, fresh-smelling, natural, and seamless.
Grab-scale score    8, maybe 8.5. (Still trailing Carnal Flower.)
Short description    Jungle tuberose.
Cost      $$$$   I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t found it used-n-cheap (my favorite!) I’d have been seriously annoyed by the pricing, and I doubt whether I’d like it as much. Unfair? Probably, but I gotta live with myself, you know.
Earns compliments:   Yes. Bookworm liked it, The CEO liked it, my girlfriends liked it. Gaze said “meh,” although usually he likes the same things I like, so that was the one demurral.
Scent presence   Moderately strong. Moderate to big sillage (be careful with the dosage, lest you asphyxiate people on the elevator). Lasts 6-8 hours. Like I said, I wouldn’t wear it to work.
Review Report: NST, PST, Perfume Posse

Top image is from the By Kilian website.  Lower image is Tuberose by dbfarrell2003 at flickr.


Perfume Review: Bal a Versailles, or Hurrying Time

Perfume Review: Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles
Date released: 1962
Perfumer: none listed
Sample provenance: parfum bottle won summer 2009 in drawing from parfum1, parfum de toilette mini bought from eBay 2009 (labeled vintage, but who knows for sure?)

The CEO dislikes Bal intensely in its early stages, and I understand why. It smells, mostly, of heavy floral perfume, and reminds him of the elderly ladies at church during his 70’s childhood. Bal is the epitome of what I think of as “French cathouse.”

You know, French cathouse – like when teenage you goes out with some friends, wearing your tastiest clothes and a generous swipe of Cheri’s plum eye pencil, not to mention Carlynn’s coral lip gloss and Kelley’s Sand & Sable, and your father stops you at the door and gives you The Look. “Young lady,” he says, “you’re not going out of this house like that. You look like a clown, and you smell like a French cathouse. Get back in this house, go into the bathroom, and wash that stuff off!” You roll your eyes, but you comply, dabbing off the lip gloss and the eye makeup with tissues and muttering under your breath, “He just doesn’t understand… there’s nothing wrong with it… I don’t know what his problem is.” You swipe at your neck and wrists with cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol. You sniff back a tear or two, then re-powder your nose to cover the pinkness, and march out to the front door again. You pass inspection. You receive the reminder of curfew without rolling your eyes, and you escape. Twenty minutes later, you’re again bedecked with the bounty of Cheri, Carlynn, and Kelley, making a mental note to hide the evidence before you go home from the skating rink.

Yeah, that “French cathouse.” The smell that is almost toooooo much. It’s a heavy, rich smell that opens Bal a Versailles, and it is somehow, quintessentially, French.

I recently read a review of Teo Cabanel Alahine by Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, in which he compared Alahine to Bal a Versailles. I didn’t get it then; I don’t get it now. Alahine is pure happiness to me, while BaV is the kind of scent you wear when you don’t want to go home alone, shall we say. They’re completely different in feel, as well in actual scent.

However, I would call both of them symphonic – very richly compounded, very layered and complex, greater than the sum of their parts. Maybe that’s what Brian was getting at. (I should ask him. And while I’m at it, I’ll put in a plug for ISTIA. Great writing by two people who love perfume, go check it out.)

March at Perfume Posse calls Bal, in parfum, “candied incense,” and I don’t get that either. **But her take on the edp (similar to my pdt concentration) is “floral sex,” and that is spot-on. Spot. On. Big florals, with something honeyed and rich, followed by warm skin that is not quite sweaty… I’d say Bal in parfum is “floral sex, with candles burning.” Maybe my “candles burning” is March’s “incense.” And candied? Well, I just said “something honeyed.” Maybe I’m closer to her description than I thought. (** It’s in the comments of a recent post which wasn’t actually about Bal, and if I can find the darn thing, I’ll post the link.)

If I were to compare Bal a Versailles to any other perfume, I’d say Balenciaga Rumba. Rumba is similarly dense with complex florals and honeyed fruit, and contains a beautiful note of burnt dust that I for one find very pleasant. It’s not exactly the candle wax of Bal, but in both scents there is that hint of heat and consumption – the dust burns, the candles melt, and underneath it all is the smell of warm skin and hurrying time, with a faint reminder that death waits for no man and decay will someday take this warm flesh.

Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
(from To His Coy Mistress, by Andrew Marvell)

That breath of mortality is something you won’t find in many modern fragrances. It makes me want to seize the moment, because I suddenly remember that my moments are not infinite. It’s genius, it’s philosophy in a bottle. It’s why I forgive Bal her French cathouse florals, and wear it again and again.

Notes for Bal a Versailles – an “everything but the kitchen sink” recipe if there ever was one:
Top: Rosemary, cassia, lemon, bergamot, mandarin, neroli, orange blossom, jasmine, rose, Bulgarian Rose.
Heart: Lilac, ylang-ylang, muguet, sandalwood, patchouli, orris, vetiver.
Base: Tolu balsam, amber, musk, civet, benzoin, resins, vanilla, cedar.

Notes for Balenciaga Rumba, just so you can compare:
Top: Orange blossom, plum, raspberry, peach, basil, bergamot
Heart: Honey, magnolia, carnation, tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, orchid, marigold, heliotrope, muguet.
Base: Leather, sandalwood, plum, amber, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, cedar, styrax.

Both images from


Tuberose Series 9: Michelle

This was a lucky eBay find for me. I’d had it on my Watch List for about a week, and then a review at Perfume Shrine (see below) made me decide to snag it.  I think the words “ginormous heart of tuberose and rose” were influential, and my thanks to Helg for the review and the push.

Perfume Review: Balenciaga Michelle, vintage parfum
Date released: 1979 – now discontinued. (*Note: I can’t find out when it was discontinued, but my guess is that it was several years ago.)
Perfumer:  Francoise Caron
Sample provenance: Small spray bottle of parfum in sealed box, bought from eBay seller in 2009.

Subcategory: Rich oriental-chypre base tuberose composition

The first time I talked about Michelle here was early in the fall of 2009, when I’d had this epiphany about really radiant perfume. I’m still not a big fan of that – I feel positively rude when people can smell me from farther away than a yard – so I restrict my usage of Michelle to times when I can wear a scent just for me. In any case, I no longer automatically cross a scent off my list if it’s loud, I just wear less. (Duh. For example, one tiny dab of Ubar was enough to keep me smelling great all day. I wouldn’t spray that one.)

My bottle of Michelle is, as a matter of fact, a spray bottle of parfum (see top photo), which strikes me as being one of the most decadent ways to wear perfume, ever. Spraaay… parfum?? Wow. Luxury squared.

When I reviewed Michelle earlier, my experience wearing it was that it was essentially a tuberose scent decorated with carnation, and with a lovely oakmoss-rich base. But when I have worn it since then, the rose has had a far greater presence, partnering with the tuberose and carnation in a circle dance, Three Graces powerfully linked.

Michelle does still start out with a bug-spray accord that lasts about five to ten minutes – and it still reminds me of the decomposed aldehydes-and-bergamot openings of various vintage fragrances.  Ergo, it doesn’t bother me.  I can spare ten minutes.  After that, we’re on to the Big Dance, rose and tuberose and carnation tearing up the floor while the ylang and jasmine look on, standing near the punch bowl.

Eventually the florals (except the tuberose) fade, and the base reveals itself to be a rich, lush composition of moss, vanilla and sandalwood, covered with a light veil of tuberose.  I have a hard time calling it woody, chypre, or oriental – it’s just rich.  And beautiful.  The only modern fragrance that reminds me of this drydown is (the rereleased) Amouage Ubar.

Notes for Balenciaga Michelle (from Perfume Shrine):
Top: Aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, coconut, peach
Heart: Carnation, tuberose, iris, orchid, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose
Base: Sandalwood, oakmoss, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver

The Bottom Line :
Quality:     A-   Bear in mind my bottle is vintage and the top notes are slightly off.
Grab-scale score    8
Short description    Tuberose-rose-carnation powerhouse
Cost     $   (only available at ebay and a very few online discounters)
Earns compliments:  From The CEO, yes.  From my kids, no.  I did wear it to work once, and no one commented, either positively or negatively.  Of course, that day I mostly spent hiding at my desk among the brake rotors, so it’s hard to make assumptions based on that experience.
Scent presence   Very strong.  One small spritz (parfum) lasts 8-10 hours.  Big sillage.
Review Report: Perfume Shrine

Top image is Michelle by Balenciaga, sold by fiera1966 at ebay; my bottle looks just like this.  Bottom image is Three Graces, from artist’s website:  Wish I could afford it myself.


Tuberose Series 7: Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose

Chiefly remembered by me as the unlikely gateway drug to my new addiction, as in, “Boy, this stuff is great! I’d forgotten how much I used to like perfume… Now that we’re not pinching every dime, wonder what else is out there?” Finding out What Else Is Out There led me to Now Smell This, and I was hooked.

Perfume Review: Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose
Release date: 2007
Perfumer: Who Nose?
Sample provenance: my 50ml bottle, purchased in August 2008 from BBW store (it cost me all of $13.75 on sale, and if your tastes are decidedly upscale, you might decide you’ve read all you need to know). I think the packaging has changed for this scent, although the new tester bottle I smelled a few weeks ago smelled like my own bottle, which looks like the one pictured above.

Subcategory: Gentle white floral with tuberose

Okay, okay, okay… by now, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a cheapskate perfumista, if there can be such a thing. I really struggle with the price schedule of certain houses I’d otherwise like to try (Amouage, MDCI, By Kilian) and simply cross other houses completely off my list because they seem like poor value to me (too many to enumerate). I have never paid full retail price for a bottle of anything. Online discounters are my friends. And of course I’m a suckah for eBay.

It wasn’t always this way. Used to be, I’d scrape together babysitting money, or pizza money when I was in college, and troll the drugstore aisles for sent-bons. I discovered Bath and Body Works at about the time I started dating The CEO, and was devoted to their old Freesia body products. (NB: I miss Freesia, by the way. Sheer Freesia is what they’re selling now, and it’s not at all the same; it’s missing something – I think a muguet note.)

True Story Digression: The CEO used to call up the company where I worked, using the pseudonym “Scott Preston, of Preston Enterprises in Charlotte, NC,” and ask to speak to Miss Muse in Accounting, an amusing little subterfuge that probably fooled no one.

In any case, in August of 2008, I made my way to the B&BW at the mall to pick up some Lavender Vanilla lotion from the Aromatherapy line for my sister’s birthday. While I was there, I wandered around desultorily sniffing things, and came across VT. Before I knew it, I had bought a bottle. I wore it almost exclusively for several months… and aprés Velvet Tuberose, le déluge.

It is a rather sheer tuberose. I know, I know, “sheer tuberose” is something of an oxymoron. But still. If you’re expecting some big creamy huge floral thing, you’ll be disappointed in its light weight.

Notes for VT:
T: Magnolia, apricot, citrus, ylang
H: freesia, cyclamen, tuberose, gardenia, fig leaf, jasmine, orchid
B: sandalwood, amber, spice, musk, cashmere woods

The scent opens with just a few minutes’ worth of tangy fruits and creamy but nondescript florals – and don’t worry about that apricot note, it’s barely there. Very quickly, you’re down into the heart of the thing, which blends some fresh florals (freesia, cyclamen, and orchid) with a traditional white floral mix. I’m pleased to say I’ve never noticed that fig leaf, as fig leaf is pretty much a dealbreaker for me, ugh. After a few hours of tuberose-floral blend, VT dries down to a cheap-but-pleasant base of Cashmeran and musk. Amber and spice? No. Sandalwood? Not really, but you can’t expect much from under $15, can you? Turns out, though, I actually like Cashmeran.

In fact, I like VT better than tuberose-centric mainstream scents like Michael Kors, Juicy Couture, and Christina Aguilera Inspire, all of which cost considerably more than VT. It’s another one of those office-friendly tuberose scents: quiet, pleasant, pretty without overpowering the noses of all in the general vicinity. It stays fairly close to my skin, and can be detected within hug range. I still like to put on a spray or two just before bed, and sometimes wear it to work, when I don’t want to have to think about what scent I’m wearing.

The Bottom Line :
Quality        C  Clearly cheap materials, but nicely blended
Grab-scale score:     6.5
Short description:    Tuberose Floral.
Cost:      $
Earns compliments:     Yes, in surprising numbers.
Scent presence:       Slightly better than average (2 spritzes last 5 hours), mild sillage. Will not get you lynched at the office.

Review Report:   Bois de Jasmin (brief mention)

Top image is Velvet Tuberose… by Robert Hughes at flickr.  Lower image is White tuberose by buttersweet at flickr.


Tuberose Series 6: Kai eau de parfum

Several celebrities are reported to wear Kai: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Pamela Anderson, Tyra Banks, Kelly Ripa, Usher, Cate Blanchett, Alyssa Milano, Mary J. Blige, Kate Bosworth.*   It’s also a forum favorite. It was originally released as an oil, and is intended to smell like a Hawaiian vacation.

Perfume Review: Kai edp
Date released: 1999 (?) in oil and 2006 in edp
Perfumer:  Gaye Straza Rappoport
Sample provenance: edp sample from luckyscent, 2010

Subcategory: Gentle white floral with tuberose (although you could possibly induce me to change my mind and call it an Atypical green tuberose soliflore)

Kai is probably more a gardenia-focused scent than a tuberose-focused one; nevertheless, it’s definitely chock-full of tuberose. The listed notes are simply, “Gardenia, exotic white florals,” and that’s pretty much what you get. The scent does start out with a stemmy greenness under the gardenia, and the first fifteen minutes is just delightful, recalling a greenhouse where the gardenias are in bloom. After that, I smell a lot of tuberose and a grassy jasmine, and the whole thing is pretty and simple and luxurious for two hours – and then it’s just gone. I got four wearings out of my sample vial, and each time I got two, maybe two and a half, hours of scent. (I did layer it over some unscented shea butter twice, and the fourth time tried it on skin that had not been bathed for more than twenty-four hours, to see if that would make a difference. It didn’t.) Either there’s no base to this scent at all – and I see no typical basenotes are listed – or it’s a light musk that I cannot smell.

To be honest with you, Kai smells to me very much like the perfumer simply added some sambac jasmine and tuberose essential oils together, perhaps tossing in a few green notes, diluted with denatured alcohol and some fixative, and called it a day. Mind you, it’s very pretty, and I might be tempted to wear it in the summer, for a sundress scent, but it’s sort of the olfactory equivalent of a milkshake: milk, ice cream, blend. That’s it, you’re done, and it’s delicious but it didn’t take any skill to make. Also, it’s gone in a flash.

I did not try the oil, but maybe I should have. On the other hand, I have a feeling it would remind me of a concoction I smelled at a “natural perfumery” stall at our local permanent flea market, said concoction being made strictly of tuberose and jasmine sambac essential oils, in a carrier oil, and costing $12 for half an ounce.

The CEO and I stopped briefly, for five days, in Hawaii on our way back home from Australia and New Zealand a few years ago.  (Oh, come on.  Wouldn’t you rather fly back via Hawaii than LA? That was a no-brainer.)  And it did smell wonderful, with tropical flowers and ocean breezes and coconut oil, and a freshness in the air, especially on the Big Island of Hawaii where we visited Volcanoes National Park – go if you possibly can, it’s amazing and largely undeveloped.  Kai does not smell like that Hawaii vacation, however – the scents I’ve tested that made me think of Hawaii are Ormonde Jayne Frangipani and Maoli Colonia Dulce. 

The Bottom Line :
Quality    B Smells like natural florals but is very simply structured.
Grab-scale score   6
Short description     Tuberose Floral.
Cost    $$
Earns compliments:    Yes.
Scent presence:     Nice three-foot sillage, but very poor staying power in edp.
Review Report:   Now Smell This, For the Love of PerfumeBasenotes, Fragrantica  

* Celebrity info from luckyscent. 
Top image: Kai eau de parfum at ebay by andyfrog.  Middle image: Jasminum sambac by mondomuse at flickr.  Bottom image: Tuberose by Swami Stream at flickr.


Tuberose Series 5: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse

Tubéreuse is one of the three top-selling scents at indie house DSH Perfumes, which is making a name for itself among American perfume fans for well-blended, quality classical (part-synthetic) scents as well as excellent naturals-only perfumes. Nose Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s website is a lot like the candy shop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory*, stuffed to bursting with goodies of every description. I could happily get lost there.

Perfume Review: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse
Date released: (I’ve sent an email to Ms. Hurwitz to ascertain)
Perfumer: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Sample provenance: directly from DSH, 2009

Subcategory: Typical buttery tuberose soliflore

The listing for Tubéreuse, in the Parfums des Beaux Arts section at the DSH website, reads like this:
“Tubéreuse (Tuberose)
Its milky white and fleshy flowers bear the secret of attraction. In India, this flower is called “Mistress of the Night:” The most sensuous and intoxicating of perfumes.
Top notes: Citron Accord, Mimosa
Middle notes: Tuberosa, Tuberose Absolute
Base notes: French Beeswax, Heliotrope, Himalayan Cedar, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood”

I first came across this perfume last spring, during my first awed wander through the website. I tested it at about the time I was also testing some of the lusher Annick Goutals (Passion, Songes, Gardenia Passion), and certainly it’s on a par, quality-wise, with the Goutal scents. It also seems to share a certain simplicity, or perhaps you’d call it transparency, with those classic AG feminines: it smells definitively of tropical flowers, with a few other notes serving as framework.

The opening is my least favorite part of the development, with a citrusy note that seems both bitter and a bit powdery.  Powdery citrus?  How can that be?, you’re wondering.  I don’t know myself – I assume that the mimosa (cassie) is the powdery bit, and the citron, or cedrat, is the bitter bit.  What it reminds me of is the dreaded Tang Dust Accord.**  I don’t get this every time – so far I’m two-for-five – but I do find it somewhat unpleasant for the fifteen minutes it lasts.

However, the Tang effect might be due to neither citron nor mimosa, but natural indoles in the tuberose itself.  Somewhere*** in PTG, Tania Sanchez refers to a “back of the throat rasp” with regards to indole.  Certainly this thing is composed of natural tuberose, a buttery-sweet-tropical thing that lolls, heavy-lidded and languid, on skin.  I’m still doing some research on the difference between tuberose essential oil and tuberose absolue (I suspect that they are extracted by different methods, and that absolue is more concentrated), but both are included in the formula.  Tuberose is really the heart of the scent, with citron and sandalwood the supportive BFFs that keep it from falling over backwards in a swoon.

Four to five hours after application, the tuberose has quieted and there is a softly woody drydown, with a hint of not-too-sweet coconut. I like coconut; this is far less beachy than, say, Bronze Goddess.  But if you hate coconut, you will probably want to avoid this scent. To me, the coconut seems in keeping with the tropical, lazy character of the tuberose, and I enjoy it.

While I was considering the fragrance – why, for example, citron rather than bergamot, or orange? – I came across the following information, and suddenly everything became quite clear: this is a hymn to India.

Citron: “In South Indian cuisine, especially Tamil cuisine, citron is widely used in pickles and preserves. In Tamil, the unripe fruit is referred to as ‘narthangai’, which is usually salted and dried to make a preserve.” (from Wikipedia)
Tamil Nadu sandalwood: the same species as Mysore sandalwood.  “Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently a threatened species and consequently very expensive. It is indigenous to South India… Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India is widely considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu in order to avail of the economic benefits of sandalwood.” (from Wikipedia)
Coconut:  “The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera Linn.) is supposed to be one of the five legendary Devavrikshas and is eulogised as Kalpavriksha – the all giving tree – in Indian classics. All parts of the palm are used in someway or another in the daily life of the people of the west coast; the traditional coconut growing area. Its fruit is called Lakshmi Phai and is used in social and religious functions in India irrespective of whether palm is locally grown or not.”  (from

The tuberose blossom, as I found when writing my “Series Opener” post, holds a significant cultural place in India as well, being used in weddings and other religious ceremonies, as well as in personal adornment.  I’ve never been to India; now I want to go.

DSH Tubéreuse is really lovely and cohesive, an affectionate study of the flower.  Like ELPCTG, it’s not a scent you wear in a business environment.  But where TG was girly, Tubéreuse is languid and sensual – it’s every bit the carnal flower that Malle’s Carnal Flower is not.  I recommend it.

* The 1971 movie with Gene Wilder, of course.  The candy shop is the place where Charlie buys the candy bar that holds the last Golden Ticket, after the shopkeeper sings, “The Candy Man.”  I found the 2005 version, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” with Johnny Depp, weirdly wonderful too.  (Depp seems to be channeling Michael Jackson doing Carol Channing; he’s such a bizarre delight.)
** “Tang Dust Accord” refers to any component of a scent which makes the back of my throat hurt.  Background: The CEO adores Tang (the Kraft drink mix).  He actually prefers Tang to real orange juice (it’s probably because of the sugar content), and I think he’s nuts, but hey, people who live together make compromises.  But here’s the thing – I hate making Tang.  Just hate it.  No matter how I do it, whether I put the mix in first or a little water in, whether I snap the cover of the pitcher on top or not, a little mushroom cloud of Tang dust always rises up and hits me in the back of the throat.  Honestly, I can feel it in my sinuses.  Gah.  Even if he makes the Tang, or one of the kids does, I can walk through the kitchen ten minutes later and get hit with the Tang dust cloud effect. It hurts.  I hate it.  I especially hate encountering it in perfume, as I have in Lancome Magnifique, Guerlain Insolence (edp), Giorgio, and occasionally in DSH Tubéreuse. Luckily, with Tubéreuse the effect doesn’t last long.
*** If I find the page, I’ll update with a direct quote.  Edit:  Found it!  In the review of Diptyque Olene, TS gives a short chemistry lesson on indole and skatole, two chemicals found in both white flowers such as jasmine, ylang, etc., and in animal waste.  Then she explains why chemical recreations of natural white florals don’t smell right: “If you measure the amount of indole in, say, jasmine oil and make up a synthetic mix with the same amount of the pure stuff, it will smell of mothballs [indole] whereas the natural one doesn’t.  Why?  Nobody knows.  But that is the main reason why white-flower reconstitutions seldom have the back-of-the-throat rasp of the real thing.”

The Bottom Line :

Quality     A   Smells almost entirely natural; entire composition is thematic.
Grab-scale score    7, maybe 8  (Depends on whether I get TDA or not)
Short description    Tropical tuberose.
Cost   $$   1 oz. bottle of edp is $65, but you can buy a dram (4ml) of edp for $10.  Parfum is also available.
Earns compliments:  Yes, but not from people who dislike tuberose.
Scent presence:  Average (two generous dabs of edp last four to five hours).  Moderate sillage. Not an office scent, in my opinion.
Review Report:   None.  Although this scent has its fans at fragrantica, it’s not listed in the database.

Top image is from DSH Perfumes.  Center image is Rajnigandha – Tuberose (Explore) by H G M at flickr. 


Tuberose Series Bonus: Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills

I should NOT have tested this.  This is not going to be a serious, formal review because I just can’t stand to do it.  Also, with this review, you’re going to get pointless digressions and some disturbing emotional reactions.  You have been warned.

Perfume Review: Giorgio Beverly Hills
Date Released: 1981
Perfumer: Bob Aliano
Sample provenance: miniature bottle bought retail 2010

Subcategory: Loud dressed-up party tuberose composition

I wasn’t going to bother with this.  I blame Luca Turin yet again, for reviewing it in the downloadable updates to the original Perfumes: The Guide.  I should have known better from that stupid Insolence experience, but nooooooooo.  Also I was blinded by nostalgia and a fuzzy memory of what Giorgio actually smells like (which is, actually, not Turin’s fault).  He does make the excellent point that “many people harbor a sneaking fondness for the bad old days” of the excessive eighties, pointing out that outrageous and surprising perfumes like Angel are still succeeding, in these times of post-post-decadence.  Here are portions of his review (go read it in its entirety if you can, it’s an interesting and informed take):
**** Giorgio.  Fruity tuberose…  The secret of Giorgio was the discovery of an accord that could stand up to a monstrously powerful tuberose while extending it in interesting directions. Two heroically strong aromachemicals were drafted: one being… reminiscent of pineapple, and the second a… base made between… a fresh-almondy-marine material and… the Concord grape smell… The result was a cute, twelve-foot-tall singing canary, at first impossible to ignore, and at length too big to love.  But if any composition embodies what makes… classical perfumery great, it is Giorgio.

Okay, first off I’m going to say yet again that it is definitely not fair to give four stars to something that doesn’t smell good.  I do not give a flying flip whether it “advances the art of perfumery,” got me?  I only want to wear scents that smell good.  Secretions Magnifiques four stars, anyone?  Didn’t think so.  Now, I’ll wade through some difficult opening notes to get to something beautiful, or at least to something interesting.  And granted, people’s opinions on What Smells Good tend to, duh, differ.  I love tuberose and hate balsamic resins.  I think vetiver is boring.  I like rose and aldehydes.  You may think I’m nuts.  But for a reviewer that keeps dissing tuberose he calls “synthetic,” it was downright immoral of LT to praise this *&#^%^@(*@ mess.

Disclaimer:  I went to high school in the 80’s, all right?  And while I was wearing polite applications of Chloe from my dabber bottle, big spray bottles of Giorgio were all the rage.  Black rubber bracelets, banana hairclips, leggings and big tunics, Swatches and enormous abstract-art earrings in pink and aqua… and Giorgio.  Which I kind of liked then – I had a friend who seemed to have all the disposable income a girl could want as well as serious social cachet (she was the only really nice cheerleader at my high school, and my Bio lab partner), and she wore it in discreet quantities.  I thought she smelled nice.

There comes a time in your sober years when you appreciate your parents’ chintzy refusal to buy your teenage self trendy stuff.  I never had a yellow-and-aqua paint-splatter swimsuit to wear to the pool.  I never had a pair of Candies sandals, or even those fat-soled flipflops everybody wore.  And sure, I suffered when the cheerleaders went down the hall in a gang, snickering about my not-even-close-to-designer jeans and reeking of Giorgio, but now I feel better about the whole thing.  I recently showed my high school yearbook to my children, and they laughed at my hair but admitted that my clothes were “not as weird as what those girls are wearing, eww.”  Take that, Two Christies!  Take that, Charlene and Amanda!  Your trendy clothes were weird!

I freely admit I couldn’t afford it back then anyway.  And never mind all the science-chat about anthrancilates and whatnot, descriptions of Big Bird and grape popsicles, what Giorgio smells like to me now is money and humiliation.

If I was going to attempt to wear Giorgio, this was the day to do it: The CEO just left on a trip to the Farm Bureau National Convention, Bookworm’s gone for the day to an indoor track meet, and the boys are supposedly cleaning up their rooms but they keep sneaking down to the laundry room to visit Sara the ailing calf.  Here’s a transcript of our conversations about Giorgio:

Me: I’m trying this out.  What do you think?
Taz: Eww.  It makes my throat hurt.
Gaze (trying to be diplomatic, but failing): I don’t like that one.  It smells like… really bad Halloween candy. The hard kind in weird flavors, like you get from the people who don’t like kids but they don’t want people to think they don’t like kids.  So they give you stuff, but it’s nasty.
Me (secretly pleased):  Really?
Gaze:  And the pool.  It smells like the pool. You know, on really crowded days, when they put too much chlorine in there?
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz: Mom, I think Sara’s better, she’s eating that hay now.
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz:  Hey, Mom… Mom, why are you laughing?
Gaze:  I don’t know.  She’s acting weird.  Maybe that perfume is making her sick.
Me: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… (maniacal giggling)
Taz: Mom, will you stop laughing and make us dinner now?  Mom?  Mom! Stop laughing.  This is important.  Please go wash your hands, I don’t want my hot dogs to smell like that.

It would probably be pretentious of me to repeat that old saying about the mills of God grinding slowly, so I won’t.  But I will say that the taste of vindication is sweet.

I have a nasty headache now that I didn’t have when I put on this dab of Giorgio edt.  Thank the Lord, I can go take a shower now.  Maybe now I can cease the maniacal laughter.  Sample of Giorgio Beverly ILLS is going out with the trash as soon as possible.

And I’m sorry, I really am.  I should have known better.  But, see, this is why I love perfume.  Two drops of yellow gunk (which have consequently contaminated the air around me for seven hours) suddenly returned me to the horrors of being fifteen.  What else could do that so quickly?  What else could go straight for the jugular like that?  Nothing else taps so elegantly, so directly, so brutally, into the emotional center as perfume.

Top image from fragrantica.  Lower image from paper_antiquary on ebay.


Tuberose Series 4: Carnal Flower

Carnal Flower gets a lot of positive attention from perfume fans, and deservedly so.

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower.
Date released: 2005                         
Perfumer: Dominique Ropion
Sample provenance: sample from The Perfumed Court, 2009

Subcategory: Atypical green tuberose soliflore

Created with M. Malle’s aunt, the actress Candice Bergen, as inspiration, Carnal Flower is something of a contradiction in terms. Like Ms. Bergen, whose onscreen persona in the movie Carnal Knowledge is both warmly maternal and icily aloof, Carnal Flower is both cold and warm. Other than that reference, I find the name “Carnal Flower” rather inappropriate – this perfume does not smell in the least like a boudoir to me.

The scent begins with a chilly, almost mentholated note, along with camphor and a tiny spritz of something vaguely juicy. There’s enough of the floral quality of the tuberose peeking through here for the opening to smell very like the refrigerated, moist air of a florist case. The menthol-camphor hint picks up on the odd notes of what Tania Sanchez calls “Chinese muscle rub” in tuberose flowers, but here it’s lovely. Gradually the tuberose blossoms out, becoming warmer, but it remains almost translucent, with a fresh greenish light shining through it. There’s a lot of grassy-green jasmine here that keeps the tuberose from being too buttery and fleshy. I don’t smell much of anything else here, but the scent is anything but thin. This accord of sunny tuberose and green jasmine sticks around a long time, but eventually the jasmine fades so that the basenotes begin to come up under the tuberose. The base, though faint, smells like beach-warmed skin at the end of the day. It is neither too sweet nor too warm, and once the base comes up there’s very little left of the experience.

Notes for Carnal Flower:
Top: green notes, camphor, citrus
Heart: melon, tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang
Base: coconut, musk

I do not smell melon, or at least I don’t smell what I think of as perfumery melon, a la DelRae Emotionelle or Parfum de Therese, neither of which I like. If there really is melon here, it’s more like a crisp, barely-ripe honeydew, all sweet green. And the coconut is merely a hint in Carnal Flower; you will not be thinking of piña coladas.

Lasting power is less potent for this scent than for many other tuberose scents on me. I was getting three hours’ worth with hefty dabs, and it took pouring my sample vial into a small spray atomizer to change that experience. If sprayed according to my usual formula, I get four hours, which is a little light for an edp. On the other hand, longevity is often the downfall of all-natural perfumes, and there seems to be a large percentage of natural ingredients in CF. Also, it’s a very beautiful four hours.

Carnal Flower is an exercise in green and white, cold and hot: the green is the cool of herbs and leaves and grass and chilly air, and the white is the creamy sweetness of tuberose and jasmine and skin and summer light. The two sides don’t play tug-of-war, but rather curl around each other like yin and yang, two integrated halves of a whole.

Sometimes I associate a particular scent with a piece of music – for example, Apres l’Ondee is always Debussy’s “La Mer”, while Attrape-Coeur is “Nessun Dorma” – and such is the case with Carnal Flower. What I’m hearing while wearing it is Brahms’ beautiful “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” from his German Requiem: a clean white light, a longing sweetness. I may find a more beautiful tuberose, but I may not. At the moment, this is the most lushly ethereal thing I’ve ever smelled.

The Bottom Line :
Quality    A Smells natural; seems coherent with good flow.
Grab-scale score    9   If not higher – I’m leaving myself a little wiggle room!
Short description    Ethereal green tuberose.
Cost       $$$
Earns compliments: Yes. Even Bookworm, who tends to dislike tuberose, calls this one “pretty.”
Scent presence      Slightly less than average (2 spritzes last 4 hours), moderate sillage. Will not get you lynched at the office.
Review Report:  Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Perfume-Smellin’ Things (by Marina), Perfume-Smellin’ Things (by Donna), Aromascope.

Top image: Carnal Flower from fragrantica.  Middle image: Mexican tuberose by jelens at flickr.  Bottom image: Tuberose The Pearl by nipplerings72 at flickr.


Tuberose Series Part 3: Chloe

Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, vintage
(Please note that the currently-in-production scent called Chloe by Chloe is a completely different scent. Date released: 1975                     
Perfumer: IFF (Like that’s helpful. Sorry, that’s all I can find.)
Sample provenance: 1) a sample of vintage edt from friend’s bottle, 2) mini bottle parfum via ebay

Subcategory: Rich oriental-chypre base tuberose composition

Here’s our first Blast From the Past. Born when disco was hot, Chloe was quite popular for a few decades. There was a flanker, Chloe Narcisse, released in the early 1990’s, that smelled neither like original Chloe nor like narcissus, but was a fresh floral that seemed to me rather like having my back molars drilled. The original Chloe went out of production sometime before 2008, when Chloe Parfums revamped the fragrance in its entirety, from bottle to scent to esthetic. It is no longer a white floral, but a thin, hissy rose that smells as beige as the satin ribbon adorning the (admittedly pretty) bottle. I have yet to try Chloe edp Intense, which is described as a rose oriental – a category I have some fondness for – but it’s on my List. As usual, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks.

Luca Turin called the first Chloe a “big natural tuberose.” I had not smelled it for some time until digging up a sample in a swap and finding a little bottle for about $3 on ebay, but it was instantly recognizable.

Some review caveats:
1) We’re talking vintage here. Carefully kept or not, all vintage perfume is still vintage. It has, de facto, changed somewhat from the original scent. Some fragrances seem to suffer more from age or light/air exposure than others do; some may remain wearable and some may not. Some may be wearable once the degraded top notes wear off, which can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more. This particular scent, in both samples, seems to have survived the ravages of time fairly well. It is close to the color it should be; its top notes are fainter but have not turned unpleasant; it smells very similar to the one in my memory.

2) I wore Chloe for several years, beginning when I was about twelve and continuing through my first year of college. I liked it very much but did not love it; it was a gift. Also, it was perfume, and I wasn’t going to turn that down, whether I loved it or not. (It would have been considered wasteful of me to buy something else while my bottle was still good.) Ergo, I have a whole set of memories associated with Chloe. I’ll try to keep them out of the review. Also, one of The CEO’s old girlfriends used to wear it as well, so she’d pretty much ruined Chloe for me anyway as a personal scent. I’ll be passing this bottle on.

Well, Dr. Turin is right about Chloe being a big natural tuberose… and he was sort of wrong, in being a little too succinct in pointing out the confusion engendered by the “same name, different perfume” issue. Original Lagerfeld Chloe does contain a huge slug of tuberose, but I would not refer to it as “a tuberose”. (Sorry for the bait-and-switch there; I did say this would be a “tuberose and tuberose-dominated scents” series.)

I wanted to see how much my nose has developed, so I tested Chloe without looking up the notes. Here’s a transcription of my scribblings: “not tube soliflore, I didn’t remember it being that anyway… there is a honkin’ ton of orange blossom in this… and something lactonic – peach? But it’s not saying Mitsouko to me, so not lactonic peach. Some other lactone, it’s buttery-creamy… so maybe ylang… Jasmine too. Probably some other florals as well, this is a kitchen-sink floral thingy. Freesia? Lilac? Dunno, but it’s a fresh floral note in there with the indoles – maybe some muguet… Base reminds me of Ivoire, you see that with a lot of those 70’s florals being neither strictly chypre nor strictly oriental but very rich: sandalwood, moss, musk, vanilla. Could be other stuff in the base too…”

So then I checked with fragrantica to get the list of notes, and I’d give myself a C+ on diagnostics. I missed a bunch of things!

Notes for Chloe:
Top: aldehydes, honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang, hyacinth, lilac, coconut, bergamot, peach
Heart: jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose, carnation, orris root
Base: oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar, benzoin

I give myself credit for the orange blossom, ylang, lilac, and peach, as well as the jasmine and two-thirds of the base. I noticed the lactone but misidentified it (coconut, how did I miss that? Actually I still don’t smell it even when resniffing and looking for it, my brain just says, Lactone!). Also, I failed to pinpoint most of the florals. How did I not get narcissus, as much as I love that note? I said vanilla instead of benzoin (which does have a vanilla-ish creaminess), and missed the cedar entirely. I would swear that the aldehydes have been damaged in both samples, so that they’re not very perceptible. Then again, someone sensitive to them might be able to pick up the note.

Armed with list of notes, I smelled it again. Again, unless I concentrate very hard, I smell mostly tuberose+orange blossom, with some lactones and one of those rich 70’s bases. It is dense and rather perfumey. The florals are well-blended, and so is the base. This is a rich formula, to be sure, and it flows smoothly from one stage to another. Sillage is a lot quieter than you’d think it would be for a composition that probably saw its share of Studio 54, and even softer in the parfum. This fits with my experience wearing it for years – I’d have hated a sillage beast, but Chloe is relatively polite.

You know what Chloe really smells like? Vintage Arpege with more tuberose, and more light coming in through the windows. But it’s certainly not light by modern standards: it was getting very, very poor reviews from horrified younger Fragrantica members who tested it because they love the new Chloe. Even among its older fans, Chloe is regarded as being dated and perfumey. That would include me: there’s no way I’d wear this now, even if I didn’t have a history with it.

The Bottom Line :
Quality            B   Clearly there are natural materials in the vintage, and it’s smooth.
Grab-scale score    3
Short description     Tuberose-heavy lactonic floral; very dated.
Cost              $
Earns compliments:   Only from The CEO, and I expect that’s because he has pleasant memories associated with it.
Scent presence:        Average (2 healthy dabs last 4-5 hours), mild to moderate sillage.
Review Report:        Member reviews at fragranticaMember reviews at basenotes. (Sorry, the report is skimpy. Nobody wears this now.)

Top image is Chloe perfume from  Middle image is Tuberose 2 by cbcastro at flickr.  Bottom image is Orange blossom by VillaRhapsody by flickr.


Tuberose Series Part 2: Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia

This one gets a lot of love, for being warm and cheerful without running people out of the room (Fracas, anyone?), and for being a mainstream release that doesn’t suck up to the trendy taste for ditzy fruity-florals.

Perfume Review: Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia eau de parfum
Date released: 2007        
Perfumer: Harry Frémont (Firmenich)
Sample provenance: manufacturer’s sample, probably from 2007, from swap

Subcategory: Gentle white floral with tuberose (and, duh, gardenia)

Since the Private Collection disappointment, the Beyond Paradise debacle and the vintage Knowing parfum tragedy, I’ve been wary of testing Estee Lauder scents. You may have been reading this blog long enough to know that I have difficulty with some note or ingredient common to the base of many Lauder fragrances. I still don’t know what it is; I’m not sure it would do me all that much good to pin it down. To sum up, I’ve found a number of Lauders really lovely for the first two hours, and then gotten sucker-punched by whatever-it-is in the base, so that I’m suddenly and extremely nauseated by this nameless, cloying Wrongness that I can’t even describe. It’s not sugary, vomitous, overtly chemical, sweaty, or overpoweringly loud, but it turns my stomach over.

So I approached ELPCTG with some trepidation. I sprayed it on a stray scrap of cotton from a sewing project, and when it got to six hours without causing me to carry the scrap out to the trashcan on the porch while cursing, I decided to try it on skin.

Notes for ELPCTG –
Top: Neroli, lilac, rosewood
Heart: Lily, tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia
Base: Carnation, bourbon vanilla

Despite the alleged presence of a number of floral notes, PCTG is pretty much true to its name. It opens with creamy, luxuriant gardenia which lasts maybe forty-five minutes to an hour, rolling along with the tuberose, eventually fading to leave only the tuberose and a hint of lily. The white florals are soft and lovely, with a buttery, smooth texture. Heady for the first ten minutes, it does soften rather quickly to a scent polite enough to wear to church, as its sillage stays rather close to the body. I did wear it to church, and my daughter could smell the perfume from right next to me. My son, sitting on her other side, could not smell it. Four hours after my two-spritz application, there was no sillage at all, and I could only smell what was left (mostly tuberose, with a tiny hint of vanilla) by hoovering my inner arm.

A workplace test was less successful. I felt silly wearing it with black twill trousers and a pink sweater. Never mind that my sweater was fuzzy – I felt like Esther Williams, totally out of place at my desk.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a base here, and perhaps the simplicity of the base is what makes this fragrance wearable for me. Either the common Lauder base is not part of the formula, or the tuberose is enough to – like love – cover a multitude of sins.

Luca Turin is really smitten with gardenias, and this scent gets high marks in PTG. Here’s a portion of his review:
                     **** Real gardenia… gardenia is a reconstruction, and few fragrances actually achieve the flower smell that I rate as the most irresistible and impossibly pretty on earth. This beautiful creation… is one of them. The tuberose note in PCTG is very quiet, while the rest of the fragrance is an utterly lovely gardenia accord on a refined, radiant white-flowers background…

PCTG is indeed very lovely. It has a devoted following among perfume fans, and it’s a well-made, attractive scent. However, it does make me feel as though I should be wearing it with white gloves and, possibly, a pastel strapless gown. It feels like a fifties fragrance to me, very Donna Reed, and I doubt I’d wear it frequently. (And this from someone who’s happy wearing true vintage girlish fragrances like Sortilege and Je Reviens!)  I seem to be the only tuberose fan who wasn’t smitten with this one.  I admit that it could be the Curse of Lauder to my nose, although I did give it three good tests with an open mind. 

The Bottom Line :
Quality B+
Grab-scale score 5
Short description        Gardenia tuberose; pretty but feels dated.
Cost $$
Earns compliments: Yes
Scent presence Average (2 spritzes last 5-6 hours), mild sillage.
Review Report: Aromascope, Now Smell This, Bois de JasminPerfume-Smellin’ Things, Beauty Addict, Perfume Shrine

(See Tuberose Series 1 for any clarification on the Bottom Line criteria.)
Top image is the eau de parfum bottle, from The parfum bottle is far more gorgeous, with semi-precious stones.  However, I didn’t review the parfum.
Lower image is pua tuberose from victorey at flickr.


Tuberose Series Part 1: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur

First up, a Stealth Tuberose – betcha didn’t know it was one! Unless you’ve worn it, of course, upon which the tuberose is like the face of an old friend, at an event where you never expected to see her.

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur eau de toilette
Date released: 2007                        
Perfumer: David Apel
Sample provenance: my 1-oz bottle, bought on ebay from individual seller, not perfume distributor

Subcategory: Gentle white floral with tuberose

If you smelled the original Black Orchid edp, and you’re thinking that Voile de Fleur is simply the edt version, you’re mistaken. The listed notes for each only overlap a little, and the proportions are different, so that each fragrance has a different focus. BO is, well, weird – a plum-cucumber-dirt-cocoa thing, with a touch of Dior Poison and another of Youth Dew. It’s intriguing but not wearable, in my opinion. A check of the reviews on and reveals that there are very few people that liked both BO and VdF; most commenters loved one and not the other. (Some people hated both.)

Voile de Fleur shares the plum and the white flowers, and the woody base, of BO, but it has a whole different take on the matter: it’s pretty.

Here’s Tania Sanchez’ review from PTG:
           **** Fracas gardenia. A smiling, bonny tuberose halfway between Fracas and Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, fresh and lovely with a sleepy languor, simply beautiful in all its parts.

I think she’s right on the number of stars – and right on its being primarily tuberose, a lovely natural one blended with ylang and lily – but a little optimistic on the description of the feel. I never get “sleepy languor.” I get “edgy white florals.” In fact, at times I feel a little worried that VdF is going to whip off her stiletto pump and nail me in the eye. For what? Just because.

(Digression: Ever see “Single White Female”, with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the crazy copycat roomie? Scared me for weeks. Admittedly I have low tolerance for Scary Movies, but I like to think that’s because I have sufficient imagination to feel the effects keenly. Or I could just be a chicken, there’s that possibility.)

Here are the notes for VdF:
Black truffle, ylang-ylang, bergamot, blackcurrant, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, plum, black pepper, lotuswood, succulent fruit, hot milk, cinnamon, vanilla tears, patchouli, sandalwood, balsam.

No mention of tuberose, did you notice? And how kind of Mr. Ford to specify that the fruit note is “succulent.” The milk’s hot, by the way… Oh, well, I suppose that the tuberose + truffle could be close to gardenia, so I’ll buy that one. And the blackcurrant and plum warranted mentioning on their own, so I’ll stop whining about Tom Ford’s I’m Way Cooler Than Thou-ness now. (Bonus: this one’s in wide distribution, and therefore very affordable. I’m regularly seeing 1oz bottles on eBay for about $20, and 1.7oz bottles at online discounters for $50.)

On my skin, though, VdF is mainly this: plum, white florals, cream, wood, and a mysterious dark thread (leather? balsam?) that winds its way through the scent like vaguely threatening kudzu tendrils. Some days I get more Dark Thread; some days I get more creamy floral pudding; other days it’s all plum followed by white flowers and no wood at all. I never know which face will present itself. I’m not the only one to get darkness out of it, either – see the reviews at PST and Aromascope in the Review Report.

Voile de Fleur has turned out to be a sleeper hit for me. It doesn’t make me swoon or eat my head; I can wear it to work, feel beautiful, and still get my tasks done. There’s enough interesting stuff going on in it besides the tuberose (plum and wood), that I don’t wind up feeling like a 50’s pinup girl with a tropical flower in my hair while trying to calculate the early-pay discount for the truck-repair shop down the street. Perfectly suitable for work. If I apply a little more heavily after dinner, The CEO enjoys snurfling my neck, and that’s pleasurable too.

The Bottom Line (see below for explanations of my eclectic judging criteria):

Quality A-
Grab-scale score 8
Short description Plum tuberose; interesting but doesn’t distract.
Cost $           * Note: this one is out of production, apparently, and unavailable at retail, although you can buy it on ebay and online discounters)
Earns Compliments? Yes
Scent presence Persistent (2 spritzes last 10-12 hours), mild to moderate sillage.
Review Report: Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Now Smell This, Aromascope, Blogdorf Goodman (brief)

(The Bottom Line criteria:
“Quality” refers to how well-made I think the fragrance is. Does it smell natural? (I freely admit that I don’t have any background in chemistry, and at times I may be totally and completely wrong.) Does it flow from one stage to another seamlessly? Are all the stages pleasant, or just the top? Do the notes have synergy and smell good together? Scored on an A-F scale.
“Grab-scale score” simply means, Does the fragrance “grab” me – please me? I’m the only person reviewing, so mine’s the only opinion that matters with this score. I don’t care if Luca Turin or Patty at Perfume Posse loves it, this one’s all about me, me, me. Also, frequently I’ll notice that some really well-made perfume just does nothing for me emotionally, and I don’t want to waste my time with stuff I don’t like.
“Short description” – self-explanatory. Lifted from PTG.
“Cost” is also lifted from PTG, and in fact, I’m using the Turin-Sanchez model for the “standard US retail price for the smallest full-size bottle of the lowest concentration in standard distribution.”  If it’s NOT available at retail price, I’ll let you know where it can be found, and for how much.  I’ll be honest, sometimes it’ll be ebay, because I like vintage. 
$ 1 – 50
$$ 51-100
$$$ 101-200
$$$$ over 201 (yeah, right, like I’m gonna review one that expensive!)
“Earns compliments?” – another self-explanatory criterion. Am I the only one who likes it?
“Scent presence” – how long does it last with my standard two spritzes (one wrist, one base of neck)? How far does it radiate? Do I smell it a lot, or do I have to snort my skin? Can other people smell me beyond my standard 3-foot radius?
“Review Report” – links to other blog reviews I found worth reading.)


Perfume Reviews: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if and Caron Parfum Sacré, or Two Peppered Roses

In my Pepper post of a few days ago, I promised reviews of these two scents. (I also promised a review of Lumiere Noire pour femme, but that one’s going to take me awhile; it’s very complex and I need some more time to process it.) It also occurs to me right now that there’s a pretty famous Peppered Rose I haven’t smelled: The Different Company’s Rose Poivree – notorious for its first version smelling like a sweaty jockstrap. Apparently it’s been reformulated for polite society – but no sample has come my way as of yet. Ta’if and Parfum Sacré are two favorite scents of mine; they share a spiciness and a warm, winey rose. I tend to associate them in my head for that shared spicy rose, but of course during the side-by-side test I confirm for myself that they’re different.

This is good. How else could I justify having both? Actually, I own only a decant of Ta’if, which is by far the more expensive of the two, and which I obtained in a swap with dear Daisy the Enabler. Parfum Sacré I have only worn in eau de parfum, as the extrait is no longer made and is both hard to find and ridiculously expensive. Just yesterday, an eBay auction for a 7.5ml bottle of Parfum Sacré extrait sold for just under $150. Yes, $150, for a quarter-ounce! No matter how gorgeous it is – and it’s reputed to be The Bee’s Knees – I can’t afford that. Good thing that the edp is wonderful. I have heard that it’s been reformulated as well and is thinner than the original. My bottle, which came from an online discounter in Feb. 2008, must be old stock. It smells just like the samples that came from The Posh Peasant and a swap friend who bought her bottle in 1998: wonderful.

Today’s experiment was to wear Ta’if on my left wrist, Parfum Sacré on my right. Here are the notes for each:
Ta’if: Pink Pepper, Saffron, Dates, Rose Oil, Freesia, Orange Flower Absolute, Jasmine, Broom, Amber
Parfum Sacré: Lemon, Pepper, Mace, Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Rose, Jasmine, Rosewood, Vanilla, Myrrh, Civet, Cedarwood

The similarities are apparent – pepper, spicy notes, orange blossom, rose, and jasmine are congruent. At the beginning, each scent is strongly peppery and spicy. (And yes, I know that pink pepper is a dried berry, not a true peppercorn. It smells like “fruity black pepper” to me. I like it. Kwitcher whining.)

Ta’if smells quite peppery to me at the start, and it takes a few moments for the saffron to show up. I like that saffron note, whatever aromachemical it is – saffron seems creamy and smooth to me in perfume, and it’s a texture I enjoy. But very soon the dates come to the fore, and for several hours Ta’if is all about creamy saffron, the sweet dried-fruit character of dates, and that beautiful rose. Bookworm likes Ta’if; it’s probably the sweetness she finds appealing. There in the heart of the fragrance, there’s a fresh floral presence which could be the orange flower but is probably freesia, since freesia has a cool, dewy, florist-case quality that my brain calls “fresh.” This is such a pretty fragrance. I wouldn’t call it girly – but gosh, neither would I term it Edgy, as Luca Turin seems to imply in his review of it in Perfumes: The Guide: ‘Wear it when the desert wind blows, as Raymond Chandler put it, “one of those hot dry Santa Anas that … make your nerves jump and your skin itch…”’ Good grief. Wonder how he got Edgy out of the not-quite-gourmand saffron+dates+rose, which I consider the true character of Ta’if, and which lasts for a good three-four hours on me. As the drydown continues, it gets a little less pleasant; the amber is not my favorite type (labdanum cistus), and there’s nothing else in the base with anything near the rich sweetness of the heart. However, by the time the drydown arrives, the fragrance is nearly gone. There is a dreaminess about Ta’if, a head-in-the-stars sort of innocence about it.

On the other hand (literally!), Parfum Sacré begins with very “kitcheny” notes – it’s primarily lemon pepper, both aromatic and a little dusty. Just as I begin to think, “Well, if there’s lemon pepper, I must be cooking fish tonight,” the nutmeggy mace and the cardamom come in, hand in hand with that beautiful winey rose PS shares with Ta’if, and it’s not kitcheny anymore. I smell a good bit more orange blossom in PS than I do in Ta’if, but PS is still largely a rose fragrance in my mind. Oddly, Bookworm smells only pepper and wood in PS, no rose at all, while I get mostly rose and incense. The wood is there, of course, and I sometimes think of Dolce Vita when I wear Parfum Sacré, but I smell a great deal of myrrh too. There is supposedly vanilla in there, and civet, but I am not conscious of smelling them. The drydown of PS is beautiful; it is rich and mysterious and layered. Parfum Sacré is one of those rare fragrances that I wear for comfort, but which also seems very sensual to me. I think of phrases like “the eternal feminine” in connection with PS.  When I wear it, I feel very feminine: both very motherly, and very… well, interested in doing what women do in order to become mothers. It also has that magical quality of melting into the skin, becoming part of me instead of being simply a scent I wear.  It was one of the first scents I fell in love with over the past year, and every time I have worn it since, I’ve been glad I bought it.

Summing up in a few words:
Ta’if is a rich, sweet rose, with saffron and dried fruit, idealistic and young at heart.  I love it.
Parfum Sacré is a rich, warm rose, with pepper and wood and incense, emphatically womanly.  I love it deeply.

Top image: Rose Bouquet Well-Defended by bartholmy at flickr.
Second image is from
Third image is from