The Nippon Kodo Fragrance Memories line, which I believe used to be called NK Style, is an admirably ambitious line whose results don’t really live up to the bargain on most occasions. You can think of the line as something of an incense travelogue and the scents concocted for this line span the entire globe. All of the scents are affordable, around $6 for a 20 stick box, and the style on all of the scents is modern and usually user friendly. My experience with nearly all of these is that they were very interesting on an initial burn or two but over time most of them wore out their welcome and often blurred with some of the other scents, making very few of what I sampled distinctive. While this line has many different scents, some of which are switched in and out of the line over the years, I’m just covering the seven fragrances I’ve tried, as it’s likely I won’t be trying anymore in the near future.
Several of the “greener” fragrances all definitely kind of blurred together for me over time. Whether it’s the mangrove in Green Oasis or the cactus in Happy Valley or Santa Fe Breeze, the scent reminds me of something alive and verdant, green and snappy and tends to dominate most of the other notes in the incense. Green Oasis adds starfruit and palm tree to the mangrove but all of the notes seem to wash out in one very crisp green and eventually cloying incense that suffers from having very little personality. The stone pine and lime in Happy Valley might balance it a bit more but mostly what you get is the snappy, green cactus odor and in this case the extra notes make it a bit too citrusy and like the Tequila Sunrise, one is left with the impression of a margarita left a bit too long in the sun. The cranberry and green chili in Santa Fe Breeze give the incense a bit more character than the other two with a similar green-ish sort of scent (and the spice of the chili gives it a bit of zip), but there’s still a dominant plant tone that makes all three of these all too similar in effect. Over time, I’ve grown fairly tired of all of them.
Paris Cafe is a cinnamon, coffee and chocolate blend that’s vaguely similar to the New Morningstar Earth line except this is a much stronger and intense blend that is very evocative of a café, although part of the aroma makes me think of a coffee smell that’s been, perhaps, sitting around too long. I really liked this aroma the first couple of times, but eventually found that it was too intense and stimulating for almost all moods, except when needing a pep up. You’d almost believe you’d get a caffeine dose from the scent itself. Overall the New Morningstar Earth strikes a better balance and isn’t so in your face.
Siesta Siesta is one of the line’s truly distinctive incenses and immediately with the blood orange, tomato and sangria notes you know you’re getting something unique. In fact only the sangria acts as a note in the background, with the blood orange and in this case sort of a vine ripened tomato scents combining in a fairly exotic fashion. It’s an extremely rich blend, maybe too much at times but the scents used are undeniably fascinating and thus you really can’t compare this to any other incense.
Silk Road Dream is probably my favorite in this group, likely due to the presence of jinkoh/aloeswood. While the line is probably synthetic to some extent given that many of these scents aren’t all that easily extractable from their source, at least in this case it adds up to a fairly well balanced blend. The other two ingredients are olibanum and fennel, and it’s particularly this last note that gives the blend a bit of spice pep. I wouldn’t put this in the same league as other natural aloeswood sticks by any means, but it’s perhaps somewhat comparable to the Kayuragi Aloeswood stick, which also seems to be enhanced in some way and has a more surface like rather than complex aloeswood scent.
Tequila Sunrise evokes for me a scent more redolent of long drinking nights rather than anything aromatically pleasant. Its combination of aloe, bergamot and lime probably should have had me include this with the greener incenses early in this post as the aloe (not the wood of course) has a greenish scent, but overall the aroma is a bit mesquite and unfortunately reminds me of what a room might smell like after a tequila party. It has that sort of salty, sickly sweet aroma at times, while at others there’s a slight (and unidentified) woodiness to the incense. I can’t imagine many westerners will find this pleasant.
Overall this is definitely an incense line for the modern market and most of these incenses aren’t likely to appeal to those seeking high end and more traditional scents. I don’t think I could recommend any of them wholeheartedly although I find Silk Road Dream pleasant and Siesta Siesta unique enough to be worth a sample. But the rest of the line doesn’t really encourage me to seek out the other scents, and I think part of this is all of the incenses share a base scent that isn’t quite as succesful as that used by Shoyeido in their Horin, 12 Months and other lines, all of which are comparable to Fragrance memories due to the thickness and short stick size.
With at least another 15 fragrances I haven’t tried, I’d be interested if anyone has any favorites from this line that might be worth trying…