Pagan winter rituals have long revolved around light. There’s the burning of a yule log – an oak log, partially burnt and often decorated with herbs or dried winter greenery, the charred remnants of which are reserved to start the same ritualistic fire the following year. (Yule, meaning wheel, reflects the cycle of the year, the continual journey of the sun around the planet and the log’s flame celebrates the longed-for return of the sun.) Saturnalia, meanwhile, is a Roman festival of light which leads us toward the winter solstice, where the giving and lighting of candles symbolised the quest for knowledge and truth. Today, such celebrations can help us shift gears into winter and there’s no better accompaniment than a candle, evocatively perfumed to transport its witness – allowing us to retreat into the dusty libraries, steamy kitchens, and toasty hearths of our inner selves.
Pooling from some of the fragrance world’s most exquisite perfumed wax, we offer an abundance of scents with which to transform a gloomy night into a moment of ritual.
Above, from left: Le Labo, Joya, Dior, L’Officine Universelle de Buly
Marine notes meet grassy geranium and a hum of amber in Le Labo’s Calone 17 candle. The result is bracing and fresh – a sea breeze that will bring the steely grey of a coastal garden indoors. Joya’s Âmes Sœurs candle comes in a slip-cast porcelain vessel with a 22 carat gold rim, designed by ceramic artist Sarah Cihat. From such loveliness, the chewy sweetness of caramelised tamarind and grapefruit emits, offset by smoky tones of incense, cedarwood, amber and sweet musk for an almost Christmassy scent. Dior’s Bois Brûlé and L’Officine Universelle Buly’s Sacre are also pictured here – details follow below.
Maison Christian Dior
The Maison Christian Dior fragrance collection plunders the life of Monsieur Dior for inspiration, from his obsession with lily of the valley, which he would stitch into the seams of gowns, to the precise dove grey of the avenue Montaigne store. For Bois Brûlé, perfumer-creator François Demachy has plundered the power of precious Gaiac wood to consecrate the designer’s childhood love of log fires. This particular ode hangs in the air like cloak.
In hand-blown coloured glass, Tobacco Night by Curionoir, is the stuff of heaving mantelpieces, the lingering sweet smoke of a snuffed pipe, the golden amber hum of two fingers of whisky. Deep peppery notes of sage and coriander nod to leather-bound tomes behind closed study doors – an off-limits adult world kept secret.
Hewn from individual pieces of forest green marble, Tom Dixon’s Rock collection of sculptural candlesticks boasts an almost Druid-like divinity – the perfect foil to a supermarket-bought tealight.
Casting his creative energies back to his childhood, Byredo founder Ben Gorham presents Chai – an olfactive snapshot of his grandmother’s home. A blend of Masala spices and black tea leaves infused in frothy boiled milk, this fragrance is at once sweetly creamy but medicinal, with the metallic tang of cloves that clacks at the back of the teeth. A distinct dustiness of an incense note nods to a well-loved kitchen, with its sticky cupboard shelves and comforting crumbled shards of dried herbs.
Officine Universelle Buly
Famed for his perfumes and scented vinegars since the late 18th century, Jean-Vincent Bully (then spelt with a double ‘l’) inspired Balzac’s novel La Comédie humaine. Today, the fruits of Officine Universelle Buly pepper perfume counters across the globe and this Sacre candle in its marble flask and glass bell-jar lid lends a similar nostalgia to your surroundings. A sultry frankincense base is topped with notes of pine and juniper to summon the dark corners of a church vestry, its cold stone walls steeped with centuries of incense smoke.
From left: Diptyque, Cloon Keen, Joya
A classic revisited, Diptyque’s woody Feu de Bois is as warm and delicious as an open fire. Based in Marcel Proust’s old post office, the perfumer is well-versed in the power of olfactive memory; the hypnotic allure of wood smoke is thus captured here exactly, this time poured into a smoke-like grey glass jar. Cloon Keen, from Galway – the blustery Atlantic edge of Ireland – offers earthy freshness with its Transatlantic candle. A mineral, cement accord denotes a cliff-like grandeur, “cushioned on well-worn leather”. Fling your metaphorical windows open onto cypress, cedar and pine needles without so much as a chill. Prism, another of Joya’s slip-cast porcelain creations – this time in a humble hexagonal pot with a roughly hewn surface – is filled with subtle scent. Burnished sandalwood and cedar chip notes make for a yule log in a tiny pot, beaming with the sweetness of a sputtering fireplace.