So light ’em up

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JURA KONCIUS

With smell a key sense come the hol­i­days, chances are there is a scented can­dle out there that can re-cre­ate your Christ­mas mem­ory,

Many peo­ple have a spe­cial smell they as­so­ciate with the hol­i­days.

Warm gin­ger­bread. Crushed pep­per­mint. Frosty mar­ti­nis. Freshly cut pine.

Chances are there is a scented can­dle out there that re-cre­ates your Christ­mas mem­ory, although we are sorry to re­port that if your re­mem­brance is the cock­tail, Yan­kee Can­dle’s Alpine Mar­tini has been dis­con­tin­ued.

“Dur­ing the hol­i­days, peo­ple spend more time in­doors, and light­ing can­dles is a cozy, nest­ing thing,” says Larissa Jensen, beauty in­dus­try an­a­lyst for the mar­ket re­search firm NPD Group. “It’s all about emo­tion.”

This time of year, can­dles seem to be ev­ery­where. About 80 per­cent of Amer­i­cans use some type of scent in their home, be­cause it makes them “feel re­laxed,” ac­cord­ing to a 2018 NPD Group study. The can­dle busi­ness (which had sales of $3.2 bil­lion in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the mar­ket re­search firm Min­tel) is boom­ing. About 70 per­cent of sales oc­cur be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to Kathy LaVanier, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Can­dle As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Our sense of smell is one of the most im­por­tant senses we have,” says Laura Slatkin, founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­woman of Nest Fra­grances, who has been in the can­dle busi­ness for 26 years. “At the hol­i­days, can­dles are a fes­tive tra­di­tion, like your fam­ily’s fa­vorite stuff­ing.”

Can­dles in fancy pack­ag­ing are stacked up as gift sug­ges­tions and im­pulse items in depart­ment stores, su­per­mar­kets, fancy bou­tiques and artsy craft fairs, cost­ing from five bucks to hun­dreds of dol­lars. “Can­dle pric­ing is based on in­gre­di­ents, just like wine,” says Linda G. Levy, pres­i­dent of the Fra­grance Foun­da­tion. The higher the price, the choicer and finer the in­gre­di­ents. (There are end­less sources for them on­line as well.)

Ar­ti­san can­dles have be­come a thing. One of these mak­ers is Other­land, whose 2018 lim­ited-edi­tion hol­i­day scent is a “woodsy and warm” Fallen Fir. The com­pany, based in Man­hat­tan’s Lower East Side, sells its can­dles poured in art­ful glass tum­blers that it sug­gests re­pur­pos­ing for scrunchie stor­age. The can­dles come with a tiny box of match­ing matches, a dis­ap­pear­ing yet nec­es­sary home ac­ces­sory.

Scented can­dles, like per­fume, are not for ev­ery­one. A few weeks ago, we held an in­for­mal sniff test of 14 hol­i­day-scented can­dles, from the $4.99 Glade En­chanted Ever­greens to the $205 Jo Malone White Moss & Snow­drop. The testers’ com­ments brought a few truths to light: Ev­ery­one smells dif­fer­ently, and our par­ents play heav­ily into our mem­o­ries of Christ­mas.

The Thymes Frasier Fir can­dle, with its notes of Siberian fir nee­dles, san­dal­wood and cedar brought back these mem­o­ries for one tester: “It smells like my dad cussing be­cause the new tree is get­ting sap all over the car­pet.” An­other tester said the soapy, musk smell of In­n­is­free’s Dream­ing of Santa can­dle made the tester think it could “clean my house”; an­other de­scribed it as “fresh laun­dry.” The Dip­tyque Baume D’Am­bre, which smells like vanilla, ben­zoin and laven­der re­minded one tester of “myrrh or frank­in­cense and re­minds me of be­ing in the Lutheran Na­tiv­ity play”; an­other said “gin­ger mixed with clean­ing so­lu­tions.” Two testers men­tioned that Aro­ma­tique’s the Smell of Christ­mas con­jured up thoughts of cook­ing with their moms.

Home fra­grance be­came pop­u­lar in the 1980s when pot­pourri burst onto the na­tion’s cof­fee ta­bles, ac­cord­ing to LaVanier. In 1982, Arkansas en­tre­pre­neur Patti Up­ton cre­ated the Smell of Christ­mas, a bag of wood shav­ings, pine cones and berries laced with fra­grant spices and oils that be­came a na­tional sen­sa­tion. Ten years later, she was selling a mil­lion of the $10 cel­lo­phane bags of hol­i­day “dec­o­ra­tive home fra­grance.” Up­ton died last year at age 79. But her com­pany, Aro­ma­tique, ac­tu­ally holds the reg­is­tered trade­mark for “The Smell of Christ­mas.” And 36 years af­ter the sea­sonal scent was in­tro­duced, its most pop­u­lar form is a can­dle. Why has it lasted? “It’s the smell that many re­mem­ber from their grand­mother’s house: cin­na­mon, or­anges and spices,” says Chad Evans, Aro­ma­tique’s pres­i­dent.

Scent can trans­port you back: to a snowy Christ­mas tree farm in Min­nesota, or to Green­wich Vil­lage when tree sell­ers set up on the side­walks. Your mem­ory of that first whoosh of ev­er­green scent stays with you for­ever. For those who have gone faux with plas­tic trees, can­dles that smell like just-cut firs can help them pre­tend they haven’t gone to the fake side.

Photo for The Wash­ing­ton Post by Deb Lind­sey

Scented can­dles can trans­port you back – es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­days. Pho­tographed Nov. 13, 2018, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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