Apothia Candles

I’m recovering from last night’s sugary festivities. Let me put down my Snickers bar and tell you about a local event I went to recently featuring Ron Robinson of Apothia doing a hands-on presentation of his candles, which won the Fragrance Foundation´s 2006 Interior Scent of the Year.

I´m just dipping my nose into the wide world of scented candles, and I probably won´t go too much further. My reality is, with four kids and a certain amount of home-grown chaos, setting small, controlled fires around our house (no matter how delish they smell) is a bad idea. But Ron´s a fun guy, a delight to talk to, and I really enjoyed learning more about his candles and about the approach behind his store, which I would kill to have here in D.C.

The candle collection is designed to represent various aspects of L.A. life. My visits to the Left Coast have been pretty limited, and I´ve never been to L.A., although I figure it´s only a matter of time, and I´ll probably take a girl or two along. In the meantime, I thought the candles were a wonderful intro. I´m going to crib from the literature Ron gave me: the candles are made with “a unique, luxurious combination of soy and paraffin” with the “texture of solid perfume – rub it into your skin!” That sounds ridiculous, but it´s true – I loved how creamy the candles were (they´re in jars), they smell amazing even when they´re not burning, and you can literally run your finger across the top like a solid perfume, or dip your finger in the molten wax (it didn´t burn me) and put the fragrance on your skin.

I really appreciated the aesthetic; it seems to me that any well thought out candle line — and I´ve sniffed a few — has its own distinct feel. I can´t speak to their capturing the L.A. vibe, but the Apothia candles were interesting for their smooth, unusual combination of notes that create a targeted ambience. My favorites of the 10 candles:

Wave – “morning at the beach house. Sun, sparkle and pure salt air.” Grapefruit, mandarin, yuzu, driftwood and seagrass. A smell that´s outdoorsy but also sophisticated. Woods/citrus, not sweet, the driftwood/seagrass dynamic suggesting salty ocean air rather than a Glade room spray.

Scene – “glittering lights, electric nights … anything can happen.” Fig, peppery juniper berry and ripe pear. I don´t know about the scene part, but it´s a neat trick – he had me with the fig, but the rest of the notes create a balance between sweet and sharp.

Plush – “full service, crisp linens, deep baths, sleeping in.” Fresh milled soap, petitgrain, mandarin, lime. This gets rave reviews from me for smelling like a warm, inviting bedroom while neatly avoiding the overdone clean laundry/soap concept. Your room in an expensive spa should smell like this.

Bronzed – “groves of gold, bronzed bodies, a sun-kissed day in the City of Angels.” Orange flower, petitgrain, bergamot and jasmine. I smiled when I smelled this – it´s the beach, sand, and bods glistening with Bain de Soleil. It´s not me, but it´s a great smell.

Chrismukkah – “Christmas. Chanukkah. Kwanzaa. Friends. Family. Love. It´s all good.” Green fir, clove and crisp ocean air. Okay, the name makes me wince a little, but this is a welcome twist to the ubiquitous holiday candle – it´s a holiday at the beach, and the “crisp ocean air” smells … well, airy, and again, not like some nasty “fresh air” spray scent.

Casa – this was Ron´s suggestion for a general home fragrance (hence the name) that doesn´t, for instance, clash with food if you´re burning it in the main part of the house during a dinner party. Notes are Casablanca lilies, newly cut grass, fresh air. It didn´t win my heart, because Casablanca lilies probably never will, but you lily fans should take note. Again, an airy (no pun intended) take on a bouquet of lilies in your Neutra house with a fabulous view – that´s my fantasy, anyway. Present but not cloying.

So, after all that, what did I choose?

Velvet Rope – of course. I´ve loved Velvet Rope (the fragrance) from the first time I smelled it, but it probably smells better on anyone else on the planet than it does on me, a source of mild internal strife on my part. It doesn´t smell bad on me – but I flatten it out somehow, and all the sparkly bits disappear. Unsurprisingly, Velvet Rope smells wonderful as a room fragrance – it was originally inspired by a visit to a bar and a vanilla martini. Notes: dry vanilla martini, jasmine absolute, a twist of grapefruit. I find the smell of Velvet Rope absolutely intoxicating, and it´s been scenting my bedroom since I brought it home. It´s an unusual smell, sweet and dry, vaguely foody, but not in a way that makes you hungry. The throw (ooooh, candle-geek talk!) is excellent, the smell lingers for hours after I put the candle out, and even unlit it scents the corner of the room where I sit and read. It´s definitely there, but seamless enough not to annoy the Big Cheese, who would totally complain if I burned something really strong in the fruit or woods department. I couldn´t be happier.

Thinking about the line and writing these descriptions, the concept I keep coming back to is balance – rather than smelling mostly of fig (or tea, or hinoki wood) each candle is done with no particular dominant note. They smell interesting, and expensive (more expensive than they are, frankly) and while they´re strong, they don´t bludgeon you. None of them made me wonder if I´d have to open a window or get sick of that particular smell after a week or two, which has prevented me from buying in the past. However you want to describe his style, it certainly works for me.

I think I paid $45 (more or less), they have a 60-hour burn time, and they´re available online at Apothia and elsewhere. It´s my first grown-up candle, a milestone, and I couldn´t be happier.

Velvet Rope candle image: www.ronrobinsoninc.com

  • Lee says:

    Love candles and room sprays, but I’m pretty restrained in my buying of the high end stuff, though I can’t cope with some of the cheaper stuff I risk buying (oh asthma). Currently loving Diptyque’s Maquis – LOADS of cistus, and then some patch and amber – a dirty funky autumn smell. I also want their Mousses, which is the closest approximation to the smell of the woods in autumn – not as in ‘Imagine a perfume that smells autumnal and woodsy’, but ‘Here you are, in the woods. Where are THOSE mushrooms?’…and Nicolai’s Feu de Bengal.

    • March says:

      Those sound fascinating! I haven’t smelled them. Diptyque has really scaled back in the local shop appearances, I hope that isn’t a bad sign of something.

  • Camille says:

    Ahhh, candles. I adore them, burn them constantly, and even burn them in unsupervised places in the house during gatherings. I designate a “fire chief” at parties to keep an eye on the candle situation while I’m busy doing hostess-y stuff. Nothin’ like living on the edge.


    Your grown up candle sounds yummy; I might have to investigate the line after I use up some of the dozens I have in my “candle armoire” that are waiting to be burned….Nice that I have samples of the Apothia scents to play with. (Thanks March!)

    • March says:

      You have a candle armoire!!! Wow, and here I was livin’ large with one…

      I forgot, did I send you some Apothia? I guess I did./:)

  • Robin says:

    Thou shalt not be tempted by high end candles…

    • March says:

      Well, mostly not. As I am clearly too paranoid about burning the house down, or someone doing it for me. But you are correct, it’s not like I can’t get busy and waste that money on regular ol’ fragrance. Somehow I am thinking you are not a candle person?

      • Robin says:

        I buy them, but I have enough money-drains between perfume and obscure limited edition oolongs, LOL…so I stick to “under $20”. And actually, you can get some really awesome candles for that price these days.

  • Joan says:

    While reading your story today, I remembered a catalog I received recently from Rejuvenate that I saved because of the candle on the back page. “Fragrant, Soot-Free Soy candle melts into soothing, moisturizing massage oil”. It has Vitamin E, Jojoba and sweet almond oils, is 6oz in a glass jar for $14.99 with refills available for $ 9.99. It only states Lavender scent and I have no idea if it is good or not, but I was intrigued by the idea sticking my fingers into the warm candle melt and putting it on my skin.

    • March says:

      Ah, yes, ANOTHER person comes out of the closet as a candle-wax lover…. it does sound nice, doesn’t it? The wax from the Apothia certainly made my skin soft.

  • Gail S says:

    Mmm, I love candles. I ended up with this massive collection a while back so I had to scale back. Lately, I’ve been more into the fragrance oils as I find they distribute the scent throughout the house much more quickly than most candles. And you can find such pretty oil burners these days! However, you can’t smell them at all when they’re not burning.:(

    The idea of candles as solid perfume is very interesting! This would really appeal to my daughter, who has never gotten over the urge to dip her fingers in molten candle wax. Must check out the Apothia candles!

    • March says:

      A wax dipper!!! Heh heh heh. Do you think we should do a post of all our weird compulsions? Wax dipping? Ice eating? Sand eating? :-” Not that I’d do any of those.

      It was weird how the wax got warm but not hot like regular candle wax. Maybe that’s true of all soy candles, but I was fascinated.

      • Gail S says:

        Ummm, ice eater here too x(

        But reformed! I was addicted to the stuff when I was terribly anemic, but all is well now and my compulsion to eat ice is also gone. Thank goodness, because that was just weird!

        • March says:

          Mine got really bad throughout my pregnancies (anemic, same thing.) But the sand compulsion was particularly problematic. Gawd, I hope nobody’s reading this … my OB/GYN was very firm on the no sand eating, who knows what’s in that stuff? But I was spending all this time at the playground with the kids in the sandbox … sigh. I held firm, but it was really hard.

  • Silvia says:

    Oh, these candles sound lovely…I wonder if they are available in Europe.

    I always thought the warning never to leave burning candles unattended was largely one of those manufacturers’ cover-your- a#@*-type disclaimers. That until one turned into a small fire (fortunately confined to the glass) during a dinner party. Not a good experience.

    I do burn and love the occasional (supervised) candle, but much prefer using the Lampe Berger, which is simply brilliant and much much safer for someone as easily distracted as me.

    • March says:

      Silvia — I have several friends with bad candle stories …. so clearly it does happen. I think the worst combo is drunk people and tea lights at the dinner table.

      I remember sitting with my sister at the table after Thanksgiving, messing around with the little pilgrim candles. I was dripping hot wax into the empty biscuit pan. At some point I managed to catch the pan’s grease on fire and sat there, stunned, as the flames shot toward the ceiling. My older sister had the presence of mind to smother it with a pot lid…#-o

  • Judith says:

    Hmmmmm. . I do love candles but I have too many. I wonder whether I would be moved by any of these. Strangely, I don’t like Velvet Rope (or their other scents) that much (I mean I don’t DISLIKE them, but. . . .)

    • March says:

      I think your comment is an interesting one. I spent a lot of time thinking about candle smells (way before buying one). I’ve been sniffing them for awhile. My guess is what appeals to us in candles is as varied as fragrance, and my desires for the smell of a room are different. For instance, I have been sniffing the Burn candles here for probably a couple of years now without being moved to buy them. As great as that Hinoki one smells (or the Tibetan one, etc.), I just kept coming back to the fact that I thought I’d get sick of the smell, just that one note, at some point. As I said in the post, the Apothias were an instant success with me because the scents were more complex. But I still want, for instance, that John Galliano candle, and the Bottega one(or both) … I keep wanting to try that smoky smell in a room.

  • sariah says:

    Hi March, congratulations on your first grown up candle, I am very tempted by the VR candle myself. It doesn’t seem that a burning candle could have the sparkly grapefruit effect at the top of the fragrance that the perfume has. Is it in there, or is it more of the vanilla and smoke?

    • March says:

      Definitely more smoke, which I’m guessing is simply a byproduct of the fact that it’s burning. It smells exactly like the fragrance to me (well, not *on* me) — I get the grapefruit, but you’re right, the whole effect is more like the drydown? Less citrus than the opening of the VR fragrance, yes. As I said above, really nice room fragrance.

  • Elle says:

    A few of those sound really wonderful. Am a serious candle sl*t, so was trying to figure out as I read your post why on earth I haven’t tried any of the Apothia candles yet and then remembered – money! That thing I’m trying to save. I’m not doing the most brilliant job when it comes to perfumes these days, but I have almost enough candles to light our town in case of some dire power outage and figured I should just cease and desist for a while when it comes to getting more. And have also been moving into the diffuser world, but must say I don’t find them as satisfying or comforting as having candles burning. Am guessing Apothia has diffusers. May have to check them out. Or maybe not, as I can see DH giving me agonized looks about our budget.

    • March says:

      Well, then, it sounds like you don’t “need” any more candles, hon! Fragrance, though … definitely we need some more of that! Heh heh.

      Well, since you are a candle sl*t I hope you at least try these at some point so I can get your more educated opinion. I really liked how much smell they created *unlit*, which isn’t always the case (e.g., I can barely smell the Mariage Freres ones unlit), although the display candle is maybe just old.

      Apothia does have diffusers! Those stick ones! I think they come in all the scents.

  • Louise says:

    Love candles, though I usually like one that I don’t have to light to get scent-I still don’t trust myself with flammables. I have an ancient Nars holiday candle that still smells amazing-and is rarely burned.

    The Apothias are stunning. I liked especially the Wave, and Bronzed. I must need a vacation in a beachy spot. Wasn’t there also another, hippie-dope smelling one? I think I liked it, but would have had a hard time explaining it to my son…I might just have to get the Velvet Rope, though it can’t possibly smell as good as the fragrance does on a gentleman friend of ours.

    • March says:

      Well, there’s the Spiritual one — the funky incense-y one, right? I liked it too, a lot — ultimately, though, I felt like those burn ones in temple whatever sort of have that area covered for me. In a completely theoretical way, of course, since I don’t own either.:”>

      You’re right, it’s not VR on Bill, but seriously — VR is an EXCELLENT room scent.

      • Louise says:

        Oh yeah, the Burn ones-I love the Balinese Temple, but will probably get the body lotion instead of candle. I am generally less likely to tip over then a candle. Now the idea of Burning Bill (in the nice way, of course) around the house wearing VR is not bad at all…

  • dinazad says:

    Gahhhhh…. another series of items on my ever-growing list of things to get if I ever manage to get my opulent self to the US of A. I’m definitely going to need a large lottery win, a fine set of fancy luggage and a herd of muscular young men to carry the stuff (among other things they’ll be asked to do, such as polishing the perfume bottles). Lovely review, March, it literally has me drooling. Especially the Scene and Plush!

    • March says:

      Oh, come visit!!! You can stay with us, we’re friendly and we smell good. If you have any interest in seeing D.C., that is. I can show you a good time…

  • Maria says:

    I like candles, but I’m afraid that as my nose gets more attuned to the complexities of perfume, I get more persnickety about candle fragrance. That’s not a good route to go, as I only have $$$ for a few of the perfumes I want and I don’t want to blow a lot of cash on candles. Lee has mentioned some Parfums de Nicolai candles he likes, but I don’t think those are the ones available in the U.S.A. Beautyhabit doesn’t have Havane, but they carry others such as Ecorces de Seville, Feu de Bengal, Fleur d’Ete, and Maharadjah. Has anyone tried these?

    • March says:

      I think ultimately I’ll end up a room spray gal, if anything. This candle thing has been fun, and I’m contemplating lugging the VR out to my car for a day or two to see how that works out. But the Cheese and I tend to hover over it mentally whenever it’s lit. When I’m taking a bath tends to be the only “right” time, because I can’t get up and walk out of the room to deal with some problem.:”>

      I have not smelled the PdN candles. Did you check on MUA? When I was researching my fig stuff the complaint I ran across frequently was regarding throw (not regarding the PdNs, just generally.) I guess there’s nothing like spending $$$$ and then discovering you have to practically stand over the darn thing to smell it.x(

    • Lee says:

      Feu de Bengal is the newbie – smells fantastic! I’ve sniffed the other three as well – pretty much as described and oily as an oily thing covered in oil (i.e. highly scented).

  • Divalano says:

    Like Gaia I’m all cats, no candles. I adore soft, warm candlelight & pretty glowing things but … cats, no candles. And I have long haired cats; even unlit candles become magnets for cat hair. Furry candles? Not attractive. Every now & then when company’s over I’ll set some tea lights or small votives on the bathroom windowsill but that hardly justifies a grown up candle.

    Off to bed. Dallas trip tomorrow. Merc retro’s over, right? Please?

    • Elle says:

      It’s over at 6:52 edt today. Not that I was counting down the hours or minutes or anything. 🙂

    • March says:

      You made me laugh with the imagery of hairy candles. Ugh. And think how great they’d smell if you tried to burn one. Nothing like singed hair to add a new dimension to your Diptyque or whatever…/:)

      Have a nice trip!

  • tom says:

    Normally I don’t do candles since I feel that in bone-dry SoCal one should stand over them with a fire extinguisher.

    But at my last Apothia thing at the shop in Melrose I got a candle of
    something wonderful. Divine white flower yumminess. I may burn it in
    the bathtub. I think it’s Velvet Rope, but it could be If.

    Gaia- I wish I could have beasties. Sadly I can spend 10 minutes with cats (which I prefer) and about 20 minutes with dogs before huffing like a vacuum with a full bag. Bummer/

    • March says:

      Tom, midway through writing this post I actually DID think of the irony of a candle post inspired by a place that’s currently smoking, but I decided to focus on the part of tipping my hat to the area.

      That candle must have been If! Maybe you could light it in your bathtub, then stand over it with the extinguisher?:-?

      Seriously, though — you’re there. How well do you think Apothia hit the mark with their SoCal ambience?

      • Tom says:

        I’d have to smell the candles (these aren’t the Givaudon scent things, are they?) I think in general Apothia is very good at capturing a certain LA vibe, certainly a certain LA demographic: one that is let through Velvet Ropes into places where they are served Vanilla Martinis I’d love to smell these to judge, but I haven’t really gotten any scent that for me really makes me think LA. I don’t quite know what that would be- maybe Ava Luxe Chypre Noir?

        • March says:

          Sorry, I assumed you’d smell them … but it sounds like they’ve got the fragrance part on track. Ava Luxe — :(( I can’t believe I can’t order anything from them.

  • Gaia says:

    I can’t do candles. There’s a herd of furry beasties running like crazy from one end of the house to the other, taking down everything that’s in their way. You can imagine the level of chaos I see here. Fire and fragile objects do not enter this house.

    • March says:

      That is so funny, I hadn’t even thought of that! I have friends with cats, of course, and my guess is they’re not burning a lot of candles either, unless they keep the candles off the ground in a birdcage? Nah, cat would still probably knock it over.[-x