Candles & Home Scents: 13 posts

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.

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Haiku of the Day : Snowflakes of Autumn

At the beginning of fall one of the resolutions I made was to go running on a regular basis. As they say, be careful what you wish for, because lately my days have been on a fast track. Nevertheless, one must carve out moments of contemplation even during busy, stressful periods, and my other autumnal resolution, to read more poetry, came to the rescue. Poetry concentrates images and sensations, and it’s an effect it shares with perfumery.

Japanese poet Yamazaki Sōkan (1465–1553) was a poet and calligrapher in the shogun’s court, but he gave up the courtier’s life and became a Buddhist monk. Though I have no wish to renounce the world, reading his poetry is like shutting out the noise and focusing on the beautiful. Today I bring you one of my favorite autumnal poems by this haiku master.

If they were silent
flights of herons on dark sky –
snowflakes of autumn.

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Lily of the Valley Potpourri

A couple of years ago my aunt gave me a book called L’Art de Simplicité (The Art of Simplicity) that promised to declutter my life. After the first five pages, I felt like a failure. My bedroom is nothing like a room at a Zen monastery, my kitchen resembles a spice aisle at Kalustyan’s, and my living room with its overspilling bookshelves is more reminiscent of a public library during children’s hour than a space where two adults live.

lily of the valley potpourri

After reading much sensible advice on paring down and retaining only the essentials, I put L’Art de Simplicité down in my ziggurat of other books and haven’t picked it up since. You know what? I like having a bit of chaos in my life. It doesn’t stress me out that my perfume samples aren’t sorted alphabetically or that I have far too many bottles of flavored vinegar. What are the essentials anyway? What if I want to make salad with blackcurrant and rose vinegar today and try grilled chicken marinated in the juniper variety. I also can’t decide whether I want to wear a cologne or a voluptuous rose, so all options are around.

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Holiday Gift Ideas : My Favorite Candles

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.

candles

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.

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Making Armenian Paper Incense and Revisiting Bois d’Armenie

As a graduate student I always loved the serendipity associated with research–when a random reference leads to an Aladdin’s cave of fascinating information. It’s been years since I left the halls of academia, but I’m still a student (read, a geek!) at heart. So when I spotted a mention of E.J. Parry’s Encyclopedia of Perfumery in Nigel Groom’s The New Perfume Handbook, I made it a point to check it out. My reward was a recipe for Armenian paper, which I would like to share with you and to add to Bois de Jasmin’s collection of antique perfume recipes. Armenian paper is a home scent created in the 19th century by entrepreneur Auguste Ponsot and pharmacist Henri Riviere and sold as a natural air sanitizer. With its exotic and mysterious cachet Armenia was a perfect marketing spin for the incense based on benzoin, a resin redolent of sweet vanilla and spices.

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