October 7, 2012

Serge Lutens Chergui and Fille en Aiguilles

The perfumes of Serge Lutens are the air of intimacy. The classics in the line pull me into a mood of voluptuous melancholy, like a midnight piano sonata, or a cello solo. They are serious and quiet, rich and nuanced. They never disappoint. I can wear them no matter what is going on with me, and never become irritated by their presence, even if they come through a headache or some other frustration with me. I never tire of them. They act as a lifeline to the discipline of elegance.

Serge Lutens opened the door into the world of niche perfume for so many as indeed SL is one of the original impresarios of the niche perfume concept. My curiosity and excitement is always out sized whenever a new SL is launched, but my stand-by two, Chergui and Fille en Aiguilles, are are like resources of beauty I can always count on.

Chergui, named for the famously fragrant desert winds of Morocco, is by Christopher Sheldrake, who is also responsible for Feminite du Bois, another perfume that hits all the right spots for me. Chergui rises up from the skin in an atmosphere of shimmering amber resinous powder, topped by a citrus that is subtle while clear. The notes have been listed as honey, musk, incense, tobacco leaf, hay, sugar, amber, iris, rose and sandalwood.

I think the sandalwood is the key to this perfume, whose exquisite refinement unifies and soothes the notes into a whole that is as lyrical as any played in a piece of chamber music.

Chergui retains a calm sense of elegant proportion from start to finish, and lasts for hours. As it dries down and the bright citrus opening burns off, the mellow tobacco note unfolds into a resinous amber powder, cooled by iris. Towards the end, after having become accustomed to breathing it in as it floats up, it reminds me of something like the aftertaste of creamy coffee and the scent of fresh tobacco; a distant memory of the first coffee and cigarette of the day habit of earlier years. The sweetness it exhales is distant yet satisfying and the touches of the other notes of musk, rose and hay, within the heart of the perfume magnify the effects of each. These heart notes are not individually identifiable but I know they are smoothing everything together into a tight composition. A touch of incense clings to the amber honey and sandalwood notes and enlivens them, as a finely drawn detail of this dreamy golden structure. This is one of the classics of Oriental perfumes, perfect for cool weather, and even works in the heat of a summer night because it is elegant enough not to overwhelm, even in humidity.

Fille en Aiguilles, named for a play on words in French, refers to girls in stilettos and/or girls and pine needles. The notes are listed as pine needles, vetiver, sugary sap, laurel, fir balsam, frankincense, candied fruit and spice.

I love the scent of evergreens, especially the balsamic and camphor spirit lift of dark old pine and fir woods.  It is more than high time that the beauty of evergreens was rescued from automatic association with harsh consumer products. At the time I found this perfume I was hoping, not expecting, but wishing I could find fine perfume based on the most invigorating aspects of evergreens of all types. It seems these notes are now in the process of being rehabilitated, but when FeA was released it was a pioneer.

Prospect Park Evergreens, Copyright 2012, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved
Sensitively constructed, this perfume is infused with the green brightness of fir and pine toned by the dryness of vetiver, laurel and with the resinous aspect of frankincense. Candied fruit and spice join the high pitched notes within the fir and pine and bring out the full roundness within their green. Rather than compete or dominate,  the sweetness gives a fuller balsamic tone that relates to something like an amber accord constructed out of these elements. There are breaths of terpene that arise from time to time, a scent of good associations for me, connected to oil painting  As the top camphor and terpene notes burn away the composition becomes a miraculous piece of ancient amber that somehow managed to preserve the distinctive scent of evergreen sap. This is a beautiful winter and fall perfume, though I also enjoy walking on dried pine and fir needles under the shade of these trees in summer, especially because the scent released is so naturally cooling and refreshing on a hot day.

These two perfumes are like liqueurs that warm the mind as brandy might bring a soft blush to the body.  Chergui is more the amber warmth of a cashmere scarf and Fille en Aiguilles suggests an amber stimulated by the movement of  invigorating crisp air infused with evergreen. I would never want to be without either one.

Disclosure:  Both perfumes were purchased by me.  My opinions are my own and I am not compensated in any way.   
Copyright 2012, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved.

Music to listen to perfume by: Into the Trees by Zoe Keating

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