Meet the Makers: Scented candle brands to love
We now spend an estimated £1.9 billion on them annually in the UK alone: since the pandemic began, sales of scented candles have soared. Alice Ryan meets four Cambridge candle-makers and spotlights their signature summer scents
On a mission to create “a product that would unwind your mind as well as fill your home with a cosy aroma”, Cambridge’s Kasia Kałużna launched her VaNel Candle brand during last year’s first lockdown. Needing a new job and knowing it would take time to find one, she decided to start her own enterprise while she looked - and VaNel took off.
“People started appreciating candles more as the world began to lock down and their lives had lost some vibrance and colour,” explains Kasia. “Candles are perfect to relax after a busy day at work, and fill home with harmony, scent and gleam.”
Natural, biodegradable and cruelty free, VaNel Candle products - Kasia makes melts too - don’t only smell good, they’re good for the planet: “Our candles are made with care from the highest quality soy wax. I am very attentive to ensure that products we create are environmentally friendly and not tested on animals: VaNel Candle is a guarantee of pure goodness.”
From her collection of 12 scents, Kasia says Amber Fox and Spiky Hedgehog are the current bestsellers. “The first one is deep and mysterious which is why, I think, it gained vast popularity among male customers. The latter is sweet and deliciously spiced and hence women’s favourite.”
Scent of Summer: Deep Love. Rhubarb and tea rose are the headliners here, backed by velvety wood and musk to create a fragrance which brings indoors the atmosphere of a sun-warmed garden. A lovely clean burn delivers a scent which fills the room without ever overwhelming it. From £9.99 for 90g.
The Candle Company Cambridge
She recently created a sell-out candle for Miranda Hart’s online store, The Miranda Shop: it’s fair to say Joelle Bouttell is becoming famous for her handmade home scents.
Founding The Candle Company Cambridge nine years ago from her Girton home, Joelle started the business as an upcycling project: “I had a whimsical collection of glasses and pots and wanted to give these old vessels a new lease of life,” she explains, “While I also use new aluminium tins and glasses - which I then refill at a reduced price - my passion is still upcycling. If a vessel can take a flame, I can put a candle in it. I have filled much-loved coffee mugs, vases and even a brick!”
With a menu of more than 20 fragrances to choose from, Joelle makes wax melts, reed diffusers and room sprays as well as the soy candles - which are eco-friendly, vegan, contain zero paraffin and hand-poured to order.
Keen to collaborate with other artisans, Joelle fills ceramics for Sophie Botsford, known for her rural designs, and the artist Alice Thompson, her neighbour and friend, created the artwork for her Cambridge candle - see below.
With New York (ginger flower, rose, lily and jasmine) and Tuscany (orange blossom, jasmine and sandalwood) the top-selling fragrances at the pandemic’s height - “I think brought about by people just wanting to travel” - Joelle says her customer Louise sums up the ever-increasing appeal of scented candles: “They are an instant way to create an atmosphere and transform a space; they transport us from humdrum to hygge in seconds.”
Scent of Summer: Cambridge. Housed in a (refillable, recyclable) glass or tin, each featuring a watercolour of iconic Cambridge sights on its label, this candle’s scent has that summer-pavements-after-rain feel: layering bright, herb-garden bergamot over green, forest-floor patchouli and oakmoss, it’s equal parts fresh and warm. Plus the soy wax formula burns brilliantly slow and clean. From
Inspired by her love of the natural world and its shifting seasons, Erika Johnston’s LYS candles chart the year with their scents - from winter’s First Frost through April Showers and Summer Meadow to Autumn Hedgerow.
“As a lifelong lover of the natural world - I even kept a nature table when I was a child! - I enjoy the changing seasons and all the customs and traditions that go along with that. My candles celebrate those special seasonal moments and capture them in scent,” explains Erika, whose collection spans 12 fragrances, three for each of the four seasons.
Before launching LYS, she took a candle-making course and spent three years refining her craft: “It was important to me to make a beautiful, well-made product which was affordable to many.”
Housed in artfully labelled tins, her candles are now available via Mabel Fox, the Scandi-inspired lifestyle store on Cambridge’s Green Street, as well as in her Etsy store.
The rising appeal of scented candles is no surprise, adds Erika: “The desire to make our homes our sanctuary is strong and needed now more than ever - and the simple act of lighting a scented candle can achieve it.”
Scent of Summer: Midsummer’s Eve. Pretty top notes (bergamot, geranium, lavender) give way to a warm, enveloping heart (jasmine, lily, amber), grounded by a woodsy base (sandalwood, the merest hint of vanilla). It’s just delicious. And a small tin, £7.50, goes a long way: follow the burn-time and wick-trimming instructions and it’ll last for yonks.
The Handmade Candle Company Cambridge
What started out as a pandemic project for friends and fellow Great Shelford schoolgirls Eilidh, 12, and Emma, 11, has turned into a burgeoning business: The Handmade Candle Company Cambridge. Selling direct via Instagram and email and stocked at Provenance Kitchen Brix & Mortar, the deli, kitchen and cafe in Whittlesford, the girls take a planet-friendly approach throughout: hand-poured to order, the candles are made solely from natural soy wax, and their glass containers can be returned for refill via an electric vehicle-run collection service.
“We began in September 2020,” explain Eilidh and Emma. “Having returned to school after many months away, we decided to put our spare time into making something that made people happy. We started out refilling glass ramekins and selling them to our friends. The feedback was so positive our parents supported us in sourcing suppliers of wax, pots and scents and so the Handmade Candle Company Cambridge was formed.”
Also happy to fill a customer’s own container - “we have even filled stunning Tiffany and Co. crystal glass candle holders” - the friends say their winter top-seller was Orange and Cinnamon, and now it’s Pomegranate and Fig. “Our customers say they love our candles and they are perfect for open plan living as they are excellent at absorbing cooking smells,” add Eilidh and Emma.
Sales of scented candles have risen since Covid, “probably for the same reasons we started the business in September,” they add. “People were spending a lot of time at home and a candle is a way to make it feel warm and change the atmosphere.”
Scent of Summer: Pomegranate and Fig. A moreish mixture of fruity and floral, this scent is light, lovely and swiftly lifts the spirits of your space. Priced £12.50 for a large three-wick glass jar candle, it’s amazing value, too.
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