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A Man and His Candles

Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles
Michael Harper's Mandles

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 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.