Saturday, May 7, 2011
Chergui by Serge Lutens
Chergui is named after a wind that blows in the Moroccan desert. It is supposed to be persistent, very dry and dusty, hot in summer, cold in winter. I think the idea to create a perfume inspired by the chergui is stunning. Before I've tried on the perfume my head is full with vivid pictures out of Arabian Nights; rubinesque harem ladies cooling off by the pool, bedouin musicians playing intricate tunes outside their tents at night, camel caravans carrying riches beyond imagination...
Now, if I return to reality, I haven't been to Morocco. The only desert I've visited was in Rahjastan, in India. The major scent note I remember is dust. A dry chalky scent when the sun warms the sand to the point that it burns your skin when touching it. There are dry, scarred shrubbery smelling a little herby. Animalic scents from camel dung and sweaty camel fur all around (I was on a camel safari). Sometimes spicy curries stewing over small, wood kindled, cooking fires.
So, what does Serge Lutens Chergui have in store for me? Initially there is honey and vanilla. These are backed by traces of smoke, which adds character and keeps the sweeter notes from getting cloying. While the scent plays on, the vanilla is ever present and on and off I feel soft amber and musk. It feels like a sweet whisper, close to my skin.
So how can this have any relation to the Moroccan desert wind? I think of it as a dream of how desert life would be without all the dirt and grime. Just the sweet, soft and the pleasant remains. The honey note comes from piles of sweet confections. The smoke whirls up in the air where friends share a water pipe. The only scents coming off the camels are from their cargo of sandalwood and vanilla while musk tell tales of secret amorous encounters behind harem walls. The only one who knows is the ever swirling desert wind.
This is the most expertly crafted Oriental I've tried this far. I personally don't feel comfortable wearing vanilla, so I'm rating it 3 out of 5. That doesn't mean this is a bad scent, it just isn't a scent for me, but for anyone (of any gender) who's into orientals, I consider it a must try.
Pic: "The terrace of the sergalio" by Jean-Leon Gerome.