Describing scents on the internet is a futile exercise. Can you even really pinpoint what cashmere, myrrh, or “solar notes” smell like? Particularly when you’re sitting in front of your computer? Even in real life, I’ve smelled “ozonic notes” once, and it smelled like unwashed hair, but I hardly know what to do with that information. As a form of necessity, fragrance companies have resorted to characterizing aromas in a way that is clearly insane but patently effective—describing what a smells evokes. It’s far more evocative to see a swinging “Do Not Disturb” sign and two dolls smashing together than it is to say “Curious by Britney Spears smells like pears, jasmine, and vanilla.”
With that in mind, I’ve assembled a directory of candles for your personality type. Rather than focusing on scent profiles, I thought with my right brain. I’ve user-tested each—lighting them for several hours at a time, sitting with my eyes closed, listening to very dramatic music, and allowing each fragrance to transport me through time and space until I was practically catatonic. It doesn’t get more comprehensive than this.
Are you feeling hats on?
If you like piña coladas, try Sunday Forever Coconut Candle
Smells like: milk and cream
Feels like: pretending to be a local in Tulum. You’ve saved up all your PTO for two sun-drunk weeks hydrating al fresco at Hartwood, enjoying salty rubdowns at the confounding local boutique hotel/spa/parfumerie, and having fish tacos for breakfast. The itinerary includes two midday naps and accidentally running into your dermatologist on the beach. I hope she was wearing sunscreen.
If you like getting caught in the rain, try Keap Hot Springs Candle
Smells like: cedar leaves, eucalyptus, orange blossom, lavender absolute, yuzu, cypress
Feels like: running late to your own birthday party. Your Uber gets caught in standstill traffic off of the bridge, so you chance it and run the rest of the way. It’s coming down in buckets. When you arrive, your friend and host of Food Network’s Chopped, Ted Allen, tells you your hair looks "just fine" soaking wet. There’s an hour-long bath waiting for you at the end of the night, but until then, you’ll have one of whatever he’s having.
If you’re maybe, kinda, a little bit in love, try Otherland Rattan Candle
Smells like: sandalwood, amber
Feels like: the elephant in the room. Fifteen years from now, you’ll tell them about that raffish, floppy thing their hair did and your electric admiration from the safety of your state of platonic unrest. Fessing up, they’ll throw their head back laughing and say something to the tune of, “what took us so long, bonehead?”
If you’re terrible at karaoke, try Koppraia Havana Candle
Smells like: lemon, tobacco, clove, cognac, birch tar, Cuban oak, patchouli, amber
Feels like: realizing “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi is entirely out of your range and stamina bracket halfway through the song. It’s a duet with your similarly tone-deaf best friend, who sticks it out with (and for) you. Despite the crowd’s better judgment, they still cheer because no one likes the person who takes karaoke too seriously.
If your house Upstate has heated floors, try: Boy Smells Gardener Candle
Smells like: tomato, petitgrain, white tea, and honeysuckle
Feels like: You’re up at six because the cat was scaling the Venetian blinds again. The to-do list includes weeding the garden, ironing your jeans, and getting the rump roast in the oven by 4PM. because the guests for dinner arrive at 7 whether you’re ready or not.
If you have a weekly “Call Mom” calendar event, try Catbird Rooftop, Saturday Candle
Smells like: orange blossom, gin fizz, and bergamot
Feels like: looking at photos of your mom from the ‘80s. She’s wearing the giant Mayim Bialik sunflower hat she had on when she met your dad and a cropped sweater that’s—come to think of it—actually really cute.
If you’re sleepier than your better half, try Joya Composition No. 6 Candle
Smells like: cypress, juniper berries, yuzu, lotus leaves and blossoms, fresh air, meadowgrass, cedarwood, saffron, amber
Feels like: turning in while they’re still working beside you in bed. They have a deadline tomorrow morning, so there’s no point in distracting them. They know to crack the window and point the fan at you (because you run hot), and you’ll return the favor by making the coffee tomorrow morning, even though it’s not your turn.
If you remember your dreams, try Goest Perfumes Galaxie Candle
Smells like: resin, honey, sage
Feels like: significant vastness. There’s disorienting shifts in scale, a long winter, Rome falling, radio static, and then yourself—just older. As the universe is about to hard reset, you wake up with a start. You fell asleep during Limitless again. Or was it Lucy?