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What Does Tuberose Smell Like?

tuberose smell

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In a world of floral scents, tuberose is the black sheep; the dark horse; the unexpected phantom in the night. A flower of the highest erotic character in perfumery, this is one ingredient your nose should be quickly acquainted with. A narcotic flower, tuberose smells sweet, voluptuously creamy, and very full.

Taking over Europe in the 16th century as a symbol of sensuality and passionate love, tuberose became emblematic of young love in all its new and exciting glory. In this article, we’ll discuss what tuberose smells like, a brief history of the flower, and how tuberose is used in perfumery. Let’s head off. 

What is Tuberose?

Tuberose is a plant native to Mexico, of the Agavaceae family. Reaching heights of around four feet, tuberose grows best in warm climates with fertile, dry soil and lots of sunlight. In Europe, this white flower is planted late, in May, to prevent the plant from freezing over and irreparably damaging it.

Tuberose was used in Mexico by the Aztecs, who, in its essential oil form, used it to flavor their chocolate. Much later, it made its way to Europe in Spanish ships in the 16th century. It quickly earned a (well deserved) seductive reputation. Young girls were encouraged to spend time in tuberose gardens in the hopes that it would encourage marriage proposals. Contrarily, in Italy during the Renaissance, young girls were forbidden from walking the tuberose fields at night, due to concerns around the flower inciting unchaste thoughts. 

In India, tuberose is ingrained in many cultural celebrations and rites. The walls of the home of newly-weds are adorned with this flower. In Hindi, the name for the plant means “night fragrance.”

In France, Louis the XIV has 10,000 tuberose bulbs brought in to the gardens of Versailles from Trianon plantations. It became a key ingredient in Marie Antoinetes perfumes. 

Tuberose is also a narcotic, adding to its scandalous nature. Certain oils, when extracted from the plant, cause a direct response in the brain — activating the arousal centers and increasing libido.

All this is to say that tuberose has a rich history in perfumery as an extremely seductive, racy scent.  

What Does Tuberose Smell Like?

Tuberose is said to be the most fragrant plant in the world. In short, tuberose smells sweetly floral, musky, and lusciously creamy. It has been said that it takes floral qualities similar to that of a lily and adds the creamy sweetness of creme brulee. Mix that with a subtly animalic musk, and you’ve got a solid idea of what tuberose smells like. Some varieties can even smell slightly nutty. 

Strong and opulent, tuberose isn’t subtle. That isn’t to say that it’s loud, or boisterous, or obnoxious; it’s not. It’s just very attention grabbing and impactful. This works in its favor, as it enhances the seductive element that tuberose is known for.

The presence of indole in tuberose ups the carnality with an almost animal musk, creating a down-and-dirty vibe that helps explain the nighttime ban for young Renaissance women. Indole is a precursor of the chemical tryptophan, a derivative of serotonin. This could explain the natural reaction people have to tuberose, activating pleasure centers in the brain. You can read more about indole here. 

Tuberose is warm and exciting, and adds a dynamic element to perfume. If you’re looking for a carnal, seductive note, tuberose is one to seek out. 

How is Tuberose Used in Perfumery

Tuberose is strong; therefore, in perfumes, it is best augmented subtly with softer notes that enhance its seductive nature while rounding some of the harsher edges. Perfumers either love it or hate it, and this polarity works to aid in its cult following. Tuberose is part-and-parcel in numerous women’s perfumes, lauded universally for its languorous femininity.

Tuberose is extroverted, and is usually used in the mids and base to add an opulent, seductive floral element to the composition. It’s light enough to work in the warmer months when combined with light notes like other florals, citrus, and woods, and heavy enough to work in cooler months when paired with notes like vanilla, musk, and spices. In short, tuberose is versatile in perfumery because it can be paired with notes that change its character.
Tuberose absolute is very expensive to make — it takes around 2,500 pounds of the flower to produce half a pound of scent oil. The flowers have to be hand-picked in the morning, and, while in the past cold enfleurage was used, today the scent is extracted chemically. 

Tuberose absolute is the purest form of the scent that you can get. Absolute is basically just the pure essential oil. While extremely expensive to produce, a little goes a long way. The scent can also be synthetically produced at lower cost, leading to a slightly sweeter, nuttier, and less musky representation.

Women’s Fragrances With Tuberose

Tuberose is an amazing scent addition known for its sensual, erotic nature. Here are a few of our favorite women’s fragrances containing tuberose:

  • Givenchy L’Interdit EDP is one of the best women’s fragrances on the planet, taking the sexiness of the tuberose and adding a playful mysteriousness. Notes of pear, vanilla, and patchouli add depth and charming warmth, while vetiver adds an herbal balance. It’s intoxicating, warm, and slightly spicy, and has everything needed to be a signature scent and an absolute love.
  • Juliette Has A Gun Citizen Queen is an intimate-smelling perfume for women, and it accentuates the naturally musky nature of tuberose. Dreamy and ephemeral, it’s like sleeping outside in the grass on a summer night. Read our full review here. 
  • Dior Poison is sweet; very sweet. Originally released in 1985, this scent still manages to enthrall today. It’s very in your face: sweet, jammy, with a hint of floral smokiness. You need confidence to pull this off. If you’re looking for a sweet, heavier take on tuberose, Dior’s Poison is one to seriously consider. 
  • Chanel’s Gabrielle is a sparkling female scent inspired by a bouquet of flowers. Excellent for the spring, summer, and fall, the middle, with notes of jasmine, tuberose and pear, is where this scent really shines. In the base, the scent turns creamier, with musk, sandalwood, and cashmeran. If you’re looking for a more subtle tuberose, this is it.
  • Hermès Twilly d’Hermès smells classic. The creator, Christine Nagel, was supposedly inspired by the carefree and unpredictable spirit of young girls. The main notes are ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood. In the opening, ginger adds a spiciness that mingles beautifully with the tuberose and jasmine in the middle. In the base, the addition of vanilla further highlights the creaminess. 
  • Prada La Femme is a beautiful spicier take on tuberose, with notes like iris, bergamot, and assorted spices enthralling wearers. It’s a very classy and elegant scent, and the beeswax note in the base provides a fascinating uniqueness. It has a certain wow factor; if you’re just getting into perfumes, this is a fantastic one to try. 

Men’s Fragrances With Tuberose

While less common, there are still a number of fantastic men’s fragrances containing tuberose. Here are a few of our recommendations:

  • Paco Rabanne 1 Million Parfum is an exquisite men’s fragrance featuring tuberose prominently. Straight men’s scents featuring tuberose are rare, making this one very unique. It’s also very sexy and surprisingly versatile. Combining the tuberose with leather, sea notes, and pine, it’s not the most masculine, but it’s truly beautiful and smells surprisingly right. Read our full review here. 
  • Bond No 9 Fire Island is an inviting scent evocative of good memories and good times. The tuberose here is combined with neroli, white musk, patchouli, and cardamom, which enhances the muskiness of the tuberose and adds a darker aspect to circumvent the sweetness. It dries down to the scent of tanned skin after a day spent swimming in the ocean under the sun. 
  • Lacoste Eau de Lacoste L.12.12. is another men’s fragrance featuring tuberose. Summery, versatile, and surprisingly compliment prone, this is a great scent for men looking to experience florals without leaning too feminine. 


Tuberose is a captivating scent, evocative of eroticism and sensual passion. With notes of sweet orange, lily, and milky creaminess, tuberose smells divinely feminine and captivating.

We hope you enjoyed this article, and wish you only the most pleasant of smells in your future.

Isaac Marks

Isaac Marks

Isaac is a fragrance expert from Chicago, Illinois, specializing in smelling good at all times. When he isn't sniffing things, Isaac likes to read, write, run, bake, and play the guitar.

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Jack Harbor

Full Time Fragranista

Jack Harbor is an expert in all things scent – from wearing, to mixing, to making perfumes, his expertise is varied and robust. He loves to smell good, and loves helping other’s smell good – for the good of us all!

Jack Harbor

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