I love giving gifts, and not just for Christmas. When I want to treat someone to a scented present, a candle is one of my top choices. By lighting the wick, you transform the ambiance of a room in just a matter of minutes. You can give L’Occitane Feuille de Figuier as a memento of the summer, or L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Thé et Pain d’Épices for a bit of winter holiday cheer. With Comme des Garcons’s Jalsaimer candle, you can send your friends on a tour of Rajasthani temples perfumed with myrrh and frankincense. It’s up to you to choose the fantasy.
Although it’s easier to select a scented candle than a bottle of perfume, you should still research your recipient’s tastes. Is she a lover of all things sweet and floral? Does he like clean, understated colognes? In general, you have more leeway when it comes to home fragrances, because while someone may not like wearing gourmand perfumes, they will enjoy the scent of vanilla and gingerbread spices in the air.
Having come across my fair share of candles that were either badly scented and/or overpriced, I have little patience for high-end brands that don’t deliver on their promise. A good-quality candle should have a strong smell when unlit, fill the space with perfume when burning and also retain its fragrance as long as wax remains in the jar. There should be no scents of soot, burning paper or wool, or other off-odors (assuming that you clip the wick regularly).
It’s best to burn your scented candle for no more than 2 hours at a time. But with the choices below, these 2 hours should be plenty to perfume the whole room.
L’Occitane Fleur d’Or & Acacia Candle
The Fleur d’Or & Acacia candle is part of La Collection de Grasse, inspired by the town of Grasse in Provence. If you like the almond and cucumber peel aroma of mimosa, then Fleur d’Or & Acacia is for you. I’m a big fan of L’Occitane candles, and Fleur d’Or & Acacia laced with honey, mimosa absolute and delicate musk is my latest favorite. L’Occitane promises about 45 hours of burning time, and in my experience, it can be even more if you keep the wick properly trimmed. And can I point to the reasonable price?
For those who prefer something more classical, I recommend the Lavender candle for its rich herbal aromas. 9.5oz/$35. Available at L’Occitane stores.
Parfums de Nicolaï Route du Cedre Candle
A dry blend of cedarwood, amber and pine perfumes this high-quality candle. It’s the scent of a library crossed with that of a woodworking shop. Maharadjah is for those who prefer more opulence; it layers vanilla with smoky incense and then liberally spices it up cinnamon and orange peel. 6 oz/$65.00. Available at Beautyhabit and Parfums de Nicolaï boutiques.
Lux and Potager Royal Candles (Arty Fragrance by Elisabeth de Feydeau)
Arty Fragrance by Elisabeth de Feydeau draws its inspiration from Versailles, its glitter, its flamboyance and its aromas. Historian Elisabeth de Feydeau, the author of A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer, certainly knows a thing or two about the French court’s fragrances. If you want to make someone feel like a queen, Lux is an excellent choice. It purportedly recreates the scent of wax used to polish the wood floors in Marie-Antoinette’s private apartments. The aroma of woods blended with beeswax and honey creates a cozy, warm ambiance.
On the other hand, Potager Royal perfumed with basil is exhilarating and fresh. It reminds me of Cire Trudon Abd El Kader, which is one of my top ten favorite candles, but what gives Potager Royal more complexity is the milky sweetness of green fig and crushed leaves. 45 €. Available at Jovoy Paris, Haute Parfumerie Place Vendôme.
True Grace Black Currant Leaves and Lily (and Natural Wax Candles)
True Grace candles are made out of natural wax in Wiltshire, UK. I love the tangy, green Black Currant Leaves with its flourish of rose and oakmoss. Lily accented with green jasmine is another excellent choice for the floral lovers, but the collection includes many other alternatives. A very reasonably priced, good quality candle (£18) that’s available at truegrace.co.uk, Fortnum and Mason, and John Lewis.
I found True Grace by asking some of my British friends for their favorite inexpensive, natural wax candles, but if you live in the US, check your organic food stores for interesting local brands. Some of them may not be available outside of your state. A natural beeswax candle doesn’t even need any extra perfume; it smells like melted honey and soft hay.
Annick Goutal Noël Candle
A limited edition candle brought out each year for the holidays, Noël is one of my favorite winter inspired candles. It’s perfumed with mandarin zest, pine bark and sweet resin. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine a Christmas tree in front of you. You also get an elegant glass streaked with gold. 6.2 oz/ £39. Available at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, Annick Goutal boutiques.
Parfum d’Empire Lys Casablanca and Ambre Absolue Candles
A relative newcomer to the home fragrance market, Parfum d’Empire has exquisitely scented candles that are as good as its Eau de Parfums. I would happily wear Lys Casablanca in perfume, but so far I enjoy smelling its sun warmed lilies in my bedroom. I almost expect to turn around and find a bouquet of waxy white flowers dusted with yellow pollen. Ambre Absolue is a sweet amber made austere with woods and incense, while Lantana Camara is a fantasy of tropical fruit and flowers. 43 €. Available at parfumdempire.fr.
Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir and Orange Blossom Candles
The Duchess of Cambridge may prefer Orange Blossom, but Pomegranate Noir is another Jo Malone top seller. When it’s lit, Pomegranate Noir smells like crushed raspberries and patchouli. A generous dose of incense keeps things interesting, while the milky sweetness of plum adds a voluptuous accent. Orange Blossom is an uplifting swirl of white petals and citrus zest. 7oz/$65, £38. Available at Jo Malone boutiques and counters.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversée Du Bosphore Candle
Among the high-end candles, L’Artisan’s stand out for their quality. The scents are sophisticated and complex, the throw is excellent, and the candles last for ages. Traversée Du Bosphore, inspired by the eponymous perfume, is my latest discovery, and I love its seductive fragrance of rose, iris and leather. It surprises you later by revealing a warm accent of tobacco. Tilleuls Au Vent, Sous la Glycine, Oranger en Fleurs, and L’Ambre are some of my other L’Artisan favorites. 6.2oz/$70, 45 €. Available at Aedes, Luckyscent, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and L’Artisan boutiques.
L’Artisan Parfumeur La Boule d’Ambre (Amber Ball)
L’Artisan’s Amber Ball is one of my top 10 favorite home fragrance products. The carved wooden ball contains a packet scent with sweet, luscious amber. You refill it every couple of years, but mine is about 5 years old and it still smells strong enough to perfume the closet. Amber Ball Medium is €75 ($140); refill is €45. Amber balls are available at Aedes, L’Artisan counters and boutiques.
Diptyque Encens des Indes and Ecorce de Pin
In general, when it comes to quality to price ratio, you can definitely do much better than Diptyque. Their candles are deliciously perfumed, but I usually find the throw to be moderate. On the other hand, the new limited edition candles are very good: the packaging is beautiful, the scents are very interesting, and the aroma lingers in the room.
Encens des Indes smells like peppery incense, with a touch of licorice and myrrh. A frill of rose adds a layer of sweetness to the dark incense, and in the air, you can smell both of them unfolding simultaneously.
My second favorite is Ecorce de Pin, a scent of smoky woods and pine needles. A warm note of patchouli gives this candle complexity and richness, and the woody aroma lingers in the air long after the candle is extinguished.
Orange Chai, however, is disappointing. It smells terrific in the jar, but after an hour all I smell in the air is the sweet cinnamon. If cinnamon is what you like, you can find much better and much less expensive alternatives at L’Occitane, Yankee Candles or even the drugstore brands. 6.5oz candle/$68.00
Guerlain Hiver en Russie Scented Candle
Guerlain candles are the ultimate luxury, and the quality of the wax and ingredients are obvious as soon as you open the box. Spending $100 on a candle for myself feels far too indulgent, but this is why I love giving gifts. Out of Guerlain’s collection, Hiver en Russie (Winter in Russia), Boudoir Vénitien (Venetian Boudoir), and Pot Pourri Parisien (Parisian Potpourri) stand out for their complex and nuanced aromas. It’s another case where the candles, with appropriate changes to suit the medium of alcohol, could be the Eau de Parfums. Hiver en Russie smells like the Russian Orthodox church with its aroma of frankincense, myrrh and someone’s Shalimar.
Boudoir Vénitien is an intriguing blend of violet, leather and black currant, and it’s just as sumptuous as it sounds. Pot Pourri Parisien has the sparkling top notes of orange, orange blossom and rosemary, but the longer it burns, the more you notice the darkness of patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla. It’s a play on Jicky, but with a darker twist. 180g (6.4oz)/$95. Available at Guerlain boutiques.
Do you have any favorite candles? What are some of the most strongly scented candles you’ve tried?
For other gift ideas, be sure to check out Nowsmellthis. Robin always does excellent seasonal gift guides.