Cardinal fragrance notes

  • Head

    • White Linen, Bay Rose, Black Pepper
  • Heart

    • Labdanum, Frankincense, Myrrh
  • Base

    • Vetiver, ambergris, Patchouli

Where to buy

Latest Reviews of Cardinal

I have owned bottles, decants, and samples of the some of the biggest players in the High Mass corner of the incense genre, and my personal favorite is Cardinal (Heeley). Compared to Avignon (Comme des Garcons) and Full Incense (Montale) – the two other High Mass scents with which Cardinal is most often grouped – Cardinal smells like incense from the priest’s censer wafting at you through shafts of sunshine, fresh air, and white sheets fluttering on a brisk breeze.

Though it is very dry, it is not tremendously dark or smoky, and therefore, not forbidding. The aldehydes lift the spirits as well as the scent itself, and the papery-sweet benzoin makes me think of vellum sheet music soaked in vanilla, strung out over a line to dry. I appreciate the elegantly-slanted, sideways approach to church incense that Cardinal employs because it gives me the vague whiff of spirituality without dragging me back to Mass.
12th January 2023
The comparison between Cardinal and CDG's Avignon is interesting, as they share similarities in their churchy, peppery incense quality. Cardinal, however, feels less dry than Avignon and has a lighter, more natural feel to it, without any heaviness.

While the price per ml is similar for both fragrances, with Avignon offering a 50ml bottle for around $95 and Cardinal costing $180 for a full 100ml bottle, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. A sample of both fragrances would be a good idea to determine which one suits your taste better before committing to a full bottle.
24th February 2022

My initial review was completely wrong. I gave Cardinal a second try, and I love it. A beautiful incense. I was correct that it smells a lot like Avignon, but wrong that Avignon is cheaper. They're about the same price ... although Avignon is stronger and more lasting, so...
20th September 2019
Indeed, it does smell churchy. I get frankincense, myrrh and patchouli. Very close to the catholic incense smell, with a patchouli balsamic twist. Not something I would wish to smell like. Performance does not seem beastly, or weak. Middling. Something about this one, in the balsamic vinegaryness of it kinda makes my face scrunch up. I do not find this pleasant.
1st February 2019
one of the lightest and most refreshing incense fragrances I've smelled...a lot of nice little nuances...but overall a very nice and fragrant churchy smell, but very subdued and gentle...I like it a incense you can probably get away with wearing to the office....
12th July 2018
This is a very clean incense - there's a lot of aldehydes and frankincense. It reminds me a bit of EL White Linen crossed with CdG Avignon. It is very bright and light, longlasting and linear. It stays quite close to the skin.
15th June 2018
Admittedly I am not a massive fan of pure incense type fragrances. Luckily for me this one is a fresh incense. Very nicely put together. If I was going to pull the trigger on one of the incense based fragrances this would be it!
8th January 2018
The Incense for us Catholic Lights - i.e. Episcopalians and Anglicans - it's got a "happy" feel to it - we jokingly laugh with our HRC friends that we're just like Catholics - all the fun with half the guilt - and this Incense is a lighter take on heftier predecessors of the same genre, such as Unum Lavs. It is simply gorgeous and I am so glad to finally have it in my husband's wardrobe (though, I might sneak some sprays for myself!).
20th November 2017
Cardinal is a light incense compared to the others I own and have tried, i.e., Olibanum by Profumum and 07 Tanoke by Odin. I really have enjoyed wearing Cardinal. Although it's light, there is a slight smokiness to it. But, I must say that the most surprising thing to me was how much Cardinal reminds me of Mona Di Orio's Vanille. There is something in the competition of Cardinal that really brings MDO's Vanille to mind when I put my wrist to my nose to smell it. In fact, I'm going to do a comparison and I'll come back and report on whether I was just imagining it or if the MDO Vanille is really anything like Cardinal. This is a fine fragrance and one I believe is bottle worthy.
31st October 2017
Pretty straightforward incense, much more interesting than Avignon (Commes des Garçons) although quite similar – perhaps Cardinal is more richer, more natural feeling. The incense notes persist for a good two to three hours. The base notes are pleasant, resinous/ambery, but admittedly not super exciting. Unobtrusive overall.
20th July 2017
Cleanliness is next to godliness.

An early afternoon in a southern European country. You see a young man, not quite a cardinal yet (a priest perhaps?), walk through the dark halls of an abbey's courtyard, the cold stone floors smoothed with time. Fresh-faced, his white collar starched, a stack of books under his arm, absorbed in thought. Sunlight streams in from between the pillars, catching specs of dust in its golden beams. A still and peaceful scene.

Just when you are tempted to look away, the young priest breaks into a skip.
9th July 2017
Cardinal is a light and beautiful fragrance that evokes the Frankincense of church incense (as the name suggests) without smelling literally like you just left Mass. All the elements are there--the incense, the old wood of carved pews, the pressed linens of the vestments, snuffed candles and humanity--but it wears as a wonderful, masculine-leaning skin scent. A Cardinal might smell like this--if he was lucky--but even the lay person can smell this great with a bottle of Cardinal. Along with Cuir Pleine Fleur and Sel Marin, this is my favorite of Heeley's scents.
11th April 2017