(By Ann)

Candles get a lot of play in the winter, especially during the holidays. In the past, I’ve been more of a diffuser and reeds girl, but now I’m looking to expand my candle repertoire. My kind of candle doesn’t have to be uber-expensive, but it helps if it’s pretty and, most of all — it must have great “throw”! It annoys the living daylights out of me to have to practically stand right over a candle to smell it.

Although it’s not a hugely beloved line among perfumistas, I’ve had great success with Bond No. 9 candles, and currently have Little Italy and New Haarlem. These two fragrances are fabulous when worn together,  so I’ve tried burning the two together with good results. My small Kai candles pack a pretty good punch, and I recently got a batch of Seda France travel candles on sale to explore that line’s scent range.

I’ve heard good things about the Henri Bendel ones, especially Firewood, which I’m hoping Santa will bring me. And I’m very curious about the Diptyque and Cire Trudon lines as well as By Kilian. Of course, as Patty and Musette have mentioned over the course of the past year or so, we can’t forget those divine Frederic Malle candles. I’ve yet to smell one in person, but it’s on my sniffin’ bucket list.

So please help me out here and weigh in on your favorite candles and why, or the ones you’d most like to have (or any kind of home scenting products, for that matter).

  • Smellifluous says:

    I’m responding to this quite late, but just wanted to add my cheers for the Votivo candles (used to see them everywhere, not so much anymore). They have great throw and lovely scents to choose from. I used to swear by their Noel scent at this time of year, but haven’t found it in a long time.

    I also love Diptyque candles, but I find there’s a HUGE difference in throw between their holiday/limited edition candles and their regular candle line. Their holiday candles are scented to the high heavens–in a great way. I don’t even need to light them to get the scent; but if I do light them, the fragrance fills my house. Whereas I have a few from the regular line–Ambre and John Galliano–that I can barely smell at all when lit. So, just a thought…you might want to start with a holiday version to get the best bang for your buck.

    Another line I’m liking is Neom Organics: lovely 100% natural fragrances. They’re not cheap, sigh, but their travel candle is a good size–no mere votive candle–so that’s definitely the way to go to start.

    Finally…for those who don’t like lighting candles (to avoid the cat’s tail catching on fire, for instance!), you can use candle warmers. You just plug the warmer in and put the candle on it, and as the wax warms the fragrances grows. I swear by these. And you can get some that turn off after 8 hours…not a bad thing, as I’ve learned! ;) You can find them on Amazon for less than $10.

    Alas, this year I’m finding my sinuses to be like Musette’s–can’t handle the scented candles. But if your nose is up to it, I wish you much scented-candle pleasure this winter!

  • candyrabbit says:

    My favorite candle of all time was Diptyque’s Bois Cire, which has been discontinued, of course. Trudon’s Roi Soleil is not a bad substitute, and I’m also hooked on Trudon’s Odalisque.

    Diptyque’s Maquis is nice and woody; reminds a teeny bit of Bois Cire.

    I always loved Illuminations. There used to be one at every mall– I’m not sure they’re even around anymore, but I’ve stockpiled plenty of them.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, no! So sorry to hear that a favorite has been discontinued. Bummer, but watch eBay — you never know! And thanks for the other recs.

  • Carla says:

    My Traversee du Bosphore candle just arrived moments ago, and it smells divine! When I tried the perfume, I thought, that would make a good room spray, but I don’t want to wear it around with me, it’s not really a perfume, just a lovely scent. (There are many perfumes for which I have that reaction.) Then I read the candle recommendation on Grain de Musc and that made me order. It is gorgeous. Its specific sweetness mixed with leather works out better in candle form, I think.
    I also like Henri Bendel candles. They are pretty well made and not too pricey. I like fig and quince. The one on my bedside table haunts me with its odor in my half-sleep, even un-lit. And it’s many years old. Still, this L’Artisan candle seems much stronger…it’s certainly more expensive.

    • Ann says:

      Carla, I’d almost forgotten that L’Artisan made candles. The Traversee one sounds wonderful. Do let us know how it does when you burn it.

  • Jenny S says:

    I love candles! I would love to try Coffee Society. I have been nursing the Malle 1st Mai candle along for months. It’s a super springy lily scent, great throw. I love the weight of the glass they come in… My favorite candle is Tocca’s Rodolfo, a sweet, rich tuberose.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Jenny, thanks for weighing in. Glad you’re enjoying the 1st Mai Malle and glad it has good throw (especially for that price).

  • Maha Zehra says:

    Some amazing friends pooled their funds to give me the Frederic Malle Coffee Society candle as a birthday gift a few months ago–it was summer and I was living in Paris, so I decided to wait until I back in cooler weather and a new apartment back home to light it. It was the perfect present because I love the line, I would never have bought a candle for myself, and it recalls really wonderful memories. So I haven’t actually used it yet, and it has definitely become one of those things that I’ve been *saving.* Weird, because I’m not too precious about my perfumes–while I have things that feel more appropriate for evening or a special event than for work, I don’t worry about running out or about the price of a particular perfume when I’m deciding what to wear. But I’ve never been a home fragrances person, so with Coffee Society, I just think, “Who am I to own a $95 candle?”
    Unlit, it smells totally wonderful, more complex and a bit gentler the closer your nose to the candle. Smelling it through the cardboard with the box closed gives a spicy-soapy impression (in a nice way, somewhat reminiscent of those terrific Spanish Maja soaps). With the lid of the box off, you get something more subtle and round, with notes of something even a bit more like the tonka elements of a skin scent. Once I finally get up the courage to burn it, I imagine I’ll get all those elements that add up to the air after a fabulous Parisian dinner party, as the inspiration for the candle intended. I’m planning to use it at the beginning of the new year, once I’m finally settled in my new place.
    Does anyone else have Coffee Society? I haven’t been able to find much information about the Frederic Malle candles besides stuff from the time of the release (no user reviews), so I’d love to know how long they burn, what kind of throw they have, etc.

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, you lucky lady! That Malle candle sounds fab. Please report back and let us know all the details when you do “break out” the Coffee Society. Thanks!

  • Kimerly says:

    I’ve tried a few of the Jo Malone candles. A little on the expensive side, however I find that after 1 hour of buring the candle the scent lasts for hours afterwards. I often get a whiff of the scent the next day when walking by the candle— just lovely!!:):)

  • Catherine says:

    I’ve just recently gotten into candles but I’m hooked! So far I’ve really really been enjoying my two Anthousa candles, Red Currant and Violet and Blood Orange Vanilla. I can’t really comment too much on throw since I only scent my room (I live in an in-law with a roommate – but it fills my room quite wonderfully) but since she’s gone for break I’m thinking about burning a candle or two in the kitchen in the next few days to see how far it gets. :) The Anthousa candles burn really really well too, as long as you make sure the wick is centered. I think they’re normally $36 but I got them for around $15 when they were marked down at Anthropologie so I’m very happy. :D

    I’m also totally in love with my type lite candle. They’re a little indie company which I believe is based in Berkeley, CA, and they don’t have much distribution. I bought the nectarine mint one at the Renegade Fair in SF this last summer and I’m so sad I didn’t buy more!! They come in a glass mason jar with some tape and decoupage on them, and a charm around the neck and the wick is actually a piece of wood. These candles burn a nice clean, even layer in like 20 minutes and the throw is fab.

    I’ve also been quite impressed with the Tocca Kyoto travel candle I bought. It burns slower than the other ones and not quite as cleanly without some work, but the throw is pretty impressive for its size.

    I also have a few of the Illume for Anthropologie candles (mango jasmine is lovely) but I’ve had some trouble with these smoking and not burning evenly, so I’m not sure I’d rebuy, at least not in the tins.

    I’m really excited to check out all the candles everyone’s talked about! Glad to hear good things about the Diptyque candles – I’ve saved up a couple Nordstroms notes so far and I think I’m going to treat myself to one of the travel sizes for the holidays. :D

    • Ann says:

      Yes, Catherine, do treat yourself. I like the Anthousa diffusers but never tried the candles, so will definitely check it out.

  • maggiecat says:

    I love candels any time of year. The AG Noel IS nice – I bought a tiny one on Ebay and will be looking for more. I don’t find it overtly Christmas-y, but perfect for winter in general. I also love Tyler candles – relatively inexpensive, great throw. My favorites are Drama, Vignette, Cuddle, and High Maintenance – but it’s hard to go wrong with these. They’re made in Texas but readily available online.

    • Ann says:

      OK, you guys have “forced” me to get the Noel candle. Too bad it won’t be here before Christmas :( but oh well …

  • mals86 says:

    I love candles, but I’m strictly low-budget on them. Favorites: the Slatkin Winter candle at B&BW (LOVE those, stocked up last year and am burning the heck out of them this season), AG Noel (again, caught them on sale at Parfum1, they’re wonderful), and a cheapie that I picked up at, of all places, Wal-mart – Pumpkin Spice. The three-wick of that one has great throw (the small jar, not so much, and I don’t know why).

    My sister loves the Mrs. Meyer Clean Day lemon verbena ones, but I can barely smell them.

    • tammy says:

      Mals, the Mulled Cider Wal-Mart candle is darn good for the whopping five bucks they charge for it! I was impressed.

      • Ann says:

        Hi, Mals. That Slatkin one has gotten some good reviews. Is it at Bath & Body Works! Gotta try the AG Noel and also the mulled cider one. Thanks!

  • FragrantWitch says:

    Several years ago I received a Shalimar gift set that included a Shalimar Noel candle and it was amazing! I too was surprised to discover that Guerlain made candles.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Whoops that should have posted above, under dinazad’s comment!
      Many years ago, I used to work for Yankee Candle (ducking flying objects now) and learned a) that the smell clings to everything for days and b) always look for the oiliest candle, as it has the highest concentration of scented oil. In a jar, always tip it and look at the sides and base for the oil sliding around and in pillars rub a tissue to check for residue.
      Happy candle-hunting to all!!

      • tammy says:

        No need to duck, Fragrant Witch; I bought tons of Yankee Candles before moving on to higher end brands. I still like Home Sweet Home.

        • Ann says:

          I’m with Tammy, no need to duck! There are some yummy scents in that line. Lucky you with the Guerlain candle!

  • Joanna says:

    In my excitement I forgot my under the tree wish. I’d love a bottle of Cherigan Fleurs de Tabac or Guerlain or Guerlain Atuana Vintage Parfum…in my wildest dreams.

  • Gina says:

    Hi Ann! A favorite of mine for 2011 has been Thymes Frazier Fir. Pretty glass, too. The scent is gorgeous. At 26.00 its cheap and cheerful compared to some of the Malle candles.

    • Ann says:

      Gina, a big “yes” to the Thymes! I have a refill bottle of the diffuser oil somewhere and I can’t find it, dagnabit! May have to spring for one of the candles now.

  • tammy says:

    Like Kym, I was a candle ho long before a perfume ho. (I have worn perfume since I was toddler, but didn’t turn into a perfumista til I discovered the blogs several years ago.)

    I was so excited to see you mention the Bond candles. I go through several Chelsea Flowers and Park Aves a year. You can’t beat the presentation, either, and the molten wax can be used as perfume in a pinch. (True with all candles, of course)

    My favorite candles are probably DL&CO, though, Bought one on Patty’s recommendation, as I recall. They are wicked expensive (Yea, must have been Patty!) and the Modern Alchemy line can be a little inconsistent, but I truly adore them. The presentation of the Belle Epoque line is staggeringly beautiful. They’re reed diffusers are also gorgeous, especially the ones that are etched glass.

    I like Opium Den and Dia de Los Muertas in the Alchemy line, and Lady Rhubarb, Pink Pepper, Opium Poppy, Prickly Pear and Black Dahlia in the Belle Epqoue line. Rue La La often features them, and a website called JZ Rose has them on sale right now, I believe (No affiliation!)

    My go to hostess gift this time of year is a Votivo Red Currant candle, or a George Winston December CD. Since CDs are going the way of the dinosaur, I may have to add another candle to my repertoire.

    • tammy says:

      Do please forgive my spelling errors (I DO know the difference between “they’re” and “their”!) and punctuation; I got too worked up over the candle talk!

      • Ann says:

        Not to worry, Tammy. BTW, I’ve seen the DL line and it is beautiful, especially those etched glass diffuser bottles.

  • helenviolette says:

    I picked up a Wickes holiday candle (in a cute holiday tin) a week or so ago and it has great throw lit and unlit. And it was all of $12. Also- we have a Root outlet nearby that has some great/affordable scents.

    I have a few Cire Trudons that I only burn occasionally and the favorite in that bunch was the Tuberose one (Mlle V) followed by Roi Soleil. I would love to have their holiday candle one of these years…

  • Joanna says:

    With small children, a teen with asthma and a cat who caught his tail on fire once when I had candles lit on the table…I don’t get to indulge much anymore. I used to really like Aveda’s Euphoric candle. I’m not sure if they make it anymore though. If Santa left me Diptyque’s Essence Of John Galliano candle I wouldn’t be disappointed. I have a friend who has it and I’m always envious of her for it.

    • Musette says:


      TAIL ON FIRE???

      xo >-)

      • Joanna says:

        Yeah…just minutes before company showed up for dinner. Nothing goes well with the smell of burnt cat tail.
        It was telling that one guest commented that it was just the sort of thing they expected when coming to my house.

        • Ann says:

          Oh, no, how awful! Maybe you can have some candle “me time” at night when everyone else is asleep and you’re in your bedroom with the door closed. How do you feel about diffusers?

  • mary says:

    Voluspa vanilla jasmine tabac is my favorite and of course, I can’t find any more. Sigh. :)>-

  • Musette says:

    My sinuses are so wonky this time of year that I avoid most candles – something about the burning + scent can slam my nose shut! However….there is one candle that I do love – it’s from Hill House Naturals, called Whispering Pines – I got it at the Mart during a sample sale so I have no idea where they’re retailed – but they are online. anyhoo, this smells very close to the Annick Goutal Noel room spray, which March describes as a high-end florist at Christmastime. I can burn this one for a little bit, come back to the room and it’s beautifully scented. It also smells good just sitting there.

    I envy all of you your candle opportunities. :(( I think I am going to save my simoleans for a nose-job, get these sinuses under control 😕

    xo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Hey, sweetie, I’m just glad you could at least find one that didn’t make you crazy.

    • (Ms.)Christian says:

      I bought Goutal’s Noel room spray for the office rest room last month.

      I was literally sickened by the generic Glade imitator that the supply clerk had been putting in there and thought selfishly that even if no one but me appreciated the Noel scent, that was a good thing. Well, a few days after I brought it in, the supply clerk told me in an embarrassed confession that she was using the Goutal Noel as personal scent every day. I patted her on the shoulder and just said, “you have good taste!”

  • Olfacta says:

    I think this will be the scent-my-home year. Candles, though, are risky with our wack-o Siamese cat around, so I might stick to room sprays — Diptyque’s Opoponax, which is a little Shalimar-like, on curtains and throw pillows will scent a room for a whole evening. Or I take the little Jurlique burner I have at the studio, mix essential oils with jojoba depending on my mood, and it scents the whole second floor of the building. I’m sure the Malle candles are great, as I’m sure a $6 artichoke I saw once at Whole Paycheck is great, but…nah.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, lady, you are indeed the scent mix master! Also, that room spray sounds lovely and I’m not even a Shalimar fan. BTW, I don’t think anyone in our neck of the woods sells Diptyque (though Neiman’s used to, not sure if they still do).

  • Sherri M. says:

    Wow, what a great article, and what great suggestions. I totally have to get that Annick Goutal one (I love practically everything she makes!), and I was curious about the Aedes de Venustas (such beautiful packaging too).

    I’m gonna have to jump on the Diptyque Love Bandwagon too. They’re definitely my favorite. I just polished off a Feu de Bois, and am getting ready to burn Perdigone and Epinette this week for the holiday. The Diptyque florals are also amazing and have great throw, but still manage to smell delicate. I love Tubereuse, Mimosa and Violette. Absolutely great line, and worth the price!

    I also love Luxe Creme Brulee and good old Yankee Candle Buttercream, and one I got dh for his mancave, Suede and Smoke, which smells just like Back to Black.

    I would not purchase again anything from Cote Bastide, an expensive ($60) French brand I purchased from a boutique. They looked similar to Diptyque and smelled great unlit. However the candle has absolutely no throw.

    Thanks so much Ann! I am taking notes from you all!

  • dinazad says:

    I luuurrrrve me some scented candles! I got a travel set of Bendel candles once and liked them very much indeed. I’m still hoping to get “Firewood” at some point… Annick Goutal makes superb candles (“Noël” is to die for) – she used to have refills for the expensive fancy glasses, but I don’t know whether those are still made. She also has smaller sizes, so you don’t necessarily have to go bankrupt when you buy them. The Aedes de Venustas candles with their signature scent have the best throw ever and burn down to the last bit of wax. Also fabulous if you can find them: Guerlain candles and the Angel candle by Thierry Mugler. Great and comparatively inexpensive: L’Occitane – love the Winter Forest candle! To be avoided: Donna Karan candles (I bought a Black Cashmere candle in the sales – total waste of money. I was left with an enormous blob of scented wax with a tiny hole burned through it).

    • Ann says:

      Wow — who knew that Guerlain made candles? I’m dying to try the AG Noel, and will take a sniff at the L’Occitane boutique after the holiday crowds dissipate. Thanks for the good info.

  • Kym says:

    I was a candle “ho” long before a perfume “ho,” although I seem to be lighting up less and less so as not to disturb my personal fragrance. That and it seems my favorites are always being discontinued! I like the lines Illume and Pacific because they’re aren’t unreasonably priced (I’ll never bring myself to pay the insane prices Malle asks) are easily found and have a nice selection of scents. Regarding throw, even within a given line, some have better throw than others. I sometimes wonder if some candles just get more “juice” than others, if production is somehow hard to manage? Another line I like is Votivo. I have found I can light a Votivo just for an hour or so and the scent hangs in the air for some time. And that’s a good thing since Votivo does not make pillars, which I find burn much longer.

    Happy scenting!

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Kym! Thanks for the heads-up on those other lines; I’m not familiar with them so will have to investigate. And I think you’re right — some candle scents probably just have more oomph than others. It makes sense that an amber candle would have more staying power than a delicate lily of the valley.

      • Kym says:

        You can find Pacifica at Whole Foods. Illume I’ll usually buy on-line, check their site where they note who carries the line near you!

    • tammy says:

      Seconding Votivo. Very nice quality for the price, too. I”d start with Red Currant.

      Pacifica is one of my favorite brands, also nice quality for the price. I panicked when they discontinued my favorite (Persian Rose) and bought up everyone I could find online, to the tune of almost a thousand dollars. About a month later, they announced they were bring in back, lol. But it’s a harsher color, so I have no regrets.

      • Kym says:

        OMG! Well, I hope you found a good way to store them – and please share if you do. Sometimes, I’ll go on a buying binge and buy things I know I won’t come to for months. When I finally get around to them, I notice that the oil has seeped into the paper wrapping and or cardboard box. Makes me think scented candles (pillars) should not be stored for a long time.

        • tammy says:

          Kym, I don’t store them in any special way….I do keep them wrapped, and then use the paper with the seepage as sachet.

          I do go through candles quickly, though; we don’t use lights in the evening at all, and when I’m home during the day, I generally have at least half a dozen burning.

  • (Ms.)Christian says:

    The Bendel candles are wonderful. I had Quince and really loved it as well as the Firewood candle.

    Burn (brand name) were good; don’t know if they are still in business. Some were a bit smoky but keeping the wick trimmed was helpful.

    I found the Cire Trudon candles to be a sad waste of money and Diptyque are now very inconsistent and I won’t buy them.

    I like red flower candles, too, but have stopped burning candles in the house because I recently repainted and was horrified to see years of candle filth on the ceilings. I use my Aromastone now instead.

    • Ann says:

      Yum, the Quince does sound lovely. And thanks for the input on the others. BTW, what exactly is an Aromastone and how does it work?
      P.S. Hope you had a fabulous birthday!

      • (Ms.)Christian says:

        Hi Ann, thanks for the good wishes and yes, the birthday was top notch.

        Rather than launch into my probably flawed description of an Aroma Stone, here is a link to one of my favorite websites that carries essential oils as well as Aroma Stones. Keep scrolling down.

        It’s basically a low heat scent diffuser, but it is safe as it will not catch anything on fire. I use one in my office at work and it scents the whole room. I am told by staff that they can smell the oils when they come into the office so apparently the scent carries quite a bit-much to my pleasant surprise.

        Always delightful to see your name on a column here! Happy holidays.

  • Perfumista8 says:

    The Henri Bendel Firewood is wonderful! I also love their Orange Flower candle.

    I’m wondering though, if Bendel is affiliated with Slatkin & Co whose candles are sold in Bath & Body works. Last year, I was just dying to get a hold of the Firewood candle and couldn’t find it anywhere. This year before the holidays, I went to BBW and sure enough, there’s the candle but this time it’s done by Slatkin & Co. I don’t have a Bendel version to compare side by side to the Slatkin one but it is exactly as I remember. I guess even if it’s not exactly the same, I’ve very happy with my three-wick Slatkin version and the price was awesome — two for $20. I’m pretty much sold on the three-wick version now because they have enough throw to scent a decent sized room. Tonight we’re burning a Creamy Nutmeg candle and it’s just lovely. Not too sweet but very comforting. For Christmas I’m be burning the Creamy Pumpkin. I’m telling you at two for $20 I went a little crazy. The intention was to give many of these as hostess gifts but, we’ll see…

    • Ann says:

      Thanks — so happy to hear a good report on the Firewood. I think you’re right about the Bendel/Slatkin/B&BW connection as I seem to remember seeing Bendel candles in my local BBW store awhile back. I’ve not tried a multi-wick candle but they sound good. And I’m with you on the hostess gifts– sometimes they just don’t seem to make it out the door … :)

    • Ann C says:

      Ann, I agree with you about the Slatkin three wicks. I picked up a Marshmallow Fireside that is quite yummy.

      I haven’t tried any high end candles, but I’ve been tempted by a few. I look forward to reading the comments today.

      • tammy says:

        Winter by Slatkin & Co is pretty awesome, especially for the price.

        • Ann says:

          Hi, Tammy. Which scent is the Winter? I was just in B&BW this afternoon and didn’t see that one. Is it kind of a grayish-lavender color by any chance? Thanks!

  • AnnieA says:

    Cire Trudon’s Ernesto candle smells very humidorian, so to speak, and the throw is not too bad, but it burned pretty quickly, so maybe not the best value-per-burning-hour. Diptyque’s candle didn’t have much throw, but fortunately it was on sale. The Thymes Frasier Fir candle is pretty nice for the holiday season and definitely a good buy relatively speaking. P.S bought one of the Le Labo-Anthropologie candles for $15, so we’ll see how that burns…

    • Ann says:

      Hi, AnnieA, I agree, you hate to have your costly candle burn up way too quickly. I’ll look into the Fraser Fir one, and do let us know what you think of the Le Labo candle.

    • tammy says:

      Seconding Frazier Fir, though this year all my tree scented comets smelled like Comet to me. Maybe my nose is starting to rebel on me!

  • Mabel says:

    Diptyque’s Feu de Bois has an intense long lasting smell as do most Diptyque’s (love Foin Coupe!). My biggest disappointment has been a Cire Trudon candle. No throw at all which was extremely irksome given the price.

    I think the best candles in terms of throw are from Manuel Canovas, Molton Brown and Trapp. Runners up are from Agraria and CdG.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Mabel, thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear that about the Diptyques, but sorry about the Cire Trudon. I’ll definitely sniff out the others you mentioned.

    • Sherri M. says:

      Thank you Mabel, you just reminded me of Trapp candles. I haven’t had any for a while but thought they were great (there was a blackcurrant one there I really liked). I used to get them from a local florist, but haven’t been there recently. Hmmm, we do need a centerpiece, so maybe I’ll have to check them out this week! Thanks! :-)