8 scented candles to gift this Christmas

Because you can never have too many, Lizzie Ostrom picks this season’s best festive candles. And there’s not a cinnamon stick in sight

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By Lizzie Ostrom on

Is it possible to have too many scented candles? Nah. They are the perfect presents: indulgent and special, yet transient – self-destructing in the very act of giving us pleasure. Which means you never have that feeling of loading people up with stuff they don’t need. When choosing your gift, look out for well-poured wax with minimum air bubbles meeting the glass. Good-quality wicks often have a little thread of metal running through them to help the burn. If you buy a huge candle for someone, make sure it’s got enough wicks so it’ll burn down evenly. And don’t get too preoccupied with tracking down only “natural” scents. The important thing is to find a good scent that you think the recipient will find delightful. So with that in mind, here’s my pick of the season’s best.

For the harried and tired

I find Neom Organics candles to be the airborne equivalent of Aromatherapy Associates bath oils (indeed Neom’s bath oils are on a par). I feel drugged whenever I smell Calm and Relax, but this year’s Christmas star is Perfect Peace, which smells effervescent, like cold ginger beer. Its silver-etched townscape jar offers a fun nod to the Quality Street tins of your childhood.


For the wilderness lover

Diptyque’s special Christmas editions are always a delight, but I think they’ve gone a little OTT in their designs of late. Instead I’m very much enjoying one of their overlooked classics: the cooling, camphorous Eucalyptus, which subs in the scent of fantasy Christmas trees. This candle is versatile, as it’ll burn beautifully in a bathroom or kitchen as much as it’ll enliven a living room.


For the host

Oh my goodness, south London-based Fellowstead’s Teak, Clove and Cardamom candle is delicious, like a jar of beautifully preserved fruits in liqueur. It’s plummy and opulent without being sickly. I’d light this one later in the evening at a party or if you’re relaxing with a dram. Burns beautifully, too. These guys know their wicks.


For the Instagrammer

It’s probably going to be one of the most photographed gifts of the season, thanks to its Miami-style palette of green and pink stripes. But the scent of Jo Malone Green Almond and Redcurrant is jaunty, too. It’s not an obviously festive candle, but its tart jam is perfect for anyone who loves fig fragrances and might like to try something new. And, of course, you can put your bits and bobs in the pot afterwards – unless your boyfriend or husband gets there first and turns it into his flat-battery graveyard.


For the impeccably interiored

Cire Trudon is the Aston Martin of candles. They’re weighty and burn for ages, which is just as well, given they cost more than a golden goose. Citrus seems to be a nearly universally pleasing fragrance style, so for tricky customers whose taste eludes you, try Reggio, which is an astonishingly accurate take on mandarin, as if a living tree were in front of you. Will revive if flagging between Christmas and New Year.



For the wit

Anya Hindmarch’s candles are as much pets as presents. With their googly eyes adorning the jar, they’ll look at you and wink from across the room. If this happens, you know you’ve had too much mulled wine. Whimsical and fashionable, I’d happily give any of them, but for a homely Christmas morning I’d pick their coffee, which includes the green note of galbanum to give a bit of bite and amber for richness. Delightful.


For the secret BBC4 history documentary lover

The Dublin chandlery Rathbornes, originating in the Middle Ages, has some wonderful candles. Bitter Orange, Birch Tar and Balsam is a more sober take on Christmas – reverent and on the cool side, rather than thick and spicy. It comes in a brilliant travel size, which is low and wide, meaning you’re less likely to knock it over. Admittedly, I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually burns candles in a hotel room.


And, finally, for the person you didn’t think would buy you a Christmas present and who prompts a scramble for reciprocity

I’m always mindful of the suggestion that if offering a cheeseboard, it’s better to buy a huge portion of one or two cheeses than scrappy bits of six. Similarly, gift sets can give the impression of bounty, but actually end up as a load of clutter and half-used-up bits. There’s more confidence in a single offering. But Danish brand Skandinavisk has put together some utterly tempting sets this year, including NATUR, a tour through Nordic landscapes. My favourite standalone of theirs is Skog, the scent of a silent forest, perfectly sustained as if under a layer of fresh snow.



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