New Perfume Review Heeley Eau Sacree- Cardinal Part II

When I did my Perfume 101 on Heeley a few weeks ago I mentioned that my introduction to the brand came through a fragrance named Cardinal. Cardinal is one of my very favorite incense fragrances I own because at its heart it is a very delineated and present frankincense around which perfumer James Heeley uses a selection of notes to abstract that very realistic incense heart. In my book as incense perfumes go it is as good as it gets. Because I think Cardinal is such a well-executed fragrance I was a bit worried to hear about the new Heeley Eau Sacree which seemingly would travel the same ground. It is much the same way I feel when I hear about a sequel to a movie I also admire. If the same people are involved it can be good but experience has told me that it is often not the same thrill. That was my mindset as I tried Eau Sacree.

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James Heeley

Eau Sacree is the fifth release in the Extrait de Parfum collection. These are, as the name implies, meant to be of a higher concentration. Right there is what allows Eau Sacree to stand apart from its older sibling. At this concentration even though some of the same beats from Cardinal are here they are evolved into something different due to that. Where Cardinal is full of very delineated phases Eau Sacree is something less focused with the lines between the notes made more malleable.

Like Cardinal, Eau Sacree opens with the frankincense there from the first moments. The fine lines are present but Mr. Heeley uses labdanum to blunt some of the sharper qualities. It provides a warmth to what would have been an austere incense without it. That warmth is extended as a flurry of spices flow into the resinous core. Myrrh provides the last bit of warmth as it adds its own nature to that which had come before. Amber repeats some of the spiciness and musk provides more soft intensity.

Eau Sacree has 14-16 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Eau Sacree is, to continue my movie analogy, like the best sequels. It manages to be different while still using everything that made you like the first one. Eau Sacree is that kind of companion to Cardinal. Cardinal is a bright composition. Eau Sacree plumbs deeper pools than Cardinal, brilliantly. This is going to be fantastic as I pull my sweaters off of the shelf. If you are a movie fan you know one of the most lauded sequels ever was The Godfather Part II. Eau Sacree is Cardinal Part II.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Heeley.

Mark Behnke

Heeley 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the fantastic things about observing perfume over the last few years has been the rise of the auteur independent perfumer. They are intuitive about making perfume without formal training. One of these whom I have followed since 2006 is James Heeley. Mr. Heeley came to perfume making after attaining a degree in Philosophy and Aesthetics from King’s College, London University. Both of those disciplines has led to the simple brand Heeley having the aesthetic of being free to create. That’s because Mr. Heeley’s philosophy is ever evolving when it comes to perfume. This is a perfume line that is all the more interesting because of it. Here are five to get you started exploring Heeley.

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James Heeley

Cardinal was the perfume which introduced me to the brand it was the fifth release in 2006 although the brand debuted in 2004. It is one of my very favorite incense perfumes because while the incense heart accord is photorealistic the top accord of aldehydes and the base accord of vetiver and patchouli provide some abstraction. If you love incense fragrances Cardinal is one you need to try.

In Cuir Pleine Fleur the opposite occurs as an abstract version of leather is seen through a floral haze. The florals of acacia flowers, rose, mimosa, hawthorn provide a blooming riot of an accord. The leather delicately intercalates itself within these boisterous blooms. Then Mr. Heeley burnishes it with glowing drizzles of honey, some cinnamon, and cedar. All before finishing on a real animalic high as castoreum makes the leather stand up and be noticed.

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By 2008 the idea of another aquatic was about as welcome as a case of sunburn. I had become exhausted with the banality of the form. Sel Marin is a good example of how Mr. Heeley can transform the common into something worth trying. The way he achieves it is to have really well-chosen partners to the tried and true. So the sunny lemon is made green by beech leaves. The ozonic briny accord is made greener by a seaweed accord. Finally, the clean cedar and vetiver finish is roughed up by birch. If you think aquatics are boring this will change your perspective.

When it comes to patchouli many perfumes struggle with trying to elide the “head shop” vibe out of it. With the appropriately named Hippie Rose Mr. Heeley embraces it and makes it elegant. He does this by sandwiching that patchouli between moss, rose, vetiver, and incense. It could be the Summer of Love in a bottle.

Last year’s Chypre 21 is a great example on how to construct a modern chypre without the full-fledged oakmoss. Start with rosemary and lemon, then bring in a Bulgarian rose. Lay all of that on top of a nouveau chypre accord of patchouli, sandalwood, low-atranol oakmoss, white musks and dust all of it with saffron. One of the better versions of extrapolation of a venerable form to the current day.

If you have not tried the Heeley perfume line these five will give you a great idea of what Mr. Heeley’s philosophy and aesthetics of fragrance are all about.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Heeley Chypre 21- Last Stand for Oakmoss?

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If there is any genre which gets perfume lovers wringing their hands with concern over the IFRA/EU restrictions on perfume raw materials it is the chypre. The form was created by Francois Coty in 1917 with oakmoss prominent within its formula. Oakmoss is one of the ingredients which has been significantly restricted in its use. This hurdle has only inspired some of the best perfumers out there to see if in this new age where all of M. Coty’s ingredients can’t be used if an alternative can be found. Perfumer James Heeley is the most recent to take a crack at this with Heeley Chypre 21.

The original chypres were big blustery perfumes which were full of powerful notes like patchouli, civet, musks, and vetiver. Subtle it was not. When a modern perfumer reinterprets this they naturally look to “lighten” things up. Mr. Heeley does this while still using a bit of oakmoss to provide the bite of chypre but this is more a nip on the ankles than a full-fledged chomp.

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James Heeley

Chypre 21 opens with the classic citrus provided by petit grain and bergamot. What I really liked was the inclusion of rosemary with the citrus. This was almost a nod to the Jean Marie Farina cologne opening. Every time I wore it I liked the cologne-like freshness these notes imparted to the early going. Rose is one of the more traditional floral notes chosen to accompany the chypre accord because it stands up to it. Rose is the heart of Chypre 21. Mr Heeley’s twist is to dust it with saffron adding in a beautifully exotic complement. The cologne intimations are fully banished and I am anticipating the chypre base to arrive any minute. When it does the oakmoss rides in on a flying carpet composed of some of the synthetic musks. If this was fifty years ago there would be a lot more oakmoss and the musk would be real. By having to use a lesser concentration and the synthetic musk equivalents Mr. Heeley makes a chypre which hums with precision but less powerfully. Patchouli deepens the chypre accord and sandalwood provides a dry woody foundation for it to rest upon.

Chypre 21 has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mr. Heeley stated in the press release his aim was to create a fragrance “with a certain air of Parisian chic”. I think he has achieved this with Chypre 21. It feels like a chypre throughout with some interesting modern choices to give a more contemporary spin to it. By keeping it lighter I think Chypre 21 is more approachable by many for whom a real full-throated chypre would keep at arm’s length. Chypre 21 is enough of a chypre that I think it will still appeal to fans of those predecessors. I think what is best about Chypre 21 is it will also succeed at creating some new aficionados of chypre.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample supplied by Heeley.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Heeley Vetiver Veritas- In Vetiver, Truth

British perfume maker James Heeley has excelled in creating perfumes which capture a basic truth in their composition. Cardinal is the Catholic Church Mass incense. Sel Merin is the sea spray in your face. Hippie Rose is one of my favorite rose and patchouli fragrances ever for the depth of both of those notes. Mr. Heeley has worked in mixed media using synthetic raw materials along with high quality naturals. With the release of Vetiver Veritas he is moving into the world of botanical all-natural perfume.

When someone like Mr. Heeley embraces natural perfumery it helps to broaden the appeal. His starting point for Vetiver Veritas was to use the natural Haitian Vetiver he had been wearing as a straight dilution for years. For Vetiver Veritas he takes that vetiver and makes it 90% of the composition. Then to keep it completely simple he only adds four other notes two of them to comprise a leather accord. This kind of perfumery really allows for maximum appreciation of the central note. It allows for the truth of that Haitian vetiver to radiate.

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James Heeley

That Haitian vetiver is where Vetiver Veritas begins. By using it in such a high concentration it allows for nuances that are not usually detected to show up. The vetiver mainly comes forward with an intense green quality, very vegetal in nature. There is also a deep rooty and earthy quality which matches the green. All of this is familiar territory. What I also detected was a bit of sugar cane-like sweetness lurking underneath. At the level of vetiver it could have been very standoffish. But as it grows in power this unusually natural sweet leavens the harshness and reveals an undiscovered truth about vetiver. Mr. Heeley adds a bit of grapefruit and mint to help define the green. Together they provide an astringent framework for the vetiver to be displayed in. Finally a smoky leather accord appears to sweep away the green and allow the roots and earth to have the final say.

Vetive Veritas has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I know I’ve smelled Hatian Vetiver as a raw material but that sweetness never presented itself until I had Vetiver Veritas on my skin. This is what Mr. Heeley does so well he takes something and allows the wearer to discover their own truth within the perfume. With Vetiver Veritas I found there was an all-natural truth about vetiver I had never experienced. If you are a fan of vetiver especially in its smokier darker variety I think there will be some truth to be found in Vetiver Veritas.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Heeley.

Mark Behnke