Nothing elevates the home quite like a chic candle—its flickering embers lending a subtle glow as a preferred scent punctuates your personal space. We can all agree there’s never been a year more crucial to make a warm, homely abode than this one. For that very reason, Aesop’s new trio of aromatic candles—Ptolemy, Aganice and Callippus—is a brilliant addition to their existing Scented Home range. Formulated in collaboration with distinguished perfumer Barnabé Fillion, each candle is housed in a sleek ceramic vessel with a burn time between 55 and 65 hours. From smoky, deep green notes, to beautiful spicy notes, Aesop delivers a fragrance that will uplift and capture the soul of your home.
Deciding which one to buy but need advice and a quick backgrounder? Below, Vogue speaks to Dr. Kate Forbes, Aesop’s Innovation Director, and French perfume designer Fillion, who tell us more about the celestial-inspired lights.
Aesop’s products are born out of real purpose and don’t adhere to a specific timeline. Candles have been around for a long time and the market for it is fairly saturated. Why now?
Dr. Kate Forbes (KF): Our customers have been asking us to develop scented candles for some time; in response, we have worked assiduously on new fragrance profiles with our long-term collaborator, Barnabé—the perfumer behind two of our personal fragrances, Marrakech Intense and Hwyl Eau de Parfum, as well as our Aromatique Room Sprays. Our trio of Aromatique Candles represents a natural extension of this partnership, and a fitting addition to existing Scented Home subcategory. We created this elegant collection to offer not only three distinctive new fragrances, but also a calming light; we have long agreed wholeheartedly with the views of Japanese author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, not least the assertions in his classic work In Praise of Shadows about the beauty afforded by flickering candlelight and shadow.
What were key considerations when it came to crafting this trio of candles for Aesop?
KF: Having collaborated with Barnarbé to create our Aromatique Room Sprays, we have been considering the nature of the fragrances we might employ in similarly distinctive candles. We have also devoted concerted attention to the design of the vessels that would house them. It is through our relationship with Barnabé that we have been able to meet our exacting standards for such a range.
One common thread is the creative process. In all our collaborations with Barnabé, there is a moment in which a particular inspiration or set of inspirations comes to the fore, striking a note that feels precisely right on an intuitive level for the product in question. This will often lead our thinking around ingredients, as exciting correspondences emerge. More often than not this quite a subtle phenomenon—an unfolding rather than a sudden exclamation.
As with our fragrances and Aromatique Room Sprays, we have utilised botanical ingredients alongside select synthetic fragrance ingredients, working to find perfect unity and structure. We have also once again looked to alternative—often innovative—techniques and methods of extraction in order to achieve and deliver the desired longevity, intensity and balance.
Tell us about the conceptualisation journey—why the reference to astronomy?
Barnabé Fillion (BF): The overarching concept began with the notion of ‘candles as stars’—in its simplest form, comparing the flickering lights of a candle in the dark to the stars in a night sky. This soon evolved, becoming a wider appreciation of the scientific study of the universe and the fact that stars have primordial, cross-cultural significance. This research culminated in the naming of each candle for an astronomer of ancient repute—Aganice, Callippus and Ptolemy, respectively—alluding to the capacity of candlelight to evoke a calming sense of wonder, much like a radiant night sky.
Extrapolating these early thoughts, we explored the importance of the stars in seafaring journeys, and in securing a safe port after a storm—finding a clear metaphor for navigating the turbulent waters of 2020. Since ancient times, the stars’ positions have been used to chart voyages across the ‘wine-dark sea’, as Homer wrote in his Odyssey; in parallel, on land, lighthouses have long been used to warn sailors of dangerous areas and to provide navigational aid when cloud cover masks the night sky. Certain stars, known as ‘pulsars’ or neutron stars, are even referred to as cosmic lighthouses. These objects radiate light in two opposite directions, appearing to blink as they rotate, just as the beam of a lighthouse appears to flicker on and off as it sweeps across the water.
The connections we saw between the night sky, journeys into unknown waters, and the scientific and cultural history of astronomy seemed entirely apt—in keeping with our customary philosophical leanings and with the circumstances of the time.
Does Aesop have a signature scent profile that it has to adhere to?
KF: When formulating our skin, body and personal care products, our priority is efficacy, and we select essential oils and other ingredients for the benefits they deliver, combining both scientific and botanical ingredients. Our quest is to use the best ingredients that are available to us and allow this to guide us towards a particular scent profile. However, in the development of home and personal fragrances, the fragrance itself is the centrepiece, so we have more freedom to explore ingredients based on the quality and complexity of their aromas. While there is not a strict profile, you will note that Aesop features many deep woody, smoky and herbaceous notes that we find particularly appealing. We develop fragrances that we love and share these with our customers, as opposed to developing based off the latest aromatic trend.
What emotions are you hoping to evoke with each scent?
BF: Aganice, Callippus and Ptolemy each offer three distinctive, complex new fragrances that will undoubtedly appeal to customers who enjoy the Aromatique Room Sprays and Oil Burner Blends, in a form that also lends the ambience of candlelight to any given space.
All fragrances in the range can add a sense of calm and an uplifting atmosphere to home or office settings. Aromatique Candles are the perfect choice when subdued lighting is also desired, perhaps at the beginning or end of the day, when a gentle interlude between workaday routine and personal affairs can help establish or restore equilibrium.
If the three scents were for three different people or spaces, what would that look like?
BF: The three Aromatique Candles are distinctively Aesop in aroma and as per our personal fragrances and wider product range, will know no gender boundaries. They are intended for all who take pleasure in evocative aromas.
Aganice delivers a floral, spicy aroma that will appeal to those who enjoy Istros Aromatique Room Spray and the aromas of our more piquant products, such as Coriander Seed Body Cleanser and Resolute Body Balm.
Callippus is an opulent woody fragrance. There are strong echoes of Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash and Balm, with added notes of Frankincense and vibrant Shiso.
Ptolemy features a blend of dry, mossy woods and is likely to appeal to existing users of Hwyl Eau de Parfum as well as those seeking richer, more earthy smoky fragrances.
“Aesop’s first three candles have common notes that respond to each other and their own rhythm to accompany different moments of the day”
Firstly, I would say that scent is very personal. Secondly, the choice of scent is influenced by many factors including the space in which it will be diffused and the time of day. Aesop’s first three candles are designed to be complementary, they have common notes that respond to each other and their own rhythm to accompany different moments of the day.
Dedicated to the great pioneers of astronomy—observers of the infinite, these scents are an olfactory presence that reminds us that we are part of a greater whole. Some will prefer to evoke during the day, a landscape of spicy flowers, like the Aganice candle, and in the evening, that of a Japanese forest, like the Ptolemy candle. Others will be more sensitive to the green notes of vetiver and shiso from the Callippus candle, in their interior in Autumn.
What is the Aesop lifestyle is hoping to create with its range of home products?
KF: We have always considered scented products for the home as highly desirable, for the ambience and sensory pleasure they so readily effect. In terms of our overall range, we see them as integral to a holistic approach—in the context of a life well lived, they are the obvious complement to our skin, hair and body care products; and we have utilised scent in our retail spaces since Aesop’s inception.
Interior fragrances can elevate mood and atmosphere, subtly mark the transition from one phase of the day to the next, and aid relaxation. We offered our first Oil Burner Blends in 2007; now, in offering diverse fragrances in various forms—Aromatique Room Sprays, Oil Burner Blends complemented by our Brass Oil Burner, and Aromatique Candles—we encourage our customers to care as attentively to the details of their immediate environment as they do to their daily skin care regimen.
Ptolemy, Aganice and Callippus are available at $155 each, at all Aesop signature stores and online.