The Aromatic Dance: A Journey Through the History and Use of Fragrances in Candles

Candles have been an integral part of human culture for centuries, serving not only as a practical source of light but also as a canvas for artistic expression and sensory delight. One key element that has transformed candles from mere illumination to a multi-sensory experience is fragrance. The use of fragrances in candles has a rich history, dating back to ancient civilisations. In this article, we will embark on a journey through time to explore the history and contemporary use of fragrances in candles.

The Ancient Beginnings

The use of candles can be traced back over 5,000 years to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. These early candles were made from tallow, a substance derived from animal fats, and primarily served as a source of light. However, they were often scented with herbs and spices to mask the unpleasant odour of burning tallow.

Ancient Egyptians are credited with some of the earliest known uses of fragrance in candles. They infused candles with essential oils extracted from plants like cinnamon, myrrh, and frankincense. These scented candles played a significant role in religious ceremonies and were believed to have spiritual significance.

The Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages, candle making underwent significant advancements in Europe. Beeswax, a more refined and pleasant-smelling material than tallow, became the preferred choice for candle production amongst the upper classes. The use of fragrances in candles continued to evolve, with the incorporation of exotic spices and floral essences.

In the Renaissance era, candle making and fragrances became more accessible to the general population. The development of perfumery led to more refined and intricate candle scents. Lavish court events and religious rituals often featured intricately designed and fragrant candles.

The Industrial Revolution and Modernisation

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries marked a turning point in candle production. The mass production of candles using stearin, a derivative of animal fats, became widespread, making candles more affordable and accessible to the general public. Fragrance was now an option for the masses, rather than a luxury reserved for the elite.

The 20th century saw the development of paraffin wax, a by-product of petroleum refining, which further revolutionised candle production. Paraffin wax candles were inexpensive to produce and allowed for a more controlled release of fragrance. This innovation made scented candles even more popular.

The Contemporary Era

Today, candles are a ubiquitous presence in homes and have become a means of self-expression and relaxation. The use of fragrances in candles has reached new heights, with countless scents and combinations available to cater to diverse tastes and moods. Aromatherapy has also played a significant role, with candles designed to promote relaxation, focus, and well-being.

Soy wax and other natural alternatives have gained popularity as environmentally conscious consumers seek cleaner-burning candles. These waxes are excellent carriers for fragrances and provide a sustainable option for scented candles.

Fragrance Selection and Creation

Choosing the right fragrance for a candle involves a delicate balance of art and science. Fragrance oils, which can be natural or synthetic, are carefully selected for their compatibility with the wax and the desired scent profile. Expert candle makers blend these oils to achieve the perfect scent, often combining top, middle, and base notes to create a harmonious aroma that evolves as the candle burns.

Some popular fragrance categories for candles include floral, fruity, woody, and spicy scents, each evoking a unique atmosphere and mood. Custom fragrances are also created by skilled perfumers for niche markets, allowing for highly specialised candle experiences.


The history and use of fragrances in candles reflect the evolution of human creativity and the desire for sensory enrichment. From the ancient Egyptians masking the odour of tallow to today’s diverse array of scented candles designed for relaxation, mood enhancement, and even spirituality, fragrant candles have come a long way. As we continue to seek comfort and solace in our homes, the timeless allure of fragrances in candles ensures their enduring popularity in our modern world. Whether it’s the nostalgic scent of a childhood memory or the soothing aroma of a spa-like oasis, fragrant candles continue to add depth and delight to our lives.

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Candice Jackson