RANT OF THE DAY: Candle Notes ~ More than meets the eye

The Coastal Oak & Seasalt candle scandal raised another issue I have which has prompted me to write yet another rant!

This, like my last one, is directed at snot-nosed knowitall teenybopper SAs who "think" they know all things fragrance. I'm also writing this for other reviewers, Instagrammers and candle lovers in general. This rant is about notes on the bottom of the candle...

Back in the ancient days at the very beginning of Harry Slatkin's mighty reign of home fragrance, there were no notes on the bottom, you just had to make your own guesses and move on. Then eventually, Slatkin started mentioning notes, at least 5 maybe 6 just so folks could have a clearer idea of what they were sniffing. Over time, especially after Slatkin made his grand exit, the note descriptions become more and more verbose and superfluous like chapters out of "War & Peace" with little room for notes, which were whittled down to 3 at the most. Lately, and I must say I kinda prefer it this way, we just get the bare essentials - no more lengthy fluffy narratives but just 3 or 4 notes themselves...

Which brings me to this question....you DO know there are more than 3 or 4 notes in a candle right?

That sounds like simple question with an obvious answer...you would think. But if you listen to certain SAs in the store or candle lovers on Instagram or Youtube reviewers, that question isn't simple and the answer isn't obvious. People truly believe that what you see is what you get...and that's stupid!

I like to use this comparison..when you're eating spaghetti and meatballs, are you ONLY eating spaghetti and meatballs? Boiled noodles, tomato sauce and rolled up meat? NO! There are herbs and spices and seasonings and oils involved to add taste and flavor and body to the main ingredients.

I mentioned this in my fragrance terminology post , there are 3 layers to a scents

  • base notes are the glue that holds the entire blend together
  • middle notes give the scent some added uumph
  • top notes are what you smell immediately first and foremost
What you're actually smelling is much more complex than it sounds. You have all these notes that aren't mentioned at all, some are practically invisible to your nose and some you would not recognize or like in it's purest chemical form. And there are notes that are actually a blend of other notes in and of itself. Making several notes come together and smell like a certain thing or concept IS a science! 

Another thing to take into consideration with reading and musing over the notes is how much if it is the truth. BBW often stretches the truth or misplaces one note with another. And it's not just BBW - most candle makers or anyone dealing with home fragrance  and even bodycare all do this all the time. It's called MARKETING!

The most appealing sounding notes out of the formula are used in the description. Sometimes those notes aren't eye catching or doesn't flow off  the tongue or doesn't sound particularly very appealing, so they'll use a note with a similar vibe. The notes on the bottom of the candle aren't there to necessarily tell you EXACTLY what you're selling but rather to entice you and pique your interest, something to make ya go "hmmm"

Think of the notes as free samples in a grocery store. People are handing out those free samples to catch your attention, whet your appetite, pique your interest and if you like the sample, you'll certainly like the product itself and be compelled to buy it. It's the same with candle notes; the notes are there to appeal to your tastes and sensibilities and if you like the sound of those notes and you like the way those "notes" smell, then you'll buy the candle and burn it at your leisure. Marketing/Advertising 101!

And the power of persuasion/suggestion is a biotch! Those "notes" are sending all kinds of subliminal messages into your brain and sometimes tricking you into thinking that some of those notes are real and that you smell or at least get the vibe of what the name of the candle. Again, I was duped into thinking Coastal Oak & Seasalt was new and ended up buying and bringing it home...that never happens to me. And I still laugh at people fooling themselves into thinking that Maple Cinnamon Pancakes aka Pumpkin Caramel Latte smelled like maple drizzled flapjakes and BBW made money off of that little con.

So in conclusion, take those notes with the teeniest tiniest molecule from the grain of salt, cuz for the most part, they're BS! 

And now I have a homework assignment for everyone reading this. This is video from a relatively new reviewer, The Candle Enthusiast. He mainly reviews Yankee Candles (boo, hiss, boo!!!) but he did hit up BBW for the first time and dipped his toe into the water with the Hit Refresh collection. What is remarkable and impressive is that he sniffs that candles without looking at the notes, picks apart the blend and guesses all of these notes that he gets. He knows his shit and is very knowledgeable about notes and what they smell like; it certainly helps have prior past experiences as a wine sommelier. I'm telling he will mention notes that you would've even think were there, a few times he even stunned me! So yeah, check out and..well...take notes!



  1. I hate to bring this up, but I haven't been inside a BBW store in a while and made it there the other day. I don't know how anyone can argue that OBD and COS are different. OBD is COS and COS is OBD! Thats all she has to say about that.


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