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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Return of the White Floral Queen: Three Superlative Tuberose Perfumes

By Donna

Readers of this blog know how much I love white floral fragrances, especially when they involve high quality tuberose and gardenia creations. I thought I had no need to search out any more tuberose scents once I discovered the fabulous Carnal Flower; game over, set and match, everybody go home. After all, what else can be done with tuberose that either Carnal Flower or Fracas can't outshine? Not so fast! I have found some more of them, each very different in character, which just goes to show that it's not just the ingredients, it's the perfumer's skill that can make even the most ubiquitous and popular fragrance notes sing in a unique way. Each one of these is a masterpiece in its own right and worthy of attention.

A few months ago I bought a nice selection of niche perfume samples, among which were several By Kilian fragrances. I had never tried any of them, but the ones I selected were among the best of the line, as they were all composed by the wonderfully talented Calice Becker, and they included the superb tuberose-based Beyond Love (2007). The authors of Perfumes: The Guide had given it high marks so I was curious to find out if it really could be a serious contender in the crowded field of heavy white floral perfumes. The answer is a very definite yes. This fragrance is stunning and over-the-top sexy. No less than four different forms of tuberose are in this concoction; absolute, concrete, green tuberose and a tuberose “petal accord”, and the result is a close approximation of what the real flower smells like, intertwined with coconut and Egyptian jasmine to enhance this effect, and these all rest on a warm base of musk and ambergris. The overall effect lands it halfway between the candied luxury of Fracas and the jungly green Carnal Flower, and it's a magical place I want to visit over and over as I imagine it transforming me into some kind of irresistible sex symbol with just a little dab; it's that good. If my budget included the By Kilian line, a full bottle of this would be at the top of my list. In my opinion it is destined to become a modern classic, if there is any justice in the world. (For Marina’s take on this one, go here.)

Something else caught my attention when I read Perfumes: The Guide, and it was something I had let pass me by when it was still in production. An online search resulted in the purchase of a mini bottle of the Eau de Toilette. Michelle by Balenciaga is one of those perfumes that got discontinued despite having a loyal fan base, and it makes you wonder what Balenciaga was thinking. Michelle was introduced to honor the memory of the late founder and was named for his favorite house model. It was released in 1980, around the time all the “big” Eighties perfumes were beginning to appear, and perhaps it was bad timing that resulted in its eventual demise. For some reason I had it confused with the soapy-fresh Maja by Myrurgia for a long time, and the black packaging was somewhat similar, so I never realized what was hiding behind the rather conservative-looking box design. It is a soft and inviting version of a tuberose scent, and it is not too strong for day wear if you don't overdo it. It too has coconut, and peach as well, but what really sets it apart is the use of spicy carnation, vanilla, benzoin and sandalwood. This makes it one of the most user-friendly perfumes of the white floral style, and its delicious warmth is about as addictive as anything I have ever smelled. When I put it on, it makes me sigh with delight, and I can't leave my own arm alone for more than a few minutes. Needless to say, I will be replacing the mini bottle with a bigger one when the time comes.

The third fragrance is one I never thought I would get a chance to try, let alone own. I have always been a fan of the perfumes of Le Galion, having fallen hard for Sortilège many years ago. For a long time I thought that it and Snob were the only fragrances from that house, since I never heard about any others. Well, there were some more, though not that many, and among them were a number of well-regarded soliflores. Shortly after acquiring an old mini bottle of Jasmin, which is a first class and very indolic jasmine scent, I read about more of them on perfume historian Octavian Coifan's blog, 1000 Fragrances. He described his impressions of the house's famous signature perfumes and several of the Le Galion soliflores, including Jasmin, Lily of the Valley, La Rose and Tubéreuse (1937). Of course, I wanted to smell that last one very badly, but it would appear that most of the Le Galions were discontinued long before Sortilège finally succumbed. (That one's formula was acquired by the Irma Shorell Company and reproduced under the Long Lost Perfumes label; I have never tried it.) When a small vial of Tubéreuse in Parfum appeared on eBay one day, I could hardly believe it, and to my even greater astonishment, I was the only bidder. I tried not to get my hopes up too high, since it was a very old perfume, but when it arrived, it was still sealed and perfect, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. It is indeed shockingly good, a heavily animalic tuberose laced with the same gorgeously filthy jasmine found in Jasmin, only more so since this was Parfum strength, and underscored with intensely rich hyacinth and dark, earthy narcissus of a quality I had not experienced since smelling pre-reformulation Narcisse Noir. It is dangerously, deeply, subversively sensual, yet possessed of a rare and refined beauty due to the use of the finest French essences; this perfume was created back when the flower field s of France still produced most of the materials used in fine perfumery and tight quality control was a way of life; it is the polar opposite of the chemical monstrosity of such so-called tuberose perfumes as Amarige. Le Galion Tubéreuse is a radiant example of what can be accomplished when the finest materials meet a gifted perfumer (in this case the great Paul Vacher). To me it combines the best aspects of Tubéreuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower yet retains its own special character. If you have ever smelled a fragrance that was so good that you can't imagine how it could be improved upon, this is such a one. If you love Tubéreuse Criminelle but would prefer not to endure the weird opening before it becomes truly beautiful, just be grateful that it exists at all, because this one is long departed.

Sources: The By Kilian fragrances are available at Luckyscent and at finer perfume shops, as well as from the By Kilian Web site.

Balenciaga Michelle occasionally surfaces at some online discounters (expect to be put on a waiting list) and specialty vintage perfume merchants and is regularly seen on eBay, both up for auction and in eBay stores to purchase with no bidding (expect to pay a premium price).

Le Galion Tubéreuse: Log on to eBay (or other online auction site of your choice) and pray fervently to the perfume goddess for a miracle.

Image credit: Actress Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) at the 2008 Emmy Awards, photographer unknown, via

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Blogger tmp00 said...

When I get the pleasure of finally meeting you, please wear Le Galion Tubéreuse.

1:12 AM EST  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

Donna, I discovered the Le Galion tuberose a couple of years ago when buying a Le Galion set, and it is quite astonishing, especially since I believe it must have been one of the first tuberose-themed fragrances, pre-dating Fracas by ten years. It also anticipates Tubéreuse Criminelle (same problem, same solution). It is indeed a rarity: most perfumers have never smelled it, and it's one of the scents I bring along when I want to surprise them.

As for Michelle, I find it quite close to the later Divine (also a peach + white flowers).

Beyond Love belongs to my modern tuberose trilogy (along with the Lutens and the Malle): it is different enough to justify getting it if you're a tuberose lover.

2:22 AM EST  
Anonymous Zazie said...

Donna, I am a tubereuse addict: not only do I love tubey-inspired fragrances, but I love to hear about new white queen treasures to hunt down!!!
Beyond Love, together with Fracas, is one of my all time favorites. I also like CF, but I find it more difficult to wear. You are making me lemming those long gone Michelle and Le Gallion! ;)
BTW, have you tried the new Prada Infusion de Tubereuse? I was not particularly impressed (on paper it had a candied quality I'm not fond of), but I fell hard for the esclusive Prada tubereuse extrait (which is completely different). It is pretty much a simple soliflore, but quite a beautiful (and pricey) one, IMO.
Thank you for your review, I love it when you venture into white-flower territory!!!

3:43 AM EST  
Blogger Tammy said...

Girl, I cannot stand tuberose, yet you have made me determined to find all three of these...

11:11 AM EST  
Blogger Mals86 said...


Michelle is gorgeous. And so is Beyond Love (I lucked into a slightly-used travel bottle for $20, yay). Have not yet tried that LaLande Tubereuse, but am looking forward to it.

And love Sortilege too - it's such a *friendly* vintage scent!

11:12 AM EST  
Anonymous Zazie said...


I thought I hated white flowers too, then I tried Beyond Love.
At first I wasn't particularly impressed, the sample slept dispised and forgotten for a couple of months. Then summer came started a real freaky tubey-obsession!

11:25 AM EST  
Anonymous andrea said...

Thank you for this lovely post!

11:27 AM EST  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Sadly, the Beyond Love does something horrible on my skin and I love Tuberose scents, but mostly when they're paired with gardenia. You don't have to get a full bottle of Kilian scents though if it isn't in the budget - I fell hard for Back to Black and happily discovered that Saks would sell the travel refills to you without having to have the atomizer - $70 for 30ml isn't exactly cheap, but it was affordable for me.

Have you tried Le Labo's Tuberose 40? I just got a decant of it and love, love, love it.

11:40 AM EST  
Blogger Katherine said...

Nice review! I too love Carnal Flower and Fracas... to an extent where I can't imagine needing any other tuberose scents in my life. But your review really made me think I should branch out... I especially now want to try Beyond Love.

Also, love Joan from Mad Men. Christina Hendricks looks gorgeous in that picture, so womanly, voluptuous, and her red hair with the deep green dress... she's the perfect spokesperson for tuberose!

12:15 PM EST  
Anonymous Marian said...

For a long time I was determined to have only one tuberose scent in my collection. Fracas made me smell as though I needed a shower, so it wasn’t going to be Fracas. After many disappointments, when I at last tried Carnal Flower, I was sure I had found “The One”. Then I smelled Enfleurage’s tuberose enfleurage extraction from Portugal -a stunning combination of green, spicy and creamy notes that is amazingly close to the scent of the flower- so I happily made room for a second tuberose scent on my vanity. Now, thanks to your beautiful and evocative descriptions, I may have to find a place for 1 or 2 others!

2:47 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tom, it's a deal - as long as you wear Greyland. :-D

3:48 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Carmencanada, I feel truly privileged to have experienced the Le Galion.

And since such an expert "nose" as you has declared Beyond Love to be justifiable, I will have to get some now. ;-)

3:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thanks Zazie, we are obviously scent twins!

I have not tried the Prada yet, but now that I know about it, I will not rest until I have. Purely in the name of research, of course....

3:52 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thank you, Tammy. I am nothing if not a white floral evangelist!

3:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Mals86, such a deal on the travel bottle! I will have to look out for one of those. I have no pride, I would not object to a "slightly used" one at all!

(The Lalande is pretty lush too. I never did find anything more about that long-lost house, but from what I know of their perfumes, it's a shame that it's gone now.)

3:57 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Andrea, thanks for reading!

3:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Cynthia, that's too bad about Beyond Love. It's powerful stuff, so I can imagine that when it does go wrong, it does so in a big way!

I have not tried the Le Labo scent, but I have read all the raves. Obviously I will have to try it one day soon if I want to retain my White Floral Queen street cred. :-)

4:04 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thank you, Katherine. I thought the same thing - Fracas, Carnal Flower, Tubereuse Criminelle, what more would I ever need? Now I know!

Isn't she amazing? When I first saw her picture in this dress I imagined her wearing some devastatingly sexy white floral perfume, it just fits her. (I would kill for that dress, not that I would look like THAT in it, but still. A girl can dream.)

4:09 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Marian, I fell hard for Carnal Flower, it's a masterpiece.

The more I hear about Enfleurage, the more I think I need to just go and just live in the store. Paradise!

4:11 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Wow! What wonderful luck w/ the Le Galion! You definitely have excellent tuberose karma. :-) I'm betting you continue to discover more bottles of tuberose magic. My favorites remain Carnal Flower and TC, but I also adore Michelle. When I finally shuffle off this mortal coil and (hopefully) become privy to the great mysteries of this universe, the first thing I will be asking about is why so many heavenly scents have been d/ced. Well, maybe not the very first thing, but it will be pretty damn high on the list. word verification here is "demonal" - could that be the answer? :-)

7:13 PM EST  
Anonymous wowzers said...

WoW @ the pic

10:30 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Elle, that is one of the best word verifications ever! :-)

My quest for great tuberose scents will never end - and now I am dreaming of finding the Le Galion Jasmin in the extrait. The EDT is pretty damn good!

12:43 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Wowzers: Yep! :-D

12:44 AM EST  
Anonymous Select Perfume said...

looks gorgeous

9:25 AM EST  
Anonymous bella said...

thanks so much for a wonderful post! I love tuberose. I wear EL's Tuberose and Gardenia all the time! I also have Fracas and I wish I could afford Carnal Flowers. I definitely have to try the Beyond Love.

3:56 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Bella, I think you will appreciate Beyond Love; it's just right smack between Fracas and Carnal Flower, for those who can't decide which of those two they love most, it's a perfect solution! :-)

9:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Aroma Chemicals said...

Hey that's a good blog. White floral Queen she is beautiful. She can carry everything with!!!

7:03 AM EDT  

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