The Art of Scented Candles

When my mother travels, she packs with her a votive candle in her favorite scent, rose, violet or mimosa. A familiar scent makes even the blandest hotel room feel cozier and brighter. I started following her example some years ago. Should one want to select from the range of excellent scented candles, the choice these days is overwhelming. So, in my new FT column, The Art of Candles, I’ve selected my current favorites.

Here is one, for instance.

Byredo’s Tree House has a dry and bracing scent. The main accord is composed of cedarwood, sandalwood and hay, with spice and myrrh adding darker, warmer layers. Inspired by Japanese treehouse master Takashi Kobayashi and his many creations, the candle fragrance successfully captures the aromas of polished wood. Even after the candle is snuffed out, the peppery, balsamic scent floats in the air, evoking glistening wood shavings in different shades of amber. To read the full list, please click here.

Do you have favorite scented candles?

Image via FT

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27 Comments

  • Marco: I liked Diptyque’s candle Feu de Bois. July 6, 2018 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a good candle. It also has a nice throw. July 6, 2018 at 10:03am Reply

  • matty: I like Jo malone candles….but can’t pick a favourite at the moment !! July 6, 2018 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve used Orange Blossom before and I have a votive of Red Roses someplace. July 6, 2018 at 10:03am Reply

    • Cara: The Jo Malone Tomato Leaf one is a favorite in our home. Excellent throw and not too feminine. July 10, 2018 at 10:13am Reply

  • Anne: I love diptyque Baie and the cire Trudon candles, amazing! July 6, 2018 at 10:22am Reply

  • Joy: I’m so pleased that you wrote this article today about candles. I love candles, but have had a few over the years that are quite awful. I will have to order some of your suggestions.
    I also liked your suggestions for burning and maintenance. July 6, 2018 at 11:05am Reply

  • kat: Throughout my childhood my mother used to buy sandalwood scented candles from a charity for the blind for herself and for all of us as Christmas gifts – then all of a sudden they were no longer available and she really missed them. I looked for years for a good substitute (apparently sandalwood has become scarce due to over-harvesting) – the very few I could find were cloy and often more vanilla than sandalwood. A couple of years ago I finally struck gold with Kew Gardens, they produce a beautiful sandalwood candle that comes close to my memories (and the piece I kept in a zip-loc). And now a box full of those is my Christmas gift to my mother. July 6, 2018 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Kathy Parsons: Delightful story. July 6, 2018 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Eudora: Hello Victoria and perfume fans, do you recommend Pacífica candles? I have no experience with candiles.Thanks. July 7, 2018 at 7:44am Reply

  • mononoke: Another candle lover haré, being my favourite Brando Cire Trudon. Balmoral is amazing! Wanna try the Byredo ones. Tree house or Biblioteque. Better both ;D July 7, 2018 at 9:14am Reply

  • Lydia: My old favorite was the Diptyque Cannelle candle, which smelled like the spicy, luxurious atmosphere of the old, grand, pre-war Manhattan apartments.

    My current favorite is the Bernardaud Rose Pure candle designed by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti. It genuinely smells like an old estate garden overgrown with heritage roses and freesia, maybe on a rainy day (but in a fresh way, none of the synthetic ozone notes that plague modern florals). I wish so much that this was available as a perfume. I’ve more than once considered rubbing the candle wax on my wrists.
    I first encountered the candle at the Met Museum gift shop as part of a Vincennes Floral Candle gift set connected to their Visitors to Versailles exhibition. (It’s a great choice, I think, because it’s easy to imagine this as one of Marie Antoinette’s favored scents.) July 7, 2018 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Emilie: My favourite candle for the autumn and winter is Diptyque’s Noisetier… it is such a warm smell and so deliciously woody and fruity at the same time.

    I would love to try their Violette candle but they do not seem to stock it anywhere in Adelaide 🙁 July 8, 2018 at 3:30am Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you, Victoria, several of these candles are very tempting, I love the idea of non-sweet Violet (that’s why I enjoy Violet Blonde).
    Anne Steeger’s candles are nice and affordable, I had bought the jasmin candle when she had a store in Valreas. And she is very honest in listing the wax used is a mix of mineral and vegetal. The English translation on her site often doesn’t make sense though, quite funny, I’m tempted to offer my help. And many thanks for the tips on burning candles cleanly. July 8, 2018 at 10:47am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Hello to all on a hot summer’s day! Unbelievably warm and sunny weather in England, this year. So, candles seem to warm a thought. 😊 Having said that, I love candles. We usually have some lit at our dinner table every evening. My husband ‘s favourite is beeswax (often bought at English Heritage shops, alongside their various historical properties). They have a warm delicious scent. I also enjoy various scented candles, especially around Christmas/winter months. Really top quality can often be bought from small home based businesses in the Christmas markets, etc. July 8, 2018 at 11:53am Reply

    • Silvermoon: I meant too warm! July 8, 2018 at 11:54am Reply

  • KO: Victoria, what are your thoughts on the more affordable candle brands and scents? Are there any you particularly recommend?
    Of course, I love Diptyque too (Oeillet is my personal fave, now tragically discontinued), but the price of the luxury bands makes them difficult for many people to enjoy often. July 8, 2018 at 12:51pm Reply

    • Neva: Hi KO, if they are available at your place, I can recommend the brands Kringle and Village Candle. They last long, have an intense scent, come in three sizes and they have a big choice of candles. July 9, 2018 at 4:05am Reply

  • Neva: I really like your mother’s idea to take candles along on a trip. I have never tried it but I’m going on a business trip tomorrow so I’ll do it this time. I’m sure I’ll appreciate it after a long day’s work.
    So far I have tried candles from Diptyque, Patricia de Nicolai, Cire Trudon and Frederic Malle. All high end candles are rather strong and the scent lingers in the room for many hours. My favourite one right now is Jurassic Flower from Frederic Malle, a fresh flower with incense. When I want to spend less money on candles, then I go for the brand Village Candle. They have three sizes, good intensity and they last very long.
    I usually burn them for approximately three hours because sometimes it takes long for the surface to melt completely. July 9, 2018 at 4:01am Reply

  • N: I like Nest candles especially Cedar Leaf and Lavender, Apricot Tea, Moroccan Amber, Linen, Sicilian Tangerine, Birchwood Pine, Holiday, and the now discontinued Sahara Spice. I wait for 20% to 25% sales on the Nest website and or at Bloomingdales to buy them. However, I do not think it is necessary to buy high end $85 candles to enjoy home fragrance. I melt wax tarts also. I’ll buy Yankee Candle, Bath and Body works, Voluspa, or basically any brand if I catch a sale. I freely admit that I am no candle snob. July 9, 2018 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Mel: My favorite candles on the not-outrageously-pricey side are: Firewood by Henri Bendel, anything by MaisonLouisMarie which have become pervasive all over LA. At $34 they rival the quality of a stalwart brand like Diptyque. And finally, LACurie, a small fragrance house in Tucson makes limited edition candles for $45 that are AMAZING. They evoke the history and myths of the Sonoran Desert and beyond. I love these candles and give them as gifts frequently. The perfumes, especially Incendo, are in constant rotation on my wish list. I haven’t personally splurged on Cire Trudon. A friend took the plunge and it seemed like the throw wasn’t so great. But I’m tempted. Especially by Carmelite. You can never go wrong w/ Diptyque’s Baies and I also love Coriander. I always give my mom Jo Malone b/c in addition to the beautiful scents the packaging is so special. Over the years I’ve literally given her every JM scent. My favorite by far is Pomegranate Noir. When I was a kid the Rigaud candle was the last word. Now there’s so many options. So hard to choose. But, Victoria, you had me at Tree House. I love woods, smoke, pencil shavings – which reminds me of the CdG Monocle Hinoki candle! Fantastic. July 20, 2018 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Thank you for the lovely article Victoria.
    My absolute favourite scented candle is Hypsoe’s L’heure du The. Milky and sugary tea goodness that takes me back to my childhood breakfasts. Waiting for this Brussels heatwave to subside though before lighting a candle again. July 24, 2018 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t reply to comments. 🙂 The idea of thinking about candles in this heat is too much for me. I’m shuddering at the thought that it’s only going to get hotter from now on. July 24, 2018 at 2:50pm Reply

      • Rowanhill: +36C tomorrow. I am contemplating on going to the supermarket and sticking my head in the freezer until someone asks me to leave. 😀 July 26, 2018 at 4:04am Reply

        • Victoria: Our fishmonger was receiving a delivery of ice this morning, and I briefly contemplated diving into the bucket. Brussels is hotter than Delhi today! July 26, 2018 at 4:19am Reply

          • Rowanhill: It must have been tempting 😀 July 26, 2018 at 5:34am Reply

  • Julia (the one in BC): Alas, I can’t afford the lovely scented candles by Diptyque and so forth, so I usually travel with a modest amount of incense and burn that instead. Pure Japanese incense is my favourite – ideally woods. I often follow the tea-ceremony convention of burning aloeswood in the winter and the (lighter-scented) sandalwood in the warmer months. And since scent seems so much more powerful in hot or humid weather, it’s easy to burn a short piece of incense to scent the room wonderfully. July 26, 2018 at 5:07pm Reply

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