Our sense of smell is strongly tied to emotion and memory — yet even with the power of aroma, many people are still turned off by the idea of a scented candle. For some, just the thought of them evokes cheap scents of Febreze or plug-in air fresheners. For others, the ingredients in these candles and their overpowering smells can cause headaches, sneezing attacks, and other allergy symptoms.
Still, an appropriately scented candle has the ability to provide more ambiance than its unscented counterpart. They make your home more inviting and set a specific energy. Candles provide not just a source of light, but heat and general coziness, which the right scent should enhance. To find the best scented candle for even the most avid candle-hater, there are certain factors that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Firstly, the kind of wax and ingredients used are essential to pay attention to. When these lights are constructed with paraffin oil, lead wicks, and synthetic fragrances, they can pollute the air in your home and lead to those dreaded symptoms. Instead, stick to nontoxic ingredients and wax bases such as soy, coconut, vegetable, and beeswax.
Secondly, avoid dessert scents, or ones that advertise themselves as being sweet. Instead, focus on ones with complex top, central, and base notes. For instance, if there are sweet notes in a candle, it should be balanced out by fresh, earthy or woody notes.
Our carefully curated options go beyond basic, nauseating scents (read: Yankee candles) and into a more nuanced territory that will turn even the biggest skeptics into believers. Read more to find the perfect candle scent that was engineered for you.
1. Otherland Kindling Candle
If scented candles sound basic or old school to you, Otherland clearly hasn’t been on your radar. Made from a coconut and soy wax blend, their best-selling scent Kindling is a luxurious blend of incense, cedar, and smoky embers notes. In other words, it’s an elevated take on that nostalgic campfire smell that never fails to evoke memory. Otherland candles last longer and have a deeper scent than cheaper, mass-produced alternatives. If you need further encouragement, one reviewer says “Kindling along with Canopy are my favorite Otherland scents, and I’ve tried 10 of them.”
2. P.F. Candle Co. Teakwood & Tobacco Candle
BEST RUNNER UP
P.F. Candle Co. is a heavyweight in the candle space. With a minimalist, apothecary-inspired amber jar, this bestseller is filled with fresh but masculine and musky notes including leather, wood, teak, and tobacco. If perfume or floral scents are a turnoff to you, or if you’re easily overwhelmed by strong scents, this mild candle is the perfect alternative that will ease you into the world of aromatic ambiance. Slow-burning and thoughtfully scented, but never overpowering.
3. Boy Smells Park Life Candle
BEST ECO-FRIENDLY PICK
We’re big fans of Boy Smells over here at SPY, and their eco-friendly candle Park Life smells as good as it is for the environment. The vessel is fully recyclable, and the interior is made from responsibly sourced ingredients. This grounding, earthy pick reminds us of a balmy walk in a lush forest, carrying notes of ginger, basil, fig, sage, clove, tonka bean, and sandalwood. Even self-professed candle haters have kind words to say about this heavenly fragrance.
4. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lemon Verbena Candle, 2-Count
BEST BUDGET PICK
If you want to buy a few candles to keep around the house, things can get expensive fast. That’s why we opt for Mrs. Meyers as our budget candle pick — it never smells artificial and has a 35-hour burn time. This is their lemon verbena scent, which according to reviewers smells “just like the plant” for potential buyers who are worried about an overly perfumed base. Its light and zesty, but does contain undertones of vanilla, as noted by some customers on Amazon.
5. Benevolence LA Wild Lavender Candle
MOST RELAXING PICK
If the idea of a lavender candle haunts you with memories of plug-in air fresheners or old lady perfume, you’ve got to check out this candle by LA brand Benevolence. These highly scented creations legitimately smell like wild lavender. One reviewer says she “fell in love from the very first burn” and calls the scents “calming with some earth notes, which is perfect because I shy away from TOO floral.” This aroma will fill your home and provide tranquility long after you blow it out. The stylish rose gold packaging is an added perk.
6. Soap and Paper Factory Roland Pine Candle
MOST INVIGORATING PICK
Soap and Paper Factory’s premium candle burns for up to 65 hours. It evokes dewy, woodsy aromas of pine, Siberian Fir, and cilantro. It’s not excessively sweet, and one reviewer says that it mimics “the smell of a Christmas tree” unlike all the cheap, chemical-filled holiday imitations that don’t come close and just make you sneeze. This reviewer also appreciates the long-lasting burn time: “last Christmas we would burn it almost all day and all the time and it is not more than maybe a 1/4 gone, if even that.”
7. Byredo Bibliothèque Candle
BEST FOR BOOK LOVERS
Byredo is often applauded for its sophisticated and generally exquisite fragrances, and the company’s Bibliotheque candle seems to be a fan favorite. It mimics the comforting smell of old bookstores and aged paper, with subtle notes of patchouli, leather, plum, peach, and violet-tinged vanilla, all brought together by notes of leather. As that flame burns against its stylish black vessel, you’ll be enveloped in this candle’s dreamy, velvety vibe that seduces anyone who smells it.
8. Paddywax Yellowstone – Sagebrush + Fir Candle
BEST FOR GIFTING
Whether you’re gifting this Paddywax candle to yourself or a loved one, the vessel itself looks like a piece of art and doubles as home decor. This 11-oz product is their Sagebrush & Fir scent known as Yosemite, but the Glacier – White Pine & Hemlock also appears to be a top seller. There is a little bit of a crackling sound as these candles are lit, but for most people, that acts as a soothing white noise that’s reminiscent of a campfire. One customer calls it “the best smell in the world.”
9. Lulu Candles Fresh Linen Candle
BEST SOY PICK
Everyone enjoys the smell of fresh laundry, and Lulu Candles has managed to emulate that fresh, cozy, and clean aroma like no other candle company. Available in a lidded 6-oz container, this even-burning Fresh Linen option is one of the best scented candles since it’s mellow and “not too strong” when compared to the brand’s other options. Even the modern and elegant packaging on the label has earned praise, with one reviewer stating “the label is very simple as well, which means it doesn’t clash with any decor!”
10. Homesick Scented Candles
Smell is the most powerful way to evoke memories, and no one knows that better than Homesick Candles. They carry an extensive list of scents, each of which corresponds to a different country. Homesick also carries a line with each state in the USA, but these seem to be more of a hit with reviewers. Just pick a country to recreate its scent. Many people haven’t been able to travel since the pandemic, and this is the best way to transport you mentally.