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The Brutal Beauty of Autumn, as Explored Through Scented Candles

Autumn. Fall. Those two nice weeks between sweating and freezing. Whatever you choose to call it, we are now in a season of change. A blissful duality hangs on the wind that chills while the sun still warms. A harbinger of death that brings life to new and bountiful treats like sweaters and gourds. We are pumpkins, scooping out our own insides as an offering to our one true god: fall. Our jagged-tooth Jack O’Lantern smiles reach out to everyone we see. “It’s finally sweater weather!!!” we beat our chests, we keen.

Join me, won’t you, as I tour this season. Not with my feet, blissfully stomping the sodden ground. Nor with my ears, catching the crunch of the umber and rust leaves caught underfoot. Nor with mine eyes, taking in the lopsided smile of the lanky scarecrow (for whom does he scare? You? Me?). No, mine is an olfactory journey through these brisk months, one that combines man and moth’s most basic attraction to light [Ed. note] with a sophisticate’s need for complexity and nuance. I’ll be exploring all that is fall through 10 scented candles. Join me, won’t you….


I begin my journey…in a wood. The Wood candle by Sandoval gently sneaks up on me, catching me unaware, like a fox trodding alongside you in what you thought was a solitary walk through the forest. A light scent, this candle burns with a subtle and familiar smell: Is that citronella? No! Summer has been buried under the earth’s crust only to be summoned by the sun’s needy resplendence.

I move from a wood to The Woods by Byredo. A mere one extra letter belies the heavier scent of this candle. More perfumed than its singular counterpart but no less enchanting, it leaves a heavier cloud of fragrance, similar to the way cold air hovers amongst the tree canopy in a forest. Both its heavy pure scent and heavy price tag make this a candle for special occasions: Has your husband finally returned from the hunt? Was the harvest bountiful beyond measure this year? Have you built your own cabin in the woods with your bare hands, a woman on her own? Burn this candle and reflect on your own power in its forceful flame.

Through the woods I stumble upon United by Blue’s Log Cabin. It still holds a hint of the woods/wood but with a bit more smoke. It comes in a thick glass jar to hold all of my autumnal hopes and dreams. Made to work indoors or out, I take this candle with me on a sojourn to the center of my desires, holding it close to my heart as I stand boldly on the precipice (literal or otherwise). As I leave behind the comfort of the cabin I vow to move onto areas that celebrate the true nature of fall…

Rounding a path of meditative consumption my nose encounters a pumpkin patch. Nest’s Pumpkin Chai is bold (one does not burn the essence of fall’s most famous fruit in search of subtlety) and burns with a sweetness synonymous with the Starbucks invention of pumpkin rather than the orange garden orb’s natural earthy scent. It is comforting in the way banana Laffy Taffy tastes not like bananas but of one’s own carefree youth. It is a hearty candle, making almost all of my humble apartment smell of orange wax.

And Lo! The hurried rustle of cornucopias overflowing signal it is time for Autumn Harvest, a two wick candle featuring a melange of pumpkin and pumpkin-adjacent scents. More mellow, it is the shyer, younger sister of the pumpkin candle with more varied interests. What interests, you ask? From the scents of her, I would hazard baking and mulling. If you are in the market for a candle that smells like “fall” in the most manufactured of senses, I would recommend this hearty little fellow. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy an extra wick?

Are you familiar with the song “Fields of Gold” by Sting? Imagine that the fields of which he sings are not of barley but of vetiver. Do you have it yet? There. Welcome. Now you have arrived at Ralph Lauren’s Vetiver candle. It is a gentle vetiver, smelling straightforwardly perfumy. Unfussy and clean, falling in line with the Ralph Lauren aesthetic, this candle makes one long for the genteel days of the competitive vetiver harvest!!! Please wait while I gaze wistfully into the gloaming.

Now as I round the vetiver field, I reach down and find myself with a handful of sage. I tuck it into my pocket, delighting in how well it will pair with a nutty brown butter at tonight’s feast, and then my feet seem to magically take me to Lafco’s Vetiver Sage Country House candle. Layered and warm, there’s a smokey mystery to this candle that pulls me into its scented bosom.

Next I find myself, surprisingly, at the door to a kitchen. It opens slightly and I know that I am welcome. I come in and remove my cape as a motherly figure hands me Cardamom Milk by Otherland. It is powdery and sweet. If I should ever find myself missing the strong sugary scent of the pumpkin candle but want something that does not shout “fall” as strongly, this candle will surely hit the spot.

I doze off by the light of the hearth. When I awake, I feel the need to look for another warm drink to embrace me in its enveloping heat. Kusmi Tea’s Matryoshka Candle is lightest in the quality of its scent, with a mix of tea and citrus. It smells like orange peels and spices simmering on a stove, welcoming one in. This is a light fall afternoon of a candle, not quite ready to pile under the blankets with a good book, but offering one a quick respite from the blustery outdoors.

I wrap myself in a shawl, warm yet austere, and move to stare romantically out of a window. As beads of rain lightly pitter patter against the leaded pane I take heaving, full inhales of my final candle. The Ritual of Yalda by Rituals smells the way it looks: the deep plum color like a fruity tea that lulls its sipper to sleep — naturally sweet with an undertone of something I can’t quite put my finger on, like a mysterious lover who showers me with kisses but never fully lets me in.

I smile. It is the smile of a woman who has experienced a fall well lived. As I peer out into the distance I think I see winter approaching. I turn, my arms cradling each candle as if a precious child. I offer them out to you in a gesture of autumnal good will, hoping that you will find your light.

Most Seductive: The Woods by Sandoval

Most Seasonal: Autumn Harvest

Most Sensitive: Vetiver Sage by Lafco

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi. 

Nora Taylor

Nora Taylor

Nora Taylor is the Editor of Clever. She can frequently be found knocking things over in the greater New York City area.

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