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I have to admit: I’m a bit of a sucker for luxury candles. I always have one burning in the evening (and during lockdown, sometimes during the day, too) — there’s nothing quite as sumptuous as a scent that’s capable of transporting you to another time; another place. And while I believe that self-care is a radical act that is far bigger than what a little consumerism can help with, I also love treating myself, and a gorgeously scented candle flickering in the dark, its smell wafting through your home, can do just that.
Luxury candles are a relatively affordable indulgence. Between the rise of self-care and the need to cultivate a certain aesthetic on social media, the candle market is red-hot. COVID only fanned these flames, and the pandemic saw scented candle sales go up by as much as 105 per cent on retailers such as Adore Beauty.
I know what you’re thinking: luxury candles cost so much more than a regular candle that you can pick up at the supermarket or chemist — are they really worth the price tag? Well, for starters, high-end candle makers often use the finest ingredients available, which include natural waxes such as beeswax, soy or coconut wax, rare materials (such as oud, which costs $8,000 to $30,000 USD per kilo) and fragrances that are designed to create a specific mood or atmosphere. These candles are also typically hand-poured in small batches to ensure that they burn evenly and consistently.
I’ve burned candles of every shape, size and smell — we’re talking everything from $4 IKEA vanilla tealights that come in a 30-pack, all the way to a massive $270 Jo Malone candle that I will likely burn for the next decade. The candles I've ended up loving tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum, but most will last you several months at least (or if you’re like me and can’t decide on a single one, you’ll treasure the last dregs of them for years to come.) And if you don’t have the coin saved up to buy one just yet, don’t stress — feel free to bookmark this page for later. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time when it comes to shopping.
Ahead, here are my very favourite uber-luxurious candles that will make you feel like you live in a five-star hotel. I’ve tried and tested every single one, and I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.
1. Le Labo — Encens 9
Best new candle
While most of us are familiar with the ubiquitous Le Labo Santal 33 (which incidentally, was created after the Santal 26 candle, which the brand launched with back in 2006), the newest addition to the Le Labo family can be considered its worldly, sophisticated cousin. If you’re partial to heady, sexy scents, burning this candle recalls the feeling you get from burning incense, but without the heaviness. Its bewitching notes include frankincense, (which was once worth more than gold), laced with amber, patchouli, sandalwood, musk and clove. Perfect for anywhere that you want to be cozy. The best part? The candle is GMO-free, cruelty-free and vegan.
2. Jo Malone London — Lime basil & mandarin candle
Best fresh candle
This deliciously crisp, elegant scent is a cult favourite for a reason, whether in perfume or candle form. It’s an uplifting, refreshing scent that recalls the feeling of a cool breeze on a lazy summer day. The zesty citrus is a gorgeous contrast to the herbaceous scent of basil, housed in a sophisticated glass vessel with Jo Malone’s signature grosgrain bow on the lid. If you keep the lid off, the smell permeates through the room long after the candle has been burnt out. The perfect daytime candle if you need a little pick-me-up, or if you want to create the perfect ambience for a dinner party.
3. Maison Margiela — Jazz Club
Best evocative candle
I was torn between including Jazz Club or By The Fireplace as my favourite Maison Margiela candle, but I think Jazz Club would have to be the one I burn more. It’s sweet yet sophisticated; smoky yet feminine; dark yet oddly delicious. Let’s face it, none of us is probably travelling overseas anytime soon, and if you want to go to a super-cool Brooklyn speakeasy where you have to know the password to get in, this is probably the cheapest way to get there.
4. Coreterno — The Secret
Best avant-garde candle
The design of this candle is a marriage of 17th-century gothic and 21st-century rock and roll. Made in Italy, the gold-engraved labels are produced by the oldest label maker in the country. But what makes this candle so special is its intoxicating scent, which is said to be an ode to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The scent is unexpected (I guess you could expect that with something that’s meant to smell like poison!) but also strangely comforting. If you like rich colours, luscious velvety fabrics and seductive scents, this opulent candle would be the perfect addition to your boudoir.
5. Greg Natale — Solar Collection Oud Eclipse
Best oud candle
Hand-poured right here in Australia, this gorgeous candle is housed in a bone china vessel with real gold accents. A sensual blend of frankincense and leather oud, the scent is balanced with notes of bergamot for a beautiful scent that’s perfect for balmy summer evenings. Although not mentioned in the fragrance notes, there’s a fresh powderiness (but not in a babyish way) that keeps the scent from being cloying. The bonus is that the chic jar can have new life as a gorgeous brush holder after the candle has been burnt out.
6. Diptyque — Baies
Best universal candle
Eternally popular for a reason, Diptyque Baies is an elegant, sophisticated, highly fragrant French candle with the alluring scent of freshly picked blackcurrants, raspberries and plums in a creamy, rich base. The fragrance emits a sweet and fruity aroma that fills up any room it's lit in. A safe blind buy, the Baies candle is the perfect gift for any candle lover or someone who loves home decor.
7. Lola James Harper — #14 The Surf Shop of Stephane Candle
Best fresh candle
As the name suggests, this candle recalls the scent of a surf shop, where the smell of wooden surfboards dances with honeyed florals. A perfect housewarming gift, this candle is a nuanced balance of sweet monoi and tuberose, laced with a touch of sun and surf. The candle has no animal-derived ingredients, and meets IFRA standards (which manages the safe use of fragrance) as well as CITES standards, which means that it doesn’t use any species of flora or fauna that are threatened with extinction.
8. Lumira — Terra Australis
Best Australian candle
This sustainably sourced, vegan-friendly, cruelty-free Australian company has a range of beautiful candles (among them, Cuban Tobacco — delicious!) but the new Terra Australis has my heart. While I’m quite partial to a woody scent, this hints at wood but has an intoxicating, tanniny tea undertone that's beautiful to burn in the daytime. I usually have this burning at my desk when I’m having a particularly tough day.
9. Fornasetti — Bacio
Best woody candle
Okay, I’ll admit; I’m lowkey obsessed with Fornasetti, the artist who drew his muse Lina Cavalieri over 400 different ways, immortalised in his famous Tema e Variazioni series. But while I’d love to own a wall-full of his plates, I’ll have to make do with a candle — and it doesn't feel like much of a sacrifice. One of my closest friends bought me this very extravagant gift for a special birthday, and while I was thrilled to be able to own this piece of art, I had no idea how much I would also fall in love with the scent. The headiness of cedar and incense is coupled perfectly with herbaceous lavender and thyme. For me, it’s reminiscent of the beauty of the quietest part of the night.
10. Diptyque — Sapin
Best holiday candle
Diptyque’s limited edition holiday scents never disappoint, and Sapin is no different. Housed in a beautiful malachite-green vessel with specks of real gold, this candle comes with a chic gold lid. The scent combines the crispness of pine trees in winter with the coziness of an open fireplace. Perfect for the festive season, Sapin evokes the magic of a white Christmas without being too heavy for summer.
11. Trudon — Mary
Best classic candle
This is my third (!) Cire Trudon candle (I know, I have a problem, but I have a good "hint" wishlist system going; try it). While it’s tough to choose a favourite (Ernesto will always be my true love) I have to say that Mary comes close. Cire Trudon has been making candles for literally hundreds of years, and while I’m no Napoleon, and I need to carefully count my pennies to get my Cire Trudon fix, this one is 100% worth it in my opinion. Inspired by Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame, and widely considered to be the mother of the horror genre), this candle is anything but horrific. If anything, it’s romantic. Woody cedar notes play with amber and tobacco, but the kicker here is the softer cardamom, which makes the scent super luscious.
12. Acqua di Parma — Oh L'Amore
Best bedroom candle
If you’re more of a special occasion scent burner, this candle is for you. The scent of spices like black pepper and clove gives way to the softness of tonka bean to create a truly delicious scent. This fragrance is perfect for when you need a moment to yourself to journal; when you’ve had a long day and just want to relax; or when you want to create a beautiful ambience in your home just because.
13. Boy Smells — Cinderose
Best affordable luxury candle
Boy Smells, while on the affordable end of the luxury spectrum, is one of my favourite candle brands. The design is clean and so aesthetically pleasing, and the scents are complex and nuanced. My favourite is Cinderose, which is a gorgeous smoky rose. As one reviewer says, it smells like “luxury incense”.