Serge Lutens Chergui : Perfume Review

44444

Delacroix25

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Serge Lutens Chergui stings with hot spices that cover the skin like fine grains of sand, sharp, slightly abrasive and warm. Romantically named after the blood-boiling Moroccan wind that blows in off the desert during the summer, Chergui has the spicy intensity, yet its hot breath is tamed by the sweet and floral elements. Created in 2001 by Christopher Sheldrake, it is an Arabian Nights vignette in a liquid form.

The candied quality melts in the smoke whispers that fill the arrangement, like incense smoke seeping through the carved screens. The floral accord folded into the smoky layers of Chergui lightens density and sweetness, lending a voluptuous silky quality. The fine cured Virginia tobacco notes overlaid on the smoky leathery base give the composition a slightly masculine character, counterbalancing the sweet notes….

If Chergui is an oasis, it encompasses not only the romantic elements of such a vision—dark black tea served with sugar cubes on the side, narghileh smoked inside leather tents, heavy silks carried by the caravans. The camels resting in the shade are suggested by the animalic sweetness underpinning the honeyed base. Like in an intricate Persian miniature, Chergui is a tale that spills from one story into another.

It maintains the suspense despite the fact that the development of the composition from the top accord to the bottom is not particularly dramatic. Instead, the hints of what is to come—whiff of tobacco, curl of rose petal, creaminess of sandalwood—are suggested in the preceding stages, resulting in the harmony of the narrative. At the same time, the intrinsic romanticism of Chergui fits with the philosophy of Serge Lutens’s work. Like Delacroix, a French painter, was fascinated with the Moroccan scenes, Serge Lutens’s fragrances allow a glimpse into another world through the eyes of an outsider.

The composition has a characteristic sweetness marking many oriental compositions, lending a richness that is simultaneously luxurious and heavy. However, while the sweetness would have certainly dominated a less aggressive composition, in Chergui, the animalic and tobacco notes provide a welcome counterpoint.

Notes include honey, musk, leather, incense, tobacco leaf, hay sugar, amber, iris, rose, sandalwood. Chergui is part of Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido exclusive line, however it has joined the export range as a limited edition. Online, Chergui is sold at Aedes and Escentual.

Painting: Eugène Delacroix. The Sultan of Morocco and His Entourage. 1845. Oil on canvas. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France. From abcgallery.com.

Please see other Serge Lutens reviews:
A La Nuit
Bois de Violette
Bois et Fruits
Bois et Musc
Bornéo 1834
Cèdre
Cuir Mauresque
Fleurs de Citronnier
Fumerie Turque
Gris Clair
La Myrrhe
Rose de Nuit
Tubéreuse Criminelle

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35 Comments

  • Lou: Thanks for yet another wonderful review. I find Chergui very soothing – I always reach for it when in need of some solace or reassurance, and it never fails me. The image of a tale that spills from one story into another, meanwhile, is very apt. Like a flying carpet, transporting you through a different realm, a different time – while warm Moroccan wind, with sand and all, warms and titillates. The solace results from the widening of perspective through moving, not from intimacy. January 30, 2006 at 12:39am Reply

  • Laura: I remember thinking there was a similarity in tone between Guet-Apens and Chergui but this was when I was a pretty lazy analyst of things like this (still am, for that matter!) Do you have any thoughts on this, Mlle V? January 30, 2006 at 7:17am Reply

  • Judith: I decided to let you pick my perfume today, so I am wearing Chergui, and enjoying it very much. It is sweeter than I would usually like in a fragrance, but I agree that the other notes balance the sweetness in a beautiful way, making it seem (to me) like some delicious pipe tobacco. Very cozy, and perfect for this dreary day! January 30, 2006 at 7:25am Reply

  • Håkan Nellmar: Thank you for a beautiful review of one of my absolute favourite fragrances. I can’t get enough of Chergui. I love how it starts out so big and bold, then melts into the skin over several hours. I smell a big dose of coumarin in Chergui. That hay-like vanilla note that I love so much in oriental compositions. Compare it with Jicky and Shalimar and see for yourself. January 30, 2006 at 8:03am Reply

  • Marina: Chergui is one of those scents that should be absolutely perfect for me, all the notes sound just right…yet, it doesn’t work somehow. Very sad. It is strangely simple (no development), rathare “perfumey” and very sweet on my skin.
    Very excited for Chanel, now that they have Sheldrake on their side. Am a little afraid of what is going to be happening with Lutens line, though as long as Serge The Great is still there, I believe the line will be great no matter what perfumer. I do think, like Campaspe, that Sheldrake’s contract with Chanel will be exclusive. I wonder who will be joining Lutens now! Ah, the excitement of it all! :-) January 30, 2006 at 8:44am Reply

  • marchlion: I was reading your review and thought, oh, I should get a decant of this to sample. And then I thought, wait… I DID get one, months ago, with some of the other SL exclusives. Such is the life of the decant junkie, I suppose. I put it on an hour ago, am trying (and failing) to find something more profound to say than “OMG!” It is just a stunner. I agree with the two Guerlain-ish comments… if Guerlain made Tea for Two, it might smell like this…. the vanilla? Coumarin? That slightly poisonous undertone of the Guerlainade. And the tobacco! The incense! It is not so sweet-ish on me. I am in ecstasy. Thanks for your lovely review. January 30, 2006 at 9:26am Reply

  • linda: Beautiful review, V! Do you find similarity between Idole and Chergui? I think that they are alike. January 30, 2006 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Robin: Ah, Sher-gweeee. January 30, 2006 at 1:20pm Reply

  • paru: I loved reading the Arabian Nights as a child and I really wonder if this fragrance will complement those memories. I suppose I can only give it a try to find out! January 30, 2006 at 1:37pm Reply

  • Donna: I am relieved to read that you also do not find the development to be dramatic. I was expecting Chergui to be much more complex, but I liked it anyway. It is sweet, but it works for me. January 30, 2006 at 1:49pm Reply

  • Tania: I am trying for the life of me to remember the smell of this. I remember recoiling from its sweetness initially, but I don’t remember the development at all. Can you compare it to Ambre Narguile (Hermès)? January 30, 2006 at 2:36pm Reply

  • dbeech: What a beautiful review! Chergui is my favorite “sweet” fragrance. January 30, 2006 at 3:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Lou, thank you. I also find that the best way to think about many Lutens’s creations is the flying carpet metaphor. January 30, 2006 at 10:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, I would say that this is a good observation because of the coumarin and amber pairing that both share. Of course, the end results are rather different. January 30, 2006 at 10:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, glad to hear that I picked Chergui for you!  I also think that while it is sweeter than what I normally prefer, I do not mind it in the end. The animalic notes do balance it out. January 30, 2006 at 10:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Håkan, thank you! The coumarin note is very strong! I was trying to find a way of mentioning it, and the image I kept coming up with was camels eating hay. But, I did not want to be too obvious. Moreover, I admit that I know very little about camels’ feeding patterns, therefore I decided not to expose my ignorance. :) January 30, 2006 at 10:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, it does not develop much, it is true, and it is sweet. I am excited too, and I wonder what Chanel’s next fragrance would be and whether Sheldrake would play any part in it. January 30, 2006 at 10:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, oh, glad that my review prompted you to find your sample. I am glad to see another person agree on the coumarin and Guerlinade similarities. Interesting, isn’t it? January 30, 2006 at 10:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, I cannot say that I do. Idole is drier and smokier. Chergui has a distinct animalic warmth. January 30, 2006 at 10:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, Always mocking me, aren’t you! :) January 30, 2006 at 10:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, I wonder. I would be curious to hear your thoughts. January 30, 2006 at 10:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Donna, I also do not mind the sweetness here. The composition is rather harmonious, so I like the end result. January 30, 2006 at 10:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, imagine AN’s level of sweetness paired with a warmer, richer animalic note. I do not know what you would think of it now, but if you are near Aedes, do try it. January 30, 2006 at 10:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, thank you! I have come to the conclusion that sweetness is always relative for me. As long as it is balanced out in some way, I do not mind it. January 30, 2006 at 10:26pm Reply

  • Anya: Too sweet for me. I dug out the sample I had after reading your poetic review, V, and I found it rather linear, not balanced ;-( Sweet, pasty, like a Danish with vanilla icing, sitting out in the heat. I think I’m on a bit of an anti-vanilla binge right now. Why don’t they list vanilla? And what in the heck is hay sugar? Another one of my goofball tangents, V, like I’m smelling a completly different scent.

    PS in Miami, the Cubans pronounce this Share-gay, so yes, we have it all whooped up down here ;-) at odds with the olfactory and linguistic world. January 30, 2006 at 11:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I smell lots of coumarin here. Thankfully, Danish with vanilla icing does not come to mind, because even though I have a sweet tooth, Danishes must be my least favourite pastries. Of course, one often encounters bad versions of them. On the other hand, give me chocolate anytime of day! January 31, 2006 at 12:06am Reply

  • Mikhail: On sweetness in Chergui: when I first heard the Palais Royal salesgirl explain that the name Chergui means “un vent de desert” (a desert wind) I thought she was saying “un vin de dessert” (a dessert wine).

    Kind of made sense. An exotic drink.. Of course, Marocco is Muslim so no wine but this conclusion does not pop up immediately. January 31, 2006 at 10:13am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mikhail, that is actually a good description, Chergui as an exotic drink. I would have made the same association. January 31, 2006 at 10:39am Reply

  • mreenymo: I love Chergui! It’s one of the few SL’s that I really love, maybe it’s my favorite. :):)

    Hugs! January 31, 2006 at 1:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, for some reason I thought that you did not like Chergui, but I see that I was wrong. Glad to hear that it is working for you! January 31, 2006 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Atreau: I really love Chergui and have yet to cave on a full bottle. I will after my decant runs out because it’s so amazing! February 1, 2006 at 11:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: S, I am glad to hear that you are a fan too! Enjoy it. I likes its interesting richness. February 4, 2006 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Nick: Dear Victoria,

    Thankyou for your superb review which sent me sprinting (I’m not exaggerating), to smell and subsequently purchase Chergui. It is equisite. I love the way a (very) subtle firey breath is maintained right though to the end. February 7, 2006 at 6:49am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Nick, I am very glad that you enjoyed Chergui. I think that it is among Serge Lutens fragrances that fascinate me. Experiencing it is like finding yourself in a tale from the Arabian Nights. February 7, 2006 at 11:50am Reply

  • MALIKA ERRACHID: BONJOUR,

    PAR CET EMAIL JE VOUE PRIE DE BIEN VOULOIR COMMUNIQUER MES COORDONNEES A MR SERGE LUTENS LUCIEN .
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    MARRAKECH,
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    tel 00212 (0) 64 62 67 39
    MERCI D’AVANCE February 21, 2006 at 6:14am Reply

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