The power of a scented candle.

As soon as October rolls around every year, there is some sort of inner instinct in me that is probably only shared with a dormouse, that wants to nest and make things as cosy and calming as possible.

It’s that blissful moment when the tealight holders which have been sat gathering dust all summer are suddenly dug out of hibernation and when I begin breaking into my stash of scented candles.

Now, some might rightly ask what possible enjoyment can be lifted from a scented candle by a thirtysomething male. Well my obsession with them goes back a bit further than that, specifically during my second year of uni. Not living in halls that year, I finally discovered the joy of them and haven’t looked back since.

I am not generally a lover of summer – it’s far too hot, brash and generally annoying on the whole for me – and being a Celt by blood, I am far happier under much cooler climes, Autumn being the prime time of the year for me.

So on that principle, getting the scented candles out again means I have a free reign to dig out my fave hoodie, snuggle under my favourite throw and faceplant a bowl of stew or something of that nature in front of the telly.

However, for me, a good scented candle has a few prerequisites that must be met at all times. Vis a vis my what-I-call “scented candle etiquette”:

  1. Tealight is my candle medium of choice usually. Maybe a nice filled glass jar of no more than 5cm in height. Anything taller than the Parthenon in Greece is both showy and ostenatious, unless you are hosting a dinner party, and even then it is questionable. I am after delicate, yet cosy and inviting.
  2. I give candles that can’t very obviously be captured in scent – e.g. “Sea Salt”, “Forest Pine” or “Fresh Linen” – a wide berth. I am not after my room smelling like the laundrette/a budget toilet cleaner/a cheap hotel soap.
  3. Yankee Candles – I’m sorry not sorry, big fat no. I know they have their fans, but for me they have always been the worst for smell and texture. Too oily and too synthetic. And you could fit a small family of rabbits in one of the larger jars they do, so again, no on that front. Brand names matter not in my world.
  4. Nothing with more than one wick. And definitely nothing with a what-I-call “substitute wick”, i.e. a dodgy looking splinter of wood. If I wanted to reduce my bedroom, and indeed, my house to kindling, then believe me I would.
  5. Best scents: for me there is an obvious – and non negotiable – trinity here. Vanilla, Spiced Berries and Cinammon. All others are obselete. End of discussion.
  6. The earliest I start lighting candles: 5pm. The latest I start lighting candles: 7pm. Anything before or after these times is wrong. Start too early and there is the danger that you end the day before you’re meant to. Start too late and you’re not allowing it time to have its full burn potential and peter out gently.
  7. The maximum I light at any one time is four. Enough to make it seem natural, calming and relaxing, and not like you’ve just set foot in a branch of Lush and are now struggling to find the nearest source of oxygen.
  8. Candle holders: shot glasses, particularly decorated ones, are best. But I am also a sucker for a nice shaped one, such as my hedgehog ones (pictured above) whom I affectionately refer to as Higgy and Tiggy.
  9. Reed diffusers: perfectly fine for the downstairs loo in a minimalist’s sprawling pad overlooking Kew Gardens. Absolutely not fine anywhere else.
  10. Wax melts: much like that time you thought doing a Blue Peter make with papier mache unsupervised was a good idea when you were 8, messy and totally unnecessary.

Above all else, there is nothing a scented candle can’t set right. You could have had the day from hell, and accidentally started World War III, but one strike of a match and 30 minutes later, your room smells of vanilla and bourbon and the little flame of your candle is happily, friendly reflecting through the holder whilst you listen to Stephen Fry talking calmly about lavender fields in Provence on a YouTube sleep story and all seems that bit better. That’s the art of it.

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