How to Choose the Best Candle Scents

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How to Choose the Best Candle Scents for You

When it comes to buying, gifting, or making candles the most important factor is typically choosing the best candle scents. How often have you raised a candle to your nose to smell the scent? 

Truth be told, scents play an important role in our lives. And we are often drawn to a particular type of scent. It all begins in our olfactory system where our brain makes fascinating connections between scent, memory, and emotions. Did you know that we as humans can discriminate a scent among more than a trillion different scents?

With this capability, it’s not surprising that candle fragrance is one of the most defining characteristics of a candle. And why so many of us enjoy filling our homes with candles. Scented candles can pull from our memories and build on our emotions adding to the mood in our space just as much or as more as music and color (source). 

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When it comes to buying, gifting, or making candles the most important factor is typically choosing the best candle scents. How do you find the right candle scent for you?

How do you go about finding the best candle scents? 

While you can go about sniffing unlit candles until you’ve overloaded your olfactory system, there is a better way. You see choosing a scented candle is similar to choosing a personal fragrance such as perfume, body spray, or cologne. 

It truly is a personal choice based on your experiences and as a matter of fact, where your nose has been… 

Yet, all things considered, there are certain scents you will always find more appealing than others. And we’ve broken down how to find the best candle scents for you into 4 steps – including a printable candle scent list and candle scents quiz! 

Related To: How to Make Scented Beeswax Candles

Related To: Candle Making Supplies Index

Step 1: Consider Your Space

The first to consider when choosing a candle scent is where you plan to use it. Take, for example, the size of the space you plan to use a candle in. You wouldn’t want to use a big overpowering scent in a small space such as a powder room, but in a large family room, the same scent might smell quite nice. 

This can also be said for types of candle scents, a soft floral scented candle such as my homemade lavender mason jars candles can be relaxing in the bedroom, but in the kitchen, it could interfere with food aromas creating an unappealing smell. 

So if you are wondering if it’s OKAY to have a different candle in every room, the answer is of course! 

Step 2: Choose Your Candle Purpose

Candle Scents for Ambiance

Scented candles undoubtedly are one of the fastest ways to create ambiance. They can introduce a warm glow into any space, but it’s the candle scent that often gives the room a heightened ambiance.

So consider your purpose when choosing a candle scent for ambiance. A zingy, citrus scent is perfect for energizing a workspace. While an exotic scent such as sandalwood can be stress relieving in the bath. 

Odor Neutralizing Candle Scents

Many times the purpose of a candle is to mask odors. Fresh citrus and woody candle scents are often excellent at covering up odors. Yet there’s always one aroma that stands out to me for masking any odor – coffee! The irresistible smell of roasted coffee beans is one just about any nose is drawn to. And it’s bold unique aroma is helpful for banishing any odor – pets, seafood, garlic, even bathroom odors are no more with a coffee scented candle. Use my tips to make a coffee mug candle or wood wick coffee candle

How do you go about finding the best candle scents? While you can go about sniffing unlit candles until you’ve overloaded your olfactory system, there is a better way. Here’s how -

Step 3: Choose Your Candle Fragrance Type

Once you’ve picked your space and purpose, the next thing to consider is the type of candle scent. As a candle maker, I’ve been asked many times over, “What is the best candle fragrance type? or “What is the best fragrance oil for candles?” There are three options when it comes to candle fragrance types and each has its own pros and cons. I’ve briefly summarized each below but you read more in great detail here about each fragrance type. 

Standard Fragrance Oils: 

This candle fragrance type is most commonly used for scented candles. Often listed as broad terms such as perfume or fragrance to hold the trade secret of a candle maker’s scent. Standard fragrance oils give a great cold and hot scent throw. And the choices of candle scents are basically unlimited. However, many are not made cruelty free and some contain chemicals such as phthalates and parabens that can cause all types of health issues as I shared about here. I personally do not buy or make candles with standard fragrance oils, but the choice is yours. 

Essential Oils:

Essential oils have become incredibly popular for all kinds of things, candles included. Each is 100% natural and made from plant material – who doesn’t love that? Essentials oils are loved for their therapeutic capabilities and are the most common way to experience aromatherapy. But, there are limited to a selection of scents derived from specific plants and they are the most expensive option. Nonetheless, I enjoy using essential oils to make scented beeswax candles. 

Natural Fragrance Oils:

I didn’t come across natural fragrance oils until years after I began making candles. Each is composed of aromatic isolates from nature and essential oils. Quite similar to the way the French have been making perfume for centuries, extracting scents from nature – pretty cool, right! Unlike standard fragrance oils, these are phthalate and paraben-free. And many are made cruelty-free as well, like this collection from Wooden Wick & CO. They are more cost-effective than using pure essential oils too. The only downside is they can be hard to find. 

Step 4: Choose Your Best Candle Scents Category

Now onto the part, you’ve been waiting for – choosing your best candle scents!! All scents can be broken into scent category types. What are the different types of scents? Fresh, Woody, Floral, and Exotic are the four main scent categories that match up with our four primary olfactory groups. Each group has a distinct list of characteristics that I share below. 

Interestingly, everyone tends to have a scent category that they gravitate too over all other scents. This scent category more often than not reminds someone of a certain time in their life or evokes their sense of style almost perfectly. 

These scent categories are a great way to uncover what the best candle scents for you are. Then you can look for candles that fall under that category. While some companies do sell their candles in scent categories, others that do not can be easily revealed by reading the descriptions of the fragrance.  And if you’re making candles you’ll know what oils to look for. 

Which are the best candle scents for you? Take our candle scent quiz and download your candle scent type!

Candle Scent Categories:

FRESH 

The candle scents in this category encompass all things bright and invigorating like sunshine and summer. Think fresh citrus, herbal, and clean aromas that speak cool, light, breezy, and fun. Each is vibrant and creates an uplifting, energizing atmosphere.  

Signature Fresh Scent Notes:

  • Lime
  • Sage
  • Bergamot
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Citronella
  • Angelica
  • Tangerine
  • Verbena
  • Basil
  • Clary Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Blends Well With:

  • Sweet, Sugary Scents
  • Light Florals
  • Spicy Warm Aromas
  • Tropical Notes

Fresh Candle Examples:

City Jar Candles – Chicago: Mint, basil, violet leaf, and mineral + San Francisco: Clary sage, bergamot, vetiver, and white sage

Citronella Votive Candles: in a set of three for keeping your outdoor hangouts  bug-free. Refreshing scent is housed in a trio of glass jars with silk-screened icons and maple wood lids. – citronella, ocean air, sea salt and jasmine

Homemade Lemon Essential Oil Beeswax Candles: Homemade beeswax candles on their own have a faint, yet delightful honey-like scent. But, you can make aromatherapy candles by adding essential oils

WOODY

In this category you’ll find all the earthy notes of coniferous, bitters, and moss found in woodlands and mountain sides. Earthy, smoky, and warm notes of cedar, sandalwood, and pine come to mind. Each gives way to feelings of grounding, courage, and coziness – like a big bear hug! 

Signature Woody Scent Notes:

  • Patchouli
  • Cedarwood
  • Vetiver
  • Juniper
  • Sandalwood
  • Black Spruce
  • Balsam Fir
  • Cypress
  • Blue Spruce
  • Douglas Fir
  • Oak Moss
  • Palo Santo
  • Pine
  • Willow Bark
  • Black Walnut
  • Birch Bark
  • White Oak

Blends Well With:

  • Sweet Citrus Scents
  • Rich Florals

Woody Candle Examples:

P.F. Candle Co. Amber Jar Soy Candle:  Amber + Moss: Musk, amber, lavender, sage + orange

Ceramic Jar 3-Wick Candle Noir: Oud Wood & Musk – notes of citrus, leather, clove, nutmeg, woods, musk and amber

DIY Blue Spruce Hand Poured Candles: Bring the outdoors and spread a wonderful evergreen scent throughout your home with blue spruce DIY hand poured candles. 

FLORAL 

This category is made up of scents from flowers. It is the most common of all the scent categories and has been used to mask odors, clean, and provide personal fragrance since the times of Egyptian and Roman Empires. Lavender and rose are the most widely used scents. Each in this category is soft, romantic, and calming to the mind. 

Signature Floral Scent Notes:

  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Geranium
  • Ylang-Ylang
  • Gardenia
  • Lilac
  • Neroli
  • Hibiscus
  • Chamomile
  • Lavandin
  • Hyssop
  • Palmarosa
  • Yarrow
  • Calendula
  • Hydrangea
  • Peony

Blends Well With:

  • Deep Woody Scents
  • Cheerful Citrus
  • Fresh Herbs

Floral Candle Examples:

Flower Press Candles: Featuring a variety of pressed botanical lids, hand-poured candle and fragrance collections that combine intoxicating aromas with real botanicals

Eden’s Tin Candles: Featuring spring-inspired fragrances, this candle fills your home with a beautifully fresh aroma such as Pomegranate Peony and Wild Honeysuckle

Pressed Flower Mason Jars Candles: Quite possibly the best way to fragrance your home… You can add a beautiful fragrance to your home with any candle, but a pressed flower mason jar candle doubles as stunning decoration!

EXOTIC

The exotic scent category is all about warmth, comfort, and indulgence. They are often the scents you want to eat – vanilla, cinnamon, and caramel. While others are resin notes that offer feelings of relaxation. All together each is heady, rich, and luxurious.

Signature Exotic Scent Notes:

  • Vanilla
  • Chai
  • Myrrh
  • Fennel
  • Coffee
  • Saffron
  • Cinnamon
  • Frankincense 
  • Honey
  • Rosewood
  • Anise
  • Nutmeg
  • Caraway
  • Clove
  • Balsam
  • Elemi
  • Ginger
  • Benzoin
  • Caramel
  • Tarragon
  • Cardamon

Blends Well With:

  • Bright Citrus
  • Woody Scents

Exotic Candle Examples:

Driftwood Tray Candle: Ginger Patchouli – An earthy blend of spicy ginger, grapefruit, patchouli, finished with notes of musk and sandalwood. 

Sweet Wilderness: Plum, spruce, grapefruit, mandarin, cinnamon, and clove notes intertwine to form an intoxicating fragrance that fills a room.

DIY Crackling Coffee Bean Candles: Enjoy the familiar relaxing ambiance of a crackling campfire by lighting homemade crackling wood wick candles. Blended with coffee oil and roasted coffee beans, these wood wick soy candles are a great way to jump-start your day!

Find your best candle scents and a printable candle scent list.

So which are the best candle scents for you?

If you’ve gone through each step, you’ve likely gained a good grasp on what candle fragrances you gravitate to most. But, if you’re still unclear take our Candle Scent Quiz to discover which candle scents are right for you! 

For quick reference when buying our making candle, use our printable candle scents guide from the Simple Living Library.

What candle scents are you drawn too? Share it in the comments below or tag #lifenreflection on Instagram to share it with us. Don’t forget to pin this, so others can find their best candle fragrance too!

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