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:
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 http://www.bgci.org/education/1685/)
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.