Welcome to Part II of behind the scenes of candle creation - the process of curating, testing and selecting the fragrances we use.
This is both my favorite part of candle making, and the most frustrating. I am very picky about the candle fragrances I choose. I tend to get headaches from more "artificial" smelling candles, and so some fragrances get thrown out of the running immediately. A note about the use of "artificial" - nearly all candles you buy, whether mass produced or homemade, will use fragrance oils rather than essential oils. The reason for this is that many essential oils are not appropriate for burning - they're great in a diffuser or other method that involves low heat, but are unsafe in a candle with open flame. Even for those essential oils that are candle safe, the cost involved for many of them would lead to a pretty pricey candle. So most fragrances are "artificial" to some degree, including the ones I use, but I've definitely found that some read as more artificial than others.
Just a fraction of my fragrance testers...
Fragrances out of the bottle are intense and hard to judge - you really get the full picture once you put it in a product - candles, perfumes, wax melts - so each fragrance that I find gets a new life as a mini test candle or wax melts. After curing, I evaluate the fragrance's cold throw (how the candle smells unlit) and hot throw (how it smells when burning). What I'm looking for is a carefully curated collection of unique and complex fragrances. While I don't have anything against standard mass market candle scents, I got into candle making because I wanted to find more interesting and unusual scents. What that looks like in practice is that I have a serious fragrance addiction and have tested literally hundreds of fragrances in my quest to offer thoughtfully designed candles that evoke specific moods, feelings, and memories.