Couldn’t give a fig for scented candles? This one might make you change your mind.

JONATHAN WARD FIG ULTIMATUMAs you’ve probably realised if you’re a regular reader I love a good scented candle. In truth, with two cats and a small house I can’t help but love them. I’m quite fussy about what I take a match to though. I like my candles to be as complex as my fragrances, don’t like anything too intoxicating or overly floral (I prefer my place to smell nice but not like a 17th Century boudoir) and like a clean, soot-free burn.

Like all of Jonathan Ward‘s hand-poured artisan candles his latest, Fig Ultimatum, is certainly complex. Eschewing predictability, as he always does, he’s taken the hugely popular and commercial smell of fig but added much more depth to it with honey, cognac, a warm, wet peatiness and a slightly animalistic amber base. The result is a candle that’s not as sweet and sickly as some fig fragrances can be but something altogether warmer, sexier, creamier and more comforting, so give it a go. And that’s my own ultimatum.

Jonathan Ward’s Fig Ultimatum Artisan Candle is available from 1st March from www.jonathanwardlondon.com priced £35.

The Grooming Guru Awards 2011

There are so many grooming awards these days that I thought, what the hell, why not have my own, with a few unique Grooming Guru categories thrown in for good measure? In fairness, I don’t think this year has been a stellar one in terms of new launches and innovative products but amongst the assorted lowlights there have been a few genuine highlights. The great thing is I don’t have advertisers to answer too so can reward who the hell I like and for what I like. So here are my awards, the ‘Gee Gees’ if you will. Who gets the gongs this year? Well, here goes…

MEN’S SKINCARE LAUNCH OF THE YEAR – Him by John Barrowman.

We may sneer at celebrity-endorsed ranges and fragrances but John Barrowman’s Him range for men, launched exclusively on QVC earlier this year, is a genuinely good- quality, well thought out and nicely-formualted range of skincare essentials for blokes. Sure, I suspect the people who are buying it are JB fans wanting to improve their men (or make them look like their idol) but that’s fine right? As John himself said at the launch the more well-groomed men out there the better. For more of my thoughts on the range read this.

BEST AD CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR – Braun Oral B Pro-Expert Toothpaste


This advert has made me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. I simply never tire of watching it. It doesn’t just cross the line where bad becomes good it actually pole-vaults right over it into uncharted territory. As comedy goes, it’s certainly miles funnier than Come Fly With Me, making me think the Beeb should have just shown this instead and saved license payers a fortune in the process. A friend of mine is convinced that, like the cringeworthy Jenson Button Head & Shoulders ad and the laughable Just For Men Luis Figo one, it’s intentionally this awful so that people remember it. If so, it deserves the most fulsome praise I can give it.

NB: Alas Oral B have pulled this ad from YouTube now. They might be known for saving teeth but it looks like in this case they wanted to save face too!

BEST NEW GROOMING GADGET – Panasonic ES-LV61-K Wet/Dry Foil Shaver

Back in the summer, Panasonic launched this, the first wet/dry foil shaver, transforming the lives of guys who prefer foil shavers to rotary ones but who wanted the convenience of shaving with a traditional shaving prep or even in the shower. Losing my beard for a week to give it a whirl I was hugely impressed by the closeness of the shave and how beautiful it felt in the hand. Which is what matters most to us men right? The last bit I mean.

THE “I DON’T THINK SO” AWARD OF THE YEAR – Guylashes

Guylashes. Please. A couple of years ago the big story was men and makeup. I bigged it up myself. Did men buy it? Did they buggery. In fact, many companies launched cosmetic products for men only to quietly ‘retire’ them within a matter of months.  And if men aren’t going to use concealer (a genuinely useful product and one I heartedly recommend) do you really think they’re going to be fluttering fake eyelashes? Eylure, kindly collect your gong! If I was being cynical I’d give you another one for ‘Best way to generate publicity for your company by grabbing a headline in The Daily Mail award’ too. If I was being cynical.

BEST NEW FRAGRANCE – Potion by DSquared2

I have been to so many fragrance launches this year you’d think it would be hard for me to pick my favourite. Not so. Most left me decidedly cold with their tiresome top notes  bland basenotes. This one, woody and sexy with notes of amber and a host of ingredients actually used in magic, like angelica and gentian, is one I wear regularly. It’s not as long-lasting as I might like but that’s a minor flaw. Being the only fragrance that really cast a spell on me this year (sorry!) I’m proud to give it a ‘Gee Gee’ for Best New Fragrance.

BEST BUDGET GROOMING BUY – Montagne Jeunesse’s face packs for men

Sure I like a bit of luxury but like all good working-class lads I can do cheap-as-chips grooming products too and my favourites this year were these face masks for men. Costing just over a pound each (except for the eye one which is wallet-busting £1.99) they’re practical, effective and (best of all) great fun to use. I challenge any man not to enjoy using the peel off one.

BEST INDUSTRY BLOG – British Beauty Blogger

Okay, I’m slightly biased because British Beauty Blogger is what you might call my ‘Twitterwife’ but even if I didn’t happen to know the person behind it I would still give it my vote as Best Industry Blog. I read it religiously –  and I have absolutely no interest in make-up or the beauty side of the industry whatsoever. And yet, it’s still utterly compelling.

In terms of providing an honest insight into the (sometimes ludicrous) workings of the industry it’s unrivaled and as a window onto the turbulent and much-maligned art of blogging it’s an absolute must-read. If you’re a blogger, journalist, PR or just a beauty junkie who wants to know what shade of blusher is hot this season it should be your very first port of call. Best of all it’s a BS-free zone. To check it out click here.

MOST GOBSMACKINGLY DESIRABLE THING  – Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Collection

When I first clapped eyes on Tom Ford’s Neroil Portofino Collection in its entirety I had a glimpse into how Howard Carter must have felt when he first peered into Tutankhamun’s tomb. Revealed to me in Claridges by the PR, the range, when seen in its entirely, is gobsmackingly lovely.  It costs over £500 – well out of the reach of most of us – but thankfully we can all buy into a small piece of its delicious luxury. Oh and it smells bloody fantastic too.

BEST NEW MASS MARKET SKINCARE PRODUCT FOR MEN WITH BEARDS OR STUBBLE – Nivea For Men Sensitive Hydro Gel

Okay, so it’s quite a specialised award buy hey, it’s my blog so I can do what I like. This inexpensive non-stick moisturiser (for want of a better description) is just brilliant for beards. Why? Because it’s lightweight and hydrating but doesn’t make your facial fur all sticky like some things can. It’s also great for preventing beard dandruff so for that reason alone I am giving it a much-deserved award.

Best Home Fragrance – Jonathan Ward Russia Collection

I’ve been on something of a mission this year to get men to invest in scented candles for their homes. There’s nothing girly about it. Scented candles rock. As does having a house or flat that doesn’t smell of last night’s curry. Jonathan Ward’s Russia Collection, launched late this year, impressed me for being decidedly man-friendly, delightfully complex, beautifully conceived and reasonably priced to boot. Besides, two wicks are always better than one in my book.

Insider Interview: candle king Jonathan Ward

I get the distinct impression that if authenticity were a fragrance note, like jasmine, lavender or amber, it’d be slap bang at the very heart of Jonathan Ward’s increasingly popular fragranced candles. In fact, it permeates everything he does – from the formulation of the candles themselves to the inspiration behind them (often very personal), right down to his frank and open blog (a must-read for industry types and anyone thinking of starting a business as well as fans of the brand itself). 

Given that my own blog is aimed at men, though, and I’m always banging on about the benefits of room fragrance to men,  I wanted to quiz him specifically about men and candles, a subject I sometimes think counts as The Last Taboo! 

GG: Though an increasing number of men are buying into home fragrance products many are still strangely resistant to their benefits. Why do you think this is?

JW: I believe it’s the idea or association that candles are women’s area of expertise and sometimes I think that women can be quite protective of their territory. I often spend time in the trenches, as it were, meeting my customers in stores and at events. Quite often I’ll see couples and if the man notices my products first and tries to steer his wife over to the display, quite often the woman doesn’t like to be “told” by their partner that this might be a good product for them. I definitely feel that they feel this is an infringement! So come one, ladies, let your men develop the confidence to choose their own scents. Of course, some men will never get their heads around the concept of scenting their environments unless it’s with odors other than essential oils!

GG: Presumably, you’d like more men to get into the candle-buying habit then? JW: Men are so cosmopolitan now and the idea of men as shut-down, emotionally-stunted, neanderthal caveman is so dated. Men’s tastes are highly developed and scent is an area that they are embracing without too much prompting. I do believe there is a market for masculine candles but PLEASE, if I see one that has the word ‘sport’ on it, I may retire. My products have a strong masculine handwriting throughout the scent choices and are not overtly floral or feminine.

GG: What are the benefits of having scented candles in your home if you’re a man?

JW: Lighting a candle awakens one of your primary senses and like a magic wand can wash over you uplifting your mood. For men who lead busy or demanding lives, candles can play a part in helping to relax and soothe. Also, the very nature of candlelight as opposed to electric lighting encourages relaxation.

GG: Which of your candles would you specifically recommend to men and why?

JW: The “Kartushya” from my Russian Collection has a striking heart of birch leaf and rich herbaceous notes complimented with pepper and amber. It’s the perfect male (but not overtly so) candle. “Citrine Ivy” is also a good choice since it’s a fresh tart clean citrus blend of lime flower, grapefruit and tangerine oil with uplifting verbena. Perfect for the study and for the kitchen, offering clean positive masculine notes.

GG: Since men are not quite so savvy about fragranced candles what tips can you give them about how to get the most out of them?

JW: For the first burn commit to 3-4 hours. You need to ensure that the wax completely turns to liquid (anyway this is where all your fragrance is released from). When extinguishing don’t blow it out otherwise you’ll just spoil all the aroma you have just built up. Use a small candle dish or coaster and drop it onto the top of the candle so that it suffocates. Once dried, trim the wick to a 1/4″ and relight.

GG: Why is it important to you to use paraffin-free organic soy and beeswax in your candles? 

JW: There are lots of natural wax blends, this one just happens to be the blend that we designed for our fragrances.. Its the one that works best with my aromas and I find its perfectly balanced. I don’t think that there is one natural wax blend that is better, they’re just different. I choose a paraffin free wax base because I find that it eliminates soot and smoke from the room and gives a cleaner burn. I try not to get all political about it but I do say to people if you care about your personal space and air quality, choose cleaner products to preserve your air quality.

GG: Is there a best place to place a candle in a room/house?

JW: I consider mine to be statement candles so they look great on the coffee table or fireplace. You really want to position it so that it is in a place with good airflow so that the scent can circulate. Never put candles next to a window or under a fan. Its a huge no no as the charge of wind or oxygen will only force the candle to burn faster, hence wasting precious wax.

GG: Of all the ingredients you use which has your favourite smell and why?

JW: I love amber – its in 40-50% of my candles and enhances that masculine handwriting I mentioned earlier.

GG: If you were to create a Jonathan Ward candle (i.e. one that was just for you) which ingredients/notes would it contain to reflect your personality?

JW: I’m not trying to get out of answering this one but my creations are so personal and are referential to my life, travels and journey that they are all reflective of my personality already. Everything I create is so personal it has me all over it (and in it!)

GG: What’s your favourite men’s fragrance and why?

JW: The original Comme des Garcons fragrance because it is so intense and so unique and reminds me of when I was a struggling student. If I’m not wrong, I spent half my grant at the Comme des Garcons store without a care for what I might eat at the end of term!

GG: Candle making is a dangerous business. Any tips for dealing with wax burns? lol

JW: I embrace them! After all, I’ve always said I hate vanilla……

For more information go to  www.jonathanwardlondon.com Check out the Jonathan Ward Facebook page here and follow him on Twitter @J_W_London

From Russia…with love

Readers of this blog will know I love a scented candle. So I was thrilled to attend the launch of three new premium candles by Jonathan Ward latest the other night. Wax Master Jonathan has a well-deserved reputation for creating candles that take you on a journey as much as they fragrance your environment and the ones making up The Russian Collection are no different.

Inspired by Russia’s colourful history each of the trio of candles – Kartushya (warm and spicy), The Gypsy (sensual and floral) and The Empress and Darya (spicy and woody) tells its own evocative story. The latter, for example, was inspired by the the caputure of serial killer Darya by Catherine The Great (now how’s that for inspiration for a scented candle?).

Of the three, my personal favourite is this last candle, which is a perfect choice for men since it’s loaded with earthy vetiver along with warm woody notes and has a  sexy, slightly leathery aroma. So if you’re looking for the perfect way to fragrance your pad, go buy! Or пойти и купить as I think they say in Russia.

Candles in the Russian collection are available in two sizes: large (8.5oz with a 45hr burn time) and medium (6.5oz with a 20-25hr burn time) and are made with organic soy and beeswax. The large candle costs £35 and the medium £25. To buy go to www.jonathanwardlondon.com

PS. Look out for a Q&A with Jonathan on here very soon!