These Are the Best-Smelling (and Coziest!) Winter Candles of 2023

updated Nov 9, 2023
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Winter is my favorite time of year to enjoy candles, with tons of seasonal scents to choose from and an actual reason to light them (hello, standard time, we meet again). Because there’s pretty much no limit to the number of winter/holiday candles out there, I once 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 dozens of them. 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.

Here are the 17 best winter candles from this year’s batch.

Best balsam candle: Bath & Body Works Fresh Balsam

With notes of eucalyptus, fir, cedar, and of course balsam, my testers loved the “nostalgic” and “rich, robust” scent of this candle. “I want to go hermit in the forest with this candle,” another shared. 

 Best fir candle: Thymes Frasier Fir

“Fresh air” and “Christmas” were the takeaways from the testers for Thymes’ most iconic candle. In addition to fir, the scent notes include sandalwood and cedarwood to round out the warming fragrance.

Best spruce candle: P.F. Candle Co. Spruce

With notes of snow powder, blue spruce, cedarwood, and citrus, my testers had a lot to say about this one. “Real tree smell,” “log cabin,” and “faint woodland breeze” all came to mind. 

Best cedar candle: LOHN Sur

Sur is a mix of cedarwood, frankincense, and tangerine balanced with floral notes of almarosa and ylang ylang. Not a strictly woody smell, but “like the California coast when it’s recently rained,” one person said. 

Best pine candle: Bee Inspired Winter Forest

If you like your tree smells balanced with citrus and spice, then this is the one for you. With notes of pine, smoked cinnamon, and spiced orange rind, the testers commented on its “complex” fragrance, picking up on the smokiness. “Christmas tree bonfire,” someone said. 

Best evergreen candle: Hotel Lobby Holiday

This was an overall favorite with the testers, with folks saying it “smells like Christmas outside,” like “Maine summer,” and that they would “get it as a gift for my mom.” One even said it’s “better than the Barbra Streisand song.”

Best luxury candle: Jonathan Adler Muse Miel

I had my testers try and guess the most expensive candle in the lot, and five of them guessed this one correctly. At $128, it’s definitely pricey, but the luxurious blend of acacia, ginger, honeysuckle, jasmine, white floral, and vanilla cream smells “like a wealthy woman standing next to you at the crosswalk.” Plus, the ceramic vessel is gold-plated and gorgeous. 

Best bargain candle: Beloved Cashmere Wood and Sage

This Target candle might only be $14.99, but one tester said its sage and eucalyptus scent “smells like one of the expensive boutiques.” A few picked up on citrusy notes, as well as “clean clothes” and a “throw fresh from the dryer.”

Best giftable candle: Glasshouse White Christmas

I raffle off all the candles at the end of the party, and the Glasshouse ones got the most oohs and aahs over the packaging. The boxes and vessels are decorated like adorable townhouses with illustrations by Michelle Pereira and are such a conversation piece. People loved the scent, too, calling it “vacation,” “very fresh,” and “the perfect candle.”

Best orange spice candle: Enlighten Christmas Hearth

This “pleasant” candle smells like “Christmas desserts,” according to my testers. With notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, fir, and pine, it’s definitely ready for your holiday mantel or table. 

Best fig candle: Apotheke Charred Fig

With notes of wild fig leaf, crisp ambe, neroli, and cashmere woods, several testers said they “wanted to eat” this candle. (Please don’t eat candles.)

Best spiced candle: Fablerune Be Well

Like winter spices? This one has them all. Scent notes include cinnamon, clove, smoke, lemon, thyme, cedar, nutmeg, and rosemary. My testers said it smells like “Vermont,” “hot girl fall,” a “candle shop in Maine,” a “hot winter cocktail,” and a “Boho dream apartment with too many books.”

Best clove candle: Outdoor Fellow Spice Ash

Outdoor Fellow’s new winter candle has both clove buds and clove leaf, as well as vanilla spice, smoky birch, hickory embers, sandalwood, and musk. One tester just wrote “Gilmore Girls,” so take that for what it’s worth. 

Best herb candle: Sea Witch Krampus

Krampus has notes of cinnamon, clove, fir needle, frankincense, orange, patchouli, and peppermint, which my testers said smelled like “boozy spiced punch” and “your auntie’s other boyfriend.”

Best dessert candle: Yankee Candle Marshmallow Eggnog

New for 2023, Yankee Candle’s top-rated submission amongst my testers has notes of white marshmallow, milk, and sweet vanilla. They described it as “not fake,” “french vanilla ice cream,” and “nice and subtle,” which (in my expert opinion) is rare amongst dessert-scented candles that can often be overwhelming. 

Best leather candle: Poured Upstate Hibernate

A new-to-me candle brand, my testers overall loved the submissions from Poured, ranking this one the favorite. They gravitated toward the “masculine” scent, saying it smells like a “six-figure income body wash,” “hugging a good guy,” a “sexy older man,” and “a refined leather jacket.”

Best fresh candle: Thymes Highland Frost

With notes of faded sage, frosted eucalyptus, glistening cypress needles, crystal amber, and velvet moss, my testers called it “delightful,” “herbaceous,” and “a subtle warm blanket.”