Anyone who knows me knows that I am a candle snob. I don’t like to receive candles as gifts, because with the exception of a handful of people, most people get candle selections for me very wrong. I prefer to sample, smell and purchase my own candles. I’ve been this way forever. It’s my thing. So everyone just plays along and knows better than to even try to buy me candles.
With one foot firmly in anticipation of Spring, these are my current favorites. I prefer scents that feel a bit grounded, with realistic inspirations of earth, water and air. I don’t like the scents to feel too ‘manufactured’, and these are a perfect blend notes that make me feel like I’m a bit closer to the outdoors, even as I relax within the cocoon of my home.
This candle is fresh, with a little something extra. All Strange Gent Candles retain a grounded ‘earthiness’ regardless of scent. And honestly, Winona might be the freshest scent in the current lineup. Most of the scents smell like memories between the pages of old books or a dirty little secret tucked in the back of a keepsake box. I know that these descriptions defy logic, but so do the fragrances. Winona, to me, smells like your hands after you grip a stalk of rosemary too tight (something that happens regularly to me when I pick rosemary for cooking), or get juniper residue on your arms or legs on a random Sunday afternoon. Instead of the actual plants, this candle smells like what the plant would smell like on you, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Anyway, that’s how it smells to me, fresh and warm all at once, with a hit of dirt (earth) thrown in for good measure. It reminds me of warm days, playing with flowers and dirt, and losing track of time.
The throw on this candle is fantastic. I’ll light it for a few hours at a time, and the smell continues to linger long after I’ve put it out.
The overarching theme of this company is the feeling of jazz, expressed through fragrance. Notes from Azul conjures the experience of a private jazz concert in the open air near the sea. With notes of ozone, rainwater, jasmine and lavender, this fragrance is fresh and sexy all at once. It feels like linen caftans and wealthy vacations in some remote place that features plenty of local flora and fauna… and only minimal human interaction.
According to the company: “This candle is inspired by the legendary Blue Note Records. This record label became the foundation and staple of traditional and avant garde jazz from the late 1930’s to today’s version of jazz.”
This might be the brightest fragrance offered by Harlem Candle Company. Most of their scents are warm and sensual, but Joy is crisp, bright and refreshing. With notes of mint and clary sage, the scent reminds me of fresh laundry drying in the hot summer sun. A little bit of jasmine warms up the blend just so, and it rounds out with a comforting combination of cedarwood and amber musk.
I’m typically a fan of the warmer scents (Brownstone, Speakeasy, Savoy) from this company, but Joy is such a nice way to welcome the winter thaw and invite spring into my home. It’s sometimes warm enough to throw open the windows, so I light this candle and do that whenever I can. But even on the days when it’s partly or mostly cloudy, this candle reminds me that the freshness of spring is almost here.
Named for the legendary Grace Jones, this candle is an unexpected and incredibly fresh take on the international superstar. I’d honestly expected something dark and mysterious (especially because both the vessel and the wax are pitch black). But instead, it’s light and airy. The candle is a love letter to Jones’ native Jamaica. With notes of black pepper, freesia, water lily and Turkish rose, this candle sits in a refreshing and neutral space, without leaning masculine or distinctly feminine. It feels like salty sea air and wet skin, with a hint of warm earth after a tropical rain.
It feels like fresh ideas and the kind of freedom reserved for young children without a sense of time or limitations. It feels like the present moment… breathing in and enjoying life… without anticipation or expectation.
I tend to change my candle preference with the seasons, but I have the same criteria for every candle I buy: It must last and it must have a very strong scent throw. Over the years, I’ve learned that price does not factor into this at all. I’ve paid top dollar for candles that I literally have to stand over to smell when they’re burning, and less than $30 for candles with a throw so strong that it smells like I have one lit in every room. In the end it comes down to quality and the integrity of the manufacturer, and you cannot (literally) put a price on that.