It is usually just a matter of time before the casual candle lover develops more than a passing curiousity about those expensive, itty bitty candles that sit on shelves, protected by a glass dome (cloche). Just what is that glorious object? Is that luxury candle really worth the price? Are they better than the candles I buy off the shelf at my local retail giant? Today, we’ll break down just what defines this class of candles, and what makes them so luxurious. We’ll explore everything from packaging to performance and then share our thoughts on just what the hype is all about. Be sure to read to the end where we list our favorite luxury brands!
Luxury Candles Defined
Just what is a luxury candle? If we turn to Merriam-Webster, we find the definition of luxury listed as:
something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary
However, if we rely solely on this definition, then all scented candles would be considered luxurious, would they not? While we certainly can’t imagine our lives without candles, in reality, they are not an absolute necessity. So what elevates some candles to that other level, and does that mean they are better candles?
The line is very arbitrary, actually. Considering the definition of luxury items in the strictest sense, just about any chandler could label their candle as a luxury candle. Still, using our commonsense, it’s fairly easy for us to determine that the mass-produced, Walmart candle is not in this class, whereas that Diptyque underneath the cloche definitely is. What about the range of candles, though, that are in between?
A better working definition for our purposes is that we get from Macmillan Dictionary:
very expensive and of the highest quality
Considering this definition, we note that luxury candles often start with some of the finest fragrances, a mix of high-quality (often proprietary) wax, and come bundled in some type of exquisite packaging for a beautiful presentation.
Fragrances In Luxury Candles
All scented candles have some type of fragrance, whether it is a manufactured fragrance oil, essential oil, or a combination thereof. Many luxury candlemakers will seek out and use some of the most expensive, high-quality oils available. You will not often see scents such as ‘cotton candy’ or ‘chocolate chip cookies’ in a luxury candle, although there are some notable exceptions. (Voluspa makes a Crushed Candy Cane candle that is to-die-for!) Some of the fragrances are very complex with esoteric scent names, such as Fornasetti’s Otto (Top Notes: thyme, lavander. Middle Notes: oris, cedarwood. Base Notes: tolu balsam, incense, birch/styrax, lebdanum) or Michael Aram’s Butterfly Gingko (Gardenia with hints of lotus blossom and tuberose compose the center of the fragrance while distant layers of tiger lily, jasmine and bamboo leaf richen the top notes).
You will find many “straight-forward” fragrances in luxury candles, though. Consider Trapp’s Winter Fir (the refreshing cool sensation of a winter forest) and Jonathan Adler’s Grapefruit (the sweet and clean scent of pink grapefruit, white grapefruit rind, green vine accords, pink freesia and passionfruit). What would make this fir or grapefruit scented candle you might find in your local Target? It is often the quality of the fragrance oils, among other things. Luxury candle brands tout the sourcing of premium fragrance and essential oils which, like the grapes of a fine wine, can make a difference in the quality of the final product.
Candle Wax In Luxury Candles
Luxury candles are made with all different types of wax, and they will often develop their own mixture. While there are some, we rarely see the use of pure paraffin wax to make luxury candles. The waxes we most often see used are soy, vegetable waxes, beeswax, and coconut wax. However, luxury candles by Diptyque are made with paraffin wax, and they are a very high-quality luxury candle brand.
Luxury Candle Packaging
I’ll be honest – this is the aspect of a luxury candle that will first draw me in. Candle eye candy can be a huge selling point for luxury candles and make them feel even more luxurious. For a premium price, you will often have decorative candle vessels and/or lids that look beautiful on the shelf while burning and can also be beautifully repurposed long after the candle is gone.
Luxury Candle Performance
While the beauty of the candle may draw me in, it’s the actual performance that will keep me coming back (or not). It does not matter how beautiful a candle, if it does not scent your space well or burns poorly. While that is not wanted from any candle, there is a special sting that comes along when you feel you’ve literally burned your money with a poorly performing luxury candle.
Luxury candles often do have a slow, even burn. They should not soot and should give fragrance throughout the life of the candle. Some of the candles may have lighter scent throws compared with retail brands, but this is not always the case. It’s often a matter of many variables, including the container size, type of wax and wicks, as well as the oil options.
What Do We Consider A Luxury Candle?
It is difficult to fully define a luxury candle for us – we often go by the ‘feel’ of a candle, including from the very start of browsing the website or storefront. If it makes us feel special or unique, there’s a good chance it’s going on our luxury candle radar. We also look at the uniqueness of the fragrances, the wax, and the candle container. The vessel doesn’t have to be overly ornate, but it does have to be of high quality. So can you find luxury candles on sites such as Etsy? Absolutely!
Since we have to have some type of objective line for our subscription boxes and in our Candle Company Directory, we look to the price per ounce. A candle must cost at least $2 per ounce before we begin considering it as a luxury candle. This is, of course, quite arbitrary, but just a value we’ve decided to set for ourselves.
Our Final Thoughts On Luxury Candles
Luxury candles certainly have their place on our shelves and in our homes. They offer a little bit of extra specialness to the hobby of candle burning that we have come to love. While we personally don’t have the luxury of purchasing $75,000 worth in one shot, a la Elton John, we do like splurging every now and then and putting these higher priced candles to the test.
(While) the quality of some luxury brands is top notch…we’ve also found the same (if not better) quality with some mom-and-pop candles, with a wider array of fragrance choices and much more personalized service.Andrea, owner of Candlefind & Candle Scoop
Are luxury candles better than ‘regular’ candles? It depends on what your definition of better is. For us, they are not necessarily better…just different. Yes, the quality of some luxury brands is top notch. But we’ve also found the same (if not better) quality with some mom-and-pop shop candles, with a wider array of fragrance choices and much more personalized service. That’s part of the fun of this Candlefind journey – comparing and contrasting everything from start to finish. As you venture on your candle hunt, we encourage you to try out a few luxury candle brands and decide for yourself. Is the price, packaging, and unique fragrancing worth it to you? If yes, then go for it. You only live once, as they say!
Best Luxury Candle Brands
This is another tough one for us, because we love such a number of luxury candle brands for various reasons. Some have more complex, delicate scents, while others outperform in the packaging arena. It makes it hard to choose! Still, if we had to list our top luxury candle brands, these are the ones we would rattle off without hesitation:
Diptyque: These luxurious candles are well-known for complex scents and last a super long time.
Cire Trudon: The candle vessels are breathtaking and the performance is superb. These are often worth the splurge.
Evoke Candle Company: These candles fit the bill for an affordable luxury brand. The candle vessels are unique keepsakes.
Trapp Fragrances: These candles are highly fragrant and last such a long time, it makes the purchase well worth it. Plus they are one of the few luxury brands with wax melts! Check out our Trapp Fragrances Shopping Guide on Candle Scoop and be sure to download the free cheat sheet!
NEST: These candles are luxurious and more affordable than most. The wide array of scents are a huge plus.
Baobab: Go big or go home. These candles are known for being humongous and they last and last and last. The candle vessels are works of art and definite collectibles.
What about you? How do you define a luxury candle?