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January 30, 2006

Fragrance Review: Serge Lutens Chergui


Chergui stings with the 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. Serge Lutens Almost All Facts is an excellent site where one can learn more about Serge Lutens fragrances and where to obtain them. 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

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



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