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
4 thoughts on “Cardinal by Heeley”
I read the thing about you in The Age. I’m impressed that someone as young as yourself has had time to cultivate such expertise on fragrance, and also general good taste, while being employed and doing VCE.
Anyway, I am a newb to fragrance, and Cardinal is the only fragrance I own. I read about half of Perfumes: The A-Z Guide last year and sampled a bunch of perfumes based on the reviews I liked, and this was my fave that I found. I love incense, Brian Eno and “immaculate young priest” (as per the Heeley website) is pretty much exactly how I want to smell. This review is very impressive.
I don’t really feel I can wear this fragrance in hot weather, I tried once and it was suffocating/unpleasant. Could you recommend a summer fragrance to a newb like myself? I like pretty much everything except for musk, but a little of that is okay.
Hi Darren, thanks for commenting and contacting me. I hope this message finds you well.
Cardinal is excellent – but I agree, it is far better worn with cold weather. I did however wear it during spring this year and it was rather splendid. So, yes, extreme moments of heat are no good!
Today was a scorcher in Melbourne, and I wore Chanel’s No.22 – when sprayed gently it thrives in this heat. It has the lightness of aldehydes found in Cardinal, and feigns a purified incense note with an illusionary replacement through florals and a super soft tuberose. It is a very clean smelling scent – and a touch immaculate like our young priest.
I will also recommend Thierry Mugler’s Cologne – again, it has this beautiful transience and lightness at the top. Where it differs is that is has a green soapy citrus and orange flower interplay going on. It’s clean (a la Cardinal) but summer friendly. I look forward to pulling that one out more in the coming months.
I hope this helps. Of course, if you get the chance, pop into the Royal Arcade and say hello (if I’m in!). I’m happy to chat and show you some other scents.
Best of luck to you, and thanks again.
Thanks for the thoughtful and helpful reply, Liam! You are a truly classy guy.
Does there happen to be a bottle of Thierry Mugler’s Cologne at your place in the Royal Arcade? Otherwise I suppose I’ll order a sample online. I like the sound of it. If I’m recalling correctly, I think I smelt Chanel No. 22 a while back and loved it, like most of the Chanel perfumes I’ve smelt. My favourite is Cuir De Russie. But I am a bit weird with most fragrances that are intended for women – it’s probably just psychological, but I think I’d find No. 22 too feminine on me.
No. 22 smells very clean to me – like a good ivory bar of soap.
We don’t stock Mugler products, but I don’t think any official retailers stock the cologne anyway. Best ordered online.
If you come in (and I’m in!) I can show you a few things – we have a few lighter incenses that we’re introducing thanks to moi ;).