I love incense, but during the last few years, when I burn incense inside the house, the smoke causes me to have sore throats, red eyes…and sneezing cats. I still enjoy incense, but in less “traditional” ways: I burn it outside — on the deck or in the garden; I place open boxes of incense into trunks, closets and cabinets where the sticks and cones scent the spaces for years; I wear incense powders and perfumes; and I burn incense-scented candles.
When it comes to perfumed candles, I mostly buy “French.” Diptyque makes up for its troubles with manufacture (off-center wicks, wax that does not burn evenly) by producing candles in a variety of interesting scents — and the last several Diptyque candles I’ve bought have been generously perfumed. Cire Trudon offers gorgeous scented candles (using perfume-quality fragrances) inside lovely green or red hand-blown glass jars (no phony — “sprayed-on” — colors for their glass containers!)
I thought Cire Trudon made the ultimate candles till I ordered some Astier de Villatte candles from Paris. If I were standing between a crate of Cire Trudon candles and a crate of Astier de Villatte candles and was told: “Choose one crate!” I’d probably pass out from rapid back-and-forth head movements: “Cire Trudon!” “NO! Astier de Villatte!” “Wait…!” "Cire Tru...de Villatte...." (thud)
Astier de Villatte was launched in 1996 and produces furniture and white ceramic tableware; it also has a beauty range (bath gel, hand cream, colognes) and a home fragrance line (20 scented candles named after cities and famous sights around the world). The candle fragrances were developed by Astier de Villatte designers and perfumer Françoise Caron who worked with a team at Takasago. The candles are made of biodegradable vegetable wax (a mix of soy, beeswax and plant extracts) and have cotton wicks.
The Delhi fragrance is described by Astier de Villatte as: A spicy plunge into the heart of the old town. Narrow back streets; buildings upon buildings; an over-heated atmosphere — a thousand heady flavours rise to your senses: betel, benzoin, musk and myrrh, flushes of smoked wood, vanilla emanations, herbal and eucalyptus beedies.1 The scent of the burning Delhi candle is mellow and romantic. Imagine the mingling aromas of benzoin-and-myrrh-scented cigarettes, wood smoke from far-away fires, roasting vanilla pods and Nag Champa. Heavenly.
The Delhi candle burns cleanly and evenly; the wax liquefies quickly. The Delhi candle’s throw is good even when unlit; when lit, it lightly scents the entire first floor of my house. Delhi’s aromas are not overpowering and its overall effect is of highest-quality Indian incense…without the smoke. I’m not someone who’s ever had a signature scent for my person or my house, but I love the Delhi candle fragrance so much I’ll need to order several more.
Astier de Villatte candles come in either bubbly, clear glass jars (50€/60+ hour burn time) or more expensive, white ceramic containers with lids (110€/100+ hour burn time). You may buy Astier de Villatte candles at the Paris boutique (173 rue Saint-Honoré) or check the company's international page for retailers near you; if what you want is not available in your country, you may order directly from Paris, using the company contacts on the Astier de Villatte website. Paris residents and perfume pilgrims: drop by the Astier de Villatte shop, try the colognes, and let me know how they smell; I’m so anxious to try them.
1. an Indian flavored cigarette made of tobacco wrapped in a tendu leaf (Diospyros melanoxylon).
Note: top image is Jujhar Singh Bundela Kneels in Submission to Shah Jahan, signed Bichitr, c. 1630, Chester Beatty Library [cropped]; center image is Ganesha via Wikimedia Commons.