Monday, December 4, 2023

Chergui: The Warmth of Personal Perfume

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Perfumes often act like people.

Our first impressions of them are hard to shake. Perfumes change in small ways over time, but the core remains the same. Some are friendly and welcoming while others frighten us with their beauty. Each perfume has a lot to offer, but any given person will likely only form a few close connections over the course of their lifetime.

I first ‘met’ Chergui in Switzerland, my favorite place on Earth and one I probably won’t see for years. I had been fortunate enough to be invited along to a friend’s relative’s house for Thanksgiving while we all studied abroad in Ireland. In Switzerland, a friendly snow had settled itself over the picturesque city of Lucerne, and the feeling during the trip was constantly that of walking through a beautiful photograph.

While strolling near the market one day, I spotted a perfume display through a window, and my patient friends – who knew how much of a perfume-crazed weirdo I was/am – wandered around the shop as I shrieked with joy in the aisles. The Serge Lutens display called out to me. Before I knew what I was doing, my friends and I were skating on an ice rink, and I was gliding along with Arabie on one wrist and Chergui on the other. From then on, Chergui became the analogue for the warmth I felt in that cold and beautiful place.

Chergui Notes

Tobacco Leaf, Honey, Amber, Hay, Incense, Sandalwood, Iris, Musk, Rose

For years, Chergui sat in a beloved but rather limited space in my mind. It was a wonderful autumn & winter scent built on the astounding note of Hay Absolute, which I’d learned from Luca Turin stands wonderfully on its own. I associated Chergui with Switzerland, spicy warmth, comfort, and its astoundingly low price on the grey market (which has risen from $65 to $90 over the last several years). These were all well and good, and they haven’t disappeared. However, my closest association to Chergui has dramatically shifted in the last few days due to the kindness of a friend.

About a week and a half ago, my friend’s beloved cat passed away soon after my friend had been blindsided in a close relationship. It’s been less than a year since I experienced betrayal at the hands of people I trusted, but the thought of losing a source of unconditional love so close to that trauma remains beyond my understanding. Separated by hundreds of miles, there was little I could do for my friend as they began the difficult process of healing. But one thing I could do was send them a perfume. I gave them a few options, and they chose Chergui, saying that they felt it looked closest to the spirit of their lost feline companion.

I was immediately taken aback by how right my friend was, despite them never having smelled the perfume. When they finally did receive and wear Chergui, they excitedly relayed their feelings about it over the phone. My understanding of Chergui expanded with each sentence they said. They compared it to a hayride date wrought by the nervous, strong emotional pull of an exciting new person. They admitted to me that it was also like the wild perfumed funk of public facilities the morning of a cross-country meet.

The feeling of hearing a gifted perfume loved and understood so deeply by its recipient was a striking experience that I’ll always treasure. I was reminded that even when we and our loved ones cannot be physically together during these times, there is a remarkable power to the effort we make in our interactions with each other.

Chergui has its own remarkably dynamic, engaging personality. The spicy, syrupy nature of the perfume’s tobacco-honey-hay opening is aggressive and flirty. The dry down’s soft musk, iris and sandalwood are soft and inviting. Aspects of both of these stages tangle around Chergui during its life on the skin, and wearing it feels like being in the presence of a close friend’s laughter. I know that perfume cannot replace the feeling of being physically with one another. It certainly cannot replace the loss of a loved one. What it can do is offer us one more way to be together, breathing the same air while standing a thousand miles apart.

The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated. 

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  • Jade

    Jade is the Lifestyle Editor at the Fandomentals, where they obsess over perfume and underground music. Their wacky poetry is floating around the internet - beware! Follow them for fragrance and poetry content @johndarrextreme on Instagram.

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