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Friday, February 23, 2007

Perfume Review: Spirit of the Tiger by Heeley

Review by Kelley

James Heeley, an Englishman now living in Paris , attended Kings College , London , and almost became a Barrister at Law by the age of 23. Instead of a career in law, he became famous after designing zinc vases for a Parisian florist named Christian Tortu. These startling vases look like steel flashing (roofing material) that is bent into interesting shapes. He now considers himself a designer of interior spaces with his main theme being nature contrasting urbanism. He sells vases, mirrors, chairs, and lighting…and perfume? He has several fragrances on the market including a fig scent and a wonderful leather fragrance simply called Fine Leather (a leather mixed with equal parts violet!).

I decided for this review to try an experiment. Oooh, this is going to be fun. As Spirit of the Tiger was inspired by the famous topical analgesic, Tiger Balm, I applied the fragrance to the back of my left hand and Tiger Balm to the back of the right hand.

The listed notes of Spirit of the Tiger are: Camphor, Mint, Cardamom, and Clove. The list for Tiger Balm is: Camphor, Menthol, Cajuput Oil (also known as Tea Tree Oil), Cassia Oil (a type of cinnamon often called Chinese Cinnamon) and Clove.

After application, they both smell very similar but there are one or two differences. Spirit of the Tiger is exactly that, a ghost compared to the real thing. Wow, the Tiger Balm comes out roaring! There is a burst of camphor and cloves and even cinnamon from both but the Heeley hand is tame in comparison. I smell very little cardamom in the Heeley and I wish there was much more. The other main difference is that the Tiger Balm hand is tingly and has that hot and cold thing going on. I should also point out that the Tiger Balm website warned about getting this near your privates or near your eyes or mucous membranes and also (I found this odd) “Keep out of reach and sight of children”, I don’t know, maybe it causes nightmares if you stare at it?

After the first hour, the Heeley side is pretty calm. It’s mostly cloves with a little cinnamon. The Tiger Balm side is still STRONG with the menthol and camphor still upfront and personal. I can smell a little clove and a little cinnamon beginning to come through.

At two hours there isn’t much difference in either. No development or changes in strength.

After three hours, the Heeley is almost gone and is almost all clove oil. The Tiger Balm hand is also pretty faint with mostly cloves and cinnamon remaining. The Tiger Balm hand is still tingly and slightly red.

At four hours, I smell slight cloves on both hands but just slight. It really is spooky how close these two are in smell and progression. If you like cloves then Spirit of the Tiger is for you. And, I mean, if you like cloves and just cloves. After a little while there isn’t really anything else and I suspect that if you get this on your clothes you will smell like a giant pomander ball for days. I am going to pass on this one since I already have Tiger Balm.

Heeley’s Spirit of the Tiger Eau de Parfum is listed at $85 for 3.4 oz and is available at Luckyscent. Tiger Balm is about $8 for the 1.7 oz jar and is available at most health food stores and pharmacies.

The photos of James Heeley and his work are courtesy of his website: and the photo of Spirit of the Tiger is from The photo of Tiger Balm is from


Blogger tmp00 said...

Kelley, Kelley, Kelley...

I there wasn't the term "backhanded compliment already, they would have had to invent it for this review. Absolutely brilliant, and totally giggle-producing. Mr. Heeley will have gnashed the caps off his handsome teeth by noon tomorrow!

11:16 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Thanks Tom. I am sure that Mr. Heeley can afford new caps any time he wants. He is a huge success all over the world with his home furnishings. He also looks like a model and one little negative review isn't going to make a dent in his bank account. My question to Mr. Heeley is...why did you think people would want to smell like Tiger Balm? Why not BenGay? The smell of cloves also reminds me of the dentist (not one of my favorite places). It is an interesting concept but very controversial.

11:57 PM EST  
Blogger Victoria said...

I adore this line and this is the next on my must buy list! Love cloves! I find it almost carnationy and just can't wait to wear it again, now that I passed my sample on.

12:09 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelley, I noticed that the photo you chose is that of Tiger Balm Ultra Strength/Nonstaining. I know this because I pulled a similar little jar out of my night table drawer. I wonder how it and the Heeley would compare with the original red. I'm surprised at myself that I've become such a Tiger Balm chicken. So what if the red stains my clothes? It's hotter-looking than the plain white.

Thanks for a hilarious review, especially the bit about keeping it out of sight of children. We can all ponder that one.

3:39 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll stick with the tiger balm too. Thanks for smelling this K so we don't have to. For some reason, I can't muster the enthusiasm to smell any of this Heeley line - I think it's because I'm tired of that whole 'nature contrasting urbanism' schtick. I prefer a bit of dirt and shabbiness.

(and it's possibly part of my 'silver spoon reaction' that has an effect similar to hives)

4:11 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Love the review! Heeley is dreamy, but I am not so impressed by his scents. I tried Fine Leather only once, but it seemed somewhat--well, weak--to me. I liked Cardinal (the incense scent) better, but not enough to pursue. And I now know everything I need to about Spirit of the Tiger:) Thanks!

6:41 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Well, he is a cutie, and the frag smells nice,
I sampled this, and I really can just keep my lil' vial for now.

I think I'd rather look at real people.
Like you, and Tomski, and Leelee.
All of us.

Love the blow by blow account !

Your package is on its way, with kisses and photos...


6:45 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. You have made me nostalgic for Tiger Balm. I need to go out and buy it ASAP!

6:58 AM EST  
Blogger Gail S said...

You made me laugh first thing this morning, so bless your heart. Side by side comparison..heheheheh

7:36 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Fab review! I *love* his style and want several pieces he makes. However, don't feel the need to own any of the scents. Especially not this one. Interestingly, almost all his scents have that "spirit" quality for me - not enough substance and cojones for my taste.

7:38 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

This line- so far- has left me cold. Unlike you reviews, which I always love.

8:03 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Where's Spirit of Ben-Gay? My husband wears some variant of that -- Spirit of Arctic Heat, or something similar.

Yes, I kind of like that camphor smell, but not as perfume...

8:21 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Victoria, I am passing my samples on too...but I know that syndrome well, you give it away and then, suddently, you must own it! I hope that doesn't happen with this one!

10:11 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Patty, didn't Robin say 800 this year! Yikes!!! You are correct. Nice just isn't enough any more. Actually, I really like Fine Leather and think everyone should try that.

10:12 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Maria, that jar I have is actually the original "red". Mine would stain your clothes. The photo I used was the only clear photo I found that was large enough to see the label. I am on the look out for the new "mint" Tiger Balm. Mmmmm, Tiger Balm!

10:16 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Leopoldo, hold on a minute. The Fine Leather really is wonderful. I am sending a sample to Columbina and maybe she will do a review of it. It is a very interesting fragrance with strange notes. I am still thinking about it a lot lately.

10:18 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

lilyofbp, thanks for the comment. I think you are right, even for an edp, Spirit of the Tiger is weak. I found Fine Leather a tad weak as well. Longevity of 4 hours, in my book, is pretty much a reject.

10:21 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Chaya, I can't wait! Did you try the Fine Leather? Like I said to Leopoldo, I am still thinking about it a lot. Although, I have to admit that I haven't smelled any of the new Chanels and so the Fine Leather might get bumped off my list current desires...

10:23 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said... is fantastic if you have a headache, I find. That's why I want to try the new "mint" flavor. It's supposed to clear up your sinuses (but don't get it too close to you mucus membranes! Which reminds me of the time I pulled a muscle in my thigh and rubbed tiger balm on it and thought I was going to die! Because of the high oil doesn't wash off!!!!!

10:26 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Gail S, it only made sense. After I read the Heeley concept ad, I knew exactly what must be done!

10:27 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Elle, I am going to call the line "Spirit of Heeley" from now on! They are sort of thin and weak as a whole, more like eau de colognes. Longevity sucks out loud!

10:30 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Thank you Marina. Sorry about the huge delay in getting you the Heeley samples but I couldn't see spending $25 just to get them to the border. My framer is leaving for the States next week and he has agreed to mail the samples to you from Laredo. Let me know when they arive.

10:32 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

March, it's just a funny concept, isn't it? Why would he think it was cool to smell like Tiger Balm or that people would want to? I associate the smell of Tiger Balm with pain. The dentist, a pulled muscle, the dentist, a migraine headache, the dentist...see what I mean? If scent memories are our most powerful, why remind us of the dentist? I mean pain?

10:35 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh, I am so sorry, I did not realize how much trouble it would be! Please, please don't worry and don't trouble your man with sending them to me, seriously!!

10:59 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

My honest opinion [THAT'S redundant- I really don't have any other opinion !] is that, if you have Cuir Ottoman, you really don't need Fine Leather- even though it's pretty.

CO is far more complex, interesting, haunting.
Maybe, Fine Leather is easier to wear, for many...

12:01 PM EST  
Blogger Victoria said...

Actually the lasting time on the Heeleys is longer than the new Chanels! The mint one is especially cool and wonderful in summer. The Cardinal has quickly become my favorite incense. Maybe these are less appealing to some in the winter, as they are better suited to summer weather.

12:16 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't tried the Tiger Balm (either the linament or the scent), but I have to stand up in defense of at least one Heeley fragrance. I've been wearing his Eau D'Iris a lot as a weekend or 'at home' fragrance. It's very clean and subtle and doesn't feel at all out of place when worn with exercise clothes. I find it to have moderate lasting power, which is about right for a casual scent.

1:02 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Marina, are you sure? Just let me know because it's not a problem.

2:11 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am positive. They are at all times only a click away, I am just being lazy :-) But thank you so much for being so kind!!

2:13 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Chaya, I haven't tried the Cuir Ottoman but it is on my list. I only have three more months and then I can order another bottle (that's my no-fragrance resolution). Samples are not in this plan...yet, so I can order as many as I like of those. I will let you know.

2:14 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Victoria, I also like Cardinal and you are right, it would be a perfect incense for Summer! It was light and citrusy. I am going to rethink that one and put it on my list for next perchase.

2:16 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Teri, I haven't tried the iris scent but I LOVE iris. OK, back to Luckyscent I go. I am convinced there is an engraved brass sign on a wall of their new store that reads "made possible from by the frequent purchases made by Kelley Vandiver". I am sure of it!

2:19 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Marina, OK. I will pass them on to someone else. Or, maybe I will keep them for a rainy night when I want to try them again to see if I have changed my mind. I often change my mind!

2:21 PM EST  
Blogger Solander said...

What a great way of reviewing this scent! I'm surprised this is the one being reviewed in blogs, not Cardinal or Fine Leather... I don't get it either, why would you want to smell like tiger balm, and if you did, why not just wear tiger balm?
I don't think Fine Leather is a weaker Cuir Ottoman, I think it's a weaker Cuir Amethyste - leather and violets. Only Fine Leather is more spinglike and Cuir Amethyste more summery. I much prefer leather/violet to the equally common leather/orange (blossom).

6:33 PM EST  
Blogger katiedid said...

No matter what, I just couldn't ever wear this. I never think "Tiger Balm." Everytime I even read so much as a brief mention of the NAME of the fragrance, this pops into my head, and it is a hellish earworm indeed. The mind is a funny, funny place where nothing works with any set logic.

5:59 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Katiedid....HAH!!! That is too funny. Now, you have ruined it for me too. I am going to think of "Rocky" every time I read the name, from now on. I was thinking that it was Silverster's brother, Frank, that sang this but I was wrong it's Survivor. You cheered me up!

11:38 AM EST  
Blogger Gaia said...

I hated this one. It didn't smell like something I'd voluntarily put on my skin. I'm not into frilly-girly-floraly or anything of the sort, and appreciate a certain amount of funk in my juice, but this just didn't work for me.

11:03 PM EST  

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