These Lockdown Candles Were Made to Smell Like the Places We Miss Most
It takes 60-odd days to form a habit, and most people will be sheltering in place longer than that. Many already have been.
Which means we've changed, despite ourselves, on a profound level. In the U.K., Earl of East's latest line of candles illustrates that in a manner most sublime. It's partnered with Uncommon Creative Studio and the charity Hospitality Action—which helps people in the service industry weather setbacks—to create "Scents of Normality," a collection of luxury soy candles that embody everything we miss about pre-lockdown life.
So much of that includes banalities that are now alien. Thus, the three available aromas reflect "some of the nation's favorite hangouts," according to Uncommon: The Local (as in the local dive bar), The Cinema and The Festival.
Think of them as a sensory version of Pablo Neruda's Odes to Common Things.
The Festival will bring keen comfort to U.K. residents disappointed by the cancellations of Glastonbury, Lovebox and the Isle of Wight Festival. It's a resonant bouquet of cut grass and sun-warmed cider, laced with a ribbon of sweet cannabis smoke.
"Scent has a unique way of conjuring memories and transporting us to places we'd love to be. From the cobbled streets of Copenhagen to the Onsen baths of Japan, [our] scented candles are all inspired by travel," explains Niko Dafkos, who co-founded Earl of East.
Out of curiosity, we Googled the most popular fragrances sold by candle manufacturers. Here were the top three for scent designers Alpha Aromatics in 2016: Third was Huckleberry Sugar Blossom, which smells of "home and a cozy fireplace with the mouth-watering promise of huckleberry pie fresh from the oven." Next, Beachwood Vetiver and Sea Spray Driftwood evokes the beach, a serene escape for when the hectic machinations of urban grinding have corroded your soul. And No. 1 was Citron Blossom Cassis, "perfect for intimate dinners and evenings by the fire."
Sensing a trend? We used to want to escape other humans. Indulging in the fantasy of home, as if it were a cozy, well-stocked Hobbit hole, was a major theme. How things change.
"Whilst we can still dream about … far-flung destinations, it's actually the places closer to home that we miss the most," Dafkos goes on. At this, we imagine him waving a scented wand from which wafts the ambiance of wine on a warm terrace down the street, laced with the tangy flavour of spiced popcorn, and sticky-sweet gossip. (Maybe next collection.)
The Cinema is "a heady fusion of salt popcorn"—ah, speaking of—"foam banana and glistening hot dog, enveloped in a fug of recirculated air. A waft of cloistered contraband chicken meets the allium tang of adolescent boredom, laced with juicy notes of melting slushie syrup. An evocative blend, with just the faintest whisper of third base in the back row."
Mmm. Our hearts briefly clenched.
Last comes The Local, which may be our favorite: "Top notes of spilt beer, hair pomade and chip fat jostle amongst a pungent base of varnished teak and sticky carpet. A waft of testosterone gives way to the ersatz-lemon of a urinal block, as the salted breath of pork scratchings is soused in cheap rosé and freckled with cigarette ash. A potent fragrance that lingers, like the melancholy ramblings of an old inebriate."
Oh, to have been the copywriter on those briefs! But of course copy's just part of it; each candle sports an illustration to embody its aromatic signature. The Festival was illustrated by Lan Truong out of Portland, Ore.; Thomas Hedger gave life to The Local. And Victoria Sieczka in Vancouver lent her stylus to The Cinema.
The illustrations and playful scent descriptions are running in the streets, but will also appear as print ads later this month. Each "Scents of Normality" candle costs £45 ($55), and sales will support Hospitality Action—so while huffing on stale popcorn and nostalgia, you can help sustain such businesses.
"Having the opportunity to recreate the essence of these familiar haunts whilst also supporting an industry that has been hit so hard by the crisis is a real honor," Dafkos says, ever the wise merchant: He's found a way to indulge our longing while making it feel noble.
Creative Studio: Uncommon Creative Studio
Candle Makers: Earl of East
Charity Partner: Hospitality Action
Photographer: Catherine Losing
The Festival illustrated by Lan Truong
The Local illustrated by Thomas Hedger
The Cinema illustrated by Victoria Sieczka