While we might mourn the end of the warmer weather, there’s no better excuse to hunker down and shut out the rest of the world with a delectable winter candle – not least during the festive season.
The perfect antidote to dark mornings and the freezing cold, home scents have got a lot more sophisticated in recent years. Inspired by walks through the woods and crackling firesides – with notes of smoky tobacco, herbs and spices – winter candles are the perfect accompaniment to a festive dinner party, a quiet evening getting lost in a good book, or to just brighten up a cold day.
Two or three hours should be sufficient for a scented candle to fill a room with fragrance (after that you’re just wasting it). Always trim the wick after each use and make sure it burns enough so that the top layer of wax has completely melted, otherwise you’ll get an uneven burn or “tunnelling” where the wick makes a hole in the middle of the wax.
Some candles come with a handy lid to put on top of the candle once it’s been extinguished it to avoid any smoke – you don’t want the smell of smoke smothering the beautiful scent the candle has just created.
How we tested
We lit each candle for two hours and considered at how unusual and interesting the fragrance was and whether it had a unique twist on typical “wintery” notes like cinnamon, incense and woods. Once it was extinguished, we checked for any lingering scent or “cold throw” (when you can smell the wax even when it’s unlit). We also looked at the jar it came in and whether it provided a cheery addition to a coffee table or desk.
We placed the candles in different spots in our home and we did notice how some of the cheaper candles, while not having as much of a strong throw as their luxury counterparts, were perfectly pleasant if we placed them by our laptop or on a bedside table.
The best winter candles for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Penhaligon’s roanoke ivy: £60, Penhaligons.com
- Best for meditation – 7 Over 7 knowing alpine: £65, Live7over7.com
- Best luxury scent – The Perfumer’s Story fig ambrette: £49, Theperfumersstory.com
- Best for an evening of self-care – Coco de Mer enraptured figment massage candle: £40, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best for bookworms – 4160Tuesdays hiding in the library: £29.50, 4160tuesdays.com
- Best for working from home – ME invigorated candle: £9.99, Theperfumeshop.com
- Best for a romantic evening indoors – Boujee Bougies cuir culture: £55, Boujeebougies.com
- Best for unwinding after a long day – Old Man and Magpie cinnamon and clove: £15, Oldmanandmagpie.com
- Best for an olfactory trip to Paris – Miller Harris tabac: £45, Millerharris.com
- Best festive fragrance – Diptyque sapin de nuit: £33, Diptyqueparis.com
Penhaligon’s roanoke ivy
Legendary British perfumery Penhaligon’s have shelved most of their existing candle collection and created an entirely new range of home scents from scratch. And the medley of quirky offerings doesn’t disappoint.
The roanoke ivy scent is like sipping a fruity mulled wine while wandering the food stalls of Borough Market in mid-December. It opens with a sharp red berry accord and lush green notes to evoke ivy climbing the walls of a stately home. Enveloping and transporting, if the Netflix series Bridgerton had its own fragrance, this would be it.
The small 65g candle our tester used was enough to fill the living room of their small flat effectively, so we imagine the full size version will do just as well, especially in larger dwellings. The candles also have a good “cold throw”, so even when they’re not lit, you can still catch a whiff of the wax as you pass by. Even better, you can get a trio of 65g candles with personalised stamps in store, making them a great gift for a loved one or a cheery treat-to-self.
7 Over 7 knowing alpine
Best: For meditation
This sustainable scented candle brand was created by certified yoga and Vendata practitioner Minal Bhanshali, who wanted a range of home scents specifically for meditative practises. Made from 100 per cent natural wax, each one is created to enhance our energy centres or Chakras, which promote our physiological, mental and spiritual wellbeing when in balance.
Knowing alpine is the perfect blend of rich notes of pine, grapefruit and patchouli, and conjures up a smart ski chalet in St Moritz. It’s housed in a beautiful handmade ceramic vessel with matching lid that will make a fetching addition to any mantlepiece. It can also be refilled when the wax runs out.
If you’re struggling to find inner-peace, especially over the stressful party season, this mellow and non-intrusive blend is enough to help you switch off and feel more centred and grounded. The founder also burns these candles to host meditation ceremonies at The Mandrake Hotel, which are definitely worth attending if you’re London based or bound.
The Perfumer’s Story fig ambrette
Best: Luxury scent
Fig is a fragrance that’s particularly lovely around winter time, with its sharp, lush fruit and bitter green leaves – and this candle captures all of its complexities while smelling incredibly luxurious to boot. Its creator Azzi Glaser is one of the most glamorous characters on the British perfumery scene, known for designing perfumes for the Hollywood glitterati. And this fig ambrette candle definitely has some of that red carpet allure to help bring the glamour for any soirees you might be throwing over the festive season.
The rich aforementioned fig notes are heightened by pretty neroli and underscored with earthy, enveloping amber. It also has a milky sweet side to it, so if you happen to be baking in the kitchen, its scent will heighten all of those gloriously sweet, doughy aromas.
Coco de Mer enraptured figment massage candle
Best: For an evening of self-care
Massage candles have been around for a while, but when lockdown hit last year, sales went through the roof for the likes of erotic boutique Coco de Mer. Light them while you have dinner or drinks, then once extinguished and the wax has melted you have ready warmed body oil you can slather on yourself or a partner – the candle comes with a handy spoon to help you ladle it onto the skin and avoid spillages.
It contains a subtle wintery scent of fig and orange oil, and while it doesn’t pack the same fragrant punch as some of the others, the oily wax leaves your skin delicately scented when massaged on. Though, if you want a candle with a rich scent to fill a room, we suggest sticking to the non-massage variety.
It’s great for setting a mood, plus the soy wax has a low burning temperature so your evening shouldn’t end with a trip to A&E (a passion killer if ever there was one). Plus the oil it creates is deeply nourishing and great for treating dry, scaly winter skin, which is an extra bonus.
4160Tuesdays hiding in the library
Best: For bookworms
Probably one of the best names for a winter candle we’ve come across, hiding in the library was inspired by a figure reading his letters by candlelight in an elegant library (there’s an intriguing “paper” note in there that book lovers will immediately recognise). London is full of wonderfully old musty libraries and book shops, and this embodies their incomparable smell when you walk in, and gaze upon shelves of books containing centuries of history and creativity, patiently waiting to be read.
Notes of cinnamon, incense and clove are given a spring in their step with a splash of port, together with sweet orange and rose absolute to suggest “abundance and elegance”. The throw was fairly moderate after burning for a few hours, but we found it a cosy candle to curl up with a good book on a slow Sunday evening.
ME invigorated candle
Best: For working from home
If you’re lacking in motivation, especially when working from home, this rich blend designed to boost energy levels can help you stay focused and create a cosy home-working space. At £9.99, you’re not going to get the rich throw of a luxury candle six times the price, but our tester found placing it by their laptop as they worked was enough to catch a few pleasant whiffs – if not fill an entire room.
Also, the fact it’s not super strong might work in your favour if you’re sharing a workspace, meaning you’ll be able smell it but your colleagues/housemates can’t complain if they’re not a fan of the fragrance. Plus, it’s vegan and cruelty free, what’s not to like?
Boujee Bougies cuir culture
Best: For a romantic evening indoors
Winter candles, especially English ones, seem to have connotations of curling up with a pot of tea to watch Midsomer Murders in a cosy thatched roof cottage. Not so with Cuir Culture the brainchild of cult candle brand Boujee Bougies. Created to celebrate “the bold beauty of queerness”, this candle is seriously sexy – combining animalic notes, leather and, ahem, pup masks, together with the richness of old books and warm spicy top notes.
With an enveloping throw, it’s perfect for setting a mood, whether you’re embarking on an evening of harnesses and hedonism, or settling down to watch Chief Inspector Barnaby solve another mystery. (You can always do both).
Old Man and Magpie cinnamon and clove
Best: For unwinding after a long day
Our tester first encountered this brand via candle subscription company Iggy Box and was impressed by the unusual scents and rich throw at a relatively purse-friendly price. While she has a soft spot for the sea salt and sage (£15, Oldmanandmagpie.com), the brands cinnamon and clove is probably the most wintery of the bunch.
It’s inspired by the founders’ trips to India and a fragrant homage to the rich cups of Masala Chai they drank there. Cinnamon and clove are probably two of the most comforting ingredients you can get, which is why this candle makes for the perfect winter warmer. Housed in a minimal, recyclable jar, it makes a charming addition to any bathroom while you soak in the tub and kick back with a glass of wine (or a cup of Chai if you prefer).
Miller Harris tabac
Best: For an olfactory trip to Paris
Tabac is part of Miller Harris’s new candle range, which come in larger sizes designed to have a better throw and longer burn time. With notes of smoky patchouli and enveloping tobacco leaf, Tabac is inspired by a stroll up Boulevard Saint-Germain, a popular Parisian street known for its smoky cafés. And we think this blend exudes French elegance and a dash of seduction.
We were struck with how well this burned down evenly, without the wax sloping or tunnelling. The candle also wins sustainable Brownie points, with wax made from locally grown rapeseed and renewably sourced soy beans. The brand have also removed cellophane wrap from the packaging. The vessels for this new collection look fetching too, in a soft palette of muted colours of which Tabac comes in a gentle pebble-coloured hue.
Diptyque sapin de nuit
Best: For setting the mood over the festive season
While many of us love the idea of a real live Christmas tree in our house, the mess, the needles and the hassle of how to dispose of it come January is too much for many of us to deal with. Luckily Diptyque have come up with a solution with its limited edition sapin candle (which you might find hiding in its advent calendar too).
The perfect candle to light on Christmas Day, its sublime scents of pine needles will make your faithful plastic tree smell like the real thing, combined with rich woody notes that evoke a roaring log fire. Honestly, this is such a happy scent, we defy it not to cheer up even Ebenezer Scrooge himself.
Plus, with Diptyque you’re guaranteed a decent throw. So, our tester’s advice for those on a budget is to buy the smaller version (70g) which has 30 hours’ burn time, which is enough to create a decent festive fragrance throughout your home for most of December. It’ll be available to shop from mid-October.
The verdict: Winter candles
For us, Penhaligon’s roanoke ivy ticked all the boxes when it comes to a perfect winter candle – with a decent throw, a unique and charismatic, but still suitably wintery, scent and a stunning jar in the bargain. The fact we could still smell this after we’d extinguished it said a lot about how potent its fragrance was, yet even lit it never once felt overbearing. The perfect candle to add some festive cheer and also see you through the darkest depths of January.
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For more home fragrances check out our round-up of the best reed diffusers that fill your home with fragrance all day long
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