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A Skincare Brand’s First Line of Candles Inspired by the Stars

By Renée Batchelor

Courtesy of AesopThe Callipus candle from the new Aesop range.

The Australian skincare and body care brand Aesop is well-loved for its fragrances, found not only in its personal scents, but in everything from its oil blends to its handwashes. But it had not made a leap into producing candles until recently, with its latest collection — a trio of candles named after the ancient astronomers. Aganice, Callipus and Ptolemy bear all the marks of an Aesop creation — they are vegan, smell delightful, and have a touch of refinement both in terms of their design and performance. All three candle scents were created in conjunction with French perfumer Barnabé Fillion, who has also worked on Aesop’s Marakech Intense and Rōzu fragrances.

Dr Kate Forbes, the brand’s director of innovation reveals that Aesop’s customers have been asking for candles for a long time. She says, “We created this elegant collection to offer not only three distinctive new fragrances, but also a subdued, calming light; we have long agreed wholeheartedly with the views of Japanese author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, not least the assertions in his classic work ‘In Praise of Shadows’ about the beauty afforded by flickering candlelight and shadow.” Here T Singapore speaks to Forbes and Fillion on the new candle collection.

What makes Aesop candles different from the other offerings out there in terms of the burning time, scent diffusion and design?

Kate Forbes: All Aesop products are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. The Aromatique Candles each comprise a paraffin and rapeseed oil base with fragrance concentrate, supplemented by a cotton wick. In keeping with our customary approach to packaging, the ceramic vessel that houses each candle is minimalist and elegant — featuring a raw alabaster exterior with a laser-etched Aesop logo, and a glazed interior with a printed quotation. The ceramic is foodgrade, which allows for the vessel’s eventual repurposing after thorough cleaning — it will make a fine drinking cup or utilitarian container for domestic or office items, or a modest yet aesthetically pleasing vase. Aromatique Candles have a burn time of approximately 55 to 65 hours.

What was the process like when developing the candle line?

KF: The overarching concept began with the notion of ‘candles as stars’– in its simplest form, comparing the flickering lights of a candle in the dark to the stars in a night sky. This soon evolved, becoming a wider appreciation of the scientific study of the universe and the fact that stars have a primordial, cross-cultural significance. This research culminated in the naming of each candle for an astronomer of ancient repute — Aganice, Callippus and Ptolemy respectively — alluding to the capacity of candlelight to evoke a calming sense of wonder, much like a radiant night sky.

We have worked with Barnabé for a number of years now. It was something of a natural evolution to work together.

How did you decide on the fragrance profiles?

KF: We have been working on the fragrance profiles for some time, in response to repeated requests from our customers for a range of scented candles. We have also devoted concerted attention to the design of the vessels that would house them. It is through our relationship with Barnabé that we have been able to meet our exacting standards for such a range.

One common thread is the creative process. In all our collaborations with Barnabé, there is a moment in which a particular inspiration or set of inspirations comes to the fore, striking a note that feels precisely right on an intuitive level for the product in question. This will often lead our thinking around ingredients, as exciting correspondences emerge. More often than not, this quite a subtle phenomenon — an unfolding rather than a sudden exclamation.

As with our fragrances and Aromatique Room Sprays, we have utilised botanical ingredients alongside select synthetic fragrance ingredients, working to find perfect unity and structure. We have also once again looked to alternative — often innovative — techniques and methods of extraction in order to achieve and deliver the desired longevity, intensity and balance.

Tell us about the scent of each of the three candles and how they burn and diffuse.

Barnabé Fillion: Aganice has top notes of cardamom, petitgrain and black pepper. The first impression of Aganice is one of bright, green, gently spicy cardamom, counterbalanced by the piquant warmth of black pepper. Complementing these is petitgrain bringing vibrant, sparkling notes and elegant astringency. The middle notes of the candle are mimosa, jasmine and geranium. Floral, pollen-like mimosa combines with a fresh, floral heart of jasmine, tempered by aromatic, green vegetal notes of geranium. The base notes are vetiver, tobacco and labdanum.

Callippus has top notes of shiso, petitgrain and orange. Callippus opens with brightly aromatic, green shiso and the citrus freshness of petitgrain, rounded by sweeter, softer notes of orange. The overall opening character is described as a fresh and original aromatic note with addictive petitgrain. The middle notes of the candle are guaiac wood, frankincense and pine. Guaiac wood confers smoky wax notes, which together with green, woody pine begins to unfurl the dry, woody, earthy accords of the base. Frankincense—rich, balsamic and resinous — lends depth to the heart of Callippus.

Ptolemy has top notes of cypress, forest pepper and orange. Complex from the outset, the top notes of Ptolemy bring the aromatic, sparkling sweet freshness of orange alongside forest pepper that lends vibrant citrus-spice notes. These combined light and fresh spice notes are complemented by the fresh, green, woody notes of cypress, reminiscent of Hinoki. The expression of a fragrance when embodied in a candle differs slightly from that of a room spray or personal fragrance because it has greater linearity — the fragrance essentially ‘lifts’ at the same rate the candle burns. That said, the top notes tend to give an impression of the candle when cold, while mid and base notes are conveyed when the candle is alight; the base notes are the aromas that linger after the candle has been extinguished. It is our hope that the uplifting fragrances and the gentle, subdued light they offer lend a measure of calm and succour in these circumstances.