There's a reason candles are such a safe bet during this season's gifting bonanza: Most people love getting them, which is why it's always useful to have a stockpile on hand to serve as quick hostess gifts or to evade those terrifying moments when a friendly acquaintance hands you a present and you realize you have absolutely nothing to offer in return.
With that in mind, we dutifully tested dozens of candles to find the most distinct and interesting scents worth considering during your last-minute holiday shopping. Find our favorites below and maybe consider picking one out for yourself, too.
Finally—a scent that seems to scream, Does this gold jewelry match my white caftan? With one whiff of this highly realistic interpretation of heady jasmine, you'll find yourself magically transported to the open-air lobby of some five-star boutique hotel in Bali, exotic drink in hand.
Save it for the friend who just vowed to start meditating in 2018—this soothing blend of chamomile, lavender, and vetiver is the perfect addition to a sanctuary in the making.
Tocca Chamonix Candela ($42)
If most Christmas tree scents tend to err on the side of car air freshener, Tocca's version is the perfect antidote. Thanks to the zesty addition of rosemary, this pine scent smells fresh and vibrant—never cloying.
Boy Smells Cinderose ($29)
Who knew that charred wood and heady florals went together so flawlessly? The smokiness lends the perfect counterbalance to sweeter notes of tuberose, jasmine, and orange blossom.
Tobi Tobin Folly Candle ($68)
Juicy red grapefruit plays a starring role in this bright and energetic fragrance, with complementary notes of moss and white musk. Pro tip: Light it up mid-January when it feels like warmth and sunshine has otherwise ceased to exist.
The scent equivalent of setting up camp in Joshua Tree, this blend of sage, cedar, and a touch of woodsmoke captures the dusty-sweet aroma of desert living.
Iiuvo Bullshit Candle ($78)
So named for the superfluous branding practices behind, ahem, most scented candles, Bullshit actually smells quite lovely: Featuring notes of pepper, citrus, lavender, rose, tonka bean, and vanilla, it's warm, musky, and inviting.
Norden Big Sur Candle ($55)
This gorgeous offering from Norden actually functions as two very solid gifts in one: The first is the unmistakable essence of a damp, luscious forest while the second is a beautiful piece of hand-thrown stoneware that can be used as a planter or all-purpose vessel once you've burned through the fragrance.
Le Feu de l'Eau's votives are as much art pieces as they are beautiful home fragrances. Each vessel is sculpted underwater so that the color pattern and shape of every candle is unique. It's the perfect retro-inspired gift for the friend whose Instagram feed doubles as an ode to '70s décor. (That's not even to mention that this particular scent blend of grapefruit, tobacco, and sandalwood is downright addictive.)
Lafco Feu de Bois ($65)
A roaring fireplace in a snow-coated ski chalet. Need we say more?
The perfect rose scent for rose-averse people, this candle boasts grittier notes of pepper and musk. The result: a fragrance that feels way less classically romantic than it does positively sultry.
In a proverbial forest of gag-worthy Christmas tree scents, opt for this decidedly minimal take on fresh pine. (Even the votive is refreshingly simple.)
As one of my colleagues so eloquently put it, "This candle smells like the cologne of a very well-dressed French man." Notes of amber, vanilla, and tonka bean lend it the spicy, resinous aroma that always seems particularly pervasive in dimly lit Parisian bars.
D.S. & Durga has a reputation for wildly interesting fragrance interpretations of moods and memories, and this one's no different. This is the exact scent of fresh rain on hot asphalt during muggy summer days, down to the harsh notes of ozone and steam. It's borderline jarring at first before it gives way to something a little more subtle—much like a fast-moving thunderstorm in the dead of August.
Byredo Saints Incense Candle (Discontinued)
One of Byredo's three limited-edition holiday scents, Incense is a solid pick for the aspiring witch in your life—from the patchouli- and guaiac-laced scent down to the blood-red vessel that carries it.
Another dirtied-up interpretation of rose, this version boasts notes of white pepper to counteract the sweet floral scent.