Madonna and the Big White Flower called the Tuberose

For me, it’s hard to think of a tuberose without thinking of a larger-than-life woman, with big hair and a big personality. When it comes to big, floral, tuberose fragrances, it’s taken me years to finally appreciate what’s on offer. The note itself is very sweet, bright, and almost creamy, with a borderline animalic pungency. 

I haven’t always had good experiences with tuberose fragrances. It’s one of those things that always makes me go “Awwww, gorgeous!” when I first sniff it, and then find myself running to the sink to scrub off when it starts to give me a headache after 10 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with Madonna’s Truth or Dare this Fall.

It sounded like it would be too much. Not one, but FIVE white florals (tuberose, gardenia, neroli, jasmine, lily), each of which is usually a force in its own right, laid over a bed of sweet, caramelized benzoin and amber? Sounded like it would be horrendously, migraine-inducingly sweet.

Strangely enough, on the skin it was nowhere near as sweet as I thought it would be. The amber just gives it a warmth without taking away its floral complexity. Maybe it was the lily note that managed to retain a touch of that green-ness that I love. Most tuberose lovers have long-standing favorites and virulently hate any “contenders” for the crown. 

There’s a lot of talk that Madonna Truth or Dare is based on Robert Piguet’s Fracas, of which she was a known fan. I find this updated and more accessible, at least to me. 

Here’s a run-down and comparison with a few other tuberose classics!

Fracas (EDP, parfum)

Price: $$$$

Fracas is the original big, bold, over-the-top white floral centered around flowers, and NOTHING but flowers. This is what you get from the opening to the end, so if being smothered in a huge expensive bouquet of white flowers sounds like heaven to you, you will love Fracas. Many Hollywood starlets have been known to tout this as their signature scent fro time to time. I sampled this extensively the past month, and while it’s beautiful and rich, I find it just a touch too loud and brash for me.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower (EDP)

Price: $$$$$

The only niche perfume I will list here; this one is arguably my favorite of all of the tuberoses I’ve smelt. It manages to bring out alternate facets of the flower that often get left behind in most tuberose scents. The powdery-waxy green-ness, the milky, creaminess, and a lot less of that sharp, vibrantly-sweet tanginess present in most other scents. 

The formula itself is also very concentrated; borderline parfum concentration, which is a great thing because it will likely last the whole day. This is the only tuberose scent I would actually describe as almost melancholic and quiet. Almost.

It felt logical (in a strange way) NOT to buy it considering I would probably neglect all my other tuberose scents for this and use it up quickly; I am not enough of a fragrance head to be able to imagine being addicted to something that costs this much.

Versace Blonde (EDP)

Price: $$

This one is available at discounters for REALLY good prices and arguably the best value for money you will get since the formula lasts and projects extremely well. Plus, it has been considered a dead-ringer for Fracas for the past decade or so, so if you like Fracas but don’t want to fork out 3 digits for a bottle, go for the Versace.

I personally find them different in that Blonde is dirtier and more raunchy, with its strong animalic civet note. This is NOT a lady’s tuberose. But that’s the fun part!

Michael Kors Michael (EDP)

Price: $$$

Many people consider tuberose a “dated” smell, mainly because it was so popular in the 70s-80s. Michael, with its more transparent, luminous feel, is the most sanitized and “modern” caricature of a tuberose. The animalic creaminess has been reduced and there’s a certain metallic cold bend to this scent under the sweetness.

I’d consider this the most office-appropriate, but it’s far from my favorite. 

Rochas Byzance (EDT, EDP, parfum)

Price: $$

This has sadly, SADLY been discontinued and I’m treasuring the last little 30ml bottle that I found, neglected and unrecognized, in a discount store. This is the warmest tuberose of the lot, and unlike the other fragrances listed, the tuberose doesn’t take over the entire stage. It’s a very baroque, rich almost-oriental that is ambery with a touch of smokiness. I’d say Madonna’s Truth or Dare has a hint of that Byzance warmth in it although it’s more sunny and straightforward, and not quite as grand and mysterious.


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