Scented candles make great gifts, they dress up any room and they add an extra touch of luxury to a hot bath. There are some great Irish companies turning out clean, quality candles and body products that’ll make you want to stay at home for a bit of pampering rather than splash out at a spa. Here are a few of my favourites.
Fashion designer Karen Lavelle spent 11 years working with the Gap in New York before returning to Ireland to raise her three children. Working out of a studio at her home, she developed Soilse Candle Company, a range of soy wax candles that she says "encapsulate the essence of the Irish countryside".
Available in six lovely scents, these candles are available in glass jars (€18.95) and aluminium travel tins (€9.75) and come ready to give as gifts in handsome brightly coloured boxes. For a bath, Karen recommends Connemara Mist with its calming eucalyptus or, my personal favourite, A Soft Day, a fresh, clean scent that she tells me is meant to evoke a “a green field after a summer rainfall”. What’s better than that?
Donagh Quigley used to thatch roofs for a living, but after the recession hit in the late noughties, "the bottom fell out and I had to do something new". How he went from thatching roofs to making hearty bricks of soap in an old linen factory in Slane, Co Meath, is a long story but an interest in products suitable for sensitive skin and ethically sourced natural ingredients was a part of the transition.
He launched The Handmade Soap Company in 2010 and now makes soy wax candles, diffusers, lotions, gels, balms, butters and bath salts that not only smell fantastic, but come in beautiful packaging in soft, muted colours – elegant, yet down to earth. Everything is very reasonably priced, with diffusers topping the collection at €24.95. I particularly like the Lemongrass & Cedarwood range, which is refreshing and earthy. Be sure to check out their soaps – the Grapefruit & Irish Moss is just lovely – and lotions for some post-bath moisturising.
Brothers Mark and David Van den Bergh run Max Benjamin, a natural wax candle company founded by their sister Orla. After working in a candle factory in the United States on a J1, she began making candles as a hobby and turned it into a small business.
The company now sells to high-end stores across the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan and has expanded to include fragrance diffusers and body products, but it's still a small operation: everything is made at the family home in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, in what used to be stables.
I discovered Max Benjamin candles when a friend gave me one from their tea collection. Sweet and herbal, but not overpowering or cloying, I absolutely love the relaxing aroma it adds to a room and it looks great. Classic and elegant, the tea collection candles (€15) come in tins that are duck egg blue and gold, with a pop of colour for the minimalist label. These candles are made with soy wax blended with other natural waxes, such as canola, coconut and beeswax. The Lemongrass & Ginger, French Linen Water and Dodici-scented candles (€19), which come in simple white jars, are some of their most popular.