Serge Lutens Chergui, 2001

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Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake

Chergui is apparently one of the best sellers in the Lutens line and it’s often cited as one of the most popular Lutens among fumies. When I read the list of notes, I’m a believer. Hay, tobacco, incense, rose, musk, amber. But lord know I’ve been tricked before by a ‘list of notes’.

‘Notes’ are suggestions, I get that. But what lies behind them is an intent. Perfume manufacturers use a list of notes to persuade us, to lure us. Somehow, despite the recognizability of the notes, I’m not convinced by Chergui. I say yes to the notes but no to the perfume. It doesn’t suggest a Moroccan wind, as the name would have me believe. Sweetness overwhelms subtlety and the synergy I find in Sheldrake’s other perfumes never materializes. Lutens perfumes tend to back up their promise of exoticism with, well, a fair degree of exoticism. Short of that, they at least have a deliberate aesthetic viewpoint and measured dynamics.

Chergui takes a different tack. It seems to aim for the bell-curve of millenial masculine fragrances style: a broad woody/resinous shape with floral and spiced counterpoint. It’s the crowd-pleaser of the Lutens export line. It’s a slap on the back, a firm hand-shake. As I’ve mentioned about the current Guerlain line-up, the big sellers in a line should better the odds that the lower-selling oddball that I love will remain in the line. I don’t disparage the strategy, but I also don’t look to Lutens for the ordinary, so I don’t know what to make of Chergui.

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