Who makes the best candles?
(and why do they differ so much in price)?
Well the short answer is BALMY, of course.
I mean, we are biased and we DO think that our candles are among the best in the world - up there with brands we admire like Diptyque, Jo Malone, Byredo and Le Labo (at a fraction of the price too), but clearly there is no ‘best’ candle – many brands offer something different and as we explored in our previous blog, fragrance is so subjective that there will be a different best for every person.
But there has to be a reason why some of the French and New York candle fragrance brands can charge such high prices, right? Isn’t a candle just a candle?
In this blog we explore why some candles are more equal than others; beyond the branding and clever marketing - what is it that makes their candles, and ours, so special?
There’s a lot more that goes into developing a luxury scented candle than you’d think, and why there’s a big difference between our candles and the cheaper candles you get in your fast fashion brands, high street home retailers, discount supermarkets and so on.
Before we go deeper, it’s important to decide what is important to you. If you’re just after a candle to complement your home décor but you’re not going to burn it, then the high street options can be perfect. But if you want a beautiful, and strong, smelling candle then you need to go for QUALITY.
Let’s find out WHY!
The perfect blend
The best candles do more than fragrance your home with incredible smells. They also paint an olfactory picture, describing feelings, memories and experiences with scent. Anyone can mix together a basic combination of fragrance or essential oils and in fact this can be a really enjoyable hobby for candle enthusiasts. But creating complex, evocative scents is more of an artform. Many of the quality brands have master perfumers or fragrance houses developing sophisticated, bespoke formulations, carefully curating blends that tell a story. That being said, sometimes you’re just after a really nice candle and no story is needed. I personally like a bit of both – sometimes I like a straightforward, accessible candle fragrance. Other times I like something more challenging and complex. Variety is the SPICE of life!
There’s a huge variety in terms of the ingredients that are used to make a candle – but let’s break it down into the wax used as a base, and the scented oils used to provide the fragrance.
None of our candles are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum or oil – the extraction and use of which is a serious contributor to climate change. It also tends to burn with more soot and smoke which can damage your walls and soft furnishings if placed too close. That being said, many major brands (including many of the expensive designer home fragrance brands from Paris and New York) still use paraffin wax as it’s cheaper and typically supports a stronger fragrance throw than many natural waxes.
We use soy wax. It has a lovely soft white texture and burns cleanly and evenly. It also has a comparable scent throw to paraffin wax but is non-toxic, and is sourced from soy plantations which are a replenishable resource. That being said, some soy crops are associated with deforestation (including in the Amazon rainforest) so do make sure your candle brand of choice clearly states that its soy is sourced from sustainable soy plantations (as ours is).
Many other brands use other types of vegetable wax – coconut, rapeseed, olive etc. There are pros and cons of each of these so do your research but these are generally much more sustainable than the paraffin wax alternative. Some are better than others in terms of scent throw which is why we’ve opted for soy wax – we believe this offers the best base for a sustainably sourced scented candle.
Oil love candles, I do
Fragrance oils, essential oils. What is the difference? There is a huge variety of fragrances that can be used to create different scent experiences.
There is a greater choice of fragrance oils because they are man-made or synthetic. This means they’ve been created in a lab to recreate a scent found somewhere in the real world. Often this is because it would be too tricky or too expensive to source this fragrance naturally. Sometimes it is to recreate a smell that there is no natural way of distilling – such as leather. Synthetic oils tend to get a bit of a bad rap but they can actually be safer and more sustainable than essential oils. BALMY only uses essential oils at the moment because we prefer to harness the incredible fragrances already out there in nature. We only ever use them in safe quantities and we believe that the additional wellness benefits offered by essential oils makes them superior to synthetic fragrances. Ylang ylang oils can be mood-boosting, and lavender helps to aid sleep. Who wouldn’t want that??
So what are they I hear you ask? How are they made? And what has this all got to do with candle prices?
Essential oils are sourced from natural origins and there are two main ways they are created.
The distilling method takes the plant (different oils use different parts of the plant – flowers, leaves, stems) and heats this over water slowly, capturing the steam which then condenses into a water and oil mix. The oil separates from the water and forms the basis of the essential oil. This is the most common way of producing essential oils.
Other oils are produced through the cold pressing method (a bit like juicing!), typically using the whole plant. This is commonly used for extracting oils from citrus fruits for example. The oils are separated from the rest of the plant, and collected to form the essential oil product.
There are some less common methods used, but these are the main two.
The oils used will be the most significant driver of cost. Oils which are hard to create, or require large amounts of expensive natural resources, are typically much more expensive like neroli, sandalwood and frankincense. Essential oils are generally more expensive than fragrance oils because they require more raw materials. Many of the cheaper brands will use synthetic fragrances to keep the cost down. Some of the more expensive designer fragrance brands will use fragrance oils to offer a greater range of scents.
The final equally important factor in making the very best scented candles is the craft that goes into the candle making process. Our candles are all handmade and handpoured by experts who understand the perfect temperature to melt the wax, add the oils and pour the candle, and how long the poured candles need to cure for.
Many hours of testing go into finding the right combination of fragrance, wax, temperature, mixing, wick and container to maximise burn time and fragrance throw. Cheaper candles won’t go through such a rigorous process and are less likely to have a strong smell when burning.
So now you know almost everything there is to know about what goes into your candles, next time you’re planning to buy one - choose wisely!!