Positive Reviews of Cardinal by Heeley

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    Colin Maillard's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    The younger, brighter brother of Avignon: less heavy, with a light floral breeze providing a general "airy" mood, and also a sparkling, sugary, fruity fizzy personality underneath. The incense note is not resinous-olibanum, it's pure, abstract, polished Iso-E, so it shares the same (creative) "artificiality" of Avignon – of which, as alfarom correctly says, Cardinal smells basically like a washed-down "eau de cologne" version. Still, Cardinal has much of its own, quite enough to differentiate it and make it a bit more fascinating, playful and charming. Above all, that pleasant dusty, silky, sugary base layer halfway balsamic, floral, fruity, woody. A delicate, ethereal (in typical Heeley's linear and minimalist style) blend hiding behind the main abstract but dense incense fog. To some little extent this reminds me of Exultat by Maria Candida Gentile – not for the olibanum, but rather for this fruity-floral accord which adds a pleasant taste of "life" and colour. A sophisticated, luminous, classy and creative take on the contemporary incense theme.

    8/10

    24 January, 2014 (Last Edited: 15 July, 2014)

    Card Board's avatar

    Germany Germany

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    As was said below, this has a surprisingly sour opening, which strikes me as under-ripe grapefruit peel (might actually be vetiver) accompanied, of course, by a boatload of frankincense. In my opinion, the sourness sets it apart from other incenses fragrances. As the sourness recedes, the frankincense warms up a bit, aided by perhaps amber, and dry woods--woods that I imagine have been polished with incense oil for years and years. A very atmospheric, austere, and transporting scent, which, once it gets going, strikes me as more authentic (less synthetic) than many other incense perfumes. Longevity seems average, with projection slightly less-than, but still respectable. As usual for Heeley, the bottle, graphics, and packaging are a joy to see.

    30th April, 2013

    NorthernTiger's avatar



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    A fresh, light incense including a warm frankincense note. Reminds me of Montale Full Incense, but it's much lighter. I've found this to be the second most wearable incense scent I've sampled (the other being CdG Kyoto; although it is not similar to Cardinal).

    Make no mistake, though. You will smell like a Catholic church.

    11th February, 2013

    gimmegreen's avatar

    Netherlands Netherlands

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    An airy, cool, virginal, sour incense. It’s a peculiar thing to do to incense, the harbinger of warmth in numerous middle eastern perfumes, but here resolutely crossing a chilly stone floor. Turin remarks on the citrus in this, but to my nose the sharp notes appear to be from the edgier parts of the cedar-vetiver spectrum.
    Anyhoo, this is yet another clever, curious composition from Heeley, if bearing his trademark aloofness and linearity (though towards the end of its active life the progression is towards the vetiver base). I imagine the days when my dirty mind will be in tune with this fragrance’s supremely chaste aura will be few and far between, but there is much to like here.

    14 December, 2012

    Possum-Pie's avatar

    United States United States

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    I'm giving this a thumbs up b/c I am a sucker for incense. Having said that, this is fairly linear with an opening sparkle of pepper and frankincense. It doesn't develop into anything more, but it is a wonderful spicy incense anyway. My problem with Heeley, is that I prefer monster longevity and sillage, and Heeley has neither. I compare this house to Penhaligon's who has wonderful variety of great fragrances...all with no longevity at all. Both Heeley and Penhaligon's are good if you want a little "snack" of fragrance without the commitment of all day.

    29 November, 2012

    fragnifiscent's avatar



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    Want to smell like the inside of a church? This is the perfect scent. Brings back memories of when my grandmother forced me to go to church as a kid. Thumbs up for the memory. As a cologne, i wouldnt be rockin' this one out, but its nice to sniff.

    02 June, 2012

    Elzéard's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Long ago polished wooden benches. The sweet yet mildly decadent smell of the dusty aging pews. The smell of robes belonging to someone who has spent enough time in a church to acquire the status of cardinal. Very authentic and accurate in its rendition.

    22 November, 2011

    Ktngrl's avatar



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    As an ex catholic school girl I can't not like this. But I'm also a big incense fan. It reminds me of the childlike anticipation of Easter and Christmas, smoky ceremonial frankincense that stuck to your clothes in church. Now more of a yogi,it reminds me of shops that have bells on the door and boxes of crystals. I can't pick much more than the dry, woody resin but I love it. It's sparkly at first then It sweetens a little on warming, a touch of amber maybe? The only thing that is a let down is the lasting power. But that first hour is so good I'd buy a bottle for those moments of memories.

    05 October, 2011

    blood-orange's avatar

    Australia Australia

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    Incense, especially the dark, atmospheric kind, has been a rather new interest for me. Since falling in love with Chanel Coromandel, I have been so eager to find other well-done incense based fragrances.

    Cardinal by Heeley has been suggested a few times as being true church incense. I'm not a big church-goer, however I do love the smell of a chapel full of smokey incense and mustiness.

    Cardinal opens rather strongly and masculine, with a somewhat dirty earthiness coming to the fore. Pepper, patchouli and vetiver tend to stand out on my skin the most. The aldehydes provide a smoothness in texture and smell, which is both intriguing and a little strange.

    I was a little disappointed that the incense didn't seem to feature so readily in the first hour or so. However the more the fragrance settled, the less green and earthy it was and the smokier it became.

    I can understand how some see the sweetness here, however it's more of a dusty and resinous cedar chest smell to me, with that delightful incensey goodness.

    This fragrance does however sit lightly on my skin, without making its strong presence known. I'm actually anosmic to this fragrance at times, which is woeful.

    Cardinal tends to lean on the more masculine side of things, however a woman that enjoys wearing rich woodsy or primarily patchouli and vetiver based scents will enjoy this.

    I can't say that this is my favourite incense fragrance, however it was extremely enjoyable, nonetheless.

    24 September, 2011

    robyogi's avatar

    United States United States

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    I read the blog Bois de Jasmin frequently. The writer seems to be very well-versed in perfumery. In one of her recent posts (June 1, 2011, to be exact), she described the smell of frankincense as a perfume note. Rather than try to paraphrase, and subsequently butcher, her description, I'll provide a quote:

    "The smell of frankincense oil in its pure state is fascinating. At first, it is reminiscent of freshly ground black pepper, with a twist of lemon peel in the background. As the oil dries down, it reveals its dry woody character, which lies halfway between balsamic richness and flinty mineral crispness."

    As I thought about it, that pretty much describes Cardinal. I'm not sure there's a whole lot more than frankincense going on here. Maybe just a touch of something a bit sweet to smooth it out, maybe just a tingle of vetiver in the very deep base to give it some oomph. However, for most of the life of the fragrance I smell something that could very easily be described using the words above from Bois de Jasmin. It's quite discreet, longevity is just okay. Still, it's captivating in a way, and even though it's simple, quiet, and not all that long lasting, I can't help but give it a thumbs-up. As for comparisons, it seems to me to be somewhere in between Avignon (though not as heavy/woody as the CdG), Messe de Minuit (though not as musty/dusty as MdM), and Passage d'Enfer (but not as floral as Pd'E).

    02 June, 2011

    calnadur's avatar

    Switzerland Switzerland

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    Owing to my Italian roots and youthful years, I think I know pretty well what a Roman Catholic Church smells like and I have to admit Cardinal does a pretty good job at reminding me of that experience..

    I haven't tried yet many of the incense fragrances mentioned in other reviews here so perhaps my valuation is that of a newbie but I do appreciate it when a scent delivers on what it promises.

    This is a pretty simple sweet incense, one I enjoy wearing from time to time, at least in part because because of the fond memories it evokes..so the positive rating here is, to a good extent, the result of a very personal bias..(but isnt that always the case..??)

    01st June, 2011

    Darvant's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    A lovely woodsy, aerial incense with a note of rose whirling all around. As well as already said, Cardinal is a bit similar to Avignon but is a sharper and brighter kind of fragrance because of the airy earthiness of its vetiver, patchouli and cadar and because of its less dark and austere sort of temperament. I've inhaled its aroma for the first time in a niche shop located in a renowned touristic town of mountain and while smelling my wrist immediately later in the frost outside (observing in the meanwhile the white peaks of mountains) it was like smelling the waft of rituals of an outdoor mass celebrated outside a small church under the snow. This fragrance is green and rooty like an aromatic kind of incense of the forests. The top note of black pepper is decidedly perceivable at the beginning enhancing the "molecular-sparkling" prickliness of the juice itself. Labdanum than balances the strong earthiness of the woodsy notes providing a touch of boise softeness. An hint of amber and the "atmospherical" addition of aldehydes impress airy mildness and spacious projection. The rose of the top, soared higher and higher by aromatic elements, incense and airy aldehydes, gives an ethereal beat to the scent. Another wonderful incense prominent concoction.

    18 April, 2011 (Last Edited: 02 June, 2014)

    odysseusm's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    I love this scent.
    I had heard about for a long time, that it was a reference-point for incense scents. I finally got a sample and -- wow, is it good! Excellent frankincense with its typical lemon-coniferous note. Smoothed out by a touch of buttery labdanum/cistus. The scent is not heavy or sweet. While it is a bit smooth it has the haunting, evocative quality of a great incense. It reminds me of the cool air of cathedrals, the echoed chanting of priests, the gold notes of icons... There is a delightful woody note in the drydown. Highest endorsement here.

    13 February, 2011

    Diorissimo's avatar

    United States United States

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    Ecclesiastical but easier to wear for me than Avignon...the notes soften nicely but retain that churchy scent without the gloom.

    02 December, 2010

    scentsitivity's avatar

    United States United States

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    Cardinal successfully integrates fresh themes with incense. It is a pleasant fragrance, both fresh and classy. Notes, per the Heeley website:

    Top notes: baie rose, black pepper, aldehyde
    Heart notes: labdanum ciste, frankincense
    Base notes: vetiver, gray amber, patchouli

    28 March, 2010

    bookbadger's avatar

    United States United States

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    I agree Cardinal is just more wearable than CdG's Avignon and also that it makes a more faithful reproduction of the incense I used to know in the Catholic church of my childhood (long live smells and bells!). I read somewhere that Giorgio Armani's Prive Bois d'Encens had the same intention (and that it may even have been a favorite of Senor Armani ). But Cardinal has the edge, no question.

    20th December, 2009

    Somerville Metro Man's avatar

    United States United States

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    Heeley Cardinal

    Incense will always be one of my favorite notes because I've found that every perfumer is able to do something different with it. In 2006's Heeley Cardinal this might be one of the most accessible incense scents out there. It is certainly one of the most straightforward incense scents out there. Cardinal is a simple composition of five notes; incense, cistus, grey amber, patchouli and vetiver. As you can tell this is incense straight, no chaser. No floral accords or wood accords to get in the way just straight ahead incense. The top of this starts out with the incense in full flower just like you get from a swinging censer at High Mass. It stays that way for quite a while before it becomes modulated by the appearance of the amber which adds some warmth to things. The patchouli and vetiver show up in the base but they never become prominent more like grace notes to the incense. The cistus never seems to breakthrough to my nose at any point which is too bad because a light rose at the same intensity of the amber at the top might have turned this from very good into spectacular. What is here is the best incense "soliflore" I've worn. I like it better than Avignon because it is lighter on my skin and that makes it more versatile to wear.

    23 May, 2009

    mnaonbn's avatar

    United States United States

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    It's lighter and fresher than I thought it would be. It's not particularly complex, but it's very nice. It smells just like the airy interior of a Catholic church. It's clean without being astringent and smooth without being syrupy. The effect is the nostalgic scent of a traditional church without the stale or heavy quality of actually being in one filled with a bunch of people. Ultimately, it develops into something that smells a lot like eucalyptus after a new rain. I think it would make a great cold-weather, outdoorsy, or formal occasion men's fragrance.

    09 January, 2009

    JanAlways's avatar

    Ireland Ireland

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    I never thought I'd find a more "churchy" incense scent than Avignon, but Cardinal is it. Compared side-by-side with the CdG, Cardinal is more natural smelling (Avignon has a chemical undercurrent I never noticed before - and still only notice when comparing it directly to Cardinal). It is also rounder and more interesting. Sadly, I don't get great longevity out of it - couple of hours at best - but it is so heavenly I'm happy to make allowances for that. HUGE thumbs up!

    24 September, 2008

    Joe_Frances's avatar

    United States United States

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    Heeley Cardinal has a pretentious name and a wonderful smell. It's light, bright incense of a very Roman Catholic variety; and contrasts with CdeG Avignon, which is darker and more gothic. It is also clean with just a touch of a soapy note in the development which I find works very well. I don't know if the current rage with incense fragrances will continue, but I hope this stands the test of time. I wonder, was there ever a Cardinal Heeley?

    19 April, 2008

    foetidus's avatar

    United States United States

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    Cardinal is Catholic Church incense all the way… Until I tested Cardinal, I thought that Passage d’Enfer was the best representative of the old Roman Catholic Church, and Passage d’Enfer STILL is the best representative IF one is looking at the total ambiance of the church service: The lilies are the clincher for Passage d’Enfer keeping the Catholic title. But if we consider just the incense, Cardinal wins hands down. Cardinal is Avignon light, and it opens strongly with full-on incense that has that unmistakable resinous frankincense bite to it … it is like being there walking down the church’s main aisle alongside the swinging censor as I had done hundreds of times in my youth. In the background to the incense is a trace of vetiver and amber, but the lasting tone of the fragrance is incense all the way. Cardinal is masculine, it is linear, it is quite long lasting, and it is very wearable – more wearable than Avignon, which is darker and heavier and not as adaptable as Cardinal.

    16 April, 2008

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