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