“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
William Shakespeare,The Merchant of Venice
Although candle trends have moved on since Shakespeare’s day, it seems our love affair with candlelight is still burning. Some candle scents are wonderfully uplifting and can be useful when we are working at a desk or whizzing around the kitchen cooking up a storm. Other scents are stuffed with relaxing properties that have a mysterious ability to promote slumber and cosiness.
Like many people, I have come to appreciate the power of good candles. I recently treated myself to a special collaboration between Elm Candles and Clae by Josie Swift and I can rarely pass Anthropologie without sniffing all their candles. I definitely prefer to buy one decent candle made with high quality ingredients than fill my home with synthetic products.
In 2016 I discovered through friends Join candles, hand-poured in small batches in South London. The scents are inspired by the Cornish coast and country walks, and each candle is bursting with essential oils. When I opened Firain, I knew that this was the candle range I wanted to stock and I’m really pleased that so many of you love these candles too.
However, something has been missing….a few of you lovely customers find it really hard to choose a candle. It’s a big problem when you are buying online and can’t pick up a jar to sniff it. I have been meaning to write a guide for ages, so when my friend and customer Liv suggested it a few months ago I knew I had to get around to it! So here we have it…The Firain Guide to Choosing a Candle. Please do let me know what you think - which candle is your favourite? When do you like to burn it?
Please note that I do not make candles myself, so if I have missed out any information or something is not quite right, please do feel free to tell me in the comments below and I will update the article.
The wick and the wax
Join candles are made using recycled cotton wicks that have been pre-coated in wax before the candle is poured to prevent raw cotton burning. When pouring candles, the maker needs to ensure that the wick is the right size wick for the vessel to prevent black smoke when burning a candle. Make sure you trim your wick regularly too, to ensure a long, clean burn - if your wick looks like a mushroom, give it a snip.
It’s important to choose waxes that are kind to the environment - including your own home.
The most commonly used waxes for candles include:
Beeswax - 100% all-natural wax that has been used for centuries. It is produced by bees as a byproduct of the honey-making process, which can make the wax smell sweet depending on the kinds of flowers or plants the bees have been feeding on. It can be used to make all types of candles, including pillars, tapers, votives and containers. It is also available in beeswax sheets.
Coconut wax - containing elements of soy wax, coconut wax is expensive but is one of the most natural as its obtained from coconut oil. It has a low melting point, so is usually mixed with other hardier waxes. Like other natural waxes, the throw isn’t as much as manufactured waxes but it’s an excellent choice for those looking to avoid paraffin.
Paraffin wax - versatile and widely used, paraffin wax is a by-product of the crude-oil refinement process; some will argue that its good to use a product that would otherwise be wasted whilst resolutely some steer clear of this wax (especially if its used with harmful artificial scents and dyes). When burned, paraffin wax creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens and makes inhaling the fumes as bad for your health as second-hand smoke. If you suffer from headaches when burning candles, it could be that you have a sensitivity to paraffin wax.
Soy wax - a 100% all-natural vegan wax made from hydrogenated soybean oil that turns to a solid at room temperature. It was developed in the early 90’s as an alternative to paraffin wax, and is available in several forms, including soy wax flakes. This is a great wax to use for container candles, and is the wax used in Join candles. Soy wax has a low melting point, which means its a safer choice. Sometimes I will even dip my finger into the melted wax and rub it on my fingernails.
Also consider the packaging that your candles come in. Have the manufacturers used an unnecessary amount of plastic? Can the containers be reused and recycled? (Top tip: I love to use my Join apothecary jars for storing dried herbs; my friend Regina recycles her candle jars as toothbrush holders, jam and pickle jars, arranges cut flowers in them and burns smaller candles in them…the options are endless!).
Now the fun part - the smells
Synthetic fragrances are much cheaper than essential oils and are much more widely used. In fact, many people stuff their homes with these fragrances through air fresheners, cleaning products and synthetic candles. Besides containing nasty chemicals that can lead to hormone disruptions and allergic reactions, these fragrances often simply smell artificial.
The essential oil blends in Join candles are 100% natural and cruelty-free. The candles are vegan, carbon-neutral and have a long, clean burn. They are luxury candles because the ingredients in them are costly - but are much better for you, and actually much longer-lasting than many synthetic candles.
The sense of smell is so deeply personal, but to help you choose a scent for yourself or as a gift, here is my guide to the Join candles we have for sale, with a little input from my husband Ben; if he could, he’d retrain as a parfumier/ sommelier/ candle scent blender! What he can’t smell aint worth smellin’…
I have highlighted the ingredients that perhaps aren’t so familiar but please do ask if you have more questions. (Click on the candle name to open a link to the shop.)
This is a very clean, fresh-smelling candle, perfect for the kitchen and especially good to burn if you have a cold. It’s a little minty-smelling. You don’t need to burn it for long for the fragrance to freshen the air.
Ben says “This candle smells like a chopping board stacked with fresh rosemary sprigs. Woody, zingy, restorative, with nose-clearing scents.”
This blend includes patchouli, a bushy herb that’s part of the mint family. It has a rich, earthly, woody smell. It’s native to tropical regions of Asia but is now cultivated all over Asia, West Africa and South America. It has been used for centuries in perfumery and traditional medicine as it is believed to promote healthy skin and strengthen the immune system. It is also an effective moth repellent! It was used widely by India’s fabric manufacturers in the 19th century to protect their products from damage while in transit and became a guarantee of authenticity - if the clothing didn’t smell of patchouli, they were identified as fraudulent textiles.
Patchouli is combined with basil oil to create an aniseed aroma. This fragrance is deep, layered and many find it to be very relaxing.
Ben says, “it’s like strolling over freshly washed wood, with a mouth stuffed full of aniseed gobstoppers.”
This candle is a wonderfully earthy, natural, de-stressing fragrance. You will feel as if you’re outside in the fresh air when you burn it. This candle is a blend of pine, rosemary and lime. Pine trees grow in huge numbers around the world and its oil is one of the most widely used in aromatherapy.
Ben says, “This is a refreshing, sharp, sweet scent, reminiscent of pine trees and the expansive great outdoors. This will take you back to the ski slopes and memorable country walks.“
A bestseller, Hedgerow is a blend of neroli, rose and basil. Neroli oil is produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree. It is sweet and honeyed and extremely popular in perfumery. It is known to be good for lifting the spirits and calming people down. I love to burn this candle during the day whilst I am working.
Ben says, “the scent is redolent of garden roses and sweet peas in full, blousy bloom.”
Inspired by walking along a blustery beach, High Tide is jam-packed with Lemon verbena and mandarin. I love using this candle to detox and freshen the home. Lemon verbena is widely used in cooking for its punchy flavour and is considered to alleviate anxiety. Mandarin is a restful fragrance, with a sweet but mild scent.
Ben says, “the zesty, citrus sherbet evokes the freshness of the foaming surf.”
Kernel is a blend of cedarwood and black pepper essential oils. cedarwood is sometimes used in aromatherapy as a sedative; whilst you should never fall asleep with a candle burning, you will find this to be a relaxing scent. It’s a heady, smoky, heavier smell than some other candles. Along with the pebble candle, this makes a lovely gift for the chaps in your life. In fact, this is Ben’s favourite scent!
Ben says, “freshly cut wood, bracken and toasted cedarwood.”
This fresh scent is created with patchouli (please read more about this under the driftwood candle description above) and chamomile essential oils. chamomile is a great all-round oil to improve your health and mood; it’s apparently very good at helping to reduce anger and anxiety. A great candle to burn to keep the home and family happy!
Ben says, “Smells of the herbaceous border emerging alongside a teak boardwalk washed by the fading tide.”
Lavender oil is one of the most widely used essential oils; if you are new to aromatherapy, this candle is a good place to start. Lavender is known for it’s relaxing and calming properties. This is the most ‘traditional’ of Join candles and one I love to burn when I am soaking in the bath or for a few minutes before bedtime.
Ben says, “Well, it’s just like dancing through a field of lavender, isn’t it?”
Inspired by childhood memories of skimming stones on blustery beaches, Pebble includes Bergamot orange, which is thought to be a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. The inclusion of black pepper spice means this is a heavier scent that other candles in the collection. Along with Kernel, this makes a lovely gift for the chaps in your life.
Ben says “flinty hardness with peppery spice notes; like drinking a leisurely cup of Earl Grey in the Orangery.”
This is one of the sweetest-smelling candles in the collection and makes a wonderful holiday gift. Grapefruit oil is used to create an uplifting, zingy candle perfect for the warmer months; in fact grapefruit oil is thought to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Treat a friend who needs a break.
Ben says, “I’m transported back to summer days and lazy al fresco breakfasts with plump, juicy grapefruit glistening in the sun.”
Hopefully you have found this guide to be useful! Do let me know in the comments which Join candle you like the most, and how you like to use it - are you an evening candle lighter? When in the bath? Let us know!
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