Le Labo – Tubereuse 40

Posted on October 30th, by What Men Should Smell Like in Floral, G - L, My Collection. 8 comments

Le Labo - Tubereuse 40

If a perfume label has tuberose in the title, ten times out of ten, I will not pass up the opportunity to smell the bottle’s contents. I’m yet to pinpoint when and where this love affair with tuberose began and I would need to undergo some type of regressive therapy to figure it out. I do know that my first memories of flowers were daffodils and jasmine, which grew wild on my parent’s farm. With flowers and perfumes my inclination has always been towards the white floral category and it is an interest I still have today in my search for new perfumes. As my knowledge of perfumery has grown, my attention has turned towards the way in which different perfumers have recreated the scent of tuberose. Even though the flower’s scent can be extracted, the resulting absolute does not give a complete picture of the flower in nature and requires the perfumer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Authentic tuberose absolute is actually quite a condensed, jammy smell; the extraction process loses the light buttery quality the living flower exudes. Still, without a minute dosage of the natural absolute, a tuberose composition can appear flat and soulless. To date my favourites include Mona di Orio’s Tubereuse and Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower. Classics such as Robert Piguet’s Fracas and Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion are also perfumes I enjoy smelling even if I am less inclined to wear them. For me it is the flower’s jumble of white lactonic notes, green celery-like spiciness and slightly balsamic base, which make the smell of tuberose so complex and fun to mentally dissect.

Earlier this year, as per my typical response, my eyes were held hostage by a bottle of Le Labo’s Tubereuse 40 on a walk through the Lower Manhattan streets of Nolita. Here in Australia, Mecca Cosmetica carry the Le Labo range but the reason I have not seen Tubereuse 40 here is because it belongs to the City Exclusives collection, a range of perfumes Le Labo has created to be sold in one dedicated city. Tubereuse 40 is Le Labo’s perfume for New York and can only be purchased from the brand’s New York stockists including Le Labo’s original Nolita boutique at 233 Elizabeth Street. Choosing tuberose for New York makes sense to me. Its bulbous stems are not the prettiest, but the flower’s smell is gutsy, dominating and unrelenting, much like New York City.

I was curious to see how Le Labo co-founders Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Pernot, two very experienced perfume designers, would orchestrate a tuberose perfume with Master Perfumer Alberto Morillas, creator of Calvin Klein’s cKOne, Bvlgari’s BLV and Flower by Kenzo. Le Labo’s unique approach to perfumery is often underpinned by the pairing of modernity with classic perfumery; it’s New York meets Grasse. Tubereuse 40 is titled like every Le Labo perfume; the formula’s main ingredient provides the name, followed by the number of ingredients used to create the perfume. This often confuses newcomers to the brand because the highest quantity of raw material in the formula, which gives the perfume its name, is not always the raw material that writes the perfume’s signature. Tubereuse 40 has a little of this effect towards the start, but later as the perfume unfolds on skin, it is unmistakably tuberose.

Olfactory impressions:

Unlike linear perfumes, where the odour of the perfume’s initial release is unchanging, smelling virtually the same as the perfume fades, the scent of Tubereuse 40 evolves. This evolution is also unlike many classic perfume structures, which have a cascading effect of overlapping top, middle and base notes. If Tubereuse 40 were theatre, it would be performed in two very distinct acts. Act 1 is a romantic portrayal of the Eau de Cologne, a theme Alberto Morillas explored with his ivy-laced Mugler Cologne for designer Theirry Mugler. A covering of citrus peel and orange blossom envelops the senses; at this stage there is no indication of Grasse’s single stem tuberose. It is only when the curtains are drawn and Act 2 begins, a garden of flowering bulbs appears from nowhere. The segregation of these two different acts and the definitive way one act ends and the other begins is magical. It is as though two different perfumes exist on opposite sides of the same coin. If there is a mentionable link, it is the common molecules both tuberose and orange blossom share, which create a virtual bridge between both sides of the perfume. Tubereuse 40 finally settles on a soft cradle of woods and vegetal musk.

Suggested wearing:

I’ve read of perfume fans using Eau de Cologne to refresh a favourite perfume throughout the day. Tuberuese 40 is like having 2 in 1. Although I’ve said I enjoy Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion but I prefer not to wear it, I make an exception some days and wear a touch of the eau de parfum with a spray of Hermes’ Eau d’Orange Verte. Maybe this is why Tubereuse 40 appealed to me when I discovered it for the first time this year. Above all I find it refreshing, energizing and a non-obtrusive way to wear tuberose, as Chandler Burr aptly describes it in relation to Piguet’s Fracas; “tuberose is a flower that almost has claws.”


Heads: Dityque L’eau de Neroli, Roja Dove Neroli

Tails: Diptyque Do Son, Keiko Mecheri Tuberose, Shalini Parfum, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, Mona di Orio Tubereuse

Perfumer: Alberto Morillas

Release Date: 2006

Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Floral

8 Responses to “Le Labo – Tubereuse 40”

  1. Catherine says:

    interesting review as always Clayton. I like the way you describe the two sides of the perfume – many scents these days seem either to be pretty much the same all the way through or to fade gently (or much too fast) rather than evolve. For me, tuberose absolute smells of very dirty old carpet with years of unmentionable spills, a rotting note and a definite menthol/tiger balm element. Very similar to the opening of Tubereuse Criminelle which I can’t handle – now that’s another perfume which has two sides thank goodness. I’ll be in NYC next Easter so off to Barneys! Did you buy a bottle?

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      Well Catherine, I managed to see you face to face before I got a chance to respond to this comment. As you commented in person, this is very neroli-centric. I find on skin, the tuberose notes come out more but yes, it is a far cry from the dirty old carpet smell you associate with tuberose absolute and very different from Luten’s Tubereuse Criminelle….perhaps I can call Le Labo’s Tubereuse 40 “a polite tuberose.”

  2. Jordan River says:

    Do you think tuberose has a meat aspect in its odour profile?
    I liked your non-pyramidimatic Acts. Tuberose is a Showgirl.

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      Cow, pig or lamb? The natural absolute has a slightly burnt quality to it, barbecued lamb? The celery note also lends a savoury spice smell to it, so I can see the meat reference. I’ve read a few writers refer to this meaty aspect of the tuberose, which is interesting. I was also reading that in Thailand tuberoses are known as “sawn glin” meaning “hides smells” and they are used to hide the smell of another meat- human corpses, and it’s frequently used as a funeral flower.

  3. hajusuuri says:

    OK, you’ve convinced me I need to give Tuberose 40 a chance and lucky me, I have easy access at Barneys NYC. I was just about permanently put off from ever wanting to try any primarily tuberose perfume by the evil evil SL Tubereuse Criminelle. I still shudder at the thought of my last encounter.

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      And lucky you for being in New York! I’m envious of how you NYers have everything at your fingertips : ) Lol, yes, maybe Tubereuse 40 is tuberose bound and gagged. It’s much less confronting compared with Tubereuse Criminelle. Let me know your thoughts if you do wander past Barney’s to have a smell!

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