There's a bottle of Cardinal by Heeley in one of my perfume cabinets. Technically it belongs to the husband, who often wears incense better than I do. But I help myself to some Cardinal every now and then, which means that I obviously had a change of heart in the years since I first tried to love this Heeley fragrance. It took me a long time to get it. Not having the Catholic context and church memory made it nearly impossible for me to get the grandeur of the cathedral, its cool to the touch stone walls and the solemn atmosphere.
Incense notes can be cold or warm. I think I finally understood the complexity through several Tauer perfumes, especially Incense Extreme, which sent me back to rediscover Heeley's take on incense. Finally it clicked. I still don't smell a church, probably because the last time I stepped into one was when visiting Westminster Abbey. But I do get the meditative and reflective nature of incense and cistus as they're used together. I still smell something green and cold, but that's the incense itself as its smoke soars into the blue morning sky far above the treetops. I look up at the first hint of sunlight and feel a sense of wonder and gratefulness for the peaceful beauty.
Cardinal is just a little sweet (less than CdG Avignon, a Bertrand Duchaufour creation to which it's often compared). It also feels more clear and pure, cold spring water to Avignon's bottled holy water. There's a green thread that runs through Cardinal thanks to the vetiver note. It's not grassy or earthy, though, but more like a cut tree branch. The minimalism of notes and imagery makes me think of a Japanese tokonoma display, which in itself is a shrine of nature and aesthetics.
Notes: incense, cistus, grey amber, patchouli, vetiver.
Cardinal by Heeley ($180, 100ml EDP) is available from MiN NY and Luckyscent.
Images of Giuliano Mauri's Temple Of Growing Trees in Italy via oddstuffmagazine.com.