It’s official, tuberose is making a comeback.
The night-blooming flower’s heavy, sweet and buttery aroma (almost-gourmand, but wild and indolic) takes centre stage in a number of this year’s new releases, including Sarah Burton’s first fragrance for McQueen and Prada’s sultry La Femme.
Referred to by master perfumer Roja Dove as the “harlot” of perfumery, the voluptuary scent of tuberose has long been acclaimed for its powerful aphrodisiac properties - young girls were even banned from inhaling its scent in Victorian times for fear of spontaneous orgasms.
From Darwinian theories, to the famous ‘sweaty T-shirt’ test and subsequent pheromone dating parties, research suggests the only true way to spark uncontrollable lust in your love interest is tailoring a scent specific to their genetic fingerprint.
But stealing saliva swabs aside, perfumes designed with attraction in mind date back centuries, and they’re not all snake oil.
Neurogenetics professor, Dr. Leslie B. Vosshall from Rockefeller University claims scent can “put us in the mood like no other sense”. It is the only sense, in fact, to completely bypass our consciousness: the brain’s olfactory bulb is directly linked to emotion and memory.
Taking heed from scientific findings and ancient tradition, the sexiest of tuberose fragrances merge the delicate white flower with very particular complementary notes - each lust-inciting in its own right.
So in the spirit of seduction, we’ve rounded up the five tuberose heavyweights that could almost double as modern-day love potions:
50ml for £68, from charlottetilbury.com
Inspired by the hedonism of Tilbury's native Ibiza, Scent of a Dream was concocted to incite uncontrollable desire - or, as she puts it, "olfactory ecstasy".
The makeup maestro isn’t one to shy away from grandiose claims or fantastical product names (Magic Cream
, anyone?), but you also won’t find her doing things by halves. For her inaugural foray into fragrance, Tilbury enlisted neuroscientists Dr Richard Axel and Dr Linda Buck to translate their prize-winning research into a tangible product.
An alluring chypre-floral, Scent of a Dream opens with a peppery hit of elegant citrus notes - lemon, mandarin and bitter bergamot - chosen for their mood-enhancing properties
. A heart of erotic florals (newly-trademarked as ‘fleurotic’) follows - a bewitching blend of tuberose, jasmine and violet. The green, jasmine-like aroma-compound hedione is also included for its ability to activate the hypothalamic region of the brain controlling sexual response
. In layman’s terms: one whiff could be enough to turn you on.
Tilbury also, a little less scientifically, credits patchouli for the free love movement: “I have a theory that’s why everyone was bonking in the 60s,” she says at the press launch with a wink.
But it’s the perfume’s psychoactive base notes, lasting up to nine hours on skin, that Dr Axel believes have the biggest effect on attraction. Warm and woody poinciana tree ignites the instinctive appeal of smoky scents (that’ll be the fires keeping us alive back in caveman times) and manmade molecule Iso E Super is believed to mimic human pheromones
50ml for £175, from fredericmalle.com
Carnal Flower's truly narcotic quality lies both in the colossal dose of tuberose (it boasts a higher concentration than any other fragrance), and the precision with which it was made - taking nose Dominique Ropion over two years to perfect.
What begins as a viridescent shockwave of melon and eucalyptus softly unfurls, like fleshy petals, into rich, creamy tuberose, heady jasmine, ylang-ylang and orange blossom, trailed by the tropical sensuality of coconut-musk.
Like tuberose, the intoxicating scent of jasmine is brimming with animalic undertones. It is revered in Hindu and Muslim traditions as “the perfume of love
Women’s sensitivity to musk may be around 1,000 times greater
than men’s, but neurogenetics professors stress its use in women's perfume can't be discounted
: simply feeling more sensual is enough to increase our attractiveness.
50ml for £215, from harveynichols.com
Unabashedly provocative, Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi is a fragrance destined to seduce - and not just due to its wink-wink name.
Opulent tuberose mingles dangerously with lush Bulgarian rose, fresh neroli, spicy ylang-ylang and deep, smoky cedar and sandalwood. One small spritz is enough to intoxicate, akin to throwing on a (faux) fur coat over lacy lingerie.
Vanilla lends a playful twist to the dry-down, but its sweetness is not to be scoffed at - recommended by physicians as an aphrodisiac
in the 17th century, and found to increase male arousal in a small-scale 2014 study
The perfume's intensely exotic ylang-ylang note is also known for its stimulating effects - in Indonisia, aromatic ylang-ylang flowers are laid on the beds of newlywed couples
to encourage romance.
50ml for £250, from harrods.com
An intensified edition of the 2014 Simply Divine - termed 'outrageous' for its lavish perfume oil content, increased from 15 to 25%.
Hot, sultry tuberose lingers like a second skin all night, melding with honeyed orange blossom and nectar-like jasmine. Tonka bean, cashmere and sandalwood bring a comforting warmth to the base.
Cashmere, a blend of cedarwood, amber, musk and vanilla, evokes a cosy familiarity and a positive response in people
- the less alien your fragrance is, the more they'll feel at ease in your presence.
In aromatherapy practice, both the sweet scent of orange blossom and balsamic redolence of sandalwood are hailed for their aphrodisiac qualities
50ml for £95, from harrods.com
It wouldn't be a tuberose round-up without a nod to Fracas: heralded as the original tuberose fragrance.
Ultra-feminine, luxuriously decadent, and classically refined, there's no question why it's stood the test of time - racking up a long list of celebrity admirers (Madonna, Courtney Love, Marlene Dietrich) along the way.
The brainchild of eccentric perfumer Germaine Cellier, known to steal models' underwear
to “smell the best of their femininity", Fracas is a truly filthed-up floral. Tuberose and jasmine mixed with musk and steamy sandalwood are offset by pure orange blossom, peach and violet.
In her tribute to Fracas in 'Perfume: A Century of Scents', fragrance writer Lizzie Ostrom
calls it "shorthand" for our idea of the 1940s film noir temptress. And she's right, we certainly don't associate femmes fatales with "citrus fragrances".