These Are the Best Winter Candles I Smelled This Year

published Nov 23, 2022
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Cozy flatlay with wooden tray, cup of coffee or cocoa, candle, notebooks on white sheets and blankets

Winter is peak candle season, with tons of seasonal scents to choose from and an actual reason to light them (darkness! At 4 p.m.! *sobs in front of a SAD lamp*). Since there’s pretty much no limit to the number of winter/holiday candles out there, I yet again made it my personal mission to bring you the best of the best.

I reached out to a variety of candle brands all across the price spectrum, from big retailers to small batch producers. Then, because everyone is different, I invited some friends over to join me for an evening of sniffing a record breaking 106 of them (somehow, more show up every single time I do this). Each candle was grouped into categories by scent notes, and placed in individual paper bags (not lit, don’t worry) so that the smell was concentrated and that my testers weren’t immediately influenced by the packaging.

What you’ll find below are the highest rated candles, plus a few wild cards worth noting.

Woody and fresh candles

Scent notes: Apple, clove, fir, pine needle, white birch, cedar, vetiver, musk
Comments: “Sweet and smokey;” “Curled up by a fire.”

Scent notes: Cardamom, nutmeg, bergamot, birch tar, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, amber
Comments: “My grandma’s cedar trunk in a very good way.”

Scent notes: Lemon peel, cypress, evergreen, cedar, fir, amber, moss
Comments: “Smells like a real tree;” “what I imagine the inside of a snow globe smells like.”

Scent notes: Piñon logs, cedar, vanilla
Comments: “Cozy nights in;” “It’s warming me up already.”

Scent notes: Fir, cedarwood, pine
Comments: “Reminds me of the holidays;” “Nordic.”

Scent notes: Sage, lavender, spruce, pine, oakmoss
Comments: “Comforting;” “calm and relaxing”

Scent notes: Sweet orange, lime zest, lemon, eucalyptus, juniper berry, pine needle, cedarwood, sandalwood, amber
Comments: “Like an earthy pine forest.”

Scent notes: Woodland balsam, crisp eucalyptus, fir branches, cedarwood
Comments: “A really fresh, clean scent;” “Reassuring.”

Scent notes: Grass, juniper
Comments: “Post-rain smell.”

Scent notes: Dwarf pine wood, birch, cedar, smoke, oak ash, resin
Comments: “It smells like the classy old dude I want to grow up to be.”

Scent notes: Balsam fir, musk, winter spice
Comments: “Smells like the holidays.”

Smoky and musky candles

Scent notes: Bergamot, amyris, golden saffron, papyrus, oak, heliotrope, oud, atlas cedar, amber musk
Comments: “Like a hunk!” “What every beard should smell like.”

Scent notes: Heliotrope, white musks
Comments: “Earthy and femme;” “more linen than musk.”

Scent notes: Dark oak, bourbon reserve, smoked vanilla
Comments: “I want to hug this scent;” “Don’t change a thing!”

Scent notes: Warm cardamom, lavender, cedarwood, sweet amber, patchouli, pine needle
Comments: “Reminds me of hunkering down by the fireplace.”

Scent notes: Aromatics, winter citrus, fir balsam, dry wood, pine, cedarwood, leather, suede
Comments: “Smokey and nice;” “Subtle.”

Scent notes: Sandalwood, white smoke, bergamot, birch tar, black rose, incense, smoked amber, charred cedarwood
Comments: “Like scotch;” “My favorite of the night.”

Scent notes: Icy mint, star anise, sage, holly berry, nutmeg, eucalyptus, lavender, cedarwood, praline, snow moss
Comments: “Fancy boutique,” “smells like my friend’s house — she’s an antique furniture dealer.”

Scent notes: Orange leather, peach baskets, red oak, rubber, maplewood
Comments: “Smells like new shoes;” “Like when my wallet was new.”

Scent notes: Fresh sage, juniper berry, aromatic eucalyptus, fresh woods
Comments: “Sweet but herbal.”

Scent notes: Black pepper, cardamom, jasmine, cedarwood, hinoki, oakmoss, vetiver, smoked amber
Comments: “Reminds me of a library;” “Musty in a good way.”

Fruity and spicy candles

Scent notes: Marjoram, Italian mandarin, wild berries, may rose, absinthe, angelica, strawberry-musk, birch wood, Haitian vetiver
Comments: “Like a fresh, cool breeze.”

Scent notes: Evergreen, mission fig, spice
Comments: “Kind of a woody, smokey affair;” “moonlit evening”

Scent notes: Cinnamon, clove
Comments: “Smells like Trader Joe’s cinnamon broom;” “Spicy in a good way … for a very large room”

Scent notes: Cinnamon, spruce, cypress, citrus, spearmint
Comments: “Sophisticated;” “Good candle for Christmas morning.”

Scent notes: Bergamot, cardamom, verbena, eucalyptus
Comments: “Smells like cologne.”

Scent notes: Frosted air, warm amber, cinnamon, cocoa, guaiac wood, cedar, vanilla, patchouli
Comments: “Smells like Vermont;” “Reminds me of Christmas afternoon.”

Scent notes: Wild fig leaf, crisp ambers, neroli, cashmere woods
Comments: “Sweetly vegetal;” “My fave smell.”

Scent notes: Tea, ginger, lemon zest, black currant, floral jasmine, sweet amber
Comments: “Subtle and soothing;” “Smells like an Arnold Palmer”

Scent notes: Baked apple, butter, potato, pomegranate, pound cake, vanilla, sugar, musk
Comments: “Reminds me of volcanic apple cider from my childhood.”

Scent notes: Citrus, spice, warm wood
Comments: “Definitely mulling spices and Christmas eve vibes.”

Scent notes: Fresh cut pine, cinnamon sugar, toasted marshmallow
Comments: “Christmas vibes in the best way.”