Pure and Simple – Heeley Cardinal (2006) and Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo (2014)

It’s holy week, and all around me people already say happy Easter everywhere I go. It irks me, ‘no, no, it’s not happy yet’. However, I think what they mean is probably more something like Happy Easter holiday, and of course, as a good agnostic, I don’t really care, it’s just that for some reason* this time seems contemplative to me, it seems like something is a little oppressed before it’s released, and there’s a proper sense of spring and the life it brings with it.

So I thought I wanted to find two fragrances which might be a bit related to this time. In fact it will be three, because my # 1, and the only fragrance that I feel wholly encompasses this time is Serge Lutens’ De Profundis, I wrote about it when it was first released at All I Am-blog. But a short quote; “I get the decided feeling that the fragrance itself yearns and beseeches you to think of the violet, once gone, like an echo. There is incense but I find it only detectable as a feeling of calm and quiet, it isn’t a dominant note, and yet it almost feels like it is a main player of the fragrance because of the serenity it emits.” I won’t repeat myself further.

Cardinal is all about the incense and myrrh, the smell of Catholic Church is unmistakable, like the incense burned and swung in a place through centuries seeped through stones and interior. The actual burning and smoking is like it’s long gone from the fragrance and what is portrayed here is the remains which has taken the shape of its surroundings. Its straight and contemporary style with underlying ancient context, reminds me of the opening of something like Arvo Pärt’s Passio. The text is the Latin words from John’s Passion, and the musical style is contemporary minimalist and yet pointing back to early music styles, it’s meditative and deceptively simple. Perhaps Cardinal is not exactly deceptive in its simplicity, it’s a tad bitter-sweet but pure, nearly purist, something that takes it away from the ancient, and towards clean and modern.


Ombre Indigo, like the rest of Olfactive Studio’s opus is inspired by a photo. Funnily I’m not sure I care so much for this, I think it’s easier for me to ignore press blurb than pictures, and when it comes to images, I prefer to conjure up my own from whatever it is I smell. So, I haven’t looked up what was the inspiration. For me it’s all about papyrus in this fragrance, and you’ll need to like this greenish swampy note to like Ombre Indigo, since it is its heartbeat. Like Cardinal, OI has that strange thing of using something as ancient as papyrus (and incense), which should perhaps evoke dead sea scrolls and illuminated scriptures, but instead is using papyrus to make it set of the other notes in a contemporary way. At first, played up against the juiciness of a discreet plum it becomes dry, against the bitter saffron it becomes almost sweet, green against the ashen incense and ashen against a white musk and faint ambery dry down. I’ve only ever smelled papyrus done as a green note, so I really enjoy the clever way it is used here, especially together with the incense heart I think it pairs to simple, contemplative perfume.

I will be back when it’s time to wish everyone a happy Easter, but until then; Did you know there’s actually a perfume called ‘Resurrection’ (and another one called Resurrextion)? And to get over that info, here a little more Pärt meditation: Spiegel im Spiegel

*Probably vastly influenced by stories from my childhood and thousands of artist’s depictions.

Samples and bottle (SL) bought. Sketch of Michelangelo’s Firenze Pieta and feature both by me.

18 thoughts on “Pure and Simple – Heeley Cardinal (2006) and Olfactive Studio Ombre Indigo (2014)

  1. Lovely review, Thank you. I agree with you on THE photographs which inspired the fragrances for the Olfactive Studio fragrances, it is a good idea not to look at it and imagine a picture in your own Mind. Having seen them so clearly online I find this hard though.

    • Thank YOU, Esperessence. I suppose you’re quite visual as well then? Pictures stick to me in a different way to words, and so I try to avoid them, at least when writing about them. I also wonder if it isn’t a bit too much information? PR-blurb, notes and a photo…

  2. You might be right, Asali, too much words, information, marketing. Maybe That is THE reason I am not a fan of OS fragrances. Interesting point. I suppose I am quite visual although I am legally trained so words are important but still when smelling a fragrance I like to visualize it. And I like to make photographs which represent a fragrance.

    • Perhaps it comes down to who the customer for OS’s perfumes is. I think there will be many out there finding this idea novel, and enjoying the extra effort and story/ picture behind the fragrances. It’s fair to say that, liking Ombre Indigo or not, we do not belong in this group 😉

      • I believe you are right, Asali, we do not belong to this group 😉

        Will scent SL De Profundis as I have gotten quite curious about it. To experience it.

        • You should try to smell it, there’s nothing quite like it.

  3. Lovely timely post.
    I enjoyed re-reading your fab De Profundis post. It’s one of the SLs I will seek out if/when I get to Paris. I doubt it will be for me but I want to experience it.
    I tried Ombre Indigo and didn’t take to but it was only briefly on paper. No doubt it was the swampiness, I can’t recall. As for Cardinal, I should dig out my sample for testing this weekend.

    • Thank you Tara, De Profundis really is a unique fragrance. I can’t think of there being anything else which feels or smells similar, so yes you must seek that one out.
      Papyrus really is a bit of an odd-ball, I really like it, and yet wearing it is quite complicated. Perhaps it’s a case of it wearing me, rather than the other way around.

  4. It’s funny, I sort of have the opposite experience to you regarding Easter. It was not a holiday I enjoyed for most of my growing up years, precisely because it was so full of gravitas. We had to get up before dawn to attend a sunrise service at our Methodist Church, and then it seemed that there was always Charleton Heston’s “The Ten Commandments” playing on our TV, to the point that the holiday always struck me as dark, cold and too “Old Testamtent”-serious and foreboding for me to understand why anyone saw anything hopeful or happy about it. Even the secular aspect – the Easter basket brimming with candy – didn’t assuage a certain discomfort I had. I think I only really liked Easter when I was in college and started dating a Catholic boy, and somehow the Catholic service and the joyous meal we had afterwards made me feel the joyous part of the holiday, both in religious and secular terms. For these reasons, I think the perfume that sounds most appealing on your list is Heeley Cardinal. (Though I remember your De Profundis post and how beautiful and moving it was. Off to re-read it!)

    • Dear Suzanne, if I had had to get up before sunrise to go to a Good Friday mass, followed by Charleton Heston, I don’t think I would have enjoyed that much. In fact you mention an aspect I didn’t touch on; I did grow up attending Catholic Easter Mass in my early childhood with all it’s colour and festivitas, which I remember as something very special. I also remember my Catholic Grandmother sending huge parcels of candy and presents for this time, up until she actually moved to Denmark, when that seemed to stop. Even the protestant Denmark celebrates quite vigorously with Easter Lunches, which tends to include a variety of traditional cold dishes together with Danish Schnaps.

  5. I love your words;”when it comes to images, I prefer to conjure up my own from whatever it is I smell.” I’m totally with you. I don’t much like too pushy information or PR; I think it curved down the joy of having one’s own experience with the fragrance.
    De Profundis is one I truly love; its concept, its smell, its colour, and its bottle. For me, this is all about life, death and resurrection.
    I haven’t tried Cardinal, will sure give a try. I’ve tried Ombre Indigo from a sample vial some time ago but, to tell the truth, I don’t remember much about this one. Only thing I remember is that I didn’t like the colour… I’ll give another sniff tomorrow. 🙂

    • It seems that any visual persons gets a bit overloaded with the OS tactic. And, I absolutely love De Profundis too, it truly stands out AND is very wearable. I’ve seen that Ombre Indigo has just been shortlisted for awards both in the Fragrance Foundation Awards, and also in the Institute of Art and Olfaction (the more Indie version). I do find it quite special, even if I don’t think I would wear it as it would wear me a bit. Not in loudness but as in slightly off for my personality I think. However, I’d be interested to know what you think.

  6. Hi Asali! I’ve only tried one Olfactive Studio scent so far (and no Heeleys), but that one didn’t work for me in the least. However, Ombre Indigo sounds rather interesting so if I ever come across it, I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks for the reviews 🙂

    • Hi Sun Mi, I think OI is very interesting, and worth trying for that papyrus note, also if it doesn’t turn out to be something you’d wear, I think you might still find it fun in trying to develope your sense of what you like or not, and also it might be one you’d enjoy to go back to later. 🙂

  7. Having grown up in a country where religion was not forbidden any more by the time of my childhood but still strongly frowned upon and still being an atheist (even though the situation has changed completely in my old country), I do not have any feelings towards this holiday but I feel kind of strange hearing the “happy” part in the Easter greeting. In Russian Orthodox tradition there’s nothing like that. The standard greeting for that holiday is “Christ is Risen!” and the response is “He is Risen Indeed.”

    But back to perfumes 🙂
    I immediately recognized De Profundis on the picture and even scrolled back up to re-read the title of the post thinking that I somehow missed one more name.
    I tried both perfumes reviewed here just once – Cardinal at a store (and liked it but not enough to want a bottle) and Ombre Indigo from the sample I have (it was OK but I thought that the opening was too artificial or chemical).

    • Yes, I think that’s how you used to greet here (many, many years ago)- and it’s funny about the ‘happy’ actually, when one shouldn’t really care, it still sounds to me slightly as if someone is singing out of tune 😉
      I didn’t include De Profundis in the title since I only referred to it, and didn’t have much to add on what I said back on ‘All I am’, but I also could not NOT mention it, because I think it’s such a wonderful perfume, and particularly suitable for this time of year. With Cardinal, I do think it’s a beautiful incense, but as I already have Bois d’Incense (armani privé), and I don’t wear straight-up incense perfumes often, I wouldn’t get a bottle. With OI I didn’t think as much chemical as that it just kind of wore me, you know that feeling of turning around seeing ‘who smells like that’, to realise it’s yourself.

  8. I loved your illustrations – as ever! – and enjoyed the Easter theme. I am not religious either, so for me the weekend is more about the holiday (also its associated traffic!), chocolate, eggs and hot cross buns. I do remember back to my childhood and Sunday School, but I was brought up in a minority sect anyway which had a different take on Easter… Jesus didn’t die for our sins, for example.

    It is a long time since I tried Cardinal, and I would like to retest it as I am into incense notes at the moment. My distant recall says there was a Lemon Pledge note that disagreed with me – like the cleaning product used to scrub the flagstones in the nave. But maybe I am misremembering.

    • Minority sect, I had no idea Vanessa…
      As for incense, I don’t think there’s any lemon, but the myrrh tends to give that somewhat tart scent. If that bothers you, go for Bois d’Encens or perhaps one of the Comme de Garcon?
      Thanks for the compliment 🙂

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