It’s the season for holiday candles. I, for one, am tired of the usual pine and pomander (fruit-and-spice) offerings, so I’ve decided to review a candle that qualifies as “festive” without being a cliché: Astier de Villatte Naples.
When Astier de Villatte decided to honor Napoli with a candle, they had many scent options: the sea (Bay of Naples), the volcano (imagine the incense/smoky notes of Vesuvius); or the pizza (tomato leaf, basil, olive, rosemary).* Instead, Astier de Villatte choose Italian pastry as inspiration; unexpected, but it works.
When I was in Napoli a few years back, I ate like a hog: cappuccino and strawberry tarts for breakfast, an entire pizza or big bowl of pasta for lunch (as for dinners — they were almost “endless,” but in a good way). At tea time each day, I got into the habit of “snacking” at the old Gran Caffè Gambrinus (where the likes of Oscar Wilde, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and, yes, the always-famished Luciano Pavarotti, have sipped and chewed over the last hundred years). There are less expensive, and friendlier, places to take tea, coffee or cocktails than Gambrinus but the pastries are delicious, the café is gorgeous, and if you sit outside, you’ll see the glories of Napoli walk by — animal and human.
The Naples candle smells like the Gran Caffè Gambrinus pastry shop, especially its popular sfogliatelle. The Naples candle contains fragrance notes of almond, orange blossom, ylang ylang, petitgrain and neroli. Believe it or not, these notes in combination produce aromas of buttery almond pastry filled with sweet custard — the entire composition flecked with the scents of grated citrus rind and vanilla beans. “Culinary” orange blossom also plays a part in the custard accord, but Naples is not a floral candle.
The Naples candle is heavily scented and has excellent throw; it burns evenly and cleanly IF you let the top of the candle liquefy with each use and keep the wick trimmed. The Naples candle is Astier de Villatte in top form.
Astier de Villatte Naples comes in one size with two container choices: ceramic ($120) or bubbly clear glass ($75); each candle has a 60 hr. burn time. (Since my Delhi candle review, the Astier de Villatte candle line has become more widely available in the U.S.; Barneys New York carries a large selection of Astier de Villatte candles.)
Candle Tip: I’m a fan of Astier de Villatte candles, but, just like Cire Trudon and other high-end candle makers, there are successes and failures (scents you can barely detect) in its fragrance blends. When I spend $75 or more for a candle I do NOT want subtlety…I want to smell the candle as it burns and I require it to scent at least one large room. I try to buy scented candles in person; if a candle’s aroma is weak as I sniff the hard wax, I don’t buy that candle. Avoid purchasing candles unsniffed, just like you avoid buying perfumes without trying them first.
I wish we could all meet at Caffè Gambrinus for a perfume congress; Subject: Gourmands! I hope everyone who’s celebrating Thanksgiving has a fragrant, flavorful, and happy day.
* Let’s not be unkind and say “garbage” — that civic problem has been solved, at least for now!