Perfume Review : Tubereuse Criminelle: Unmasking the Beauty

Favourite French Things, French Perfume, Perfume Reviews, Serge Lutens, Tubereuse Criminelle

I like tuberose perfumes. I’ve found I’ve warmed to most that I’ve tried apart from Nuit de Tubereuse from L’Artisan Parfumeur. It is ruined for me by the presence of a persistent spiky, sharp woody aromochemical that I can’t abide. There is also something similar in the new L’Homme Ideal base from Guerlain. I believe more and more perfumes (particularly those that skew masculine) have these synthetics and I do hope this trend passes swiftly.

Tuberose picture

Tuberose or tubereuse (in French) in perfume consistently emanates a potency even if it’s not dialled up to Madonna diva levels. It’s the white floral with an edge, a bit naughty not always prettily nice, although it can be presented in that manner.  There are many facets of tuberose and it can smell by turns creamy, rubbery, indolic and apparently even a bit meaty.


Serge Lutens

Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake (my all time favourite dynamic duo in perfume land) have made one of the most unusual tuberose fragrances in the perfume landscape. Tubereuse Criminelle is composed of tuberose, cloves, styrax, nutmeg, jasmine, hyacinth, orange blossom, vanilla and musk but notes alone do not really tell the story or provide enlightenment as to the direction that this perfume will take.

Tubereuse Criminelle has a mentholated shocker of an opening that bizarrely becomes quite addictive. Think Deep Heat, Vicks, menthol and you will get the picture. At first it seems that it’s wrong, oh so wrong. You wonder who on earth messed with a fragrance in such a nasty way. Is this a perfume? But after you’ve worn it a few times, you brace for the assault on your senses to wake you up to its thorny attack. It becomes fiercely invigorating.  It thankfully calms down and slowly but surely transitions to a wintergreen tinged floral with a bite. Eventually this is edged out by a more recognisable tuberose as it becomes soft and creamy.


My bottle of Tubereuse Criminelle

It’s one of those perfumes that feels very personal in the opening. This might be one that you don’t want to lavishly spray around co-workers or loved ones.  They may think you have the dreaded lurgy.  Maybe it’s the association with the word wintergreen but Tubereuse Criminelle works marvelously in chilly climes as it provides a wake up call that bizarrely seems to have medicinal warming effects even though everything about the perfume screams cold (at first anyway). It is also one of the few perfumes I can smell when I do in fact have an actual cold.  I think the opening of this perfume skews slightly masculine but the rest is unisex all the way.

It’s intriguing how quickly one can become accustomed to smells that were once offensive, as I now find the dramatic opening my favourite part whereas previously I patiently waited for the creamy bitterness of the white floral dry down – a narcotic mix of tuberose, orange blossom and jasmine. The latter stages to me are akin to Fleurs d’Oranger another Lutens gem, although in Tubereuse Criminelle the drydown is softer and wears closer to skin.

Madonna, Vanity Fair April1991 - Steven Meisel

Madonna, Vanity Fair April1991 – Steven Meisel

Compared to the grande dame of tuberose that is Fracas (created by Germaine Cellier for Robert Piguet), Tubereuse Criminelle couldn’t be more different. Fracas is a seductively creamy, buttery tubereuse and for me sings with force but pitched as a slightly shrill soprano. It is unquestionably exquisite although I have only tried the current EDP version and by all accounts the vintage is the superior rendition.  If Fracas is Madonna (apparently this is one of the perfumes she wears and is the inspiration behind her own Truth Or Dare)  then Tubereuse Criminelle is Isabelle Adjani in La Reine Margot waiting to be unmasked with an air of mystery and intrigue.

Isabelle Adjani, Vanity Fair Novembre 2014 from La Reine Margot

Isabelle Adjani, Vanity Fair Novembre 2014 from La Reine Margot

If you can get your head around the opening stage I believe this is a stunner. But with the caveat that you do need to be in the mood for it or else that opening will wear you and not the other way around. I wouldn’t describe this as a happy or cosy perfume, it is definitely a more edgily styled perfume that you will either love or hate. It could be described by some as more interesting than wearable. There is definitely some truth to that statement.

Tubereuse Criminelle is one of the perfumes that takes you on a ride from sterile chilliness to warmer floral climes.  It certainly packs a punch but one that retains a sense of mystery. If you’re looking to unmask a perfume that is risky, transformational and definitely out of the ordinary give this one a try.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a blind buy though – get hold of a sample first. is brilliant for samples and decants. I’ve used them and they offer great service and an excellent range.

8 thoughts on “Perfume Review : Tubereuse Criminelle: Unmasking the Beauty”

  1. I love your perfume blogs. I don’t have a real knowledge of perfume but your descriptions are so evocative that I want to learn more.
    I appreciate that you write a little about the history also.


    • Thanks! This one definitely takes you on a ride so it’s quite an interesting one to try. It’s a definitely love or hate one though.


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