The Kohdo Wood Collection is the latest release from British niche house Jo Malone. There are two fragrances: Lotus Blossom & Water Lily (in the clear bottle, and meant to "to energise the body") for day and Dark Amber & Ginger Lily (in the dark bottle, and meant to be mellow and sensual) for night; both are limited editions inspired by the Japanese incense ceremony.
If you found the idea of fragrances inspired by Japanese incense to be a little "exotic" for Jo Malone, you're not alone. Jo Malone is a niche brand by virtue of their size and distribution, but the fragrances themselves are rarely what I'd call adventurous. In the event, neither of the Kohdo Wood scents turned out to be wildly adventurous, but they're a nice change of pace for the Jo Malone brand.
I'll start with my favorite of the two, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily. The top notes are citrusy spices, very strong and peppery, after that, it is a spicy amber-y concoction with sheer florals layered over incense. It is not entirely dark — I'd call it middling dark, and middling sweet as well — and while the opening is a bit strong, it settles rapidly. It isn't at all the sort of thing I'd reserve for evening wear.
They've done a lovely job with this one, and I'd very much like to know who the perfumer was. It strikes a nice balance; it's clean and smooth enough that nobody will accuse you of smelling like High Mass (Comme des Garçons Avignon) or Damp Basement (Etro Messe de Minuit), but it has just enough dusty-resinous-earthy stuff in the base to make me happy. It is easily my favorite Jo Malone ever. Figures that it is limited edition, right?
I bought it on the spot, thereby breaking perfumista rule no. 84, "Never buy a fragrance on the first sniffing". Why did I buy it? Well, I felt like it. Do I regret it? Yes. I like it, in fact I like it very much, and I'll wear it happily, but there are many, many things on my list that I wanted more than this (Diorissimo! In extrait!), and it is my second off-the-cuff purchase of the year. More to the point, it made me realize how utterly helpless I would be if all niche brands offered their wares in SMALL bottles at a REASONABLE price. $50 for 30 ml? Done. (The notes: black cardamom, pink pepper, ginger, night blooming jasmine, orchid, water lily, rose, black amber, white pepperwood, leather, patchouli, sandalwood and Kyara incense accord).
I figured that Lotus Blossom & Water Lily would be the simple, straightforward Jo-Malone-ish entry in the set, but it's surprisingly interesting too. It's a considerably more transparent scent, pale and summery and cool and clean. There's less spice, and just enough aquatic accord in the opening to annoy me (the notes: aquatic accord, grapefruit, bergamot, mandarin, lotus blossom, freesia, honeysuckle, water lily, jasmine, incense, amber, sandalwood, musk, aloeswood and guaiac wood). The flip side is that there's just enough incense and dark wood in the base to keep it from being entirely dull.
I like Lotus Blossom & Water Lily better than I expected, but I wasn't tempted to buy. Still, if you're looking for something pale and summery with incense, and you don't like Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil, it is very much worth a shot.
As is the way with Jo Malone, neither of these scents are powerhouses. I found that both required frequent refreshing, and the Dark Amber & Ginger Lily did not perform any better on that score than the Lotus Blossom & Water Lily. They do layer together quite nicely. I was hoping that the Dark Amber would also layer nicely with Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia, a spur of the moment purchase from several years back, and one that turned out to be far sweeter than I care for. No such luck: the Vintage Gardenia eats up the Dark Amber and spits it out in short order. Oh well.
Jo Malone Lotus Blossom & Water Lily and Dark Amber & Ginger Lily are available in 30 and 100 ml cologne and in matching bath oils and candles. For buying information, see the listing for Jo Malone under Perfume Houses.
Update: the Kohdo Wood collection will return in the spring of 2009, again for a limited time period. Another update: they released it again in the spring of 2010.