The Best Candles for the Diptyque Faithful and Beyond, According to Domino Editors
Follow your nose (or don’t!).
Published Dec 30, 2021 1:02 AM
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It seems like every other day there’s a new It candle of the moment. (Have you seen Octaveo’s artisanal sculptures or Néos’s playful Olivia figurines? Hello, gorgeous.) And if you feel the same way, you’re not imagining things. According to Sylvana Kiss and Sasha Zinshtein—the creative couple behind Casa Ziki, a housewares and gift shop with storefronts in Brooklyn and Woodstock, New York—the candle market is crazily saturated right now. We’re not complaining or anything—we love to see those creative juices flowing—but keeping up with the trendiest tapers and newest scents can be a bit like chasing sunsets. This makes choosing just one (or even a few), ahem, difficult to say the least. And we would know; Domino deputy editor Julie Vadnal’s box dedicated to tapers alone is overflowing. But snuffing out the most exceptional candle from the average one doesn’t have to be a whole thing (and it isn’t always about following your nose). Domino’s editors have tested a lot of candles, and to help we listed nine options that are either already a part of our permanent rotation or what we’re eyeing right now.
- A classic with cred: Diptyque Feu de Bois Candle
- A chic, eco-friendly vessel: Espelma Refillable Candle
- A candle-turned-cup: Norden Ojai Ceramic Candle
- A pillar with a pop of color: Zest Candle Pillar
- A cute cube: Andrej Urem Milk Small Candle
- A serious splurge (that’s worth it): Cire Trudon Candle
- A twist on the traditional: Boy Smells Polyamberous Candle
- A statement silhouette: Maison Balzac Volute Candles
- A collab with a cause: Joya Studio Erba Limited Edition
A Classic With Cred: Diptyque Feu de Bois Candle
Scent: Smoky | Size: 2.4 ounces | Wax: Soy
Why we chose it: It’s the quintessential pick our editors can’t live without.
Both Samantha Weiss-Hills, our deputy commerce editor, and Erin Cunningham, our creative studio’s deputy editor, are team “Diptyque or die.” Whether you are still soaking in summery notes for a transportive tropical experience or transitioned to cozier, comforting fall fragrances before August even ended, you’ll find Feu de Bois is a year-round, crowd-pleasing staple. “Diptyque has somehow distilled the scent of my ideal setting—being parked next to a long-lingering fire—and ensconced it in wax,” says Weiss-Hills. If you’re looking for another one to try, Domino market insider Cat Dash’s “forever favorite” is Baies. “The first time I ever walked into Mayle (on NYC’s Elizabeth Street, when it used to be there), this scent was burning, and it’s seared into my mind as the epitome of cool,” she shares.
Take note: No matter which scent you pick, be mindful that Diptyque candles can tunnel—when only the middle part of the candle melts—if not burned properly. The glass container is also prone to a rim of soot, but the cleanup is pretty easy: Just dampen a paper towel or cloth with soap and water and give the edge a swift wipe (but only when it’s not lit and fully cooled, of course).
A Chic, Eco-Friendly Vessel: Espelma Refillable Candle
Scent: Varies | Size: 9.5 ounces | Wax: Coconut, beeswax, and soy
Why we chose it: It includes a handmade glass base that you can use again and again to try all five scents.
It can often be difficult to devise a second life for a used candle jar, but with Espelma, you don’t have to. Lydia Geisel, our associate home editor, has her sights set on these lovely refillable vessels, all mouth-blown by artisans in Murano, Italy. Simply select the container of your choosing; once your candle has burned away, you can shop from the coconut, soy, or beeswax refills and rotate between five scents: a fresh mint basil, smoky tea, fig tree, gardenia, and summer garden (including one unscented option, too). But with an impressive burn time of 65 hours, you won’t have to worry about always having a replacement at the ready.
A Candle-Turned-Cup: Norden Ojai Ceramic Candle
Scent: Woodsy | Size: 12 ounces | Wax: Coconut
Why we chose it: It’s a ceramic cup when you’re done!
This candle was first spotted by our digital designer, Michaela Klein, in California (where Norden originated), and she’s delighted to see the brand popping up on store shelves—including Lulu and Georgia’s—everywhere these days. She is here to confirm it’s worth the buy. “All the scents are really woodsy and earthy, which I love, especially in the fall and winter,” says Klein, adding that the company’s incense is just as nice. “Once they’re burned down, I throw them in the freezer to pop out any remaining wax.” Her previous purchases have become a pencil holder and drinking cup, but the possibilities really are endless. Aside from the speckle-glazed stoneware win, these candles promise 80 hours of burn time and are scented with 100 percent essential oils, resulting in a fragrance evoking the Ojai Valley—grass, earthy balsam, and palo santo wood.
A Pillar With a Pop of Color: Zest Candle Pillar
Scent: None | Size: 22 ounces | Wax: Paraffin
Why we chose it: Does anybody do hot pink better?
If you’re looking for a pillar in bright, bold hues (that won’t break the bank), then Zest is for you. Vadnal is a big fan of the hot pink (anyone else getting Elle Woods à la Legally Blonde vibes?), but there are an array of saturated shades to choose from, like dandelion yellow, citrusy orange, and vivid violet, which all give this traditional style a modern upgrade. These pillars come unscented, so they’re best for show or on a table display—plus they hold up well for approximately 90 hours of burn time.
A Cute Cube: Andrej Urem Milk Small Candle
Scent: Floral | Size: 11 ounces | Wax: Soy
Why we chose it: The original bubble candle retains its cube shape after burning.
The Milk candle continues to be a top seller at Casa Ziki and for good reason: The combination of whimsical design, sweet size, and smart price has staying power. And while some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery—there are all kinds of bubbly candles on the market today for a fraction of the cost—we can confidently say that this cubed cutie has surpassed any burning test we put it through. You’d think it would become one giant glob, but our editors know it holds up, and the melt itself is rather isolated. And as Kiss and Zinshtein share, considering how a candle looks when it’s being burned is important. No one wants a pool of wax on their coffee table.
A Serious Splurge (That’s Worth It): Cire Trudon Candle
Scent: Clean | Size: 9.5 ounces | Wax: Coconut and soy
Why we chose it: Our market guru has tested quite a few candles, and this is her all-time favorite.
The French really seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to making candles. In her vast candle-testing experience, Dash will always defend the lofty price tag of Cire Trudon’s Dada—she has yet to find a scent she likes as much as this one. “It’s subtle but noticeable, and fresh and light, but not overwhelming,” she says. “It just feels superluxe and makes your space feel that way, too.” The Normandy-based brand defines the Dada as iconic (and considering the brand can trace its candle origins back to 1643, it isn’t a claim to scoff at). Described as featuring “a touch of tea and vetiver, ornate with crumpled mint leaves and eucalyptus,” its complex aroma could be likened to the artistic movement after which it is named. And as good as it smells, it looks the part as well, with a dark vessel and gold branding.
A Twist on the Traditional: Boy Smells Polyamberous Candle
Scent: Woodsy | Size: 8.5 ounces | Wax: Coconut and beeswax
Why we chose it: Kiss the expected goodbye; you’re not going to miss it.
A Boy Smells candle deserves to be a part of your daily routine or a ritual. It’s easily one of the best-smelling candles our associate design editor, Kate McGregor, has ever burned, and that’s not surprising considering fragrance is top of mind for cofounders Matthew Herman and David Kien. “When creating Boy Smells, we decided to call it Boy but used pink packaging to deliberately provoke outdated ideas of gender and identity woven into the social fabric,” explains Herman. “We make nontraditional fragrances for modern, complex identities. What makes a Boy Smells candle exceptional is that it represents following your truth, despite what anyone else may think.” Be prepared to buy more.
A Statement Silhouette: Maison Balzac Volute Candles
Scent: None | Size: 1 ounce | Wax: Stearin
Why we chose it: So what if it’s too pretty to burn? Admire it as a permanent piece.
Sophie Miura, our commerce content director, was gifted these taper twins and has had a hard time setting them aflame ever since. And can you blame her? The round volutes in a soft sky blue color are darling. The sculptural silhouette overshadows any version that’s straight and narrow (Weiss-Hills also loves Floral Society’s fancy tapers). Rather than tapping this pair for ambient lighting at a dinner party, why not keep them as a permanent piece to display on your bookshelf, bar cart, or mantel? The brand, based in Sydney, works with both artisans and perfumers from France, Japan, and China.
A Collab With a Cause: Joya Studio Erba Limited Edition
Scent: Floral | Size: 17.6 ounces | Wax: Soy
Why we chose it: It’s hard to pick just one of Joya’s crazy-cool collaborations, but the meaning behind this one backs its price tag.
Dash is crazy about all of Joya Studio’s candles. “The company does the coolest collaborations, and the candles are truly crafted in an artistic way,” she says. “The vessels are so special. Really, everything about them is special.” And seeing as how Vadnal is pretty obsessed with the recent A24 collection—yes, the independent entertainment mastermind behind Uncut Gems and Lady Bird—it’s hard not to recommend bringing this brand home. This limited-edition candle, a creation by Geoffrey Young Design and glass artist Jennifer Morgan of Mill Valley, is composed of broken glass melted and softened by a dip process and is a symbol for everything people have endured since the pandemic began—being broken but coming back together. Thirty percent of the proceeds go to Direct Relief, a nonpartisan nonprofit with a mission to “improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing essential medical resources for their care,” its website states.
Our Shopping Checklist
Types of wax
Not everyone can agree on which wax is best, so we tried to break down the basics that you’re likely to come across in your search.
- Paraffin may not score many sustainability points as a petroleum-based product, but it’s still tapped by candlemakers for its ability to hold scent and color.
- Soy wax is hydrogenated soybean oil that has gained headway as a top alternative to paraffin. Herman notes Boy Smells candles, made mostly of beeswax and coconut wax, include trace amounts of organic soy wax to improve stability and more effectively diffuse fragrances. This wax also has a lower melting point than paraffin, elongating its burn time.
- Beeswax is just as it sounds: a byproduct of honey bees used to build and fill their hives. It is naturally dripless (a high melting point translates to a slower, smokeless burn) and considered a renewable product. This is why our deputy photo editor, Andie Diemer, is always on the lookout for candles that are 100 percent beeswax (and swears by bluecorn beeswax tapers).
- Coconut wax may be new to the scene, but it’s already a featured blend in some of our favorite picks. While a bit on the pricey side, it does everything the above waxes do and more: It retains both color and fragrance and produces little soot.
Ingredients and scents
Candles don’t necessarily offer a nutritional-label level of detail on ingredients, but the bottom of the container sometimes includes clues to the makeup of your fiery friend. Not to set off any alarms, but you do breathe in what you burn; it’s why most experts we chatted with prefer natural ingredients over man-made ones, whether it’s the wick (stick to cotton, wood, or hemp) or the wax. We recommend avoiding plastics like resin and artificial fragrances whenever you can—for example, keep an eye out for words attached with -phthalates—and opt for essential or natural fragrance oils.
Casa Ziki’s Kiss and Zinshtein have seen an uptick in additions like dried herbs and essences that conjure a place or lifestyle. “If a scent can trigger a memory for someone, that can be super-powerful,” they point out, listing Dancecandles as a prime example.
Herman’s take? Be playful and try new things. “Every fragrance I have burned in my home or worn on my body has opened me up to new perspectives,” he shares. “They are like looking through color lenses. I have tried things I thought I would not like but ended up loving.”
You don’t want a candle that burns so fast that it feels like you were barely able to enjoy it. How quickly your candle burns away is often described in hours, and this number can vary depending on all sorts of factors, whether it’s the wax type or weight, size of the container, number of wicks, even the length of it. For instance, a longer wick will produce a bigger flame, burning your candle faster (yes, this is why trimming is so important).
Q: When—and how often—should I trim a wick?
You might be surprised to hear that there is 100 percent a wrong and right way to burn your candle, and according to Herman, it all starts with whether or not you’re trimming the wick. In order to ensure a clean, smoke-free burn, the experts all agree to shave off about a ¼ inch of your wick prior to each lighting.
Q: Any other dos or don’ts of candle care I should keep in mind?
The most important step in candle care is allowing the entire surface of wax to melt the first time it’s lit to prevent tunneling. In general there’s a sweet spot of time for this, hovering somewhere between two and three hours, though never any longer than four. Carbon can gather on your wick and force it to balloon up into a mushroom-like cap if you keep it lit too long, though it can even happen when a wick is too large and fails to burn at the same rate as your wax. Whenever this does happen, don’t panic: Just reach for your handy-dandy wick trimmer (or nail clippers; they complete the job just as well!).
If taller or sculptural candles are starting to look a little wonky or misshapen compared to the first day you brought them home, it might be a result of where you’ve placed them, warn Kiss and Zinshtein. “Temperature and climate can have a huge effect on candles, so think twice before putting your brand-new beautiful twisty taper in your window or by a heater,” they explain. In fact, Cire Trudon specifically suggests keeping candles in a dry, temperate environment between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Q: Can (or should) you mix candle scents?
This all depends on you and how sensitive your schnoz is. Kiss and Zinshtein have enjoyed experimenting. “We typically try to stick with a ‘one scent per room’ rule, but we have also often surprised ourselves with mixing and matching,” the duo notes. “We haven’t found anything that clashes too badly, but at the end of the day just follow your nose!” Of course, if you’re looking to light more than one flame to relax during bath time or to create some ambience at the dinner table, you can never go wrong with an unscented option, particularly in the shape of a pillar or taper.
How We Chose These Products
After asking the Casa Ziki crew how they decide which candles to sell in their store—they take all sorts of things into consideration, from original designs to nontoxic scents—we also tapped Domino editors for a few of their favorites for the same reasons and a wide range of personal preferences.
The Last Word
Take it from Herman: Scent is powerful, but it isn’t the only characteristic you should look out for in your search for the best candles. Whether you’re sensitive to strong smells or looking for a candle that doubles as a sculptural conversation starter, there are plenty of choices on the market to peruse. Just be sure to keep wax types, natural ingredients, and original designs in mind.