Resting Mom Face

A collage with the author Carly Cardellino and her choice of the best-smelling candles
15 Candles That Actually Smell Incredible When They're Lit

Our beauty expert has tried hundreds of candles — these are the ones she lights again and again.

by Carly Cardellino
Originally Published: 
Resting Mom Face
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

“I love candles that smell like nothing!” said no one, ever. Can you tell this roundup is brought to you by personal frustration? Recently, I purchased two different candles, each $40, both of which promised to smell like some version of a vanilla dream. But when I lit their wicks, they smelled like... nothing. This can happen even if you’re able to sniff a candle’s scent before it’s lit (what’s known as its cold throw); that enticing smell can disappear the second you actually light the candle at home. Disappointing!

Lucky for you, I turned my annoyance into a the helpful guide I always wanted, highlighting 15 candles I’ve personally tried that definitely throw their scent when lit. No more burning (literally) money the next time a candle’s scent has you fooled.

Ahead, the best-smelling candles — my tried-and-true favorites — that actually fill a room with their delicious aroma.

Best Scented Candle For the Kitchen

I absolutely love creating a scent experience in my own home. In our bathrooms, living room, and bedroom we have heartier, smokier scents, but in our kitchen, we love anything that smells like fresh cookies baking. We look forward to the holidays when Bath and Body Works releases their latest concoctions because, honestly, they smell just as good, if not better, than some of the more expensive candles I’ve burned. This particular one, with notes of cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla, is one of my and and my husband Gio’s favorites this season — it literally smells like fresh cookies are actually in the oven baking…and now I’m hungry.

Best Candle For Any Room In The House

I discovered this candle after a reformer session at New York Pilates. When a gym or fitness space actually smells good? Well then you know they’re onto something. Naturally, I had to ask what it was after being so impressed with how well it filled a room. I’ve been hooked and it’s been in my rotation ever since.

Best Christmas Candle

We have a gorgeous faux Christmas tree, so a pine or fir balsam candle is a must-have come holiday season. Nest is one of those brands whose candles burn true to the scent on the label, so their seasonal candle delivers every single year. Their version adds a bit of twist, mixing rich musk and amber into the white pine and fir balsam blend. I love it so much, and I love that visitors who stop in actually think our tree is real because the scent is so legit.

Best Sexy Candle For The Bedroom

A lot of Byredo candles have my heart, but my all-time fave is Bibliothèque. It’s equal parts creamy and velvety — it literally just smells...smooth. I can’t explain it any other way. The notes of vanilla, peach, plum, and patchouli are blended in a way that will never leave you the same again after you smell it — and better yet, light it. Is it possible to have a crush on a candle? Yes. I guess it is.

Best New Candle

My husband and I recently traveled to The Maker, a new hotel in the Hudson Valley, for a couples weekend, and instantly felt like we’d stepped into a swanky hotel in the roaring 20s with a rich, jewel-toned decor. The vibe was perfectly enhanced by this candled, created by the hotel’s owners, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg. They also happen to be the founders of Fresh Beauty, so you can trust they know what they’re doing when it comes to things that smell good. It’s one of the very few candles that I can just burn for extended periods of time. Its smell is potent but not overwhelming, with notes of frankincense, cannabis, and vanilla bean (I have a thing for vanilla scents, if you haven’t noticed). One whiff of this candle, and you’re instantly transported to a burgundy banquette, sipping bourbon neat while being serenaded by Frank Sinatra. This candle is a full mood.

Best Classic Winter Candle

I never had a fireplace in my tiny New York City apartment, but it sure felt like I did anytime I would burn this beast of a candle. Its scent is robust and beautiful — it reminds me of when Gio and I went to Quebec City for New Years and would come back each day to sit in front of the fire, après-ski style, sipping on a hot toddy. It’s such a dreamy blend of rare wood accords. Honestly, we have a fireplace now and I still light it!

Best Special Occasion Candle

This candle smells like a bouquet of spicy black licorice — it’s a sexy, full-bodied scent and I absolutely love it. I feel like I always wait for a special occasion to light it, or when we have new guests over; otherwise, it sits in its chic ceramic holder until further notice, serving as our fireplace mantle decor. I also keep one in our entryway to set the tone of our home.

Best Scented Candle For The Bathroom

We keep this spicy candle in our bathrooms and it’s one of the most alluring, powerful (but not too intense) scents I’ve ever smelled. With notes of notes of pink pepper, rum, and tobacco leaf, it has a a warm but not overly feminine scent that’s perfect for a space I share with my husband.

Best Floral Candle That’s Not Too Sweet

I’m not a floral kind of girl when it comes to fragrances, but I can appreciate a truly great one when it crosses my path. Ouai’s simple-yet-chic candle in Melrose Place is a fresh floral with notes of pink peppercorn, rose, and musk. It’s currently in our guest bathroom and I can say, without fail, that every guest we’ve hosted has complimented our candle choice.

Best Palo Santo Candle

I love burning palo santo in my house, but I the scent never lasts as long as I want it to. The next best thing: a palo santo candle that scents the room for as long as you’d like (well, up to 50 hours). This particular one also adds in a refreshing mix of eucalyptus, sage, sandalwood oil, and white birch wood. It’s divine.

Best Candle To Give As A Gift

When Gio and I got engaged four years ago, Ouai’s founder Jen Atkin and her husband Mike sent us two personalized Santal 26 candles from Le Labo to congratulate us, with “For Carly & Gio” inscribed on both. We burned one and I refuse to burn the other because I love the memory if evokes of the short time that it was just us, before our beautiful daughter Delfina came into our lives. As for how the candle smells, well, it’s one of the most popular candles in the world for a reason: it packs a scented punch that’s equal parts smoky and leathery when it burns, and it fills an entire room with its aroma within minutes.

Best Candle With A Storied History

Back when I was brunette, I was told a few times that I looked like Jackie Onassis — the ultimate compliment— so I was surprised to find out that one of my favorite scents from Krigler, Lovely Patchouly 55, was actually her signature scent for years. This candle, based on that scent, is perfection: It’s a little fruity and musky with notes of red fruits, amber, and musk, topped with vanilla, leather, and bergamot. Sophisticated and feminine yes somehow reserved and elegant — like the woman who wore it. It has a hefty price tag, but it’s worth it.

Candle With The Prettiest Packaging

I love Otherland’s candles for two reasons: their packaging is so fun and feels like jewelry for your home, instantly dressing up any room, and their candles smell great when you light them. One of my personal faves from their new holiday collection is the Alpine Crystal, which smells like a fresh, icy lemon cocktail with a sprig of juniper, all housed in the chicest vintage coupe. I promise you’ll feel instantly transported to a party you don’t actually have to leave the house to attend.

Best Splurge Candle

I know this candle is on the pricier side, but it is one of the best-smelling candles I’ve ever encountered — unlit and lit. It actually smells like a gin and tonic to me, one of my favorite drinks, and I gravitate toward it’s crisp jasmine, vanilla, ginger, and clove aroma. It’s the best gift for a candle lover (hint, hint, Gio).

Best Cozy Candle

This chicly packaged candle smells equally divine when you light it, filling any room — no matter the size — with its notes of pine oil, birch, cloves, and raspberry. It smells cozy, warm, and delicious. Even better, a portion of every sale goes to the Save the Children Foundation.

Resting Mom Face is a column from Romper contributor and beauty expert Carly Cardellino.

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