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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle

Review by Tom

I usually try to pretend to myself that there is no practical reason for a man not to be able to wear what has been considered usually a woman's scent. I usually just figure that one applies with a much lighter hand, say one touch of the perfume on the sternum rather than under each ear and on the wrist. Usually, I think that men can get away with this with
practically any note but one: tuberose.

Unlike Joe Gillis in "Sunset Blvd" I am not at all averse to tuberose, as a matter of fact it's the main note in one of my favorite women's scents Fracas. Fracas is not the scent for the young, the inexperienced, or the timid. It's the scent that an old-time movie star would wear- you can imagine that the scent that wafted off Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck as they slung their mink onto the chaise while on their way to seduce, or shoot, or both their co-star. Fracas is the lady in the parlour who's a whore in the bedroom. Fracas is dangerous.

Tubereuse Criminelle is the post-modern Fracas. It defies almost every convention of conventional perfumery that you can imagine. It has an opening that almost defies you to loathe it; a strange, almost sickly mentholated, smokey, leathery accord that also has whiffs of something very much like gasoline. (While writing this and re-reading it I realise that the only way I could make this read less appetizing or pleasant is if I wrote that it smelled of road kill and fruit loops). It's not as strong as I had been lead to believe by other reviews, but it's distinct, different and disconcerting, as if serving fair warning that this is not you mother's tuberose. It's also not entirely unpleasant, and fairly fleeting, as the tuberose starts to take over almost immediately. The tuberose becomes more and more distinct as the scent becomes more and more warm, with the cool menthol fading to the background. There's a rubbery accord stays muted but discernible, mainly reminding me of the actual feel of the flower: the slightly rubbery feel of the bloom, and the musk adds to the skin-like feeling of the scent. I also smell hyacinth, jasmine and vanilla, but they are distant seconds to the wonderfully seductive tuberose- and there's the leather. This is tuberose in bondage. If Fracas would be the scent that Joan Crawford would dab on before plugging Sydney Greenstreet, Tubereuse Criminelle would be what Uma Thurman would dab before opening a heaping helping can of whoop-ass on David Carradine.

Needless to say, I would never wear this one out of the house. This is for you ladies only.

As one of the exclusives, it's available only as a bell jar at the salon in Paris. Were I female, this and Muscs Kublai Khan would force me to hock my kidney to finance that trip. As it is, the tiny decant I have I will be happy to open on occasion and sniff away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman, I would never wear this scent. I mean come on...menthol, gasoline. I too aggree with that these notes are in there. And I do think your joke about the roadkill is unfortunately something I kind of smell as well. I am a serious lover of all things perfume but come on. I am almost at the end of my rope with these unwearable Serge Lutens. Most of them are not beautiful and not wearable. As a woman I want to wear beauty, be beautiful. This stuff makes you feel weird. I believe they should turn the salon in Paris into a museum where we can all go to smell these strange and innovative fragrances and STOP trying to wear them.

7:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Martin said...

Well, I'm a man and I'm a search for my first tuberose fragrance actually. I just love the note and maybe my love overshadows the fact that it smells weird on me, but I think I can live with that. Haven't tried this Lutens, even though I'd love too, but another one quite heavy on the tuberose is Cèdre. Others report it being a cacophony of loud notes, but I disagree. Silky smooth and seamless. I'm not sure I will buy this one straight away, I have a few other fragrances to get before that, but I can definately see it happen.

Entertaining review Tom, much appreciated!

7:29 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Brilliant review! I actually find those wonderfully subversive opening notes quite appealing in an odd (my odd?) sort of way (I happen to love the smell of gasoline and keep hoping CB will create it as a scent). But, you're right - those notes are very fleeting (too fleeting). It's w/out doubt my favorite super lush tuberose scent. Have you tried the SIP scents? I know everyone and their 10th cousin loathes them, but I happen to think that if you can get past how they smell in the bottles and wait through the excessively skanky opening notes, they can be quite stunning. Galatea is a lovely scent w/ tuberose that I would love to own in some magical future where I actually look at my bank account and smile. But Trapeze really gives TC a run for the money on the subversiveness front. Has hints of JAR Shadow in it.

8:13 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Roadkill, froot loops,rubber, bondage...pucker up, Tom!

You sure know how to sweet-talk a gal!

Kiss me, you fool!

8:16 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Wonderful review! Like Elle, I actually enjoy those opening notes, as does my DH (on me). I asked him if he thought I smelled of gasoline, and he said : "That's not gas, that's diesel--I like it!" And I am also pleased that on me the menthol accord remains pretty noticeable throughout (some people do report that it disappears on them). This used to be my favorite SL, but it got unseated by Fumerie Turque and Rose de Nuit. Still love it, though.

To anonymous: For some of us, at least, the unusual--and even the weird--CAN be beautiful; cf. the French term, "jolie laide." To shifts: Go for it! I would love to smell a man in this!

8:38 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Love Tubereuse Criminelle. The weird beginning certainly works for me to highlight and better showcase the beauty of the tuberose note that follows.

To anonymous. I do think Lutens scents are strange, but luckily they are very wearable for me. I for one would be heartbroken if they got rid of the store and became a museum only.

Shifts and Tom, to figure out for myself whether a man can or can not pull off a tuberose note, I am going to spray Mr. Colombina with Fracas. (Not sharing my TC sample with him)

8:54 AM EDT  
Blogger priscilla said...

Oh, I have to find a sample of this--and MKK. It seems as though Serge Lutens tries hard to make their fragrances difficult to like, and that only makes me like them more. I got my bottle of Miel de Bois this week. I don't get any of the bad stuff...I'm one of the lucky ones. :)

9:13 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think you have to give Serge a sceond chance, they can start out "in your face", but become very wearable very quickly

9:29 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Shifts- Good for you! I haven't found a tuberose that Ii didn't find a bit overwhelming and perhaps it's being an American man of (ahem) a certain that causes my predjudice. If you can wear it, great. This one (as much as I like it) I can't

9:32 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I hope you get a bottle. Everybody deserves at least one bell jar on their dressing table

9:34 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Elle, Lily- I loooove the opening notes. If the tuberose was less heady and the opening stayed longer (or never went away) I would seriously consider jumping through hoops to get a bottle

9:37 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You slay me (and you caught my mis-spelling of "Froot Loops")....

How can I not love you?

9:38 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think we all need a picture of his face when you do, and a column about his reaction: When Tuberose Attacks!

9:40 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Cruise eBay religiously; you can usually find them there, just not as regularly as some of the others. I'm glad MdeB works on you, IHMO on those of us it does work on, it's stunningly beautiful

9:42 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I haven't tried SIP, but I got close. I went to their store in Venice (CA, obviously) to try one that Columbina mentioned and the sole SA in the store was on an (obviously personal, planning a trip to Palm Springs) phone call that he could not be bothered to interrupt, even to smile, nod or make eye contact. I left after 10 or 15 minutes. I'm not one of those customers that needs to be fawned over, but the bottles were unlabled and I had some questions. I worked in retail, and I would never be that rude to the only person in my store. So I figured screw it, these are pricey and frankly I don't want to give him the commission.

One day I'll go back, when my bank account doesn't look so thin.

9:56 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

More about SIP...last night I decided to order some smaples from their site (never done that before). That is one of the most frustrating sites I have ever encountered. Firstly, all the fancy-schmancy flash thingies. The ever-changing background which is often so light, it is impossible to read the text, because the font is white and does not become darker as the background becomes lighter. Secondly, the descriptions! You must read for yourself to see what I mean. And finally, d'you know what the shipping cost was for 2 samples? $10.90!
I must add though that the scents of theirs that I tried, I thought were wonderful.

10:08 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I *adore* Tubereuse Criminelle. Just yesterday in my post I was ranting about how much I hate the smell of gasoline. Well, I need to make a slight correction: I love the gasoline in this scent. Without it, it wouldn't be appealing. The drydown is just breath-taking. I actually think you could very well pull it off - it's as heady feminine as Fracas. :) Great review!

10:57 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to say it's NOT as heady and feminine as Fracas. Pardon!

11:10 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Tom, what awful CS! :-( I would have walked out as well. I've only dealt w/ them over the phone and Vishal is the SA I've spoken to most frequently. Too long to explain, but he actually went seriously out of his way to be helpful. Obviously, he's *not* the SA who ignored you.
Their site is the worst! So frustrating. That's why I call. And their shipping costs really are awful. For a long time their samples were $13 each, then they went to $17 each and finally went to $25 each (slightly larger). At least recently they've become more reasonable about sample prices. Still, I love that line and *wish* I could afford more than just samples for most of them.

11:46 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'd forgotten about the SIP website; I loathe and despise it, and whomever is responsible for it should be forced to live in Fort Lee, wear Polyester and eat only at Chucky Cheese for the rest of his/her life. In the interest of being New! Hip! Different! Strange!, they have made a site that is grating and unuseable, and which to exit from on my work computer I have to use the task manager and exit Expolder completely. Grrrrrr.

12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Sychai, me too. Like I wrote, I'd be thrilled if it stayed at the opening..

12:02 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Ina, I'd love to try to convince myself that I could, but I just can't. The tuberose note is just too heady on me. I have big enough shoulders to pull off Patchouli 24, but not for this...

12:04 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Elle, I think my reaction was a combination of dealing with that website, and the trek out to Venice (which looks on a map pretty easy, but is either a three-bus trip from my place or a migrane-inducing trek dealing with weekend westside traffic and beachside parking).

Not to mention a little fear that I would fall hopelessly, completely in love with the line and be forced to move into my car to afford them. Heck, there are showers at work, right?

12:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, I had a TC sample but swapped it without even testing it. After all, it was tuberose and I thought "I don't *do* tuberose." Since then, the damsel in this story has kissed many a toad only to find a fair prince lurking inside. Gasoline? Strange opening? I can't wait to give this toad a chance. Happily ever after? I'll let you know.

2:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

I have a brother who does a very good Barbara Stanwyck. Also I was once left at Chuck-E-Cheese by a second grade birthday party who forgot me. This is by way of saying - enjoyed the post as always!

2:58 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

eaumy- it's an interesting one. I hope you love it

5:48 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Tigs- I'd be interested to see the impression; in second grade I think I'd have liked to have been abandoned in a Chucky Cheese. As long as they didn't stick me with the check...

Thanks for the props!

5:53 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Well, I did get back to SIP and was helped by the most helpful (and lovely, looked like Maud Adams and had the most beautiful calm blue eyes) SA. Wonderful perfumes, but out of my price point for the size and how long they last. But I respect the achievement, and I hope the owner every success

11:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Abigail said...

I just received my sample of TC this evening. After reading all about the, shall we say, unusual opening notes, I think I was overly prepared and didn't find the first few sniffs so shocking. I did smell vicks vapor rub, cough syrup, and rubber to be sure. The rubber is actually nice and quite similar to the tuberose flower. I loved the dried down scent of TC - my only dissatisfaction was how long the perfume lasted on my skin. It became very very faint after about 2 hours. I can barely smell it now. I expected this fragrance to cling and never let go!

10:48 PM EDT  
Blogger sharonJewel said...

I have been wearing my sample for 2days and the opening note to me is simply menthol; I do not smell rubber or gasoline. The menthol quickly fades and the tuberose peeks through. Then comes the perfumey smell. That generic perfumey smell that so many perfumes have. I like scents that don't have that perfumey smell that is so hard to decribe. Maybe it comes from the perfume making process but not all scents have it. I like it enough to use up my sample, but probably not buy a bottle. But I do not smell all the horrible things people are describing this as. It is not my favorite tuberose but it is interesting and cetain stages of it along the way are very nice. I'm sure this smells great on the right body chemistry.

3:24 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to me Tubereuse Criminelle is Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct II, the erotic asphyxiation scene! I love it past the top notes when the tuberose gets silkier and polished while retaining her lethal character.

8:02 PM EDT  
Anonymous Northeast islander said...

I want to try this so badly...I used to work in a gas station as a teenager and I've become strangely fond of the smell of gasoline. I also really love tuberose a lot. I like the juxtaposition of the feminine and seemingly offensive notes. I think it's maybe indicative of my personality! To those who think that Lutens fragrances are unwearable, I respectfully disagree. They have personality and are unapologetic - I love that. And they are undeniably unique in a world of bland carbon-copied 'beauty' products. Even though I've just been introduced to the world of fragrances, I'm so glad I met the SL line and I'm angry with Monsieur Lutens for harbouring his interesting creations in Paris. Share, you greedy Parisians!!

11:54 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try for a huge inventory of decants, including perfumes not available in the US. I've never heard of some of the perfume houses on their list! This is a truly awesome website. I love Fracas but on me it doesn't shout, it whispers. I am looking for a stronger Tuberose scent, as close to the flower as possible. I just ordered the Tuberose Niche sampler from this website for my birthday. Can't wait to try the seven fragrances!

2:09 PM EDT  

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