March 01, 2018

Listening to... Nippon Kodo Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum

Nippon Kodo's Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum presents all the elegant, captivating, and sophisticated qualities of a refined woman of the Imperial Court. Nippon Kodo describes their Oedo Koh incense collection as "The rich translation of incense craft and the art of the perfumer weave the fragrance of old Edo." With its Chrysanthemum fragrance, Nippon Kodo pays tribute to the "chrysanthemum craze of the Edo era" where "Chrysanthemums were believed since ancient times to prolong life..." A gentle enchanting floral fragrance, Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum presents a truly sophisticated scent alluding to warm weather yet to appear.

A special note has to be mentioned regarding the packaging, as listening to incense begins with its presentation. The presentation of Oedo Koh is remarkable. The outer box is richly embossed with a beautiful Chrysanthemum emblem, over which elegant calligraphy announces the product. The product name in English is debossed into the package with gold foil letters. The inner box is made of Paulownia wood and includes a wonderful little brochure explaining the background and inspiration for all the fragrances in the Oedo Koh line. The incense itself is presented formally within this box, displayed handsomely on a black card stock next to a bright silver tin incense holder styled to evoke the stone pavers of old Edo. The whole package is stunning, showing immense attention to every elegant detail and resulting in an superb presentation. Just based on the packaging alone Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum would make an impressive gift.

Not to be outdone by the presentation however, the stick note is alluringly complex, with floral notes riding upon hints of citrus undertones. The top note is that of a floral perfume, soft and sophisticated. But with further exploration, there is also a hint of green and also of water, almost like fresh dew on new green leaves. The perfume note is dominant, yet elegantly refined, reminding me of a captivating and luxurious woman's dusting powder. Mixed with the undertones of citrus tinged greens and water, the memory of a lovely garden with dew is brought to mind.

Once lit, Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum presents a soft floral note. But the liquid and citrus notes experienced previously become more pronounced, surprising and delighting with the expansion of the sound-stage the fragrance plays upon. It's almost as if the listener is experiencing the fresh bloom of Chrysanthemum in the garden -  some open, some in bud, all with fresh green growth wet with the evening dew. One of the greatest aspects of exquisite Japanese incense is this ability to present not just a single fragrance - a Chrysanthemum flower - but an entire experience that transcends the listening environment. There is the floral note of the flower, the green slightly citrus note of the leaves and stem, and the liquid note of the dew, each mixing wonderfully to present a tableau of the gardens of Komagome and Sugamo near Edo from which the fragrance receives its inspiration.

The after note is soft and sweet, leaving the impression of a fragrance of a gracious garden, fresh with the evening dew after a warm day, drifting through an open window. The sweet citrus tones linger ever so gently leaving a refreshing feeling.

Overall, Nippon Kodo has produced an exquisitely romantic fragrance that is both richly cultured and absolutely captivating. As dreary February comes to an end here in Chicago, the sweet scent of flowers yet to come Oedo Koh Chrysanthemum provides is a welcome respite from winter dullness.


Sweet with evening dew
The scent of Chrysanthemum drifts its tempting fragrance
Through my recollection of summers yet to come.