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December 4, 2023

Tested: The Best Candles for Men

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: , , — admin @ 7:56 pm

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A great candle makes your living space more welcoming and comfortable. Scent is the first thing that hits you when you step into someone’s abode. But just like developing a taste for any well-crafted thing in life, splurging on a candle might initially feel extravagant. Yet once you’ve upgraded—and you can start with my top pick, the Spiritus candle from the Maker Hotel—going back to mass-produced store stuff becomes a tough sell.

Luxury candles are universally appreciated gifts for birthday and holidays, and candles from specialized brands promise a distinctive experience from the first burn. Factors such as aroma complexity, how the fragrance disperses, and wax type (more on that below) all play roles in crafting an experience that complements the sophisticated atmosphere of an inviting home. You’ll smell why it’s money well spent.

Why You Should Trust Me

In addition to writing for Men’s Journal, I’ve covered menswear, fragrances, watches, grooming, and styling for Inside Hook, Robb Report, Esquire, and Men’s Health. I served as the market editor at Esquire for several years, scouring the industry for the best garments and goods that were not only worth the investment but also made for compelling stories and good advice for our readers. I also conceptualized and wrote many fragrance and grooming stories for Esquire.

Related: 20 Best Perfumes for Men in 2023

I always try to add a timeless element to whatever I write. Although trends are interesting and relevant to a degree, my heart has always been drawn to more perennial guidance and themes. My obsessive-compulsive tendencies are both a blessing and a curse, and while I often delve into researching items to the point of exhaustion, the approach positions me as a go-to person for advice. Whether about coats, candles, or turntable needles, people recognize that I’ve done the legwork. I enjoy inspiring others around me to seek out the things that make their lives better.

How I Picked The Best Candles

There are many artisanal brands I love and burn at home regularly, but I narrowed this list down using a few criteria. Heritage is essential. The brand must excel at what they do: either have a rich candle-making history or invest time in truly understanding it. The wax formulations vary across the board, but these chosen brands use the finest waxes or a proprietary blend that makes them unique. The options below also have a moderate to strong throw (the distance a candle disperses its aroma), easily filling a medium to large room with its fragrance. And most importantly, scent. You (hopefully) don’t still wear CK One, so your home’s ambiance should mirror that. 

Related: 23 Impressive Gifts for Men Under $50 From Brands like Gucci, Apple, and More

The scents range from herbal to woody to gourmand, but what makes all these special should become apparent upon the first smell. Whether they use natural or synthetic oils, these are complex, layered fragrances formulated by passionate “noses.” The result is an olfactory elegance that will provide your abode with comfort, tranquility, and a resounding ‘Wow, it smells amazing in here!” 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Candles

There are some often overlooked tips for the new home scentsman that will help you prolong the life of your candle.

During the initial lighting, always ensure a full pool of liquid gathers, as this will promote an even burn in the future. You don’t want tunneling where a hole forms in the center of the candle, leaving unused and wasted wax around the edge.

Keep the wick trimmed to about ¼ inch before each burn to maintain a proper flame height, reduce soot in the air, and enhance the overall scent throw.

Many brands recommend reusing the candle vessel after burning. Place it in the freezer overnight, and the remaining wax should easily come out with a spoon or fall out. You can then repurpose the decorative container for change, keys, or anything else you desire.

Types of Candle Wax

Each candle wax has a distinct burn profile. Here are the major ones to consider and their strengths and weaknesses.

Soy: Despite being a relative newcomer, soy wax is one of the most widely utilized waxes today. Derived from soybean oil, soy wax is natural, renewable, and biodegradable—all eco-friendly attributes. While soy wax may have a somewhat weaker throw compared to other waxes, it compensates by burning more slowly and producing less soot, ultimately delivering a longer-lasting candle. Despite its nuanced characteristics, the popularity of soy wax continues to thrive, driven by its environmentally conscious profile and affordability.

Coconut: Coconut wax has emerged as the new it kid in the candle-making arena as an eco-friendly option. Its claim to environmental fame lies in the renewable nature of coconut harvesting. Beyond its sustainability, coconut wax boasts an impressive scent throw—ensuring a delightful aromatic experience—and facilitates an even burn. While it often comes with a higher price tag, many enthusiasts consider the premium worth paying for the wax’s combination of sustainability, excellent fragrance dispersion, and consistently even burn.

Paraffin: Before the emergence of soy and coconut wax, paraffin was the industry standard. Derived as a byproduct of the oil industry, paraffin faces scrutiny due to its association with crude oil, though many inexpensive candles from commonly use this wax. Despite its contentious sourcing, paraffin wax is known for its clean-burning properties and its ability to hold a substantial amount of scent. For those seeking a powerful fragrance throw, paraffin remains the best choice.

Beeswax: Sourced from bee honeycombs and with a history spanning thousands of years, beeswax is a renowned eco-friendly and sustainable wax source. Beyond its environmental benefits, proponents assert that beeswax has air-purifying properties through the release of ions. Such candles burns evenly, creating a luxurious pool of wax. However, the subtle sweet aroma characteristic of beeswax may be perceived as a drawback, as it doesn’t blend as seamlessly with other scents. Despite this potential downside, beeswax remains a timeless and natural choice for candle enthusiasts.

Blends: Most brands often go beyond sticking to a single wax type and instead choose to combine various waxes to leverage the unique advantages of each. For example, the fusion of paraffin and soy can yield a candle with the potent fragrance throw typical of paraffin, coupled with the cleaner burn of soy. Alternatively, some brands develop proprietary blends incorporating vegetable waxes such as rapeseed, apricot, and palm resulting in a secret formula that sets their candles apart in the market. This flexibility in wax selection and blending allows candle makers to tailor their candles to their unique brand sensibilities. 

The Best Candles for Men

The Maker – Spiritus

Debuting in 2020 as an immersive and eclectic bohemian hotel in upstate New York, The Maker has since evolved into a curated collection of bespoke and lifestyle products, garnering notable acclaim, especially for their niche fragrance line. The Maker’s candle collection, crafted from soy wax, is presented in exquisite vintage-inspired vessels. Noteworthy among their home offerings is “Spiritus,” a captivating blend of frankincense, cannabis, and vanilla bean. This combination results in a seductive, woody, and spicy scent that beckons one to linger a little longer by the fireplace at the hotel lounge on a winter night. 

$80 at Sephora

Diptyque – Maquis

It is impossible to discuss luxury candles without acknowledging one of the most renowned brands in the home fragrance world: the Parisian house, Diptyque. Established in 1963, Diptyque has achieved iconic status through its exquisite fragrances and distinctive typography, serving as the gateway for many into the world of luxury candles. While boasting a diverse array of scents, Maquis stands out as a classic, personal favorite and an exclusive offering found only in their boutique stores and website. Crafted from clean-burning paraffin wax, the Maquis artfully blends rockrose shrubs, amber, and resin, evoking a sensory journey to a cliff adorned with wild bushes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. 

Boy Smells – Cowboy Kush

Since bursting onto the olfactory scene in 2015, the L.A.-based ‘Boy Smells’ have swiftly garnered a massive cult following due to their distinctive fragrance pyramids, evocative scent names, and visually striking packaging. Formulated from a proprietary blend of beeswax and coconut the brand’s overall identity is one of an environmentally conscious ethos. One of their best sellers, Cowboy Kush mixes notes of leather, saffron flower, and cannabis atop a foundation of patchouli and tonka bean. This well-worn, earthy, spiced fragrance is tailor-made for the sophisticated man, not a boy. 

Leland Francis – El Santo

Leland Francis is akin to some other brands on this list who initially started in the personal fragrance, home décor, or grooming arenas, but also excel in the realm of home scents. Small-batch production, hand-pouring techniques, and a commitment to 100% soy wax, the brand proudly embraces eco-friendliness as a calling card. While many brands have riffed on the aromatic wonders of Palo Santo, renowned for its ability to rejuvenate energy and dispel negativity, Leland Francis elevates the experience by blending Palo Santo with a top note of orange, layered over a foundation of vetiver and cedar. The result is a divine, smoky creation. 

D.S. & Durga – Young Dunes

D.S. & Durga has swiftly risen to prominence as a leading “indie” fragrance house, distinguished by its meticulous sourcing of raw ingredients and captivating fragrance descriptions. This year marked a collaboration between D.S. & Durga and renowned menswear designer Todd Snyder, resulting in a soy-vegetable wax candle that captures the essence of a coastal experience. Infused with notes of beach heather, verbena, and citrus, the candle is a sensory journey evoking the moment of climbing over dunes and catching the invigorating scent of the ocean—a fragrant voyage to a coastal cottage retreat. 

$70 at Todd Snyder

Byredo – Woods

Byredo’s immensely popular candle line draws inspiration from the homemade candles of founder Ben Gorham’s Swedish grandmother, adding a touch of authenticity and relatability to the brand’s narrative. The candles, hand-poured in the brand’s signature black wax crafted from a blend of vegetable and beeswax, exude a hushed and luxurious subtlety. Woods marries a top note of raspberry with undertones of leather and cedarwood. The result is an olfactory journey that artfully transports one through a woodland forest in a uniquely Byredo way. 

$94 at Neiman Marcus

Le Labo – Laurier 62

No collection of perennial luxury scented candles would be complete without the inclusion of Le Labo, a brand that has redefined the fragrance world and sparked an olfactory revolution with its innovative use of raw materials, apothecary aesthetic, and luxury sensibilities. Despite the seemingly chaotic combination of ingredients of Laurier (laurel, rosemary, eucalyptus, thyme, cumin, clove, amber, patchouli, sandalwood, and more) this soy wax blend transforms into a beautifully unique creation. It’s as if every herbal and woodsy note comes together for a sophisticated, dressed-up occasion. Engaging with this candle becomes a journey of unraveling its complex layers, inviting you to revel in its scent for hours on end. 

$84 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Tom Dixon – London

British designer Tom Dixon, who specializes in the creation of industrial aesthetic lighting, furniture, and accessories, is also known for his remarkable home fragrance line. Unsurprisingly, the design of his candles mirrors his distinct attention to detail and captures the eye as beautifully as they captivate the sense of smell. Made from a soy-paraffin blend, the “London” candle blends Black Pepper, Oud Wood, Vetiver, Cedar Wood, and Patchouli, evoking the essence of standing amidst the bricks, parks, and flora along the salty River Thames. Encased in a hand-spun copper vessel with a marble lid, this container beckons to be retained among your shelf oddities long after the wax has burned. 

Cire Trudon – Ernesto

Anyone familiar with luxury candles knows that Cire Trudon is synonymous with opulence and heritage. This distinguished Parisian house has been crafting candles for French cathedrals and nobility since its establishment in 1643. While the price may give pause to some, Cire Trudon more than justifies its premium status through unparalleled quality and truly exquisite fragrances. The candles are meticulously manufactured in Normandy, France using a 100% vegetal blend wax and are housed in hand-blown vessels adorned with the iconic Trudon logo—an emblem of the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship. “Ernesto,” inspired by revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, combines notes of leather, tobacco, oakwood, clove, patchouli, and bergamot, creating a luxurious, rich, and distinctly masculine scent. 

$125 at Neiman Marcus


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