Candles are very popular household items that are also one of the oldest manmade sources of indoor illumination that the world has ever seen. Earliest forms of candles were made several thousands of years ago through the process of heating and boiling down tallow or fat obtained from the carcasses of slaughtered livestock such as cattle. In other parts of the world, fat used for making candles was obtained from other animals such as whales. Even insects can be – and have been – used in making candles. And so, we now have different kinds of candles with different properties and notes.



Candle notes are scents associated with the burning of scented candles. Basically, they are descriptors of scents contained within scented candles, which become revealed and expressed in form of fragrances or aromas as candles are burned. But before we go further into what candle notes are, we first have to establish what scented candles are.

Scented candles are candles that contain fragrances or aromas which were deliberately added to the melted candle wax during the candle-making process. The perfumes or fragrances which are usually used in making scented candles are usually derived from plants or plant extracts in the form of natural and essential oils. Due to the natural nature of these fragrances or fragrant oils, and their effect in scented candles – which basically means the ability of those fragrances to be expressed during candle burning – scented candles are usually widely employed in the field of aromatherapy; where scents and aromas from natural oils are usually used as relaxation and meditation aids, and for the purpose of calming nerves, through the means of inhalation (i.e. when the candles are burned, the scents are expressed and an individual is able to perceive or inhale them). Due to this usage of scented candles, the types and manner of the type of fragrance deliberately added to scented candles during the candle making process matters. Also, the types and properties of the types of mixtures or blends used in making scented candles is very important, as these combination of fragrances or blends usually make up the notes or descriptors of scents released by the scented candle during every stage of candle burning.



There are usually three categories of notes in candles which are: top notes, core notes and base notes. These notes differ from one another and can be marked by a change in the scent or scent descriptor of a scented candle during burning. Contrary to a lot of people’s assumptions, this change in scent does not happen as a result of the use of different fragrances for different parts of the candle (e.g. citrus fragrance or scent for the top part, lavender fragrance for the middle part and patchouli fragrance for the bottom part). Instead, this change in scent or scent markers is largely dependent on the type of fragrance or perfume blend used in making the scented candle, which was deliberately prepared or mixed and added to the melted candle wax during the candle making process. Another factor which largely determines the type of notes or – more aptly – the pattern of change of scent notes in scented candles is the burn time of the candle.


Top notes in candles are the very first waves of scent which is unleashed when you first light a scented candle and begin to burn or melt it. This category of scent is usually referred to as the preliminary or introductory scent or aroma which is expressed by the scented candles at the beginning of the candle burning process. It is very similar – or even identical – with the fragrance or scent perceived from the candle when it is smelled before candle burning commences.

Top notes in candles tend to be of floral or flowery types of scents and therefore tend to include scents such as the aroma of fresh roses or lavenders. They may even include citrus, fruity scents, powdery aromas or sweet smelling fragrances such as that of vanilla.

Eventually, as burning time continues to progress, these soft, sweet fragrances tend to give way to core notes (e.g. spicy scents , fragrance of fresh sweet-smelling blossoms and other oriental scents, among others) and then base notes (e.g. woody scents such as sandalwood and patchouli).


Top notes are very important because they pave the way for all other scents. Where all the scents and blends of fragrances in scented candles are concerned, top notes serve as an ambassador or emissary or sorts. For instance, when you walk into a store to purchase candles and you bring those candles to your nose so that you can determine their scent – along with its type, fragrance property and fragrance strength – the aroma you’re actually inhaling is the top note.

Also, when you set about lighting the candle for the first time, after you’ve trimmed the wick and everything, the first few hours of burning time or the candle’s lifespan is going to be spent expressing the top notes. This is because the top notes is the very first type of fragrance released. Additionally, as the top notes sets the tone for the entire candle burning process, it is very important for candle makers to be very attentive to their perfume or fragrance blending process, so that they will be able to produce the absolute best quality of top notes that flow smoothly into the rest of the candle’s scent profile (namely the core notes and base notes). It is very important for the transition from the top notes into the core notes to be as smooth as possible, and not at all jarring. This is also why the top notes of candles must be very compatible with the rest of the candles’ scent profile. There are a lot of different types of top notes however, the most common and typical types are usually floral and sweet-smelling scents such as lavender, roses, vanilla and citrus.

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