Heeley’s Cardinal swings between two very distinct poles. The subject of the fragrance is indeed incense, and yet in this instance it flashes back and fourth from two distinctly different manners of treating the material.
From an ephemeral dreamlike work resembling the substantial lightness of Duchaufour’s excellent Timbuktu, then to a more literal and openly noticeable body of work that exemplifies the idea of religious ceremony. Take the Incense Series from Comme des Garçons (also Duchaufour) and treat them as scenic artworks; snapshots of association to different schools of thought united by incense. They are brisk works that capture an idea.
The more substantial incenses, say Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir or Tauer’s Incense Extrême, is not any less excellent than the magisterial artwork of Timbuktu, but approaches the subject head on, built with a unidirectional trajectory towards an opulent idea of incense with its surroundings covered in lavishness.
Cardinal achieves both features. It builds an artwork of catholicism: vestments, gold, and communion – and then further promotes a more abstract idea of reverence, ceremony and priesthood. For one, it maintains the idea of male-freshness through the transient use of an eau de cologne structure in the classical style; the incense is then employed over this, giving body. Cardinal is a papal vestment post-celebration, featuring the merging of a fresh tenacity, dusty linen, and layers of incense.
© 2015 Liam Sardea
Attributed to a colour, Cardinal is a blinding white light (like sunlight) with a rosy and healthy flesh-toned pink at the centre. It is a gentle warmth, with a high level of potency. To open, the sourness of the aforementioned eau de cologne, whisked with the sweet spice of both black and pink peppercorn, achieving an enhanced vividness to the scent with a sensualness that feels near sinful. It is tender, unorthodoxly hinting at a playfully louche quality, unexpected of both an incense scent and a young member of the clergy.
Aldehydes at the top aid in the impression of the linen effect, and a short mention to Lauder’s White Linen or Chanel No. 22 offers all the explanation required. When dosed generously, aldehydes alone give an impeccable crispness with undertones of soap and citrus. Technically, and of course paradoxically, increased additions of this material enhances the overall lightness, detracting from its overall density and giving vast room to breath. The impression of grand, spacious cathedrals then could be attributed to the space this perfume mimics, as if there was an element of ‘non-scent’ present amongst the aromatic molecules. It takes what is usually balsamic and thick, and deconstructs its density without removing it from the composition. It is a refreshingly modern take on the ancient note.
Turin’s reference to Brian Eno makes perfect sense, who achieves in capturing ambience through sound, just as Cardinal captures ambiance through scent. Eno’s Music for Airports is a melodious cycle of soft hums, whirls, and a soft piano repeated until it blurs into the background of the everyday. Cardinal is a comfort that easily retracts into the background, but returns with an elevated presence of scent shortly after, especially when it is sought for, then featuring a saccharine quality connected to florals and grey dust formed from the process of time and ageing.
The cycle found in Cardinal is a two-toned one, with a citrus freshness diffusive and approachable in all directions, then combined with the accord of incense. Myrrh, cistus labdanum, and frankincense create a liturgical idea of incense; however the smoke it projects is very clean. It is then warmed with a base of amber, patchouli, and woody vetiver, giving a slightly oily, mildly vegetal slick over the composition of the scent. It is a purified, meticulously filtered incense further calling to mind tints of white over any notion of darkness.
Heeley’s Cardinal then doesn’t smell overtly luxurious, because it is a discrete work with a sensibility and ambivalent chaste. Its charming, slyly, and cute pinkness entices, as its arctic swirls resemble the magic of the aurora as a mystical display of luminosity – but then it pulls back into a region of order, ceremony, and refinement.
A meditative work with a youthful and devious undercurrent.
Subjective rating: 4.5/5
Objective rating: 4/5