You could spend a lifetime in the study of fragrances and even then you wouldn't
know all that is to be known. However, science has made giant strides over the past
hundred years and chemists can now replicate any odour very precisely in the laboratory
- perfume manufactures spend millions doing this every year, it's a multi billion
When I say they can closely replicate any smell, that means good
or bad. One manufacturer has even produced a fun fragrance called "Monkey Fart" which smells like, well yes, Monkey Fart
not quite sure what species of monkey was used as a model, but let's hope it
wasn't gorilla, because that's not nice :).
Fragrances for candles are no different from any other perfume, they are made
up essentially from short chain organic compounds (the shorter the chain the more
volatile and short-lived is the fragrance).
You will hear perfumers speak
of top (or high) , middle (or heart) and bottom (or base) notes of a fragrance,
with the high notes being the highly volatile components you smell immediately
and doesn't last very long, The middle notes are bigger molecules which take
longer to evaporate and appear perhaps after a few minutes as well as lasting a
lot longer, then finally, the really heavy bottom notes which don't develop in
sufficient concentration for a much longer period perhaps even hours and can
last for days. So with
any fragrance, there is an initial belt which hits you, and after some minutes
the perfume develops a much rounder character and finally you get left with the
lingering base notes.
NB: The heavy base notes are longer chain molecules
and tend to be more expensive to produce or obtain which is why many cheap
perfumes don't contain so much and consequently are not so long lasting.
Candle perfumes use exactly the same components as any other commercial perfume
and come distributed in a light oil which will mix readily in candle waxes (to a
greater or lesser degree). If you imagine a candle wax as
a sponge, you should be able to visualise how the perfume gets distributed and
held in the wax matrix and while some
of the lighter molecules will evaporate from the surface of the unlit candle in
sufficient quantity to produce a detectable aroma (the cold
throw) most of it is held locked in the matrix until the candle is lit.
Of course, it is in the interest of the candle maker to have some cold throw in
order for customers to be able to select something they find pleasing. One
thing you should understand though, is that very little of the fragrance of a candle is
distributed (thrown) via the flame - in fact any that does get sucked up when
the wax (fuel) burns, will be
instantly destroyed in the very high temperatures that exist there and creates little or no
odour. The smell from a candle actually comes
from the melt pool, so the bigger and warmer the melt pool, generally the greater
the throw will be (for a given fragrance). This is why choosing the correct wick for a scented candle is
absolutely critical and this is why test burns of a new candle design are a fundamental
part of the process for us candle makers.
If you think about it, you
will realise there
are a virtually an infinite number of variables you need to juggle to get consistent
results. The perfume itself is a complex mix of organic molecules which
evaporate at different rates, the wax used
will determine how much of a given perfume can be held in its matrix, any additives
(Stearin, Vybar, Bipol, Polymers etc. etc.) will have
an effect on that too as will the size and shape of the candle and the configuration
of the wick (or wicks). So, getting the combination right for any given candle is what
sets apart amateurs from professionals and some candle manufactures can spend many
months test burning different configurations to get the perfect result they and
their customers are after. They will also retest for new batches of wax and new
batches of fragrance because there can be subtle difference ( particularly with
the wax - fragrances can be much more precisely controlled during manufacture).
Of course, a hobbyist just starting out can still produce exquisite candles by following
the same techniques the pros use - test test test.
All of the fragrances
we sell have been developed by expert perfumers specifically for use in candles and are safe
and consistently good from batch to batch. We aim to test all of the fragrances
we receive with the waxes, dyes and wicks we sell, to check their performance
and give us the raw data that allows us to offer sensible advice to newcomers
and established makers moving to our range of products - you can be confident of
being able to achieve very good results with your own candle designs.
Because there are an infinite number
of variables of wax, perfume concentration, additive concentration, and wick it
is impossible for anyone to predict exactly which wick to use for a given application
and combination of elements, but we can offer a guide on which wicks may be a good starting point, after
that it's down to you and your testing. As your experience grows, you will get better
at selecting the perfect wick for your projects.
As we mentioned above,
testing is absolutely fundamental to candle making success and hand in hand with
that premise is the keeping of good records so you can reproduce results
consistently. We have created a Candle Design Record sheet which we use for our
own testing and we have made a version available for free for our customers to
use for their own records if they choose to. Click on the link below to obtain a
.pdf copy and feel free to share it with your candle making friends.