There's nothing like a winter's night (or dim afternoon) with flickering candles burning inside dark rooms. Add a rainstorm, pot of strong Assam tea or Mexican hot chocolate, a gingerbread cake right out of the oven, stacks of thick European design, gardening and fashion magazines, some seed catalogs, and cookbooks to read...and I'm set for hours of light-hearted enjoyment (before the denouement: a nap).
I'd like to introduce you to some candles I've discovered over the last several months; all of them have great, intense aromas.
Diptyque Noisetier: hazelnut, clove, cedar, patchouli, vetiver
Noisetier invites a walk on the shady land, fertile and dry. A spicy, woody fragrance warmed by a smoky touch. — Diptyque
Like many recent men's perfumes, this candle mixes standard fragrance notes with some gourmand nuts — this time the nutty element is hazelnut. Noisetier definitely emits an edible aroma as it burns, but I also detect background patchouli, woody vetiver and dusty cloves (so dusty, and musty, you'd never use them in a recipe). What I like about Noisetier is its strangeness; I can't pin it down. Sometimes the 'hazelnuts' smell unripe/green and drenched in sap; sometimes they smell toasted and make me hungry. During a long burn, the candle smells like an aromatherapy salve made to boost your mood. Noisetier smells like no other candle I've owned (and the combined wax from those candles could be used to build a life-sized Taj Mahal).
Diptyque Noisetier is $65 for a 190g/6.5 oz. candle that burns approximately 60 hours.
Otherland Winter Collection: Black Velvet, Fallen Fir & Old Fashioned
Otherland continues to impress me with its high-quality candles (that don't cost as much, or more, than perfumes). All three Winter Collection candles appeal to me; this is my favorite Otherland collection so far.
Black Velvet: Perfumer Clément Gavarry; Alpine violet, iris woods, night-blooming jasmine, tuberose, orange blossom, Magnolia Grandiflorum, musks, pistachio, aldehydes, mimosa, citron, tomato leaves, mint, cherry
Black Velvet has a mix of intense white flower aromas (jasmine, tuberose and orange blossom) blending with sugared citrus peel, pungent violets and sheer woods. If you love powerhouse floral candles (or perfumes), give Black Velvet a try. Even with its generous "bouquet," Black Velvet is not a girly/feminine fragrance; if this were a cologne a man could wear it. There's a great green accord (mint? tomato leaf? pistachio?) that keeps Black Velvet in unisex territory. Black Velvet has floral-fougère flair.
Fallen Fir: Perfumer Frank Voelkl; balsam fir, musk, winter spice, cypress, gaiac wood, wood leather, cedar, cade oil, Clearwood, benjoin, vanilla, green accords
Don't expect a just-chopped fir tree on a wet forest floor. Fallen Fir smells like burning woods in a fireplace (with some vanilla pods and cade oil thrown in). This one's for "smoke" lovers.
Old Fashioned: Perfumer Clément Gavarry; aged bourbon, tobacco, dried fruit, pine, white patchouli, sweet leather, Clearwood, cistus absolute, davana, labdanum resin, Prunella, praline
Old Fashioned is my favorite candle in the Winter Collection. Imagine a rosy-cheeked host (male or female) with a hot, smoky pipe dangling from the lips offering you (on a gleaming silver tray) whiskey, plum brandy and a dish filled with raisins and candied pecans. Old Fashioned smells delicious...it makes me thirsty and hungry at the same time. If you want to conjure a cozy library or study, you couldn't do better.
Otherland candles are $36 for 8 oz. candles that burn approximately 55 hours.
Ormonde Jayne Four Corners Collection: Qi & Nawab of Oudh
I enjoy all the Ormonde Jayne Four Corners candles, but Qi and Nawab of Oudh get the most use (the others are Tsarina and Montabaco).
Qi: osmanthus, tea
Qi presents a liquor-y osmanthus note, heavy on apricot jam, with only a hint of leather. But as Qi's tea rose, neroli, leather and strong, sweetened black tea notes combine during the burn, they create an interesting "ripe" note: musky one minute, smelling of exotic Africa stone the next.
Nawab of Oudh: patchouli and pink pepper
Do I ever tire of sandalwood? Nope. Cedar? No. Bergamot? Never. Vetiver. ARE YOU KIDDING? The list of notes I smell all the time and still relish is huge, and oudh is one of those notes. I've not overdosed on oudh in all these years...because I avoid the crappy, artificial-smelling oudhs. I'm a lover of powdery musk perfumes, tinged with soft woods. Nawab of Oudh is such a fragrance: a cushion-y, woody patchouli is center stage but there's also a touch of rose, a hint of cinnamon and a silky oudh/musk accord. As the candle burns it veers between cream and powder; lovely!
Ormonde Jayne Qi and Nawab of Oudh are $110 for a 9.9 oz candle (via Aedes in the U.S.)
Finally, for those of you who love candles but don't like powerful scent in the air, I recommend the drip-less taper candles from Bougies la Française. I've been using these candles for over a decade; they have "channels" from top to bottom that direct the melted wax into the body of the candle, not the outside of the candle. Ingenious (and they'll get you through a LONG dinner party). A plus: these candles have the faintest aroma of pencil shavings, a clean scent that never interferes with food if you're burning them during a meal.
A box of 20 Bougies la Française trouées is approximately $25 (look online in the U.S. for the best deal).
Note: top image is detail from Corylus (hazelnuts) via USDA Pomological Watercolors NAL Digital Collections.