Friday, 11 December 2009

Forlorn Festive Fragrance Fantasies - The Molton Brown Scented Candle

We all have a candle habit to some degree. Yet back in the 70's, when the miner's strike was in full swing, candles were pretty much just a form of emergency lighting, kept in the cupboard under the sink along with the torch, the Brasso and the Brillo pads. At Christmas we might have splashed out on some red dinner candles to go in the brass candlestick holders for which the Brasso was intended. But there was only really one gauge of candle back then - tall and thin - whereas candles have become so diverse and so much more of a lifestyle statement these days, notably the scented ones. I consulted the National Candle Association to see how many different shapes are formally recognised. I found "taper" (my "dinner" candles), pillar (= "church"?), container/jar/filled candle, votive, gel (pardon?), birthday (forgot those!) and tea light.

Ah, tea lights. I do not normally fantasise about tea lights, for such are guests' expectations of grotto-style living room mood lighting that they have become a staple purchase from the supermarket. Invariably, about three out of twenty will have an inverted wick, that you will try to dig out to no avail, before chucking the whole thing away - though not before briefly wondering if you know anyone who does the candle equivalent of composting.

No, the candles I fantasise about are all variants on the "container candle", starting with these from Molton Brown with their gorgeous boxes, which presumably act as pull out drawers with the candle inside. I love the different coloured fronts of the boxes, echoing each scent. I think I am drawn to pretty much all of them except the purple one. I always worry that purple things mean berries, and that way lies DKNY Delicious Night...

The scents range from the fairly graspable Heavenly Gingerlily (no relation to Michael Hutchence) to the downright recherche yuan zhi, naran ji and toko-yuzu (I am okay with the yuzu part). They all seem to be called "Aircandelas", by the way, which is a new one on me. Here is a description:

"This long lasting blend is encased in hand blown glass and will burn for over 80 hours. The wax is hand made in the Suffolk countryside and the glass hand blown in Lithuania."

Hmm - I wonder why the blurb puts the emphasis on "countryside", as if the hand making of wax was a bucolic pursuit like cheese making or pressing cider. Perhaps they are afraid we will think the candles were made in Ipswich. I sense that not even "hand made in Ipswich" has quite the ring the PR people are aiming for. Whereas in the case of Lithuania, the whole country sounds exotic and romantic and we wouldn't recognise the name of an Ipswich equivalent if we heard it.

Now comes the rub - these candles may last 80 hours, showing admirable staying power, always assuming the wick doesn't do its ingrowing stunt again - but at £49 a pop, they will have to remain a forlorn fantasy. You get ever so many tealights in a bag by comparison, even if they only last 4 hours each with a good wind (or rather without one).

But if you think the Molton Brown line is expensive, Jo Malone does the grandaddy of all container candles - weighing in at a colossal 2.5 KG and costing £260! I haven't inspected one close up, but I'll wager that it is "multi-wick", a term reserved for the big league of jar candles. Now, £260 would buy you eight 30ml bottles of Jo Malone fragrances! It is no contest in my opinion...

Yes, I am afraid you can keep your statement candles this Christmas. I'd rather have lots of perfume to spray on myself and a bag of tealights. I can even put up with the obligatory bit of wick digging.


  1. I'm not a candle fan. I really only have them in the house for power failures, and even those are being supplanted by emergency light sticks. A former colleague of mine once set her hair alight from tea-lights around her bath. I was working in a 999 call centre at the time and honestly thought she would have known better.

    Perfumed ones make me wonder why one would want to burn perfectly good money on that scale. As you say, just buy the perfume instead and you don't even need to invest in matches.

  2. Haha re the matches! Your hair igniting story is very salutary. I have nearly set tea towels alight a few times by leaving them too close to the hob, and my mother used routinely to melt my Sindy dolls by popping them under the grill to dry their hair, but so far no mishaps with candles...

  3. I love a good scented candle but I prefer ones without the chemicals and paraffin in them. I like the more bakery scents or real scents like vanilla or cinnamon kind.

  4. Those scents do sound good, for sure! The worst candles I was ever given were little star shaped ones covered in sparkly stuff. We used them as a centre piece on the Christmas dinner table but when we lit them they exploded, showering all the guests in glitter and hot wax. Which did at least distract them from the less than mouthwateringly tender turkey I served.

  5. Oh, I could not take it anymore to exist without a fig scented candle, so I finally spurged 26 Euro on one that burns 60 hours. It is from GEODESIS and smells beautifully without beeing even lighted up.
    Burning money becomes an completely new sense!

  6. I also bought a fig candle recently to give as a gift - from the Compagnie de Provence range. Has a very realistic scent which, like yours, smells nice on its own. Though as you say, it is a clear case of money going up in smoke!

  7. I am a candle fan and I always used a best scented one. :)