The hot fragrances from Seattle candle makers and beyond, and how to pick the scent that's right for you.

Share story

Scented candles can help set a mood just as effectively as music, lighting, color and interior design. All you need is a match to spark the magic.

But how do you pick the perfect scent?

“What will make me happy?” Tim Rossi suggests asking yourself. Rossi, director of communications and public relations for Nest Fragrances in New York, says to find out which “fragrance family” suits you best — citrus or floral, for example — and zero in. He recommends you sniff a candle both unlit and lit to judge the fragrance; your opinion might change.

“A scented candle is like a personal fragrance. It is, of course, personal,’’ says Mary Wallace, North American marketing director for Diptyque, a Paris-based company known for its candles. She recommends you visit the store in person to sniff.

A scented candle, like a personal fragrance, can be expensive; makers justify their prices by pointing to what’s in the candles.

“The more elaborate the vessel, the more expensive the candle. But even simple vessels can house expensive candles, as quality fragrances are usually expensive to produce,’’ says Andrew Goetz, co-founder of New York-based Malin+Goetz apothecary and lab. “High-quality wax and cotton wicks will also add to the expense. Lastly, if candles are hand-poured in an artisanal manner — this too will drive up the cost of producing a great-quality candle.”

Scents, like almost everything, have their moments in the sun. What are the hot fragrances right now?

“I think we are seeing a lot of interest in floral-inspired scents at the moment, but with a modern interpretation,” says Goetz, who pointed to the company’s Otto candle. “It’s a rose at heart, but we’ve added notes of grapefruit and cardamom, along with some greenness coming from geranium, oak moss and vetiver, notes not traditionally associated with a traditional rose.”

Wallace says Diptyque’s autumnal scents — Feu de Bois (wood fire), Santal (sandalwood) and savory Vanille — have been popular, even in late summer.

Should you burn more than one fragrance simultaneously?

“Absolutely, you can layer them or mix them,” says Wallace, suggesting a floral candle and something with a woodier scent profile; Roses with Feu de Bois, for instance, would create a beautiful warm aroma, he says.

Big Dipper 
Wax Works Beeswax 
Aromatherapy Pillar Gift Set, $65 at
Big Dipper Wax Works Beeswax Aromatherapy Pillar Gift Set, $65 at

At Malin+Goetz, the answer also would be yes, as the company’s website encourages customers to burn the Mojito and Dark Rum candles at the same time.

As for burning scented candles during dinner — don’t (usually).

Rossi says that scented candles would “interfere with the dining experience” because the senses of taste and smell are linked.

“Burning our Pumpkin Chai candle at the dinner table, for example, while serving salmon will totally confuse one’s senses. The candle won’t smell right, and the fish won’t taste right.”

Rossi notes that a lightly scented candle with herb notes (think wild tarragon, he says) could “actually enhance a dining experience. Otherwise, unscented is the way to go.”