Great Scented Candles, Recommended by T Editors

During a time when many of us are compelled to remain within our homes, infusing a room with a fragrance, which has a famously powerful ability to evoke a specific place or memory, is one small way to help soothe frustrations and remind ourselves of the world beyond our walls. Here, T editors share the scented candles they’ve been burning lately, from a blend laced with Sicilian limes to one that evokes the Californian coast.

My apartment is dark, and I like to work with its gloom by making it feel darker still, like I’m deep in the heart of a forest. This means I’m usually burning forest-scented candles, including Woods by Byredo ($85): You feel transported into something out of a fairy tale. — HANYA YANAGIHARA

I can’t talk about scented candles and not mention one of the best scented-candle makers in town, Frédéric Malle. Malle customizes the ingredients in the wax of each candle so precisely — he will even modulate the wicks in order to better control the burn — that they’re worth the investment. “Aesthetically, unlike a perfume to wear, these scents are not designed to be seductive and merge with someone’s skin,” he explains. “Also they’re not designed to evolve with time. They are simpler and more monolithic.” I recommend Cafe Society ($95), which is a gentle combination of patchouli, lavender and amber. I also have a fondness for a particular candle called Big Sur After Rain ($65) by D.S. & Durga. Maybe it’s because I’m from California, and Big Sur was always just a drive away, never really some exotic place, but an actual haven from the rest of the world — all dramatic coastline, the smell of salt in the wet air, the trees that gripped the edges of the cliffs. You can’t really take pictures of Big Sur — your camera will fail to capture the naked coast, the way the ocean just recedes in the horizon. All you can really do is marvel at the beauty of it, which is unadorned and stark in its simplicity. There is something similarly relaxed and unpretentious about this candle’s scent, which promises rainwater in the eucalyptus groves off Highway 1 and the russet underbrush nearby. It reminds me of driving to get to somewhere, of the fog that creeps off the Pacific and of the trees, whose oily scent lightly infuses everything in their midst. They are things I miss very specifically right now. — THESSALY LA FORCE

The first time I inhaled Ila’s Tuberose and Rose candle ($58) was on a yoga retreat in the Cotswolds run by the organic beauty brand’s founder, Denise Leicester. I was supposed to be one of three women there and ended up being the only one. The smell, which is extremely subtle and more earthy and understated than most rose blends, is made of only five organic oils — jojoba, rosa damascena, rose geranium, tuberose and vetivert — and reminds me of the long, solitary walks I’d take through fields of giant cow parsley each morning to a small shingled cottage where one of these candles would be lit, filling the warm air inside and welcoming me to the first yoga session of the day. The candle is also made from organic soy wax, which burns cleaner than typical petroleum-based paraffin versions. — ALEXA BRAZILIAN

I will always have a soft spot for my first scented candle. I grew up in New England in more of an air freshener kind of household, so it was pretty memorable when, in the ’80s, I visited a college friend’s parents’ fancy apartment on Central Park West that smelled incredible. On the coffee table was a tiny green candle — I mean bougie — from a French company called Rigaud; the fragrance was Cyprès ($67). Around a decade later, Diptyque’s Baies ($68) was all the rage, and I still love that one; it’s never overpowering. And for the best-looking candles, I love Byredo. Here too, I prefer a low-key scent that won’t become cloying if you’re stuck at home for a month or more: At the moment I’m burning Cotton Poplin ($85). — TOM DELAVAN

I’ve known the Paris-based perfumer Francis Kurkdjian for many years, ever since we traveled together to a town outside of Lyon expressly to smell a new rose he was hybridizing with a famed grower of centuries-old flowers. And while he is at heart a sophisticated, literate urbanite known for complex, poetic fragrances, there is always a part of him wandering the airy rooms of his family’s summer house on a tiny lane called Les Tamaris along the Atlantic coast between the cities of La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Recently, he sent me the candle, Les Tamaris ($85), he has made to evoke the place’s unique sense of peace; he knew I would need it. In an instant I’m on the rustic path from the house, on the lane lined with golden everlastings, the afternoon breeze rustling in the parasol pines and acacia, headed toward the sea. — NANCY HASS

Is it absurd of me to recommend a $282 three-wick objet that’s the size of a flower pot? Yes, but these are absurd times! And, lately, I’ve been turning to the giant candle that’s been sitting on one of my apartment’s window sills for years (a gift), which was created by the Italian design house Fornasetti. It’s so big — 6.3 inches tall, nearly as wide — and burns so slowly that I can almost guarantee it will outlast the pandemic; years from now, once the wax is gone, perhaps it’ll become home to a houseplant, a thriving memento of a quarantine gone by. For that reason, you should hunt online and find whichever vessel best complements your décor. Scent is highly personal, which makes buying a candle online a difficult proposition, but I will say that all of Fornasetti’s varieties smell like the villa of a rich Italian family — herbaceous, sultry, a bit sweet — in the most alluring way possible. — KURT SOLLER

I had been saving this precious candle ($165) from Costa Brazil, the sustainable beauty brand founded by former Calvin Klein creative director Francisco Costa, for special occasions, but since I began working from home, I’ve been using my most luxurious products more regularly — if not now, when? Inspired by ingredients native to the Amazon rainforest, the candle has notes of Brazilian vetiver, jungle flora and breu, a resin extracted from the almaciga tree that is traditionally used in healing rituals to invoke good energy — something we all need right now. Its vaguely coconut-like smell reminds me of the tropical scent that infuses the air at The Standard Spa in Miami, a bastion of calm that I’ve been trying to replicate with this candle and my bathtub. Though pricey, the engraved container feels so much more special than a typical glass candle tumbler, and makes a great catchall or planter once the wax is all used up. — CAITIE KELLY

My apartment is almost entirely white, which I always feel a bit badly about (a friend once called it “monastic”), and so each summer when I go to Marseille, I stock up on colorful cartridge candles from Maison Empereur, a vast three-story hardware store, established in 1827, that sells things like copper blancmange molds and wicker carpet beaters. There are dozens of slightly peculiar, old-fashioned shades of wax to choose from — cornflower blue, olive green, sugared-almond pink, tapenade brown — and I like to select a new combination to bring home from each visit. They don’t have a scent, but during self-isolation I’ve been grateful for the brightness they bring to my living room and in the evenings, to transition my one-table apartment from my “home office” into my actual home, I’ve been burning a few along with sticks of incense, usually Astier de Villatte’s Oulan Bator ($42), named after the capital of Mongolia, which has a leathery, smoky scent — it also comes in candle form ($88) — and reminds me of the excitement of travel. — ALICE NEWELL-HANSON

The South Korean beauty industry is best known for its skin-care products but Soohyang Kim, the founder of the fragrance brand Soohyang, has made a name for herself with her line of all-natural, all-pink candles made from biodegradable vegetable wax. Of the company’s 33 different scents, Gangnam 8 ($46), which has notes of nutmeg, cloves, orange flowers and orchids, is my favorite. I tend not to like floral fragrances, but the spiciness of this blend tempers any sweetness. The scent was named after Seoul’s vibrant Gangnam neighborhood, where the brand’s flagship store is located, and whenever I see the name, it brings back memories of meeting family and friends there on my visits to Korea. — ANGELA KOH

The last vacation my sister and I took with my mother before she died was a three-week trip to Sicily, one of my favorite places in the world. We deplaned in Palermo and rented a car to drive around the island. After a stop in the medieval hilltop town of Erice and a climb to the top of Mt. Etna, we arrived in Taormina, on the island’s eastern coast, fell in love and decided to stay for the rest of the holiday. Most nights we would take the cable car to the city center for dinner and there was always the most incredible scent of citrus in the air. Stopping in a shop one evening we discovered candles made by the Sicilian company Ortigia. Even now, the smell of the Lime di Sicilia candle ($62), which sits in my home beside a picture of the three of us from that trip, instantly transports me back to those warm summer nights. — CARTER LOVE

I love candles — I’d even consider myself a candle lady — and one of my favorites, a gift from a friend, is Moonstruck from the New York-based company Otherland. The scent is sweet, clean and nostalgic: The notes of white mahogany and smoked birch remind me of summer nights when I was younger and there was nothing to do but go for a walk in the fields near my home or look up at the stars with friends. Each of the brand’s candles has a simple but elegant design and comes with a complimentary pack of matches. I’ve been burning mine a lot lately to calm my nerves, and Moonstruck is currently sold out, so I’m going to have to stock up with a few more varieties soon — possibly Extra Hour ($36) or Ruby Root ($36). — LAUREN POGGI

I’ve been staring at this pleasingly lumpy candle ($35) by the Brooklyn-based artisan Andrej Urem since it was gifted to me by a friend last Christmas, reluctant to let it devolve into a puddle. But the other week, confined to a small space and desperate for any sort of visual variety, my roommates and I ceremoniously lit it and watched as its bulbous protrusions slowly deflated. Synthetic-scent-averse, I prefer subtle or odorless candles, and I found in this instance that the slight inherent sweetness of the soy wax was aroma enough. As advertised, the burn lasted just over an hour, affording our little quarantine family a brief reprieve from monotony. — JAMESON MONTGOMERY

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