I decide to revisit Chergui, as the first time I tried it was in 2006. I wanted to see if it, or my nose, had changed. The answer is yes, though for a while I wasn’t sure whether it was me or it.
There’s a certain amount of consensus many fragrances in Chergui’s genre are better, and wondering what all the fuss about it is. There’s no doubt Chergui got caught in the reformulation grindstone and what came out is different. The original was a powerhouse, and it isn’t as much now. It is still dark, sweet, and tobacco-ey, and smells deep and comfy, but in 2006, It was more complex and overpowering (and more animalic, I believe, though I’m not certain of that), and I couldn’t wear it.
Chergui started a trend (though technically not completely), and it created a *lot* of buzz. There was less competition for the original Chergui. Now that niche is fairly full. And somewhere along the line the reformulation (or two or three) produced a less dense, less nuanced, less primal fragrance.
I like and can wear the version I sampled today, and to be honest, I’m not certain that’s a compliment. I wish the drydown had a little more of it’s original edge than it has now. I’m pleased to be wearing this icon, but considering I couldn’t wear the original version, and find the present one a little tamed, I wish they’d stopped at the first reformulation.
I realize what Im about to write down does not align with the fragance pyramid above but I have to be honest about what I perceive. For me I get the notes of vanilla extract, resin, benzoin, juniper, hay, Sandlewood and tabacco. I owe a lot to Serge Lutens. His fragrance Fille En Auguilles sent me on a fragrance journey for years and I'm still reeling. The rest of the SL scents dont take me so far, including this one. But dont get me wrong, I like Chergui and I think it is a fragrance more personal in style, and that it was created to serve a purpose rather than to impress or call attention to itself. For those who treasure balance and consistancy in their lives, I think this fragrance will serve them well. As is stated on his site Chergui "creates an effect that involves suction more than blowing". So, obviously Lutens is aware that it does not have a big projection and that it is instead rooting a person, having a settling affect. It does have good longevity, leaving a warm resonous aroma for hours that sort of hovers very close to your body and blends making it feel very natural as if it is your own actual body's smell. For that reason it is comforting and grounding. This is a scent I would layer, I have not done so yet but I think it might serve very well as a base that would nicely project and involve other fragrances.
A honeyed up amber and tobacco with a hint of powdery iri. And sandalwood in a supporting role. It's sweet and boozy out of the gate but the tone gives way to the lighter iris and sandalwood features, which for me spoiled the potential. I like most of what I've sampled from Lutens and there is no doubt Chergui is a high quality and popular scent. Not one I'd wear often though and I prefer the amber-resinous Amber Sultan over Chergui. The wife likes it more than me, but I can still give it a thumbs up.
Smelling Chergui for the first time in 2020 is a disappointment for me. Sure it's well made, and it's exactly the genre of fragrance I like, but there's nothing special about it, when one has known Amouage, Tom Ford, L'Air du Désert and countless other interpretations of the same themes.