Burn after reading: the best fall candles ranked

Art by Emily Loccisano

What is it about fall candles that sends everyone into a frenzy? Do their flames spark the start to the best times of the year? When we can finally dig out our sweaters and start ordering hot drinks from Starbucks again? Unless you’re a year-round iced coffee person, in that case, I admire your dedication.

In an attempt to understand the hype around fall scents, A Magazine sent me on a mission to rank three different autumn-scented candles from three very popular stores. I have to admit, out of all my senses, I’ve ranked my sense of smell the lowest (yes, they’ve been ranked). Which means a lot considering my eyesight gets monumentally worse the older I get. Nonetheless, I sat down with my test subjects and my scent neutralizer— a grande flat white— and gave it my best shot.

There has to be thousands of different kinds of fall-specific candles out in the world and I like to think I’ve discovered the perfect method of ranking them. You see it all comes down to four categories: name, packaging, wick quantity and, obviously, scent.

Let’s start out with Trader Joe’s vanilla pumpkin candle ($3.99), otherwise known as heaven in a small, aluminum tin. It smells exactly like the Amish-made pumpkin cookies I used to love as a child and have since considered entering the Amish faith just to get my hands on again. If you don’t like sweet smells, this probably isn’t for you. The vanilla scent really takes control while the pumpkin is more a pleasant but faint afterthought. One slight annoyance is that it doesn’t burn evenly, and I’m not sure if that bothers me more for aesthetic purposes or because it feels like a waste of wax. In the end, my only serious criticism is that it doesn’t come in a bigger size. I’m already burning through my second.

Next, I picked up the Opalhouse bourbon pumpkin candle from Target ($9.99). First, I need to talk about the name because it sounds like the drink of the week at a hipster dive bar, but I’ll let it slide considering Target had another candle close by on the shelf just called, “Leaves.” As far as the smell, since we seem to be talking food, my mind went straight to those cinnamon rolls that they used to sell at McDonald’s. You know the ones that you would only eat when you were on road trips? Do those still exist? If you want to know what this smells like, just go order some of those. Or you can go to Target but then you wouldn’t get a cinnamon roll out of it.

I certainly wouldn’t call the smell bourbon, but for aesthetic purposes, I get it. The overall look of the candle seems fitting for an upscale bachelor pad. It’s definitely the most stereotypically masculine of the three candles. The ultimate reason I’m ranking this candle in second place is because of its how it burns so perfectly. That two-wick feature really pulls through with this one. Talk about an even burn.

Last, I snagged the Great Value autumn delight candle from Walmart ($4.97). I need to first mention that this one has FOUR wicks. Lighting them all at once was genuinely stressful, but completely worth it. I could’ve definitely roasted marshmallows over that flame. As far as the name goes, I give it a solid two out of 10 for creativity and 10 out of 10 for suspense. I truly had no idea what to expect before opening. I would describe the smell as, being at a mediocre diner and the waitress who calls you “hun” just placed a stack of pancakes right in front you. In much fewer words, it smells exactly like maple syrup. Autumnal? Sure. Exciting? Not so much. Altogether, it’s quite generic. It serves its purpose though. I’m sure of that. Just not until I burn through the other ones. Or if my power goes out and I suddenly need a portable campfire. 

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