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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Top Ten for Winter 2012

Astro Blasters Top Ten

My Top Ten lists are always changing, but here’s the current list of things I find good for winter weather:

1. Teo Cabanel Alahine.  There was never any doubt, was there?  This floral amber says, “Madrigal Dinner” to me in the best possible way.  It’s golden and happy.

2. Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums Carnal Flower.  Carnal Flower is stunning at any time of year, a juicy tuberose-jasmine halo with an florist-case-fresh green top.  Cold weather highlights that icy, minty green opening and makes me glad I’m alive.

3. Givenchy Organza Indecence.  A cozy woody vanilla scent with an orange-spice angle, it feels like that warm sunny spot on the back of the couch that the cat occupies.

4. Guerlain Shalimar Light.  Lemon custard with a drop of jasmine, just the sort of thing to help you weather a blustery chilly night.  A comforter fragrance. Continue reading Top Ten for Winter 2012

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Tuesday Roundup: Serge Lutens Mini-reviews, Part 3

This is the latest round of Serge Lutens testing, with results as follows. Blue, I love. Pink, I like. Green, I dislike. Purple, I despise. Beyond La Myrrhe, there’s not a single SL fragrance that I am dying to own – so far, anyway.   Thanks again to everybody kind enough to send me samples… and you might have to remind me who you are, because my older emails are just buried in this insane pile…

Arabie – curry spices and amber and woods, very rich and almost edible but almost sweaty, too. I like smelling it, but not on my skin. I’d rather smell this smell in a house where I’ve been invited to dinner.

Continue reading Tuesday Roundup: Serge Lutens Mini-reviews, Part 3

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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 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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