Aftelier Perfumes Cepes and Tuberose: Earthy Tuberose

As it might be clear by now, I’m focusing on florals this week with a series that began by looking at various treatments of tuberose. Like Goldilocks, we’re exploring the range from the fresh, green kind represented by Carnal Flower to the warmer, creamier interpretation of Moon Bloom, and, now, the darkest one of all. This last one is a wholly original, incredibly creative twist on the great white flower, turning it earthy with all the mushrooms and earth of the forest floor. It is Cepes and Tuberose (sometimes written as “Cepes & Tuberose” by others), a perfume with very woody, resinous, chocolate, cinnamon and dried rose elements to go along with the mushrooms. 

Cepes or Porcini. Source: morelmushroomhunting.com

Cepes or Porcini. Source: morelmushroomhunting.com

Cepes and Tuberose was created by the highly respected, acclaimed all-natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. The perfume is classified as a fougère, which is a type of fragrance centered, in part, around herbs, along with more significant core components. Ms. Aftel has cleverly twisted the fresh, aromatic, herbal genre by taking a very different approach to the forest and mixing it with very different flowers. The critical component, however, are the cepes, a type of mushroom commonly referred to outside of France by its other name, porcini. Cepes and Tuberose comes in two concentrations: an eau de parfum concentration and in pure parfum. This review is for the former, the eau de parfum.

Cepes and Tuberose, the bottle for the Eau de Parfum version. Source: the Aftelier website.

Cepes and Tuberose, the bottle for the Eau de Parfum version. Source: the Aftelier website.

On her website, Ms. Aftel describes Cepes and Tuberose as follows:

Scent Family: Fougère
Wild mushrooms, with animal undertones and one of the world’s most voluptuous florals. Wild porcini mushrooms and Italian tuberose play a mysterious and earthy duet. One of my more enigmatic perfumes, it has won many awards and fans. — Chosen as one of “100 Perfumes Every Perfumista Should Try” by Now Smell This.

Featured Notes
Top: bois de rose.
Heart: tuberose, Moroccan rose.
Base: cepes [or Porcini mushroom] absolute, benzoin.

Source: Ronny Fein. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Ronny Fein. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Cepes and Tuberose opens on my skin with notes that strongly resemble sticky raisins, cinnamon infused fruits stewed in brown sugar molasses, and woods. There is also a very animalic leather component, followed by a truffle-like earthiness, then actual mushrooms with a hint of chocolate. The sweetened, plump, raisin molasses is infused with dark green herbs, aromatic but slightly smoky woods, and a mossy pungency. Within minutes, the latter takes on a medicinal, old-fashioned fougère tonality that has a very distant kinship to barber shops of old. Unlike those scents, however, Cepes and Tuberose is both sweetened and earthy.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The earthiness is interesting. Initially, it really feels more like humus (not hummus) which is the soil detritus of plants, dirt, leaves, and decaying organic matter. The mushroom tonality is subtle at first, more a suggestion than full-on porcinis. As regular readers know, one of my favorite discoveries last year was Oriza L. Legrand‘s ode to the forest floor, Chypre Mousse, an extremely green, mossy, mushroom, wet leaf and humus scent with herbal undertones, darkened resins and a wisp of leather. I love both the mushroom and earth note in Chypre Mousse, but it smells very different in Cepes and Tuberose. Here, it is not like sweet, loamy, wet soil, but a very dry one. There is sweetness, but it is of a brown sugar sap variety. Nothing in Cepes and Tuberose feels green or elfish, but dark, resinous, dry, and sweet. And the sense of something herbal, elemental and decayed feels much stronger here.

Source: Diary of a Mad Hausfrau. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Diary of a Mad Hausfrau. (Website link embedded within photo.)

The rosewood adds a distinct element of dark, smoky woods, but also something that resembles pine sap. It’s a warm, not chilled, version of the note in Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles. Actually, the Lutens fragrance that Cepes and Tuberose first brought to mind was Bois et Fruits. I think it’s due to the sticky raisin and spice accords, mixed with more autumnal woods. Yet, Cepes and Tuberose is much more leathered than either of those fragrances. It has a definite animalic component in the sense of muskiness, but it is never fecal, raw, sweaty or rank. It is more earthen, and infused with a sweetness that borders on cinnamon and chocolate.

10 minutes in, Cepes and Tuberose starts to change. The fragrance feels less medicinal, herbal, and animalic. The leather note fades to the background, while the earthy one turns more mushroomy. There is a surprising meatiness to it that made me think of Portobello mushrooms, but at this stage, it’s still only a mere suggestion. The more significant change is the introduction of the florals, and this is where I start to really struggle. On my skin, the flowers are dominated by an amorphous, rose note that strongly resembles spiced, dried, pressed rose petals and potpourri. I’m not generally a fan of roses, fresh or dried, but I have particular problems with potpourri.

"Dried Rose Petals" by Tom Mc Nemar via Fineartamerica. http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dried-rose-petals-ii-tom-mc-nemar.html

“Dried Rose Petals” by Tom Mc Nemar via Fineartamerica.
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/dried-rose-petals-ii-tom-mc-nemar.html

As time goes by, the rose potpourri takes over Cepes and Tuberose’s bouquet on my skin. The perfume smells increasingly like a very woody take on heavily spiced, cinnamon-dusted dried rose petals with an earthy humus note. Alas for me, the latter soon turns into hardcore porcini mushrooms, to a degree that Chypre Mousse never did. Actually, to be more precise, I smell like meaty, cooked portobellos dusted with cinnamon. The herbal green element has faded, though a certain pungency remains. The leathery note feels less musky, the raisins and brown sugar resin both weaken, and so does that subtle impression of pine. Their place is taken by a pinch of sweetened floral powder, presumably from the benzoin mingling with the roses.

I never once detected tuberose in its traditional, usual way. Instead, what slowly weaves its way through the notes is something that smells like a very browned gardenia. It strongly resembles the decayed gardenia in Serge LutensUn Voix Noire. As many of you know, gardenia is one of those flowers whose smell can’t really be captured from the petals, whose scent cannot be distilled, and whose aroma has to be recreated using other essential oils. (Fragrantica has a tiny bit on this issue if you’re interested.) Tuberose is one of the ways to recreate the smell of the gardenia, which may account for why the version in Cepes and Tuberose smells more like the latter than the former on my skin. Plus, gardenias naturally have a mushroomy scent when they are very ripe or close to the edge of decay.

Source: mydecorative.com

Source: mydecorative.com

On my skin, the browned “gardenia” is perhaps the most tertiary of notes, and everything is trumped by the cinnamon-infused dried roses. The cepes are like a Jack in the Box, popping up on occasion to say “Boo” before sinking back down. They feel less meaty at the end of the first hour, and are more dirt-covered with the lightest touch of a mossy undertone. None of it is easy for me, though I enjoy the new arrival on the scene: cocoa. The initial hint of something chocolate-like in the base has now risen to the surface, but it resembles semi-sweet, dry cocoa powder more than an actual block of heavy chocolate.

At the start of the second hour, Cepes and Tuberose is a bouquet of cinnamon-rose potpourri with coca-dusted dry woods on the surface, while a dark, decayed white floral and meaty portobello mushrooms lurk down below. It is simultaneously dry, dirty, dusty, sweet, sharp, spiced, pungent and soft — contradictory as some of those things may sound. It isn’t the easiest of scents for me, though I had a moment of hope about 1.75 hours into Cepes and Tuberose’s development. There, suddenly, there was an utterly lovely drydown of spiced warmth with cocoa powder, cinnamon benzoin, dried roses and a touch of sweet powder, all nestled in a dry-sweet embrace of cocoa-dusted woods. All the edges felt smoothed out, and the result was a delicious, quasi-gourmand that felt beautifully balanced. At times, there was even a subtle patchouli vibe (and you know how I love my patchouli).

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, this stage was very brief on me, and I can only blame my skin. Something happened, and less than 30 minutes later, Cepes and Tuberose turned into the smell of dry dirt on me. Not sweet, loamy, wet soil, but very dry, old dirt, with touches of the other elements that I’ve described above. In its final moments, Cepes and Tuberose was nothing more than a blur of dryness that smelled vaguely like old dirt and potpourri. The whole thing lasted 4.75 hours with two small sprays, and 6.25 hours with a larger quantity. Generally, the sillage was very soft after an initially strong start, but Cepes and Tuberose was quite potent when smelled up close for a number of hours. In both my tests, it became a skin scent after 1.75 and 2.25 hours, depending on the quantity that I applied.

My struggles with Cepes and Tuberose really surprised me. Not only is tuberose my favorite flower in real life, but I love dark, woody, resinous or earthy scents. I certainly have no problems with humus or mushroom notes, as regular readers know from my ravings about Oriza’s Chypre Mousse. I can only chalk things up in this instance to skin chemistry and my personal tastes.

Others, however, have had much better luck with Cepes and Tuberose. Now Smell This has the perfume on its list of 100 things that every perfumista must try, calling it “dark, earthy and sexy.” Olfactoria of Olfactoria’s Travels who doesn’t like tuberose scents was actually driven to song, dance, and music, writing that the “deliciously intoxicating fumes” of the perfume brought out a part of her soul.

Meanwhile, Victoria of EauMG thought it was both sultry and akin to a chocolate-dipped pretzel, writing in part:

Cepes and Tuberose opens with sharp rosewood and hay. After this settles, it’s a big floral with blooming tuberose and dewy rose. It’s slightly sweet and lactonic but not too sweet or lactonic. It’s balanced by a savory saltiness. Think of it as the chocolate dipped pretzel of perfumes or even better yet, a peanut butter cup – a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The dry-down is an earthy yet sweet vanilla-benzoin. On my skin, the mushroom is rather faint. In fact, it is more like the animalic richness that is naturally present in “overripe” white florals. And because of this, Cepes and Tuberose is a rather sultry fragrance.

Perfume-Smellin’ Things found Cepes and Tuberose to be unique, and more akin to umami than to a tuberose scent. I think her umami comparison is extremely clever and astute:

Smelled on its own, tuberose absolute is as I know it, buttery, slightly mentholated and slightly rubbery. Smelled on its own, cepes absolute smells of soy sauce and red wine, a mouthwatering, “tongue-coating”, savory aroma. Smelled right after cepes, tuberose suddenly turns to me with a facet it hasn’t shown before … there is something in fact meaty there … meaty and dry and coated in earth…a certain piquant pungency that it took a mushroom to bring to light…or darkness, as it were.

The composition of Cepes & Tuberose is uncluttered. The two main ingredients are so rich, complex and charismatic, that any other notes have to be “quite simple. The cepes and the tuberose intertwined was all the star material that the perfume could aesthetically accommodate.” (M.Aftel) A little bit of citrus in the top notes brightens the fleshy dark brown of the blend; woods seem to both enhance the creaminess of tuberose and to add to the dry spiciness of porcini. This is undoubtedly one of the most unique tuberose perfumes – and much more than a tuberose perfume. It seems wrong to categorize it as a floral. But neither is it anything else really. It requires a new olfactory category of its own … Umami.

I think the review with which I agree the most is that of my friend, The Perfume Dandy, who accurately notes Ms. Aftel’s achievements in the vanguard of experimental, truly original, almost “avant garde” works in the olfactory plane. In terms of his actual experience with Cepes and Tuberose, he writes:

Cepes and Tuberose stands out for The Dandy as an idiosyncratic masterwork.

Meaty sweet mushrooms meet fleshy over ripe flowers in a carnal embrace that is splendidly earthy at the opening and morphs into an extraordinary splicing of library, forest and eccentric boudoir.

Truly original and quite remarkable.

This may not be a scent for everyone, but in a world of apparently endless choice (are there now more Angels in heaven or on the shelves of Thierry Mugler?) I, for one, am so glad that there are such creative options available.

I very much agree. Cepes and Tuberose isn’t the easiest of scents, and it isn’t for everyone. However, one must applaud Ms. Aftel for pushing the boundaries with something very unique. I have enormous respect for Ms. Aftel in general, but Cepes and Tuberose merely increases it, even if the scent did not work for me personally. To combine tuberose with fougère elements and to create an earthy tuberose with mushrooms… it is brilliantly original.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Cepes and Tuberose is exclusive to the Aftelier website, and comes in different formulations and sizes. Cepes and Tuberose is offered as: 2 ml mini of Pure Parfum for $50; 0.25 oz of Pure Parfum for $170; and 30 ml Eau de Parfum for $170. Samples are available for $6 for a 1/4 ml vial of both the EDP and the pure parfum. Samples: The Eau de Parfum version of Cepes and Tuberose is available from Surrender to Chance where prices have been discounted down to $3.99 from $9.99 for a 1/4 ml vial.

29 thoughts on “Aftelier Perfumes Cepes and Tuberose: Earthy Tuberose

  1. Great review (as always!)
    I’ve found all perfumes with cepes rather challenging. Not difficult to wear, but challenging in that it really changes with the wearer (probably because the note is natural; it seems to almost lack “stability”). I’m very happy that this one exists. I find most houses usually treat tuberose the same – either green or sweet. Now I love both green and sweet tuberose but it’s refreshing to see a different take.

    • The originality is amazing! I have to admit, I’m crushed that it didn’t work for me. Given the notes and my passion for tuberose, I really thought this would be a slam dunk. I think even with the cepes, if I had experienced more actual tuberose (or perhaps “gardenia” lol), I still would have liked it. But roses are a tricky thing for me. I rarely like rose perfumes as a whole, but potpourri roses… that’s where I just gulp. They’re unbelievably painful for me even to a small degree, let alone when they dominate. I so wish I had experienced the version you did. I loved your descriptions of it!

  2. Agree with you completely on how original this is. It’s a weird one on me – weird and wacky and fun, but not something I’d wear every day, by any means.

  3. All this time I kept reading Crepes and Tuberose and kept imagining the flowers sandwiched between some fluffy little pancakes. I thought the name was odd and couldn’t understand where the earthiness was coming from. Duh. I guess my brain has an autocorrect feature that messes up the words too. Lol. It’s Cepes not Crepes.
    I haven’t smelled it yet but I think the earthy, humus part might be a bit more than I like. I know it’s getting mostly rave reviews but it isn’t tempting me in the least even now that I’ve got the name right. I could change my mind at any given moment but for now I am happy to not be tempted.

    • CREPES and Tuberose…. someone must IMMEDIATELY create that perfume! Can you imagine how amazing that would be?! It sounds right up ELDO’s alley, only they wouldn’t do it the justice that it deserves. I think it demands Profumum Roma. My God, I want a Crepe Tuberose perfume!!

      As for the mushroom version here, I think it would be best for someone with very adventurous tastes and a keenly open mind. I also think that men may handle some of the profile notes far more than women, as it is very, very far from a girly, feminine, sweet tuberose.

  4. Thank you for excellent review and inspiring ‘white florals’ series. I wonder, whether you have ever tried Caron Tubereuse and are going to write a review soon.

    • Hi Vertigo, welcome to the blog. (I love the name, btw. A Hitchcock fan?)

      I’m afraid I don’t have a sample of the Caron fragrance, so a review is unlikely at this time. Plus, I’ll be switching to some different florals over the next day or two, as a lot of people seem to hate tuberose. (The poor, maligned, notorious flower.) That said, I’m contemplating returning to the white flowers maybe at the end of it with something from Arquiste. We’ll see how the schedule goes, and where the mood takes me. 🙂

      • Hi Kafkaesque, and thank you vertigo-fast response (and yes, I appreciate Hitchcock since my childhood).

        I understand your situation, and it’s a pity, that you don’t have a sample of the Caron Tubereuse: for me it seems, that we are having similar tastes not only about orientals, but also about white floral – I remained untouched by bland Carnal Flower. At the same time the Caron fragrance is different from other tuberose fragrances I’ve tried – it is not that as overbearing as Fracas, has a controversial gasoline-like opening, narcissus nuances after a while, and subtle, almost intimate, sillage.

        I am looking forward for new white floral reviews from you. 🙂

        • I took a small detour today, as you may have seen, into the wartime world of Chanel, but I will definitely try to do more white floral reviews. How nice that we have similar tastes! With regard to the Caron, I’ll keep an eye out for it on Surrender to Chance, the decanting site from which I buy most of my samples. I have to say, the words “almost intimate” sillage give me great pause. That is not exactly my ideal thing…. lol 😉

  5. Since your review refers to Carnal Flower, Chypre Mousse and Bois et Fruits, 3 I really like (CM is a top 10er for me). I have to give Cepes & Tub. a try. Thanks for the review.

    Have you tried the newish gardenia scent from Aftel? Have read positives about it elsewhere.

    • Nooooooooooooooo, it is not like Carnal Flower at all!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even remotely! I only mentioned Carnal Flower as the opposite end of the scale in terms of the progression of my 3 tuberose reviews. Furthermoree, Cepes & Tuberose has only limited similarity to either Chypre Mousse or Bois et Fruits, similarity that is limited only for the opening stage. It is not longstanding.

      I haven’t tried Cuir de Gardenia yet, but I do hope to get a sample and test it. I’ve heard fantastic things about it too.

  6. I read this as crepes and tuberose for so long and was getting hungry until you clarified, and I learned to read. LOL. You make this seem very interesting, but I think I’d struggle with a number of the elements if I were to actually wear it. Still, I’m tempted. I’ve heard so much about this line but haven’t yet tried it, so it’s yet another addition on my try list (which is basically just an infinity symbol at this point…)!

    • I’m dying for an actual crepe and tuberose perfume, but… hm, on second thought, more butteriness and sweetness? Maybe it would need something else to prevent diabetes!

      As for Aftelier, I’m dying to try the Chef Essences, and I think that is the sort of thing that would intrigue you too, my fellow foodie. 🙂

  7. A resounding no for me. I have yet to try Chypre Mousse, but it is on my wish list. So the mushroomy note is not what dissuades me, although I will admit trepidation. It’s the rose potpourri. I like perfumes that tell a story, and I even enjoy being mystified by the story. But mushrooms and potpourri just don’t compute.

    It’s interesting that “cepes” was corrected as “crepes” by a couple of commenters. Crepes and potpourri sounds a bit better. 🙂

  8. Thank you for your amazing in-depth review of Cepes and Tuberose! It’s quite gratifying how well you perceive my creative intentions, and explain them so eloquently. Your vivid descriptions of the aromatic notes unfolding really help fit together the pieces of the puzzle for this perfume – I appreciate it very much!
    Mandy

    • I would also recommend the Moon Bloom for you, and there is a Swedish place that carries it, along with a Dutch one, if you wanted to try a 5 ml mini bottle.

      Most of all, though, for you, I would recommend the Chef’s Essences. Seriously, have a look at this, Geoff, because it will BLOW YOUR MIND: http://www.aftelier.com/home.php?cat=257 Ginger, Basil, Shiso Leaf, Chocolate, Cepes, Cognac, Bergamot, Two types of amazing oranges, Jasmine, and so much more. This is something that *YOU* must look at. I mean it, my foodie/cooking darling. Think of what you could do with some of these.

      • Good to know there is somewhere in Sweden as that makes it easier. So far, I have yet to find places in Copenhagen, or the rest of DK.

        You’re certainly right about the essences. And Aftelier is actually close enough for you to visit 🙂

        • Actually, Copenhagen has about 2 of 3 niche perfume shops that carries a wide variety of good lines, though neither Aftelier nor Hiram Green stuff is part of it. If you want, I can look up the names of the places for you.

          You know what you would love? Tawaf by the Italian line, La Via del Profumo. Another all-natural line but done by a Frenchman living in Italy who is a Sufi mystic and utterly fabulous! Look up my Tawaf review, as it may be the best jasmine scent I’ve ever experienced. Utterly mind-blowing, though very soft in projection.

  9. So, I just realized something — I have never knowingly paid for samples of any perfume with the name “tuberose” (unless it is part of a set). I must have ordered samples from the Aftelier website 4x and each time, I had avoided Cepes and Tuberose. I also somehow skipped many reviews of perfumes with tuberose in the name, including Cepes and Tuberose. With this review, you had convinced me not to give tuberose a bad rap (LOTV stays as a no no). I will include Cepes and Tuberose in my next order :-). Thank you for this wonderful review!

    • I really don’t think this is the tuberose for you, my dear. It’s the earth part which is the issue. If you thought Chypre Mousse veered masculine, then you would think that a thousand more so with this one. It’s dry, and the sweetness isn’t that sweet. With your tastes, the particular twist on this tuberose, and the key element of that dry dirt note, I think this would be a difficult one for you.

      I do hope tuberose one day becomes something without a bad rap for you, but I don’t think this version of it will accomplish that.

      • Well, I’ve come around to loving Chypre Mousse and I am hoarding the rest of my sample until I get my hands on a FB; I will be hosting a split of it next month via NST’s split-meet. As to Cepes and Tuberose, I hear you on it not being my entree into the world of tuberose perfumes!

        • Well, I had come SOOO close to ordering a sample of C&T recently, as I wanted to experience an all-natural scent, and I also have an affinity to tuberose. I just kept wondering, though, how that earthy aroma of mushroom could possibly go together with tuberose… Growing up next to a farm and living in a well-wooded area, I had much exposure to natural, earthy scents and aromas. And much as I loved those scents as they occurred naturally, I just don’t know if I PERSONALLY would want to smell like that.
          On the other hand, I am now interested in learning more about the Chef’s Essences! I’ll look them up while I wait for my sample of Moon Bloom to arrive in the mail!
          And, Hajusuuri, I’m with you on Chypre Mousse- it really is just lovely!! And what is a split-meet?

          • Hi Lexi, I will email you with the particulars. On February 8th, NowSmellThis will have a forum for the NST community to tell others about their perfume split proposals. I normally just go to Basenotes and participate there as a splitee (I commit to a split hosted by someone else); for the NST split-meet, I will be a splitter and will also see what perfumes are available hosted by other splitters. There is no profit involved, just a way to split the cost and not be stuck with a FB when we know we couldn’t possibly use up a whole bottle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s