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Fragrance handbook: Creating a Winning Candle Fragrance—from Brief to Manufacture

By: Robert Siegel
Posted: May 21, 2007, from the June 2007 issue of P&F magazine.

No surprise, candle fragrances are the bread and butter of many midsized fragrance houses, and many considerations need to be taken into account to create a winning submission. In my career, I have encountered many fragrance briefs for candles, which, to say the least, present the perfumer with many challenges. Some typical customer comments:

Indeed, most of the important issues that come up when creating candles can be summed up with three “C’s”: cost, compatibility and cold throw.


In Example 1, a fine fragrance that may have a raw material cost of $20 per pound presents price limitations in candle formulations. Appreciable amounts of expensive essential oils are virtually off limits to candle scents, not to mention the other absolutes and modern aroma chemicals found in the new designer fragrances. Simply diluting a fine fragrance composition won’t cut it either, as candle manufacturers demand high-impact scents to attract consumers who base their purchase decisions on the smell of the candle right off the shelf, i.e. cold throw.

Ingredient alternatives: So what can one do? A good knowledge of essential oil compositions helps, allowing the perfumer to choose lower cost substitutes. For example, instead of using 10% lavender oil, I have used lavandin oil on occasion, or a mixture of both materials. The amount of patchouli oil used can be hedged by incorporating guaiacwood, cedarwood and Gurjam balsam oils. Then, of course, there are a myriad of cost-efficient synthetic aroma chemicals, which can be used to replace or enhance expensive oils, resulting in more bang for the buck. The perfumer has a great option, for example, in creating a sandalwood note by using a combination of synthetics to achieve the desired effect.