When I first started writing about scented candles many years ago they were a peculiarly hard sell to men. In order to make them sound more appealing, writers like myself often referred to them as ‘mandles’ (yep, I’m cringing too now) while bigging up traditionally ‘masculine’ notes of wood, leather and smoke.
Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then. Ideas of what’s ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in perfumery have changed considerably of late as more genderless fragrances come to market and tastes subtly change.
Having said all that, like a lot of men, I’m still slightly resistant to my own home smelling of roses. I mean, I love roses but prefer to smell them in the garden. (Just a personal preference in case I offend fans of all things floral.) If you’re the same, or are someone looking for a candle to gift a guy and want something that’s almost guaranteed to hit the spot, here are five that are perfect for the festive season.
Les Senteurs Fire Pit Fortune (above)
One of the six scented candles that form Les Sentuers’ new – and debut – candle collection, Fire Pit Fortune is a woody and smoky creation in the tradition of Diptyque’s legendary Feu De Bois (my fave candle of all time) but cleverly gives things a little twist adding a subtle sweet fruitiness – the inspiration being discarded cherry stones apparently.
This prevents your room smelling like a literal bonfire, while the addition of a fir balsam note gives it just the right amount of freshly cut conifer to make it the perfect winter purchase.
£48 for 200g lessenteurs.com
If, like me, you can no longer square the love of having a real Christmas tree with the heartbreaking sight of thousands of discarded, balding pines littering the street in January, this candle from cult Scandi brand SKANDINAVISK is for you.
The perfect way to replace that wonderfully Christmassy pine needle smell, SKOG (‘forest’ in Swedish) also features hints of wood smoke and lily of the valley to prevent it veering into toilet cleaner territory (a major risk with pine-scented candles).
It creates a wonderfully festive atmosphere without being too overpowering and as a bonus, the glass is made with up to 30% recycled materials, while the birchwood lid comes from FSC certified forests.
Check out their JUL candle, too, by the way – laced with cinnamon, it smells like a foodie’s festive fantasy and will leave your mouth watering like a melting icicle.
£35 for 200g johnlewis.com
Jo Malone Whisky & Cedarwood
Four years ago I was given a giant, four wick Jo Malone candle for a significant birthday. I still have it and, remarkably, it’s still doing its job of scenting the house – the whole house. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Jo Malone candle that’s disappointed me in terms of burn time and ‘throw’ and this Whisky & Cedarwood one is no exception.
Based on their popular men’s fragrance of the sea name (part of a collaboration with Huntsman Savile Row, hence jar design) it’s perfect for any gent whose idea of heaven is sipping whisky in front of a warm fire in a book-lined snug on a cold winter’s evening. Me, basically.
£62 for 200g jomalone.co.uk
Boujee Bougies Cuir Culture
If you want an insight into what new British boutique candle company Boujee Bougies is all about you only have to read the cheeky blurb used to describe their quirky, artisanal creations. The wonderfully leathery Cuir Culture (see what they did there?) is described as an ‘unashamed celebration of the bold beauty of queerness’ and is likened to ‘a chilled Sunday afternoon spent leafing through vintage erotica or polishing your harness’.
There’s certainly a not-so-latent leatheriness here but a delightful dustiness and a warm, reassuring woodiness, too, that gives it the ability to work in different contexts – from hallways to bathrooms to bedrooms. Or dungeons.
It’s ‘well worn’ rather than ‘brand new’ leather jacket (or harness) and subtly sexy rather than full on raunchy though which, in a way, is its strength. The blurb jokingly references ‘spicy tops’ and ‘powerful bottoms’ but if this candle is anything it’s brilliantly versatile.
£55 for 220g boujeebougies.com
Tom Ford Oud Wood
Along with Noir and Portofino Neroli, Oud Wood is my favourite Tom Ford fragrance and I’m not alone as the extensive range of ancillary products that accompany the fragrance now proves (the beard oil is especially good).
One of the more wearable oud fragrances on the market (I find many too overbearing to use during daytime) it’s delightfully woody and seductive, with a lovely warm hug of vanilla, but complex enough to give it a very grown up feel (one reviewer described it as being ‘not for boys or beginners’ which I 100% agree with). This Oud Wood Candle, then, which replicates the fragrance pretty faithfully, is the absolute icing on a fanboy’s oud-flavoured cake.
£68 for 200g brownthomas.com
[Press samples of all of the products featured here were provided for review purposes]