In 7th grade, my friends and I gave each other one of three gifts for special occasions: bath beads (anyone else remember those?), friendship bracelets, and candles. Mind you—the candles we were purchasing were usually only a few dollars and were so sickeningly sweet that they burned your eyes. My appreciation for scent has evolved a lot since then, though I'm just as committed to my love of candles. Since I've become a connoisseur of sorts (my friends joke that there's never not one burning in our home), here are the things I look for, how to have them burn evenly, and what to avoid.
How to properly burn a candle: G thinks I'm rather rigid about this rule, but it's one I stick to: I never burn a candle for fewer than two hours. When I was younger, I'd burn a candle for 20 minutes before running out the door, blowing it out on my way out. The problem with that is that the wax won't melt fully across the surface and go all the way to the edge. Therefore, a candle that would normally be 5" across is suddenly a lot smaller and it will then burn down the rest of the way at that truncated width. It's also important to trim the wick regularly so that the flame doesn't become too high.
Favorite scent to burn in the...
Kitchen: Lemony and fresh. It should smell clean and simple, but not ever take away from the smell of food being prepared.
Living Room: In the fall: woodsy, smokey, fire place-y. In the spring: white, light florals (think: jasmine, gardenia, etc.). In winter: pine/forest-y.
Bedroom: Something a little sexy and androgynous (sandalwood, vetiver, musk, leather come to mind).
Bathroom: Pretty and outdoorsy (think: bergamot and grass) so that it masks any bathroom smells, but makes it a lovely experience for someone in there.
Favorite top notes in a candle: I'm a sucker for a nice balance: sandalwood meets vanilla, rose meets wood, orange blossom and jasmine in pretty much any shape or form.
Best floral candle: It's a tie. The 'Indasmin' candle by Overose is exquisite - it's the purest jasmine-scented candle I've come across. But I'm also partial to Maison Louise Marie's 008 lilac candle with jasmine, orange blossom, and gardenia notes. It's probably the candle I've purchased and burned through more than any other one.
Best holiday candle: During the holiday season, I always splurge on one of Diptyque's special edition candles. They usually come out with three each year and I love their pine-based one. But Thymes Frasier Fir is almost just as good (and a fraction of the price). It smells like a pine tree with a lovely creamy undertone.
Why it's worth it to splurge on candles: You don't need to spend an arm and a leg on a candle, but it's fair to assume that anything under $15 just isn't going to be high quality. That means it won't have a nice, well-rounded fragrance (they typically end up being cloying and far too sweet) nor will it burn evenly. Instead of buying multiple cheap candles, I'd suggest saving up for one that's going to make you happy every time you burn it.
Favorite time to burn candles: There's something very ritualistic about coming home after a long day, putting on music and lighting a candle. It adds such a lovely ambiance and enough can't be said about the importance of the flattering light it provides. But that being said, I've never been one to save candles just for the evening. On a Saturday morning at home, when the sun's filtering in and the windows are open, it feels indulgent to burn a lightly scented candle to make the entire house smell nice.
How to properly put out a candle: Blowing out a candle is quick and effective—and the most obvious way to extinguish a flame—but it's not the best. You've probably noticed that as soon as you blow out a candle, the smoke it gives off replaces whatever pleasant smell the candle had. Instead, I use a candle snuffer—a small metal cone—that suffocates the flame and puts it out while keeping the nice scent in the air, with minimal smoke.