How We Choose Our Fragrances
When it comes to home fragrance products, the most important factor is usually the fragrance. Scent is so powerful, it can instantly bring back a favorite memory, make us feel safe and comfortable and even subconsciously signify a moment, like when you light a candle at the end of cleaning, it indicates the finishing of something, an accomplishment.
Testing different fragrance oils is one of the most fun parts of what we do. The possibilities are endless and can even be a bit overwhelming at times. Everyone's "nose pallet" as we like to call it can be different, and what smells great to us, someone else may gag at. If you're interested in how Simply Vela chooses our scents and the process behind it, then keep reading as we break it all down.
As humans, we are often drawn to a particular type of scent.
Candle scents are a highly personal choice, blended by our life experiences and personal preferences which usually leads us in one direction or another. It all begins in our olfactory system where our brain makes fascinating connections between scent, memory, and emotions.
Let's Talk Fragrance Oils
All fragrance oils have what's called "notes", a top, a middle and a base. Similar to music notes, these three sets work together to create one harmonious accord. The best fragrances are created by balancing the right combination of top, middle and base notes.
- Top Notes, also known as head notes, are typically 15-25% of the fragrance. These are called 'top notes' because it's what you smell first, it sets the stage for the fragrance, and they tend to dissipate quicker than other notes. Lighter, herbal and citrus scents are usually used for top notes and are meant to intrigue and attract, then transition smoothly into the headier middle notes.
- Middle Notes, also known as heart notes, are typically 30-40% of the fragrance. These make up the body of the fragrance, are the foundation of the fragrance and are what you smell after the top notes have faded.
- Base notes, also known as bottom notes, are typically 40-55% of the fragrance and are what give the scent its "staying power" providing the longest scent of the three. These notes are typically more calming and are made up of large, heavy molecules providing complexity, depth and a lasting impression.
At Simply Vela Candle Co., our standards are rigorous, and we only use fragrance oils that are phthalate-free and exclude any materials that are on California's Prop 65 list. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of products. The most common kind found in fragrance are diethyl phthalates. These inexpensive chemicals can give the fragrance more throw and pop by helping dissolve the raw materials in the fragrance. Unfortunately, they are also listed as endocrine disruptors. Research has linked phthalates to health concerns such as cancer and fertility problems. Although some believe that the risk to human health through candles using phthalates is relatively low, we believe that if we can do it without, then why risk it.
Scent "throw" refers to the release of fragrance from the candle and there are two types of throw. Cold throw is the level of scent release when the candle is unlit at room temperature. Think about the first time you take a sniff of a candle, and how strong or light it is, that's the cold throw. Hot throw is the level of scent release when the candle is lit. For many soy based candles, reaching maximum hot throw happens around the 2–3 hour mark.
The level of scent throw desired, starts at the very beginning of the candle making process and is highly dependent on how the fragrance oil is mixed into melted wax. If the fragrance oil is added at too high a temperature, it will “burn off”, meaning the scent will dissipate long before it reaches the end product. At the same time, we have to make sure the wax temperature is hot enough for the fragrance oil to properly bond with the wax. If the temperature is too low, the fragrance will not bond properly.
The scent notes in a particular fragrance oil also play a big role in the final throw of a candle. Some oils are stronger right out of the bottle than others. The viscosity, or thickness, of an oil can be an indicator. Typically, we find that food scents are thicker and provide a stronger scent throw than say floral scents. By design, floral scents are typically lighter and therefore might not be as strong in a candle than say a fresh-baked cookie scent.
The Deciding Factor
When we are in our sourcing period, meaning it's time for us to purchase materials, specifically fragrance oils from our suppliers, we delve into current scent trends, read reviews and most importantly, we ask our customers what they would like to see from us. Remember, everyone's sniffer is different, and though we may not love citrus scented candles, there is a whole population of folks who love it.
We'd love to hear what you have to say! Join The Simply Vela Candle Family to provide feedback on what scents you love, get early access to new releases and take advantage of secret sales!
The Testing Phase
After we've decided which new scents we'd like to sample, the testing process begins. This step is beyond important and ensures we are only releasing scents that perform well and can burn safely.
- We pour multiple, wickless candles of the same scent but at different fragrance load strengths, varying from 8% - 11%. Some scents are lighter (remember our scent notes?) so they need a higher load, whereas some scents don't need a lot and in fact, could cause a safety hazard if too much is used.
- Most candles need time to "cure", or sit, before they can be lit. This gives the molecules of wax & fragrance oils time to mingle together. The longer the cure = The stronger the scent throw.
- Once the candles have cured for at least two weeks, we need to find the right wick. Each and every fragrance has to be tested because not all scents will use the same wick size. We poke a hole in the candle and insert different wick sizes and styles to find the perfect match. During burn tests, we grade on various aspects of the candle - scent throw, melt pool, burn time, and overall safety.
If the scent passes, we make note of the individual formula & the fragrance moves into production for the online shop. If it fails - welp, it goes in the pile we use to make our at-home carpet powder or exclusive wax melts.
The process of finding and releasing new fragrances is a long but important one. It's a thoughtful process and it's one we enjoy so much. What do you think about the candle-making process? Any other questions we can answer for you? Leave a comment below