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Toronto-based Brennan Michael reveals how he creates a quality candle

Written by Ross Dias

Whether it helps you to relax or you simply want to create the right atmosphere, a scented candle is a great addition to any room. Thankfully, there are plenty of companies out there that offer a diversity of options for every mood, room and preference. Skip the big box variety and instead opt for something a little more independent. Here are four brands that we recommend and Toronto’s Brennan Michael lays down the law on what makes a quality candle. 

Woodlot

Free of petroleum, phthalate and GMOs, this Vancouver-based business crafts handmade, organic coconut-wax candles, among other home and beauty-based products. With a foundation rooted firmly in family tradition and childhood memories, Woodlot uses hand-rolled cotton wicks (a technique passed down from co-founder Sonia Chhinji’s Indian heritage) and pure essential oils to create their diverse range of aromatic offerings.

Foxhound Collection

Kelsey Wier runs her business out of Truro, Nova Scotia with a transparency about the ingredients in her hand-blended candles. Inspired by seasonal adventures, each fragrance evokes a scene straight from a slice of time. As with most candles, once you’ve reached the end, you’re urged to reuse the jar to pot plants or store pens.

Sydney Hale

This eco-friendly chandler from Virginia is all about synergy. With options like Eucalyptus + Sage and Bourbon + Brown Sugar, these double cotton wick soy wax-blend candles are also big proponents of supporting man’s best friend. The business donates to dog rescue shelters across the US, and even has a special concrete-cast candle dedicated to our furry friends.

Brennan Michael

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Charlottetown-bred and Toronto-based Brennan Michael is all about the olfactory experience when it comes to his brand of premium candles. Made from 100 percent soy wax and fine oils, Michael draws inspiration from nature, evidenced in his use of dried orange peel, patchouli and eucalyptus notes, among others. Working out of his Toronto lab, Michael frequently collaborates with other creative minds, having most recently worked with cannabis coffee shop, Tokyo Smoke, to translate the elevated marijuana experience.

CANDLE 101

What are some basic ingredients that make a good candle?

My candles are made using the highest quality soy wax and oils. In addition, the manufacturing process of my candles is entirely dependent on temperature particularity. This took some time for myself to perfect.

What are some tips a customer should keep in mind when buying new candles?

What kind of wax the candle is made of should be number one. You’ll likely want to avoid candles that emit petro-soot. This is an unnecessary byproduct of candles made with paraffin wax. Second thing I look for is the wick size and the burn rate. With scented candles, you’ll want the wick to be sizeable if your vessel is medium / large in diameter. That way your candle will melt evenly and burn hotter, thus improving your scent throw.

How are scents selected and perfected in the candle making process?

My scents are designed and perfected through a meticulous trial and error process. It starts with my initial inspiration. Then I go mixing and blending the oils to appropriate ratios. Many of my scents have been developed over the span of six months to a year. It is a very careful and delicate process perfecting an oil blend based on my tastes and feedback from others. For candles, the cold throw and hot throw will always differ. So I am always making tweaks based on the outcome of combustion. Essentially, I ensure the candle will smell amazingly hot and cold.

What determines quality in luxury candles today?

Luxury candles to me are defined by the quality of the ingredients as well as the complexity and purity of the fragrance. I also judge a luxury candle by its performance in a medium to large size room. Packaging is another very important piece of the puzzle in the presentation of a luxury item. But the proof is always in the pudding.

What are some essentials tools and steps in creating luxury candles?

Time and patience. Plain and simple. A well constructed product will always take more time and consideration in an aim to optimize and perfect the end product. In the manufacturing process, using the proper tools and instruments to accurately calculate measurements, temperatures and timing is essential. Also to re-emphasize sourcing the best quality ingredients is imperative.

How can the wick and the wax work together most effectively?

The wick and the wax should compliment each other so that they burn at an even rate. You want the melt to be significant in order to achieve a full melt pool which will throw the scent and permeate your space. Wick maintenance is also essential in a safe, even burn.

What are some proper ways to store candles?

Soy candles are fine to be stored moderately above or below room temperature. Also try and keep them away from sunlight, dust or other particles.

Where should candles be placed in a home?

Anywhere safe, in sight and away from anything flammable. Ideally you’ll want your candle to decorate your space and please your guests so it’s nice to keep it at around eye level.

How often should candles be lit to ensure longevity?

Generally 2-4 hours at a time for my 9oz soy candles. Burning them evenly to a full melt pool each time will help prevent any tunnelling and improve its longevity.

What should customers be looking out for in terms of harmful chemicals?

I would avoid paraffin wax is my number one. Paraffin wax is a petroleum derivative that emits toxic petro-carbon soot when burned. Also if you can, try and avoid wicks with lead or metal cores. These metals may help the wicks retain their form, but they can be toxic when burned. I make my wicks entirely from braided cotton with no metal or lead cores. Lastly, always be on the lookout for candles with an emphasis on quality ingredients. I avoid oils with phthalates or low grade synthetics. Unfortunately, a lot of candle manufacturers do not consider this as important. And the majority of candles on the market today are still made with paraffin wax due to its low cost and wide availability.