The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

8 best scented candles to treat her this Mother’s Day (or buy for yourself)

From smokey to zesty, lift your spirits with these scented flames

Viola Levy
Friday 24 February 2023 16:49 GMT
We were looking for scents that filled a room without verging on suffocating
We were looking for scents that filled a room without verging on suffocating (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

Whether you’re working from home, unwinding in the evening or want to make a hotel room smell less like, well, a hotel room, a scented candle can be a welcome addition.

With their mood-enhancing benefits and ability to fill a room with a blissful glow, home fragrances tend to work well as indulgent, and generally failsafe gifts – something to make a mental note of with Mother’s Day, which will fall on 19 March, being just around the corner.

After all, these little indulgences are something you can never really have too much of – not to mention, scents have come a long way from the flippant floral concoctions of yesteryear, which means there will be a fragrance to suit her olfactory leanings.

Few candle blends are considered classics like a Chanel No 5, Dior Poison or Santal 33, yet scenting a room is just as intricate an art form as traditional perfumery. And given how many of us now work from home, we can take advantage of being able to fragrance our workspaces as we see fit.

We’ve sniffed out a selection of newcomers and much-loved candle classics, ranging from historically inspired smokey concoctions to fresh, zesty bouquets that deliver an invigorating citrus spike on a cloudy Monday morning. Just make sure you trim your wick regularly for a clean and even burn.

Many of these candles don’t come cheap (you get what you pay for when it comes to non-toxic ingredients and a rich, complex fragrance) but outlets such as TK Maxx often carry luxury versions for half the price, so it’s worth keeping an eye on its website.

How we tested

We wanted unique and complex fragrances and those that used these notes in new and unusual ways – yet also complemented the home’s ambience without being overbearing. We also looked for an adequate “throw” (how a candle fills a room) for it to be noticeable without being suffocating.

We burned each candle for two hours, testing the scent’s strength, originality and how the bouquet developed over time. We also examined how it changed our mood (if at all) and its ability to create a homely atmosphere.

The best scented candles for 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Nest New York bamboo classic candle: £45,
  • Best for a cosy atmosphere – Henry’s Townhouse the carriage snug: £65,
  • Best for lovers of art and interiors – Vilshenko summer candle: £120,
  • Best for fans of unique blends – Penhaligon’s kumgan rose: £60,
  • Best for lazy Sunday afternoons – Malin + Goetz cannabis: £50,
  • Best for gardening lovers – Sunday of London rooftop garden: £28,
  • Best for reflection and self care – Synchronicity Scents hope:£45,
  • Best for getting a good night’s sleep – This Works deep sleep heavenly candle: £26,

Nest New York bamboo classic candle

Nest New York bamboo classic candle .jpg
  • Best: Overall
  • Wax type: Paraffin
  • Scent: Bamboo
  • Weight: 230g
  • Burn time: 60 hours

A cult New York candle brand that recently landed on these shores, Nest’s Bamboo candle is its original and arguably the best. Luxurious smelling and punchy enough to appease the most demanding New Yorker, it emits a crisp, spa-like scent, blending rich and evocative white floral notes with fresh citrus and lush green accords.

Perfect for sharpening the mind and helping mitigate stress when working from home. Or, if you’re craving an aromatherapy massage but don’t have the time, get yourself a foam roller, find a space in the living room and light this for a DIY experience that lets you gently roll the tension out of your shoulders. It’s also a fantastic candle to place in the bathroom to create a spa-like feel that will no doubt impress dinner guests.

Back to top

Henry’s Townhouse the carriage snug

Henry’s Townhouse the carriage snug .jpg
  • Best: For a cosy atmosphere 
  • Wax type: Mineral, soy and rapeseed
  • Scent: Vetiver, leather, musks, rose and iris
  • Weight: 220g
  • Burn time: 40 hours

One for any literary and history buffs, Henry’s Townhouse is formerly the house of Jane Austen’s brother, Henry Austen, which has now been transformed into a charming seven-bedroom guest house in central London. We can’t be sure if Jane herself stayed there, but letters suggest she probably did (and that’s good enough for this former English lit A-level student).

The team behind the house’s transformation released an accompanying candle collection, inspired by the glitterati of Regency London. Each one comes complete with hand-finished ceramic holders decorated with a gold leaf silhouette inspired by the cameos and miniatures that the middle classes at the time (who couldn’t afford magnificent oil paintings) used to hang in their houses.

The Carriage Snug candle is like being bundled into a horse-drawn coach after a knees-up at Mr Bingley’s, with cosy notes of vetiver, leather and musks, blended with addictive floral accords of rose and iris. As people who don’t need an excuse to reread Pride and Prejudice, this is the perfect candle to curl up with while engrossed in the Bennet sisters’ husband-hunting antics.

Back to top

Vilshenko summer candle

Vilshenko summer candle .jpg
  • Best: For lovers of art and interiors 
  • Wax type: Mineral and soy
  • Scent: Orange blossom, apricot, tuberose and sandalwood
  • Weight: 230g
  • Burn time: 50 hours

This is truly one of the most dazzling candles we’ve come across, fashioned like a Matryoshka doll (the head and torso form the lid), a nod to the brand’s Russian heritage. Vilshenko is primarily a fashion label whose clothes are inspired by the designer’s mother, who created bright and colourful items as an alternative to the surrounding austere communist atmosphere.

This object is certainly guaranteed to jazz up the most humble of dwellings, communist or otherwise and the scent inside is equally delightful, with sunny orange blossom and apricot – underscored with mellow notes of tuberose and soft sandalwood. Matryoshka dolls were traditionally symbolic of motherhood and fertility, and these candle versions could arguably be considered a tribute to female creativity. There is a different doll and scent for each season of the year – collect them all if you’re feeling decadent.

Back to top

Penhaligon’s kumgan rose

Penhaligon’s kumgan rose .jpg
  • Best: For fans of unique blends 
  • Wax type: Not specified
  • Scent: Sichuan pepper, rose, saffron and woods
  • Weight: 200g
  • Burn time: Not specified

This is for those who like a slightly unusual and intriguing home scent. Penhaligon’s revamped its candle range a year ago to create fragrances that are just as dazzling and unique as its main perfume line. These candles work hard for their money, giving off a decent throw even when unlit. A tiny, travel-size version was enough to adequately scent our entire one-bed flat.

As well as packing a fragrant punch, the scents themselves are intriguing and complex – worlds away from your typical floral fare. What’s brilliant about rose as a scent is its versatility – it can be light and fresh or rich and somewhat deep. Kumgan rose takes the flower’s shapeshifting nature to the next level, opening with a cool breeze of Sichuan pepper before switching to a warmer backdrop of saffron and woods, while the rich rose heart is the common thread that runs throughout. An interesting guest that doesn’t outstay its welcome; it’s perfect for any room in the house.

Back to top

Malin + Goetz cannabis

Malin + Goetz cannabis .jpg
  • Best: For lazy Sunday afternoons
  • Wax type: Natural vegetable wax blend
  • Scent: Patchouli, cedarwood, magnolia, black pepper and bergamot
  • Weight: 260g
  • Burn time: 60 hours

Before cannabis became a major beauty trend, Malin + Goetz was among the first to pioneer it in scent form. “All the years I lived in Amsterdam, and I remember riding my bike past the coffee shops and you’d get the effluvium of hash coming out of there,” recalls the brand’s co-founder Andrew Goetz. “Whenever I smell it, it immediately takes me back to Amsterdam, so we decided to do a fragrance. We argued how far we could take it – could we call it ‘cannabis’ or should we call it something else? In the end, we followed our gut instinct and I think we were right.”

The fragrance is available as both a body scent and a candle, the latter unsurprisingly has a more sophisticated appeal than the kind that lingers in the corridors of student halls. Smokey notes are conveyed via patchouli, while cedarwood and magnolia echo the effect of smoke enveloping a room as the sharpness of black pepper and bergamot cut through the fug. Whether you’re a seasoned cannabis connoisseur or not, to quote a line from the film American Beauty, this candle offers a completely mellow high – with no paranoia.

Back to top

Sunday of London rooftop garden

SUN.DAY of London rooftop garden .jpg
  • Best: For gardening lovers 
  • Wax type: Rapeseed
  • Scent: Basil, thyme, lavender, bergamot and ylang-ylang
  • Weight: 180ml
  • Burn time: 40-50 hours

Many of us became keen gardeners during the Covid lockdowns, and this candle celebrates the joys of getting lost among the foliage during the height of summer, as you pot, prune and weed while various bugs and insects give you the once-over. As the name suggests, this candle was inspired by founder Natasha Garbawi’s rooftop terrace in London. It boasts a herbal essential oil blend that includes basil, thyme and lavender, set against the brightness of bergamot and floral ylang-ylang. While having an outdoor space of one’s own in London is a rare commodity, this candle is a marvellous way to channel your inner Charlie Dimmock without having to move out of zone two. Plus, you only need to burn it for an hour or two for it to fill a room.

Back to top

Synchronicity Scents hope

Synchronicity Scents hope .jpg
  • Best: For reflection and self-care 
  • Wax type: Soy
  • Scent : Jasmine, orange flower, tonka bean and oakmoss
  • Weight: 220g
  • Burn time : 40 hours

If you believe in guardian angels and higher powers, then Synchronicity Scents candles are sure your tickle your wick. Created by Annick Knutsen following a period of personal upheaval, as she sought comfort and solace in regular meditation. This inspired her to create a candle range to help others in similar circumstances. Each one is decorated with a woodland creature, which Knutsen believes are messengers sent to guide us. “Hope” is emblazoned on the pot with a dragonfly, which represents being on a journey and pushing through when times get tough.

The scent itself sings with white floral notes of jasmine and orange flower, a warm base of tonka bean (a creamy vanilla-like note) and earthy oakmoss. The brand ticks many green beauty boxes, using vegan soy wax, sustainable ingredients and biodegradable mushroom packaging, so the planet and its woodland creatures can be preserved for years to come.

Back to top

This Works deep sleep heavenly candle

This Works deep sleep heavenly candle .jpg
  • Best: For getting a good night’s sleep 
  • Wax type: Synthetic wax
  • Scent: Lavender, chamomile and vetiver
  • Weight: 400g
  • Burn time: 40 hours

When it comes to sleeping well, we have tried everything from yoga to acupuncture, eating kiwis, reading “sleep manuals”, to watching repeats of Golden Girls at 3am. Essential oils aren’t a magical cure for insomnia, but they can help your brain relax, making it easier for it to shut down and go into sleep mode. This candle contains essential oils renowned for inducing slumber: lavender, chamomile and vetiver, making for a soothing herbal concoction that may not set the world alight but does the job of helping you nod off. And better still, This Works candles often pop up in TK Maxx, so you might be able to get your hands on them for half the price.

Back to top

The verdict: Scented candles

When it comes to a candle classic that will probably stand the test of time, Nest’s bamboo classic candle hits it out of the ballpark. Zesty, fresh and contemporary, it’s an instant mood-lifter and doesn’t take long to fragrance a room. The universally appealing scent makes it a fantastic gift idea, too.

From personalised gifts to afternoon tea hampers, these are the best Mother’s Day gifts she deserves

Keep your home air quality in tip-top condition with the best air purifiers

Voucher Codes

TUI Discount Code
Up to 7% off all online bookings at TUI
ASOS Discount Code
20% off everything with this ASOS app discount code
Travelodge Discount Code
5% off all bookings with this Travelodge discount code
The Perfume Shop Discount Code
15% of all orders with The Perfume Shop birthday discount
The Body Shop Discount Code
20% off everything with The Body Shop discount code
Domino's Voucher Code
Get 40% off mains, sides, and desserts - Domino's voucher code

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in