A Man and His Candles


We are thrilled to debut the writing of our very own Mick Harper. You are most likely familiar with his code and design work around the site. He also likes to comment. While a post about masculine candles may seem like a poor fit for our audience, we encourage 100% of you to go ahead and read this baby, especially since Mick will die inside if it doesn't garner a healthy number of pageviews.

As much as I love working at Into The Gloss, it's hard for me, as a guy, to get even remotely excited about waterproof eyeliner and nail polish gel-strips. After two-and-a-half years of this, I still cannot tell the difference between Russian Red and Ruby Woo, and frankly, I'm OK with that. When I'm in the Gloffice, if I interject a "What an admirably bold lip, Emily!" or "Honestly, I prefer the matte finish!" I feel my work is done. But occasionally I like to stick my nose into our editorial team's business, which leads us to today's topic: candles. (Sidenote: I also banned the use of the word "obsessed.")

So, man-candles! Or should I say, man-dles? Ugh, sure. Either way, I'm confident that the 92% of our readers who are not male (all the ladies in the audience) can equally enjoy the woodsy, leathery, and amber-scented goodness these suckers unleash. But before we delve too far into this aromatic journey of this blog post, allow me to roll back the clock and set the stage:

My entry to the world of finer candles came in the summer of 2008. At that point in my life, I was an unkempt hipster-ish post-grad living in an incredibly affordable (read: illegal) apartment in Stuyvesant Town, which I shared with a mid-50s couple (one of whom was a methadone addict with a sizable axe collection; the other only wore hot pants). They were lovely people, in that newyork.craigslist.org sort of way. You could spot our apartment from the courtyard below, due to the preserved 1940s wedding dress and numerous kimonos decorating our living room window. True story.

Anyway, after a year there, a life-changing opportunity arose. A friend asked me to cat-sit in his beautiful home, outfitted with all the elements needed to spark a 23-year-old's bougie epiphany: a tree-lined Brooklyn Heights address, a pair of fraternal thoroughbred felines, and most importantly, a wall of Diptyque candles. It was perfect.

As the Feu de Bois Diptyque burned, I wondered where it had all gone wrong for me. How many axes were in my apartment? Why was my roommates' door composed only of beads? Reader, if you are currently living in a similar situation, I can assure you that the documentary you intend to make about your housemates will never get a distribution deal, and it will take months to get the microwaved-chicken-pot-pie scent out of all of your clothes.

That night was a line-in-the-sand moment for me. Here was a guy (my friend) who had checked enough things off life's To-Do list to make “awesome room scent” a top priority. I wanted to be him. I realized it was time to mandle up and change my ways. Looking back, I now bear little resemblance to the young man who walked into that cat-sitting gig—but enough about me. Let’s talk the best in mandles:

Cire Trudon's Ernesto offers a fiery escape from any personal nadir. Composed of a checklist of vices (rum, tobacco, and perhaps a hint of oaky gun smoke), this spicy scent would please even the most bearded of Hemingways—I even write in shorter sentences when it’s lit. All kidding aside, if you're looking for a bold candle that isn't overly reliant on woodsy notes, Ernesto should top your list.

Cire Trudon's Carmélite: Now, if fragrant carnality isn't your thing, worry not because Cire Trudon has still got you covered. Ring in the new pontiff with the scents of a 17th-century convent, captured in the mossy tones of Carmélite! As a former alter server in the mid-90s, I actually don't remember any incense that smelled like this, but it's eerily familiar, so there is a chance this candle was my jam in a past life. Long story short: if you’re hoping to read Monocle by candlelight next winter, your prayers have been answered.

MCMC's Dude No. 1: Most people associate Austin, Texas with chillaxing, breakfast tacos, SXSW, and dogs wearing bandanas. As a local, I can confirm that these stereotypes are entirely accurate. However, if you can smell past the BBQ and hippies, the so-called Velvet Rut's natural bouquet of cedar and juniper is simply breathtaking (... by that, I mean insanely allergy-inducing). This is why MCMC's Dude No. 1 holds a special place in my heart. It's a peppery cedar concoction that allows me to turn any room into "Austin in December" without so much as a sneeze or itchy eye. Big ups!

Le Labo's Figue 15: My general rule of thumb with candles is that if they smell like food, it’s a dealbreaker. No can do. But since I don't eat figs unless they are wrapped in bacon, Le Labo's fruit-inspired scent passed my nose-test, becoming a welcome exception in my collection. Because hey, sometimes it's OK for a room to not smell like a pile of smoldering wood. Live a little! In terms of composition, this mandle packs a dense, sweet fig aroma (...imagine a much stronger, deeper version of Diptyque's Figuier). Definitely a nice change of pace for any flannel-clad urban lumberjack-type.

Diptyque's Feu de Bois:  Friends, stop for a moment and look around you. Is your roommate currently standing above you holding a Finnish ice-picking axe? No? Well then you're in a better place than I was five years ago, and this is the candle that changed everything. Whether you’re in the market for a new scent or just looking for that spark to turn your life around, Diptyque’s fire-wood-infused candle, with its rich, woody aroma, makes for an excellent choice.

—Michael Harper

Photos by Michael Harper.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • http://twitter.com/Occhineri23 Suzanne

    Love this! :)

  • Ida

    Brilliantly written. I fell so...mandly now.

  • jen

    :D more mick!

    • ITGAlessandra

      Hear, hear!

  • http://procrastinatingpretty.blogspot.com/ TheProcrastinator

    Room fragrance was never a priority until I moved into a studio apartment and realized I can smell my kitchen from my bed. Enter: NEST fragrances!

    • Wendy S.

      Have you stepped up your candle game yet? You have to admit that pretty much any dip teak candle trumps Nest. Cire Trudon downright slaughters Nest! I, too gave Nast a chance years ago but quickly realized that there is nothing compares to the real deal: a true luxe candle. Le Labo, diptyque, Jo Malone, Lalique (who coincidentally use Cire Trudon's wax) or the Best of the best: Cire Trudon. I'm only, uh, slightly candle obsessed…

      • http://www.procrastinatingpretty.com TheProcrastinator

        I've started using Papier d'Armenie! It's amazing, it smells a little like incense then fades away, completely deodorizing my room.

        I've never used a Diptyque candle -- it's the dream! I've never heard of Cire Trudon though, I'll have to check that out :)

  • Anna

    "My general rule of thumb with candles is that if they smell like food, it’s a dealbreaker." - THIS. I feel the same way about deodorants. I hate smelling like 3 month-old candied fruit peel remnants so I stick with man deodorants.

  • ITGAlessandra

    For further Michael Harper-related enjoyment, please enjoy a 2008 Michael's appearance in the following music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_i1xk07o4g&noredirect=1 (at 0:50).

    • http://procrastinatingpretty.blogspot.com/ TheProcrastinator

      best thing ever. and not just because I'm a grammar geek.

    • mickharper

      great hair!

  • Allison

    Catbird's Campfire candel is another great mandle

  • http://twitter.com/georginawootton Georgie

    So well written! Great stuff. I had my candle epiphany about a year ago but I have to wait until I graduate in 2016 to unleash my inner candle-lover because student housing contracts never allow candles, sadface.

  • AD

    The "shorter sentences" line killed me. Would love to see more from this fellow Austinite--and I gotta buy that Ernesto!

    • Alison

      Agreed, I laughed out loud when I read that line!

  • Amanda Raponi

    great job, mick! very funny! i hope we see more posts from you

  • jaxionista

    this is great!!!! laugh out loud funny. bravo! xx

  • http://twitter.com/shushina Susana

    Hashtag mandles!

  • Elenni

    Dare I say I have a digital crush?...mandles. Perfection. More man-vice!...its nice as a woman to hear a little tidbit from a male every once in a while.

  • http://www.facebook.com/FragosoMichael Michael Fragoso

    I have been loving this occasional boy/guy slant on this site!!

  • http://twitter.com/mytai mytai

    Hah! I loved this. More from Mick Harper please.

  • Cat

    Mick, I love you

    • mickharper

      Well hello!

  • CFH

    "...but enough about me." Wrong, Mick.

  • Lola

    More, more, more! Loved this - hilarious

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.tejerina Andrew Tejerina

    (m)nick cage can truly dazzle

  • http://www.facebook.com/ahmed.ashraf Ahmed Ashraf

    Didn't know Mick was also a talented writer! Well done :)

  • Samantha

    Tell me Mick is hot. Tell me Mick is single. Tell me Mick has a thing for Canadians.

    • mickharper

      Eh! Nice people! Great flag!

  • sallieforrer

    Loved it! I'm all for mandles! I think 'man' scents are kind of better in a home anyway.

  • Local & Opulent

    Mick, I heart you.

    A new outfit post/Photo Diary of World MasterCard Fashion Week is up on Local & Opulent.


  • http://twitter.com/FrancesDR Frances Donegan-Ryan

    Loved your inaugural story! Keep up the witty repartee - also I now badly want to go candle shopping.

  • bondgirl

    love this article and hoping for more! also want to mention Tocca's 007 candle is a fantastic woodsy fragrance, intended to smell like bond's car. it's one of my faves.

  • http://letitflowjournals.tumblr.com/ Taryn Kelley

    Love this-sending it to my boyfriend!


  • manals

    I do believe my husband needs a "mandle" and a copy of "Farewell to Arms" for his birthday. Thank you!

  • lou

    great post! and brave of you - way to go!! i agree with no foody smells - and candles are great presents for guys to give girlfriends/mothersinlaw too

  • Shirin

    Mick's style of writing is awesome! And as a female I prefer the wood fire scent of Feu De Bois to something floral :)

  • Hannah

    ITG should make shirts that say "Be More Like Mick Harper" that we can give to our boyfriends.

    Thank you for appreciating an overpriced candle like no man I have ever known.

  • Anonymous, again

    Let me tell you something: he had me at "banning the use of the word obsessed!"
    He's also a great writer. And there is nothing like boy-banter ("manter") to keep us entertained and honest.

  • Leetoki

    You clearly have our vote. More Mick!
    (Also side note - I'm happily ensconced in a relationship with a web developer/web designer and I've decided you guys are always full of hidden gems. Its like being a webbie is the Clark Kent costume. Crazy)

    • mickharper

      I dropped creative writing for architecture and somehow wound up here!

  • Lena

    "outfitted with all the elements needed to spark a 23-year-old's bougie epiphany"--hey Mick, did you mean to make a French pun here? ("Bougie"=bourgeois and "candle" in French. If so, brilliant! If not, still pretty brilliant!

    • mickharper

      Supercool! I can probably do some puns in Spanish, but French is outside my repertoire unfortunately... But on second thought, I totally meant to do this.

  • Lexi

    Haha! More!

  • Maria

    So well-written! Yay Mick!

  • http://cinnamonmag.tumblr.com/ Michelle Lai

    this was seriously adorable, great writing mick!

  • disqus_2Ug67BhKDf

    Add Molton Brown's black pepper "re-charge" candle to your collection- so good!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlyak Maria L

    Absolutely fantastic.. thanks for the awesome post Mick!

  • Kerry Diamond

    More Michael, please!

  • caitlin

    that mick man, he's got somethin' special! here's to featuring more genius writings by mick about manly things!

  • tina

    Mick's writing style is so humorous, really appreciated the personal anecdotes!

  • chantelle

    He needs to keep writing. More Michael Mandles!

  • Jocelyn

    Yes, please make Mick a regular. He can write about anything he wants. BTW, in 2000 I had a roommate in Weehawken who would occasionally polish her machete with steel wool while watching television in the living room.

  • Sara

    I really enjoyed reading this post! Well written, and very funny, too! More Michael, please!

  • Mel J

    I am impress by the written skills/style. Please more from Mike!

  • katie chambers

    we need more of this writer. "how many axes are in my apartment?" made me snort, a a rare response when reading something online by oneself.

  • Candace

    So happy to see this post as scents like these are right up my street! I support any and all increases in posts like this on ITG. My wallet, however, does not...

  • Isabella Yeager

    lol i have both russian red and ruby woo. #brandjokes


diptyque Feu de Bois Scented Candle
Cire Trudon
Cire Trudon Carmelite Scented Candle
Cire Trudon
Le Labo Figue 15 candle
diptyque Figuier Scented Candle
Cire Trudon
Cire Trudon Ernesto Tobacco and Leather Scented Candle
MCMC Fragrances
MCMC Dude #1 Candle