Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle fragrance review

Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, bell jar and export bottle

Tubéreuse Criminelle is to my mind one of the all-time great tuberose fragrances. It was released by Serge Lutens in 1999, and like most of the line, was created by perfumer Chris Sheldrake. The notes include tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, hyacinth, nutmeg, clove, styrax, musk, vanilla, but even more so than with most, the notes do little to prepare you for the magic of the fragrance.

I well remember my first sniff of Tubéreuse Criminelle: I was quite literally horrified, and immediately headed for the liquid Tide so as to commence removal proceedings. It is difficult to find the right words to describe the initial blast of the top notes, but I have seen the odor compared to everything from sewer gas to moth balls to Vick's Vapo-rub, and they are ALL accurate. There are any number of wonderful fragrances with bizarre or unpleasant openings (Bvlgari Black and L'Artisan Dzing come to mind), but none of them can beat Tubéreuse Criminelle.

Happily, other things intervened and I never did remove Tubéreuse Criminelle that first day. And well it was so, because the dry down, trust me, is heaven, especially if you love tuberose. The top notes fade slowly, leaving behind a subtle wintergreen-ish undertone, which along with the spices give the tuberose a nice kick. If you think of tuberose as the lush, creamy tropical flower of Robert Piguet Fracas, you are in for a surprise, for it is something entirely different in Tubéreuse Criminelle: soft, silky, neither creamy nor sweet, and very, very cold.

Fracas is uber feminine but not particularly mysterious; Tubéreuse Criminelle is its opposite. In keeping with its name, it is entirely mysterious, maybe even a little dangerous. It probably tips the scales towards feminine, but I should think the right man could pull it off. It possibly qualifies as "love it or hate it" kind of fragrance; those of us who love it can be a little fanatical about it. Like Fracas, it is very, very sexy, and like Fracas, I don't wear it often but would hate not to have any in the house. Eventually I even came to adore the top notes.

Most unfortunately for those of us who don't live in Paris, Tubéreuse Criminelle is in the exclusive range. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

Tomorrow: more tuberose possibilities.

Update: this article (originally posted on 2/19/2005) was originally a brief review of Fracas & Tubéreuse Criminelle, and was reworked and reposted in January 2007.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You've squashed my lemming for a Fracas sample. While I am a tuberose fan, I dislike cloying, heady floral scents.

    Love your phrase “underdressed for my perfume.” For my elegant perfumes (e.g., Serge Lutens Un Lys) I feel that I have to be dressed-up to do it justice!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm. Just what I needed, not just another lemming, but a Serge Lutens lemming at that!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, I don't like cloying, heady floral scents either! I really thought I would hate Fracas, but I love it. Never say never :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    And from the exclusive range — it is the worst possible kind of lemming!

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is now in the export range. I believe you can find it at Barneys (though not on their website) and Fred Segal (in Santa Monica, CA).

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am a huge Fracas fan but must confess that on me it's not loud, cloying or overly heady. It actually dries down clean- of all things. I find it to be a very soft and clear fragrance without a hint of powder. If anything it reminds me of tropical pikaki, like the oil of Child. Layers great with any pikaki body lotion or shower gel. Love it in the summer, love it in the winter. I just love it!

  7. Anonymous says:

    You are lucky! I remember reading (a long time ago) a funny story on Perfume of Life about someone spraying on Fracas and then going to a Starbucks and getting a rather unpleasant reception from the women behind the counter — they were pretending to choke and cough or something. When I want something light, I stick with Kai.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My all time favourite Tuberose fragrance is SL's Criminelle. I even love the top not – now how weird is that?? ;D

  9. Blimunda says:

    Woah – my sample just arrived from TPC………you are so, so right when you say that the list of notes does NOT indicate the experience of the juice itself! I definitely got the Vicks Vapo-Rub and mothball elements, and also a slightly spearminty blast at the beginning. Something about the opening reminds me of Rose de Nuit…..
    Well, I totally adore it, love it, cherish it and feel uber femme fatale in it. Im glad I ordered a 2.5ml! I will save it up for the first hot, summer’s night and make sure I sit next to the most lovely man there!!!

    • Robin says:

      Isn’t that great stuff?? Would love to have a bell jar, and don’t see why it is *never* the limited edition addition to the export line.

      • Blimunda says:

        Yes, I wonder how they make these decisions…….it HAS to be part of a very well strategised sales plan!!

  10. hongkongmom says:

    I just received some from a swop…whilst only on for a few minutes….LOVE (prefer it to fracas!) How long does the wintergreenish smell last for and what is causing it(hyacinth and??)…also got a wax sample of the ISM….i LOVE the wax sample…can only imagine the real stuff!

    • Robin says:

      What fun, two of my favorites!

      I don’t know what aromachemicals make up the opening notes.

  11. Dorothy says:

    Robin, Tubereuse Criminelle is (at least temporarily) part of the Export line now. I’m sure a lot of people ’round these parts already know, but I did a quickie Google search of the site and didn’t see any mention of it. Might be worth sharing since it’s such a cult favorite! I know I was ecstatic to order my bottle. Might have to get another, just in case…

    • Robin says:

      Oh you’re right, I didn’t make an official announcement, although I did include it in a shopping post the 1st time I saw it online, at Escentual. Have not yet seen it in the US, have you?

      • Dorothy says:

        I just got my bottle in the mail today! I ordered through It’s so wonderful to have more than a little sample decant at my fingertips.

      • Dorothy says:

        Although, wow, I just checked parfum1 again, and it doesn’t appear on their list of offerings. Amazon says it’s “currently unavailable” and don’t know when or if it’ll be back in stock. I’m baffled–did they sell out that quickly?? I swear, I’ve got an export bottle of the stuff in my bathroom right now…

        • Robin says:

          They might have sold out that fast, I don’t know!

  12. OVincze says:

    I have recently been sent a decant of TC and you know it is sort of weird that while everyone has warned me not to be scared away by the top, I actually liked the top. I like a different opening and I like a medicinal opening. It does not bother me at all and when it settles and it does settle pretty quickly in my opinion, it makes the entire fragrance different and as you said sort of mysterious. I find this fragrance very likeable and very well done, as well as very wearable but to me this is something I can imagine going to on a daily basis. I have to give it a full day wearing and develop more thoughts about it. It definitely is a very beautiful fume and interesting although I am not quite sure yet whether it is something I find that different or something I could not live without; for the moment I am doing fine without it. I have tested this together with Le Labo Iris 39, I received them together along with Chanel Bois de Iles Cuir de Lancome and my fave was definitely Iris 39 being animalic and dirty and extremely sexy. I find TC a lot more wearable but less exciting, less sexy but then again I need to give it that full wearing, I do like TC very much just have to see how much.

    • Robin says:

      I’ve come to love the opening too. If you haven’t tried the Chanel 28 La Pausa, that’s worth a shot.

  13. Kristy says:

    I have both Carnal Flower and Fracas and love them both but have been hesitant to buy another tuberose, isn’t two enough, however I have thought of this review for a long time. then Un Fleur De Cassie has come be probably my favorite FM and part of the enjoyment of wearing it for me is the harsh opening that makes many run to scrub… I love it. I love knowing what is coming, the hidden beauty. So I thought maybe I have a thing for weird openings. I ordered a sample and just got my TC decant today and it is my favorite of the 3 which is somewhat crazy, usually I have to process a scent and try a couple times before I know if it will be love. But this was love from the first sniff. I know what is going on my Christmas list!!!!

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