Tubéreuse by Caron (2003): Bitter Dolorist Tuberose, or The Lady Macbeth {Perfume Review & Musings} {Men's Cologne}

Tubéreuse by Caron was composed by in-house perfumer Richard Fraysse in 2003. It is advertised as the newest of the so-called "parfums fontaines" (fountain perfumes), the more selective and luxurious range of pure extraits at Caron boutiques, which is exclusive to both their standalone and in-store stores in Paris, London, Bahrein, and New York City.

The collection comprises some of the house's classics, and rarer, less-talked-about (or worn) compositions - soliflores in particular, like Tubéreuse. The marble tops supporting the Baccarat crystal fountains represent both the niche and "haute parfumerie" sensibilities of a perfume house which retains their cachet despite having produced a bestseller like Pour un Homme or being distributed via Sephora; somehow, in your mind's eye, Caron remains small and exclusive.

I went back to the Avenue Montaigne boutique some time ago. I was struck by its quiet, provincial charm despite it being located on a prestigious artery of Paris near Dior; it could be a simple notions store.The cultivated sense of exclusivity is clearly not left to chance however. A visit to their boutique is like stepping inside further inner circles of intimacy with the brand, which make you feel it was worthwhile to see things in situ: they have a perfume which is advertised nowhere; it bears not a name, but a number.

One of the fountains collection's goal is admittedly to nurture an exclusive and faithful audience. The perfumer therefore can take more liberties with the imperative of being pleasant. if it is to crowds it would be today by coming up with a lowest common denominator note like sugar - (translation: ethyl maltol or vanilla) - or simply happy or hedonistic notes.

It is a little bit like when you want to win your audience and you put out a feel-good movie like Shakespeare in Love, which won the Oscar for Best Movie in 1998, mostly thanks to this quality. It was the happy and hopeful reel of the lot (and lest we forget, the most aggressive one by relying on heavy industry networking.) No, here at Caron's where it is more confidential a space, you can try out something dark and less easy to smell...


Tubéreuse is a tuberose composition which manages to create a particular atmosphere and olfactory coloring without smelling like a copycat or derivative of the classic, reference tuberose composition which is Fracas by Robert Piguet (1948).

It offers an interesting bitter green twist and a peculiar kind of heaviness and carnality without smelling like the mentholated Tubéreuse Criminelle (1999), which by contrast seems gentler.

The contrast of an austere note of what could be interpreted as Bitter Melon - one of the bitterest fruits on earth - with the narcotic redolence of tuberose leaves you intrigued. The perfume is liquorishy, fruity, decaying, chalky (old-school aldehydes as in Royal Bain de Caron.) It manages to smell slightly putrid, like stale-water-in-a-vase. In other words, the scent betrays signs of morbid languidness as tuberose has the capacity to suggest the scent of rotting flesh and carrion.

The composition seems to be the result of a research on the maleficent aspects of the tuberose focusing on its interesting jarring, ugly aspects. It does not smell as ready for a social as what I see as its polite counterpart, Lady Caron (2000); this is the dark side of Lady Caron's tuberose and plays Lady Macbeth to the first, minus the signs of madness, as it seems on the contrary to have an exceptional measure of self-control.

Tubéreuse is different; it smells poisonous and minimally sweet. The oakmoss has been pushed smelling bitter. The scent is close to that of stinging nettle reminding you of a similar impression as found with the stinging nettle note paired with jasmine in Prends Garde à Toi by Ego Facto (2009). Like the latter which came afterwards, it gives an impression of pairing an habitually solar floral note with a dark, figuratively sulfurous and dangerous green one, which gives it its main tonality.

Tubéreuse is thus an interesting bitter green tuberose interpretation with a raw edge. You can think of all the green notes that signal danger like absinthe, nettle, hemlock and then couple one of them with the most dangerous of flowers and it gives a brooding, dark, poisonous tuberose with little inkling for plaisanterie, or even seduction. I see this scent as a perfume made for a woman who wants to wear perfume for herself rather than to make an impression on others -- frankly, she doesn't give a damn. The phrase, "non-emasculated tuberose" comes to mind, so I suppose men might be interested in this unsweet, bitter, strong-medicine tuberose.

If Tubéreuse by Caron were a Shakespearean tale, it would not be the light and modern comedic rendition of Shakespeare in Love. It would have to be Macbeth. And the scent would go well with the cauldron and the witches, the bloodied hands, the mossy and lugubrious castle, the heavy and barely moving atmosphere which is what tuberose needs to thrive in.

Notes: tuberose, jasmine, a touch of acidity, freesia

For additional choice in tuberoses for men, you can check out Vierges et Toréros by Etat Libre d'Orange, which is officially one such.

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