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July 2010

    Serge Lutens Chergui

    There are very few fragrances that have truly changed the way I view fragrance.

    (You’re one of them, of course.)

    Your dark brown liquid is housed in simple, rectangular glass, and it doesn’t seem like it would be fascinating. Slightly intriguing, perhaps, but certainly nothing spectacular. To be honest, at first glance, you’re quite unassuming — so when I breathed in, I was caught completely off guard.

    You are incense, amber, tobacco leaf and musk, but the blend is divine. (Other scents, like your sibling Ambre Sultan, are too violent with their incense and send me running toward the hills.) Of course, these notes are sweetened just enough with tiny bits of smooth honey, and lightened with rose and iris. Don’t get me wrong, though; I am by no means insinuating in the least that there is anything floral or syrupy about you.

    It must be difficult to produce a scent that is entirely unisex, but… you are. Fit for a man in a suit with a bit of stubble, smoking a cigar in a ritzy hotel bar; fit for a woman in a slinky dress with just a flick of eyeliner, out for dinner with a lover. Honey and hay sugar in perfect harmony with tobacco and musk.

    I thought that I didn’t like warm scents, because warm scents are always so sweet. But I kept looking; I kept ignoring each and every saleswoman and salesman who told me that sweet and warm must go hand in hand. (And trust me, there were many.) The hours and hours of searching paid off when I found you, Chergui — warmth without the syrup of cheap vanilla, cozy without being cloying, dry and a little dirty without being animalic.

    Of course, there are many categories of fragrance, and you can’t fulfill my cravings for a light floral or a salty chypre. But when I need something warm, something sexless — no, something above the lines of gender, — something perfectly crafted and rich and beautiful and incredible…

    Well, that would be where you come in.

    Availability: Chergui can be purchased online at shops like the ones above, or through BeautyEncounter and FragranceNet. Alternately, it can be sampled through The Perfumed Court. For my fellow Canadians, you may be able to find it in your local Sephora!

    Chergui was created by Christopher Sheldrake in 2001.