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The best scented candles to set the mood

With a soothing combination of flickering light and mood-boosting fragrance, the right scented candle can make all the difference to your space, says GEORGIA DAY. Discover our top picks of the best luxury scented candles – plus, tips on how to make them last

Beauty
From left: Scacco Otto by Fornasetti; Black Baies by Diptyque; Fresh Fig & Cassis by Jo Malone London

Whether you’re planning an intimate soirée on your own or a cozy dinner-à-deux, setting the mood is essential – and nothing says warm and inviting quite like a scented candle. Follow our guide to scenting your space in style and look forward to a festive holiday season, whatever the occasion.

When it comes to fragrance around food, it’s best to keep things simple; avoid anything too sweet, spicy or overly floral, as strong scents will only end up fighting for attention with the food aromas. Instead, opt for something with a green scent, such as Fornasetti’s Scacco Otto candle, which is inspired by a Mediterranean herb garden and works as a stylish but subtle accompaniment. To ensure the fragrance remains as a background note, light it earlier in the evening and put it out (always use a snuffer to avoid smoke) just before guests arrive. While you might need to wait for lockdown restrictions to be lifted, planning the perfect dinner party right now is an ideal way to give you something to look forward to…

Blending the romantic scent of rose with the juicy tang of blackcurrant leaves, Diptyque’s Baies manages to captivate every nose. Its universality means that it works just as well against the backdrop of a soothing end-of-day bath as it does a relaxed evening in front of your favorite box set.

For intimate entertaining, look to scents that convey coziness and warmth. Byredo’s chic black vessel is infused with softly spiced notes of coriander seed and black pepper, while its smooth base notes of bourbon and vanilla are particularly suited for making guests feel at ease, improving relaxation and reducing stress. Timing-wise, you want to create a balanced output of aroma, so light it an hour before your post-lockdown guests arrive, then put it out after about two.

Fight the temptation to work in your pajamas by upping your WFH game with Jo Malone London’s elegantly scented candle. With more than 70 hours of burn time, it can scent even the busiest and longest working week with the juicy and comforting smell of ripe figs. For an even burn and to prevent ‘tunneling’, burn it for at least an hour, until the entire surface has melted, before extinguishing.

If you don’t have your own hearth at home, go for the next best thing – a Cire Trudon candle infused with the scent of log fires, thanks to a warm, earthy blend of oak wood, tobacco, clove and labdanum. Aside from the hypnotic light that provides an instantly calming ambience, the inclusion of earthy scents is a sure-fire way to help you unwind, triggering the release of feel-good hormones in the brain. Heavier notes tend to linger for longer in the air, too, so light it early in the evening, then reap the benefits of the scent long after dark.

L’Objet’s eye-catching candle contains notes of cognac, caramel and musky leather, and is a great choice for the mantelpiece, as both a visual and olfactory statement. It isn’t just pretty to look at, though: having more than one wick means the wax melts more quickly, allowing for the oil molecules to evaporate and throw out their scent faster. Just be sure to trim the wicks afterwards – around 5mm is ideal – to keep them from smoking and to give you a longer burn time.

HOW TO EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR CANDLES

The last thing you want when you’ve just bought or been gifted a new luxury scented candle is see it tunnel through the middle or produce enough smoke to blacken the wall. Sound familiar? It’s likely you’re burning your candle the wrong way. There are definite rules when it comes to burning a candle – from timing its first burn to positioning the wick – that, when followed, will allow it to give you hours’ more enjoyment. Aleksandra Dorofejeva, Diptyque candle expert, reveals how to light up the right way…

Burn it evenly

How long you allow your new candle to burn the first time it is lit will ultimately determine how long it will last. “The first time you light your candle, allow it to burn until the whole of the top is liquid wax. This may take two to three hours, or perhaps a little longer depending on the environment around the candle,” explains Dorofejeva. “Allowing enough time for the entire surface to melt will help your candle burn more evenly the next time it is lit, because if there is any hardened wax left around the sides, the candle may tunnel downwards when it is next lit.”

Trim the wick

If you find the wall behind your candle darkening, you have likely allowed the wick to get too long. “If the wick is allowed to lengthen, the flame will become too strong and may produce some smoke,” says Dorofejeva, who recommends using a wick trimmer to keep the wick around a quarter of an inch (5-6mm) in length. “This will help your candle to burn for longer, and it will also help stop the wick from falling back into the molten wax and disappearing.” Trim the wick while it is cold, before lighting it.

Don’t blow out the flame

We know it’s instinctive to blow out a flame when you are done with it – it can even feel a little ritualistic to blow out a candle before heading to bed. But, according to Dorofejeva, we shouldn’t give in to temptation: “Blowing a candle out can sometimes cause the hot wax at the surface to splatter up and outwards, making a mess of your candle and whatever it is resting on. Instead, use a snuffer; it’s a far more delicate and safer way to put your candle out, and it preserves its burning quality.” Alternatively, you can dip the wick backwards into the molten wax to extinguish the flame. Dipping the wick also helps to avoid black smoke from billowing out and coats the wick in wax so it’s ready to burn next time.

Center the wick

If you are regularly trimming your wick and observing the first-burn-duration rule, you shouldn’t need to reposition your wick. That said, many of us will have had candles where the wick has moved to the side while lit, leading to a wonky candle that burns down just one side of the glass. If you notice the wick starting to migrate, you should center it while the wax is still warm, advises Dorofejeva. “Re-centering the wick will help the candle to burn evenly and stop it from leaning towards the edge of the glass, where it can cause it to overheat and potentially blacken.” To re-center your wick, snuff out the flame and then use your wick trimmer to nudge the end back into position.

Repair any tunneling

If, despite your best efforts, tunneling does occur, it can be remedied. “Move your candle to a warm area and light the wick. As the wax begins to soften and melt, move the wick closer to the area of un-melted wax,” advises Dorofejeva. Once you have extinguished the flame, you can also use the tip of your wick trimmer to gently coerce the un-melted wax into the pool of melted liquid, and then re-light the wick and allow everything to melt further and even out. Lastly, Dorofejeva recommends placing a photophore [a glass dome with an open top], over your lit candle; it will help to maintain an even temperature throughout the wax while enhancing the light and adding to the overall beauty.

Reuse your candle vessel

It’s disappointing when a favorite candle eventually burns itself out, but there is no reason why you can’t get some enjoyment out of it still. Candle votives make for excellent vases for cut stems or small succulents, and containers for makeup brushes, Q-tips and cotton rounds. Don’t allow yours to go to waste. Allow the remaining wax to cool before pouring in just-off-the-boil water. As the hot water cools, it will separate the wax from the votive, allowing you to lift the wax away once the water has completely cooled. All that’s left then is to use a scouring pad to remove any remaining deposits, which should come away easily.