Bulgari’s new take on tuberose has rewritten the laws of perfumery

From the limited knowledge I have gathered as a perfume aficionado, one thing is pretty clear: it’s tough to breakaway from traditions in perfumery. The few memorable instances have been captured in Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, Thierry Mugler Angel, and more recently in Bulgari Splendida Tubereuse Mystique. When esteemed nose, Sophie Labbé set out to create a new tuberose fragrance for Bulgari, she also reinvented how the world perceives this classic (and sought-after) white flower, forever.

Known as ‘the mistress of the night’, this nocturnal flower reaches its olfactive peak in the evening, still it continues to be harvested at dawn—resulting in green notes. Labbé was certain she wanted to capture the flower’s warmer notes that only reveal at dusk. Not one to back away from a challenge, she along with the Bulgari team set up a tuberose field dedicated to this fragrance close to Mysore, India. It wasn’t an easy harvest either; flower pickers aren’t accustomed to working on the fields at midnight.


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During a recent trip to Como, Italy with Bulgari, Labbé offered two variations of the tuberose bud to me—a day harvested and night-harvested. The difference was obvious, even to a novice like me. The one used in the fragrance was richer, creamier than the one harvested in the morning. “Tuberose is for an assertive woman,” said Amandine Pallez, Bulgari’s creative and heritage director. “The fragrance is about seduction and elegance. It’s for someone who isn’t afraid to declare their sensuality, just like the typical Bulgari woman.”

ELLE: Why did you cast tuberose as the leading star in this fragrance?

Sophie Labbé: Tuberose is one of my favourite flowers. Even though the flower reaches its  olfactive peak in the evening—a distinct characteristic—it’s conventionally harvested in the morning. I wanted something different for this perfume, so we organised a night harvest to capture its notes at this special moment. Compared to the regular tuberose that has green notes, the absolute ‘du soir’ is fresher and lactonic with an almost animalistic quality. Can you imagine that this is the first time anyone has attempted a harvest like this?

ELLE: Did this inspire the rest of the fragrance?

SL: Bulgari’s Italian roots are at the core of every Splendida fragrance. For the Roman-Italian jeweller, creating is all about modernity and timelessness. For this fragrance, I wanted to capture the night-blooming tuberose’s sensuality. I added mouthwatering blackcurrant oil for a sparkling start, juicy cassis absolute to bring modernity to the top notes, and the plum-like davana oil (another Indian plant) to complement the tuberose. For the dry down, I used the vanilla—its not just sweet but also woody and leathery. Then I finished with mystical myrhh and peppery olibanum to balance the composition.


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ELLE: How differently does a woman perfumer, like you, portray sensuality?

SL: My way of working may be soft and delicate, but the final composition always has a strong character. I want to empower women with my fragrances. I want to make them feel pretty for themselves first and then for the world.

ELLE: How is the Tubereuse Mystique connected with the other fragrances in the Splendida collection?

SL: Splendida is a beautiful concept; each fragrance is created with the most precious flowers, and focuses on a different facet of a woman’s personality. While the Tubereuse Mystique captivates a woman’s sensuality, Rose is about timeless femininity, Iris d’Or is for a precious woman, Magnolia appeals to a woman’s extravagant side, and Jasmine Noir is for the woman who likes a sense of mystery.

ELLE: What’s your advice to apply perfume?

SL: Wearing a perfume is very emotional and personal. You can wear it on your skin, hair or clothes. You can spray it in front of you and jump into the cloud or apply it on your pulse points. I like to wear a tiny bit on my wrists, so I can smell it through the day.

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