Tubéreuse Criminelle is one of Serge Lutens most daring and shocking perfumes. As if tuberose is not a difficult enough note for many, the opening is so camphorous, medicinal and rubbery it doesn't even smell like perfume. And it's utterly marvelous.
Lutens avoids all the pitfalls, cliches and comparisons to the other famous tuberose, Fracas. Tubéreuse Criminelle is not a big diva with the feather boa and cleavage. It might have it in its depth and dry-down, depending on the wearer's skin chemistry, but at first it appears stubborn and unyielding, hiding behind its uninviting facade. It makes me think of Ingrid Bergman's character in The Cactus Flower (1969), one of my favorite movies. Ms Bergman plays the prim and proper Swedish nurse, spinster and schoolmarmish who ends up blooming, like the cactus flower, for the first time in many years.
So, what happens to Tubéreuse Criminelle on skin? I like rubber and camphor and don't feel too self-conscious about the medicine cabinet blast. It's what happens about 20 minutes later that is so amazing. All of a sudden you smell a real tuberose in 3D- white and pure, feminine and grand, straightforward and mysterious all at the same time. Tubéreuse Criminelle is green and sweet and floral. There's a luminous quality to this scent which I wish lasted longer- the dry-down ends up too polite and mellow- all that drama for a soft petal-like flower. It has it advantages- after an hour or so Tubéreuse Criminelle stops drawing any attention to itself. It hangs close to the skin and behaves. It's beautiful, friendly and rather dignified- can be worn at just about any setting, as long as one's skin chemistry can handle the jagged edge of the opening.
Tubéreuse Criminelle (125 euro, 75ml) is one of Serge Lutens non-export perfumes, only available in the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris and by phone/web for residents of the EU.
Photo of Ingrid Bergman with her cactus from imdb.com.