One of the best parts of Christmas is arguably the moment I get out my festive candles, transforming the smell of my home from vanilla-diffuser-mixed-with-cat to a mulled wine-scented paradise.
But seeing as they can cost an absolute arm and a leg, you want to be sure the scent and size is right before you buy – which is why I helpfully put my hand up to review them on the nation’s behalf. (You’re most welcome.)
There are plenty of festive fragrances available to buy on the high street this year, from the more obscure scents like Jo Loves’ ‘Log Fire’ – which, spoiler alert, legit made my house smell like it was on fire – to more traditional Christmassy scents from The White Company, Neom and M&S.
Which is best to buy, though? Here’s my verdict on some of the most popular ones you can get your mitts on right now.
Most Festive Fragrance – And Overall Winner
What the brand says: “Curl up on an armchair as notes of cinnamon and clove add warmth to your room, while a dash of fresh orange rebalances your mood.”
What it actually smells like: Absolute heaven. When I first take it out the box, it’s potent and seems overpowering, but once I start burning this bad boy, my home instantly smells like I’m simmering mulled wine in the kitchen – and it’s not too strong, either.
This is the ultimate festive scent. You can smell the cinnamon, the cloves, the fresh orange – it’s perfectly balanced, with not too much of one fragrance or another. I could burn this all day, every day. In fact, it smells good enough to eat.
Packaging: The candle comes in a minimalistic glass holder, sporting The White Company’s signature logo and the word ‘Winter’ in a handwritten font. I love the box it comes in, too, which is white with illustrations of festive Georgian houses.
Value: It’s one of the smaller candles I try, but for £20 it’s reasonable value considering how much I love the scent. I would definitely buy this again.
Most Luxurious Light
What the brand says: “A warm blend of cinnamon and cashmere wood, a voyage to the depths of winter amid the warmth of a celebratory evening.”
What it actually smells like: It smells sweet and warming, but I feel like I’m getting more vanilla musk and caramel, rather than cinnamon and cashmere wood (although I’ll be perfectly honest, I have no idea what the latter smells of). The scent doesn’t remind me of Christmas, but it’s a thoroughly lovely winter warmer and the four wicks mean you get a decent amount of light, too.
Packaging: It comes in a posh black box, making it look like a special gift. The glass that the actual candle sits in is covered in beautiful gold and platinum swirls. I love.
Value: This is one of the biggest candles I try – there are many hours of burning to be had here. It’s also the most bankruptcy-inducing candle at £129 – ouch. I wouldn’t spend more than £100 on a candle but if you’ve got money to burn... (Excuse the pun.)
Christmas Wish By Neom (420g)
What the brand says: “A soothing, traditional scent with expertly blended spicy and fruity oils of mandarin, cinnamon and tonka bean, plus 10 other essential oils to help you relax, unwind and creating a warming vibe in your home.”
What it actually smells like: The scents are very similar to The White Company’s candle, but the smell is way more subtle. I struggle to smell it once it’s burning – even with three wicks aflame. When I do get an occasional whiff, there seem to be more notes of cinnamon and clove than anything else. I’d recommend burning this candle in a smaller room like a bathroom (it would actually be perfect for bath-time), as the fragrance was slightly lost in my living room.
Packaging: What this candle might lack in strong scent, it makes up for in packaging. The glass candle holder is beautiful, with a laser cut, gold metallic botanical pattern around the outside. The box is also great, with a blue and purple watercolour wreath interspersed with gold, metallic ink, and a little black bow. It screams gently whispers ‘luxury’.
Value: This is a decent size, so the price is roughly what I’d expect: £46. Would I pay that much for this candle? Probably not for myself, but I’d purchase it as a gift for someone else... if I really liked them.
What the brand says: “Embrace the spirit of Christmas with this festive candle, featuring a mandarin, clove and cinnamon fragrance with subtle base notes of vanilla, patchouli and cedarwood.”
What it actually smells like: If you want a fuss-free Christmas scent without having to fork out for it, this is the candle for you. It’s sweet-smelling – in fact, the scent reminds me of mince pies mixed with a splash of mulled wine – and it will supposedly burn for 55 hours, which is decent. The scent isn’t as luxurious and doesn’t have as much depth to it as some of the other candles I try, but for the cost, it’s not to be sniffed at.
Packaging: No frills – it comes as it is, in a glass holder sporting a burgundy label, and a gold metal lid.
Value: 330g of candle for £10 is excellent value. It would be rude not to.
Most Inventive Scent
What the brand says: “Our Pine Candle will wrap its protective aura around those who light it, featuring notes of Siberian and Balsam pine, cedar, and aromatic notes of basil and sage.”
What it actually smells like: When you get this candle out the box and get a first whiff, it smells (rather delightfully) like real Christmas trees – but sweet. It’s fresh, foliage-filled, but equally warming. It’s wholesome and wintry. And it’s surprisingly as festive as the more traditional cinnamon, orange and clove candles. Unlike some of the others, when you light this candle, the smell it emits is just as strong as the smell in the box. I’d recommend burning it in small bursts so it doesn’t become too overpowering.
Packaging: This comes in a green box with a beautiful print on it, which features lucky symbols related to ancient spiritual beliefs. There’s a tiger, a beetle, coral, and a dream catcher. Even the green colour of the packaging has a meaning – it’s associated with hope and promises of renewal. I’m here for it.
Value: This is one of the smaller candles, and it doesn’t come cheap at £53, but if you can stump up the cost and fancy a wintry payday treat, I’d recommend it. You won’t be disappointed.
Log Fires By Jo Loves (185g)
What the brand says: “This comforting blend of smooth, smoky woods laced with Lapsang Souchong tea instantly brings the scent of a roaring log fire alive.”
What it actually smells like: It genuinely smells of log fires, which is kind of nostalgic – it reminds me of visiting my grandparents at Christmas as a child. But at the same time, I’m not a huge fan of this particular scent coming from a candle. My living room smells like something is on fire (and not in a good way) and, as a result, I’m not feeling particularly relaxed. Despite this, I’m sure it would go down a treat in some households due to the novelty factor.
Packaging: This candle does come nicely packaged, with a glass holder and glass lid with a silver rim. It comes in a white box with a big red ribbon tying it altogether. Simple, yet effective.
Value: It’s a decent size, but I wouldn’t pay £55 when I could probably just burn some logs in the garden for the same experience. Sorry, Jo.
Least Festive Scent
What the brand says: “Indulge in the energising and uplifting scent of this limited edition winter candle, opening with fiery ginger, cinnamon and black pepper then meeting fresher notes of eucalyptus and birch leaf.”
What it actually smells like: If you like the smell of Molton Brown’s best-selling black peppercorn body wash, this one’s for you. As I remove the lid on this I’m instantly hit by a whiff of... man?! And by that I mean it smells of aftershave. The smell is nice, though, and I’d happily burn it all year round – but this subtle fragrance is not what I’d consider festive in the slightest.
Packaging: It comes in a posh box (it’s ribbed cardboard, but it looks expensive) with the prestigious Floris logo in gold on the front. The candle itself comes in a neutral grey-matte-effect glass pot with a heavy gold lid.
Value: It’s slightly bigger than the Jo Loves and White Company candles, but also comes in on the spenny end at £60.
What the brand says: “A festive blend of spicy cinnamon, clove and orange, combined with warm spices and sandalwood.”
What it actually smells like: This is a wonderful festive smell that fills my house with cinnamon and orange scents good enough to eat – but the candle itself is, for want of a better word, stressful. It doesn’t come in a pot, so I put it in a glass candle holder. There are cloves and cinnamon sticks embedded in the candle wax so as it burns down, I’m slightly concerned they’ll set on fire (side note: they don’t, but I do worry about it). Over time, the candle loses its shape.
Packaging: It’s wrapped in cellophane with white ribbon around the edge to hold it all together.
Value: This is one of the biggest candles and it’s also one of the cheapest at £20. Despite the mild peril that comes with burning it, I’d buy it again.
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