"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." is how Lutens describes Chergui, and in this case, unlike with La Fille De Berlin, the lyricism is far from excessive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is entirely accurate.
Chergui, like the other Lutens fragrances I've tried, is as philosophical and introspective as it is easy to wear, which makes for a strange dichotomy that carries over to the fragrance itself, from top to base. And it is a journey that I could take a thousand times over, and discover something new every single time. At its core, Chergui is an Amber, Tobacco and Honey based fragrance, and looking at the notes/ingredients, you'd be hard pressed to understand why something so apparently simple has such tremendous complexity. But it does.
Chergui opens, on me, like a storm in a teacup. Powerful, thrumming with vibrant intensity, yet contained and incredibly well put together. Dry, spicy, sweet and floral. It's something that's hard to describe, and there's so much more to it. Therein lies the resinous scent of wild honey, far from fresh, that's mixed with amber from ancient trees, peppered with leaves of a blonde tobacco. It's unlike any other tobacco note I've smelled, warm, fresh and pure, without even a hint of smoke. It is tobacco in it's unadulterated form. And within this symphony of sweet and spice, is the slightest hint at a rose, like an oasis in the middle of a dessert.
A while into the wear, the sweetness disappears. Chergui becomes almost entirely dry and bitter, but not in a disappointing way. More in the way that a connoisseur would enjoy. It's still dark, and the resinous scent of the amber is shines through beautifully, with the tobacco becoming more prominent now, coupled with a distinct, if muted, hay note. And within this darkness, at the edges of my olfactory reach, something begins to develop. Something that I can't quite place my finger on, but it is there.
And as this development becomes more prominent, Chergui changes yet again. The sweetness returns, mellower now, but no less complex and nuanced than it was before, almost as if the dried honey was melted by fire and has acquired a smoked character, to compliment the smoke coming from what I can only identify as incense of a sort you'd find in the remnants of an abandoned church in a forest, underneath the same ancient trees from which this beautiful amber/honey accord comes from. A dark, rich incense, with a distinctly floral character.
As the dry-down arrives, it brings with it its own characteristics, unique, but no less enjoyable. Chergui changes almost entirely from the initial spray, while still remaining true to the opening. The honeyed sweetness and tobacco settle and intermingle in the most beautiful way, combined such that it's hard to tell them apart, but they can still be found, dancing with the rose, flirting with something visceral and animalic, wild, untamed, but understated. And yet, as wild as it is, there is a coziness to it, a warmth and familiarity that makes makes little sense, and yet, fits perfectly!
To summarize, Chergui has an interesting, clashing, duality to it. It's bright, uplifting and cozy. But also dark, mysterious and unapproachable. It makes for a beautiful olfactory experience, and the intrinsic romanticism of this scent, suits the description given by Lutens both in spirit and in implementation. Truly a masterpiece, and one that everyone should smell at least once in their lifetime!