Friday, February 23, 2018

Serge Lutens Chergui: Hay Heaven-Fragrance Review

Oddly enough, though I love both orientals and Serge Lutens fragrances on the whole, both of which I own a rather significant collection, I rarely reach for Chergui. I attribute this to its not finding it challenging enough or wistful enough; Lutens fragrances in particular either lure me with their pensive, introspective mode (Iris Silver Mist, Douce Amere, L'Orpheline and La Myrrhe...) or with their exultation of taking a chosen artistic direction to its natural apex (Fleurs d'oranger, El Attarine, Arabie, Sarrasins and Tubereuse Criminelle...). Chergui nevertheless enjoys the kind of popularity that makes me revisit it at disjointed timeposts...when something new and terrifying lies in the horizon or when I'm particularly congratulatory of a penitent interval.

Lutens promises the exoticism of the east with Chergui (ascending from the name onwards...) but delivers a quite restrained composition that is not too challenging. It melds with the skin and complements it, plus it's mildly sweet (very popular with modern audiences) and subtly powdery like a greige sweater that's comfy enough to hide one's melancholia behind.

The Lutensian story behind the fragrance is certainly highly visual:

"A fire fanned by the wind, a desert in flames. As if bursting from the earth, Chergui, a desert wind, creates an effect that involves suction more than blowing, carrying plants, insects and twigs along in an inescapable ascent. Its full, persistent gusts crystallize shrubs, bushes and berries, which proceed to scorch, shrivel up and pay a final ransom in saps, resins and juices. Night falls on a still-smoldering memory, making way for the fragrant, ambery and candied aromas by the alchemist that is Chergui."

The facet which is dominating on my skin is the coumarin (what we refer to as mown hay). Indeed hay absolute plays a prominent role in the composition, but it's still pertinent to stress that on my skin Chergui by Lutens is not a pipe tobacco dream oriental with masculine proclivities as sometimes described, but a cuddly roll in the hay that sticks on you for long after the deed. It's soft and warm and lasts for a full 48 hours, which is quite impressive and a good recommendation for people who have longevity issues with fragrances in general.

It has been remarked upon before but the shift from the rather medicinal opening (in the older formula) into the fluffier hay core is a point of tension. It's the one and major change that happens in a fragrance that remains mostly linear on my skin. Still it presents its own "a ha!" moment.

Chergui by Serge Lutens is dry, befitting the name but at once lush and dense, and it brings to mind a certain opacity to the proceedings which is typical for most Lutens fragrances, which could be easily attributed to an oriental character; even the florals! Chergui is redolent of oil paintings by Dutch masters, somber yet textured, and as if you can taste it. I find this a quality that resonates with Lutens buyers and therefore Chergui is probably a safe purchase.


  1. I am actually quite fond of "Chergui"; it is one of the fragrances I reliably restock when I use it up. it is an odd mix of comforting and 'exotic' to me. I prefer it on the husband, on whom it smells less sweet, though. everything sweet gets dialed up on me, and "Chergui" is no exception...on my skin, it reminds me of nicotiana blooms, or of driving past a tobacco field in flower at night, as happened commonly in my childhood...

    1. Great description; I just visualised it. I think it's exactly that combination of comforting and exotic that "makes the jam" for most Chergui buyers. It's very pleasurable and at the same time easy.


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