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.
A 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.
Fracas 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.