These 14 scented candles are truly the best candles you can buy this year

I'm a home fragrance expert, and I love all of 'em

A range of candles sitting on Annie's white wooden coffee table beside a bouquet of daffodils with a gallery wall behind
(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)

Let's get straight to the point: I am a self-confessed candle buff. Truly, I make a point to switch out all of the home fragrances I use as the seasons change. So, the time has officially come for me to wave goodbye to any warm, woody winter scents that took me from fall to Christmas and beyond, and to finally shout about the spring and summer scents I am loving for 2023 — there's a whole bunch of them, so buckle up.

I spend a fair amount of time "testing" candles in my two-bedroom apartment. Because of this, you can bet I am lighting spring fragrances in winter. This ensures that by the time spring comes around, I can recommend all of the best scents to you.  All of the candles that actually impress me get a feature in this guide. And before recommending, I test each candle several times, checking for tunneling and soot. When it's on its last legs, I keep things sustainable, by finding a new use for the vessel afterward.

As well as candles, I also test reed diffusers and essential oil diffusers. I told you: my apartment smells i n c r e d i b l e. Below, I've spoken with a home fragrance expert, too, so if you are wondering which scents best complement each season, I've got answers. Here's what to buy to scent your space this year, from the pros.

What to look for in a candle

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We've listed four specs for each candle below, which can help you choose your favorite:

  • Burn time — compare this with the size of your candle and the price to make sure you're getting your money's worth.
  • Size — choose wisely and based on how large your room is. Go for more than one wick if you can.
  • Notes — what does it mostly smell like? does this fit the current season we're in? Avoid any heavy notes (fruity, woody, spicy) in smaller spaces or enclosed rooms without windows.
  • Wax — soy is better for your health, but it is more expensive and it's harder to clean from a jar afterward. Paraffin is a common choice and still burns well.

The 14 best candles to buy this year


Which candles are the best?

How to choose a scented candle?

"When scenting your home, the most important thing to note is what season it is," explains interiors and home expert Stephanie Goldstone from The Fragrance Company. "You want to create an ambiance that either emulates the season or completely juxtaposes it. For example, during the winter seasons you want to create warmth with home fragrances, and for summer you want to create light and airy freshness, like being at the beach."

Here is what Goldstone has to say about choosing a candle for each season:

"Autumn [or fall] is perhaps the most versatile scents of them all, complementing many different fragrances," she says. "It's at this time where you want to bring in earthy and natural fragrances and add subtle hints of sandalwood and ylang-ylang." 

"Winter is the most scent-worthy time of the year," explains Goldstone. "For winter home fragrance, opt for light pine, cinnamon, vanilla, and neroli citrus for that warm and cozy feeling that will truly make you feel like you're living in a winter wonderland." We've rounded up some Christmas candles to tackle this task.

"Spring is the time of year when you're excited to be venturing outside again," she says. "Bring that excitement indoors by complementing your home with fresh scents of floral and notes of citrus. Fragrances such as lavender, jasmine, and patchouli are great options."

"Summer breeze and beach holidays never cease to put you in a good mood, so bring that same mood into your home with light, fruity, and floral scents," she says. "Aromas such as coconut, geranium, gardenia, and a favorite of mine, rose, are all great staples. "

After this, your next consideration should be where your new candle will live...

For the living area, it's best to consider your aesthetic or decor. You can pretty much go for any scent in this room, from floral to herbal to spicy. We would recommend going for a scent that matches the season, and avoiding any heavy woody or spicy scents in the spring and summer. However, you will want to go for a strong scent to fill each corner of this room, especially if you spend a lot of time in here.

For kitchens it's best to reach for something lighter and airier; the last thing you want to do is compete with food aromas, so we suggest a herbal or ozonic aroma.  

For a bedroom you'll want to opt for an aroma that's lavender or vanilla-based. This will calm your senses and create a peaceful oasis. Anything scented with essential oils is also a great option for a bedroom.

Which candle wax is best?

From testing a bunch of candles, and speaking with a few experts, we know our stuff when it comes to candle wax. Our favorite candle wax has to be soy, though it can be harder to find and slightly more expensive. If you're on a budget then paraffin (otherwise known as mineral wax) is your best bet. 

Here's a quick comparison of the two types of wax from Goldstone.

  • Soy: Eco-friendly, better for your health, melts faster, not easiest to clean but offers a longer burn
  • Paraffin/mineral: Common, holds a lot of fragrance, normally cheapest, easy to clean from a vessel, clean burn but leaves behind soot

What brand is best for candles?

It's hard to choose the best candle brand, but if I had to choose, I would say Nest New York. These candles scream luxury for a budget-friendly price. Their scent throw is impressive and they come in a range of sizes. The company releases new fragrances for each season and its stunning frosted vessels are easy to clean and reuse. The only thing I don't love is the wax it uses — paraffin — but its candles do offer a clean, soot-free burn every time.

What candles give off the most scent?

There's no one straight answer as this will depend on the size of your room and how insulated it is. If your space is large, go for a larger candle (perhaps with three wicks) to scent your space. Always place your candle in the center of your room for maximum scent performance. And, if you have a window open, you'll smell your candle a lot less. The same goes if your room is cold. Warmth will move the scent around a room and stretch it from corner to corner.

Rather than narrowing it down to candles that give off the most scent (all of the candles I featured in this guide have an incredible throw performance), I would opt for certain scents if you want something stronger.

Woody/warm fragrances tend to be strong for the winter and fall
Floral/fruity fragrances are strong performers for the spring and summer

Avoid fresh fragrances if you want something super powerful, as these tend to be toned down slightly. The same goes for some citrus-based fragrances.

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A range of scented candles on Annie's white coffee table with a bunch of daffodils in shot

(Image credit: Future/Annie Collyer)
Annie Collyer illustration
Annie Collyer

Annie is our head ecommerce editor and she has been writing our home fragrance guides since 2018. She also used to curate the home fragrance guides over at Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and Ideal Home. Plus, she has previously written a few candle guides for Woman & Home. Annie lives in a spacious two-bedroom apartment in South East London and tends to lean towards anything warm and spicy in the winter, but in warmer months she loves a fresh fragrance. Each and every one of these candles in this guide have either been tested by Annie or another member of the Real Homes team. She will always test these candles until they've burned almost halfway, and she has reviewed 40+ candles. The ones featured in this guide are only the best of the best.

Here's what we look for when testing candles:

  • By scent — how fitting is it for the current time of year
  • By throw performance — does its fragrance spread itself around a room?
  • By design — what does its vessel look like on display? 
  • By burn — does it burn clean and is it soot-free?
  • By price — is it affordable? Can you realistically afford to replace it once it's empty?

While testing these candles, Annie is completely aware of the environmental impact, which is why, at Real Homes, we have guides on what to do with leftover candle wax, and how to reuse a candle jar.

Up next: Obsessed with that TikTok-famous candle warmer? We found 6 budget-friendly options

Annie Collyer
Head Ecommerce Editor

Hi! I'm Annie, and I'm the Head Ecommerce Editor at Real Homes. Along with my team, I'm here to review all of the products you might be considering buying for your home. As someone who lives in a flat with a small amount of storage space to work with, and with two indoor pets to clean up after, I am forever searching for stylish yet functional appliances that won't blemish my decor if I can't fit them in a cupboard. I love decorating my living room for each season, while my other hobbies include drinking a decent cup of coffee, going on park walks with my dog and enjoying an Instagrammable brunch with my husband.