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Photo: Debi Treloar

There’s nothing like an exquisitely scented candle to warm the cockles, writes Vicci Bentley. Fair enough, they’ve become the default gift, replacing soap and bath cubes – and they are the ideal dinner party gift for someone you like, but don’t really know. Yet their huge popularity is founded on a universally appealing thought. These dark days around the Solstice, there’s poetry in giving and receiving warmth and light. That flickering flame is not only profoundly comforting – like a miniature log fire – the aroma it releases is, in my book, the ember-kindler that wishes wellbeing on a home. And, since we’re all so hag-ridden by technology, the simple, ancient gesture of lighting up is the cue to switch off from pressure strife, while the heavenly scent can help us believe there can be peace on earth.

But will it fight with the food? Not if it’s chosen for ambience, the experts tell us. ‘In the dining room, stick to warm and welcoming aromas such as citrus and amber which won’t wrestle with the turkey,’ advises Tim Duggan-Rees of Dublin-based Rathbones who have been making candles since the fifteenth century. Even better, a candle in the hallway gives a warm and wonderful welcome. ‘We like to place candles on a windowsill, so light flickers through the frosty glass,’ Tim adds.

They’re a chic touch of luxury, but statement candles cost a bomb, so best make the most of them. Burn candles for two or three hours before guests arrive to open up the scent to your house. Trim the wick before lighting up again to reduce smoke and ensure even burning, but not so short that it ‘drowns’ in its own wax. And (this should go without saying) never burn candles unattended or where kids and pets can get at them. ‘Elf ‘n safety notice over, chestnuts, mulled spices, pine needles – bring them all on. Last year I gave candles with Victorian silver plate snuffers I found for around a fiver on Portobello Market. If flames must eventually be extinguished, might as well do it in style. Here’s what I’m snuffing now…

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Rathbones Cedar, Cloves & Ambergris Scented Classic Candle, £30 (available HERE) Beeswax with a pomander aroma of orange peel and cool, spicy cloves. The frosted white glass easily fits in with festive decs.


Fornasetti Promfumi Armatura Scented Candle, £125 (available HERE) The sheer Fornasetti whimsy never fails to make me smile. This time, muse Lina Cavalieri wears a platinum helmet on the collectable porcelain beaker. When I first sniffed the ‘Otto’ scent, I wanted to wear it. That heavenly, incense-y birch tar!


Parfums Roja Essence of Christmas, Christmas Snow, £95 (available HERE) Perfrumer Roja Dove’s idea of a pine forest under a blanket of driven snow. Cheeky hints of candyfloss and cocoa sugarplum the ice.


Ormonde Jayne Etoile Mini Candle Set, £72 (available HERE) Cosy and spicy with cardamon, cinnamon, mandarin and amber. The four black and gold candles are great for table decs or same scent, different room scenarios.

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Clarins Limited Edition Tonic Scented Candle, £55 (available HERE) OK, so I slipped in a spa candle. Aromatic, soothing and cleansing, this is the one for flopping in the bedroom to when it all gets a bit much…


23 thoughts on “Flaming good scents! Five of the best perfumed candles for Christmas

  1. Love Moss, moments of life and style candles. Currently burning No 1 Wander to Man Mo Temple. Takes me away from the gloomy weather here.

  2. My must-have scented candles for Christmas are by Perfumer Angela Flanders who has a shop on Columbia road. They smell gorgeous and also last for ages.

    1. Oh, lovely Angela! How we miss her. Have you tried the Mr Severs candle she crafted for the Huguenot weavers’ house the artist Dennis Severs recreated at 15 Folgate Street, Spitalfields? A warm and wonderful orange peel evocation and perfect for nostalgic atmosphere.

  3. Ortigia also produce excellent candles (and bath oils, shower gels etc) which are not cheap but neither are they stratospheric price category. The Ambra Nera is their top scent for me in all of the above – instantly I’m in a warmer climate.

    1. Ha! Actually, it smells divine, a bit like a roll in the hay by the sea. But burning real ambergris would be like burning money. It’s a fair bet accords are used in these candles. A combination of labdanum (cistus, or rock rose extract) with smoky, incense benzoin and velvety vanilla is the classic ‘amber’ recipe.

  4. I’m going to shout out for the Isle of Skye candle company. Available in Wholefoods and many other places. Way cheaper than the candles listed here, but great affordable quality , hand made on Skye – which is teeny weeny and dead remote. They smell lovely. because of how they are made.

  5. I have to ‘shout’ out with AUD – I also love Isle of Skye candles. I was in their Edinburgh store on Saturday stocking up on Christmas gifts. The candles mentioned above are out of my budget I’m afraid. Although I could easily be persuaded to go over budget for the lovely Fornasetti candle, I bet it smells as good as it looks.

  6. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about scented candles because I’m a clumsy woman. A candle anywhere near my body could mean disaster. But now I’m second-guessing this whole candle thing. I love me a good scent. If only I could find a candle that smelled like church…………………

  7. Lovely looking candles, but far too pricey for me on a simple salary. I would never want to light them. What a lovely gift for someone.

    I do love candles though, but more affordable soy ones that I light for a few hours in the evening.

  8. Never bothered much with scented candles, until I was given a Clarins for my birthday. Now I have one in every room in the house. A tad expensive, but I think little luxuries are worth it from time to time.

  9. I have one candle from Espa but being in a household of men can only light it briefly when they aren’t around. A better buy at this time of year is Dr. Hauschka Spruce Warming Bath Essence. Fills the air as well as the water in bathroom. A small luxury if one needs to get away from seasonal preparations. Season’s Greetings to all.

  10. Scented candles are a real pleasure, but I’m very picky about “smells” in general. Unfortunately, the best candles are so very expensive. I’ll look for some of these in the U.S. Someone said, some, were reasonably priced… Cheers!

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