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Do you know the right way to burn a candle? Here’s what experts say — plus, 19 of our fave scents

The right candle is the perfect finishing touch.
Vivian Le / TODAY

No matter what time of year it is, there’s one thing that adds an extra special finishing touch to any space: candles. The right scent can transport you to somewhere else in the world or to another place in time, leaving you feeling warm and comforted from the inside out.

To help you get the most out of your candles, Shop TODAY consulted a few experts to about common mistakes people make and how to resolve them. Plus, our editors share the fragrances they can’t get enough of.

Editor-favorite candles | How to choose the right scent | Common candle mistakes | Meet the experts

Best candles, according to editors

Bath & Body Works Leaves 3-Wick Candle

Leaves is editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger’s favorite fall scent (and not just because she’s allergic to pumpkin). With notes of crisp red apple, golden nectar and warm clove spice, it’s become a staple that reminds her of fall time at home.

Jar Candle Snuggly Sweater

Former commerce associate Karli Tramontano says she's obsessed with this "sweater"-scented candle that has notes of warm wool, lavender, vanilla, rose and musk.

WoodWick Evening Bonfire Medium Hourglass Candle

Deputy editorial director Ali Deabler calls this one her favorite winter candle. The wooden wick gives off the crackling sound, so you’ll feel like you’re gathered around a bonfire (hence the name) without leaving the comfort of your own living room.

228 Grant Street Candle Co. Cedar + Vanilla

Senior SEO editor Jess Bender is all about supporting small businesses and has become a fan of candles from this brand over the last few years. Lately, she's been burning this cedar and vanilla blend that also has hints of caramel and a burn time of up to 60 hours, according to the brand.

Williams-Sonoma Winter Forest Candle

Commerce coordinator Alexa Arent says this candle is her favorite holiday scent. Made with a beeswax and vegetable oil blend, this candle combines all of the best fragrances from the great outdoors, including pine, cedarwood and thyme, alongside holiday classics like cinnamon and citrus.

Capri Blue Volcano Glitz Petite Jar

Bender declares herself a longtime fan of Capri Blue and said she keeps a small stockpile of this specific scent in her linen closet. Volcano is arguably the brand’s most iconic fragrance, with its mouthwatering blend of citrus and sugary notes.

Candier Barstool Quarterback Candle

Photo editor Vivian Le says that, despite the fact that she's not a football fan, this candle is one of her favorites. She calls out the scents of amber and sandalwood.

Yankee Candle Winter Night Stars

Bender calls out this candle as a favorite from Yankee Candle. It has notes of rose, amber and musk to transport you somewhere else (like the peacefully snowy wonderland pictures on the label).

Otherland Silk Pajamas

Bender calls this scent her favorite from the brand by far. Key fragrance notes include crystal ginger, bergamot zest and spiced yuzu.

Forvr Mood Left on Read Candle

This one is a favorite of editor Julie Ricevuto. "The scent is warming and a little spicy, but it still has a bit of tropical fruit fragrances in it to lighten it up. Highly recommend," she raves.

Apotheke Sea Salt Grapefruit Candle

Another favorite of Bender's, she says this citrus-y scent from Apotheke is "divine" and likes to burn it when it's colder and darker outside for a boost of energy.

Glossier You Candle

Associate social editor Dani Musacchio says Glossier You is her "absolute favorite" perfume, so she was excited when the brand launched a candle version of the scent. "I seriously want everything I own to smell like this."

NEST New York Holiday Classic Candle

Musacchio and Le are both fans of this bestselling fragrance from the brand. It’s made with a blend of pomegranate, mandarin orange, pine, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla and amber to invoke all of the cozy feels during the season. Le describes it as “divine” after lighting it for the first time.

Notes Candle Sustainable Starter Kit

Bender is currently burning through these scents and says the spruce is the "most true to form I’ve smelled in recent memory." She also likes how the brand emphasizes its container that's designed for multiple uses since the wax is disposable.

Hotel Lobby Candle Cabin Candle

Editorial director Adrianna Brach loves this brand’s candle because of their ability to give off scent even when they’re not lit. While one of her general favorites is the Miami scent because it reminds her of home; she says this pick is her fall and winter go-to. “It's cozy and warm... kind of like having a fireplace in a jar!” she raves.

Le Labo Petit Grain 21

Writer Emma Stessman was gifted this candle by a friend last year and loves it. It has notes of orange blossom and green undertones which she describes as "lovely."

Rituals XL Sweet Jasmine Scented Candle

"When I need an extra dose of enlightenment and relaxation, I burn the Rituals candle. This one has a luxury smell of sweet jasmine that is nose-catching," says SEO writer Jannely Espinal. She describes the aroma as an explosion of fruity notes and sandalwood, adding that the heavy-duty packaging helps you feel comfortable leaving your candle burning for hours.

Sidia The Lil BB's Classic Mini Collection

Production associate Audrey Ekman describes Sidia's candles as "so sophisticated and unique, never overly pungent or too aggressive in the way some scents can be." She says this discovery set is a good intro for anyone new to the brand since it contains some of their bestsellers. "My favorite from this trio is 'braless,' which is the perfect vibe for coming home at the end of a long day, changing into comfy clothes and unwinding."

Baobab Collection Candle Holiday Season Django

As soon as you walk inside a home with a Baobab candle burning, you’ll feel like you're in a fairytale. This luxury candle is for the person that loves exclusivity and decor. The jar features an artistic design that will add a magical element to your space, while the material is made in sublimated glass and decorated with refined patterns.

"I channel my sophisticated persona every time I burn this candle at home. It is stylish and combines floral and musky elements for the perfect olfactory experience," raves Espinal.

How to choose holiday candles and scents

Use memories and feelings to choose the vibe for your home.

Taylor Perlis, a senior fragrance evaluator at Yankee Candle, suggests keeping one question in mind when selecting a scent: What’s the vibe you want to create for your home? (For herself, Perlis said she loves walking around the house while it smells like a bakery, so gourmand scents are top of mind.)

The holidays are a time for gathering with people you care about, but sometimes you can’t be together as much as you’d like. If you’re missing a person or a place during the season, Perlis suggested using those memories and feelings to help choose a fragrance that reminds you of them.

“What does your grandma burn at Christmas or friend burn ... around the holiday season that you can burn and think of them?” she said.

This is method Perlis uses herself when choosing the candles she wants to burn. For example, every time she smells balsam and cedar, she said that it takes her back to the first holiday season that her family was able to afford and buy a real Christmas tree.

“I remember going to the Christmas tree farm with my mom and my dad. My mom put hot cocoa in a thermos and bundled me up and put candy canes in my pockets,” she recounted fondly. “My parents live five hours away from me, so I can’t be with them all December ... but I can burn my balsam and cedar candle, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and connected to my parents,” she said.

When gifting holiday candles, err on the side of neutral scents.

Aside from personal use, candles also make a great gift for friends new and old. (We’ve all been on the receiving end of more candles than we know what to do with by the end of the season.)

“If you’re giving a candle as a gift and you don’t know the person that well — maybe it’s a hostess gift — you want to choose something that doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with people,” Kathy LaVanier, spokesperson for the National Candle Association, told us.

When gifting candles, she recommends choosing neutral scents like balsam, fir and cranberry; if you’re looking for something sweet, baked cookies, vanilla or pear.

When candle-shopping for yourself, find scents that pair well.

When shopping for yourself, LaVanier said all bets are off — just pick what you love.

She has one small footnote attached, however: If you like to layer scents by burning several candles at once, she suggests paying attention to how they smell together when you’re picking them out. Choosing scents that pair well will create a pleasant experience in the space instead of lighting scents that clash.

Meet the experts

  • Taylor Perlis is a senior fragrance evaluator for Yankee Candle. Some of her favorite scents from this year’s holiday collection include Pumpkin Banana Scone, Peppermint Pinwheels and Snowflake Kisses.
  • Kathy LaVanier is vice president and spokesperson for the National Candle Association. She is also the founder of Ohio-based Renegade Candle Company. Some of her favorite holiday scents include mulled cider, pear, ginger and sugar cookie (with a dash of peppermint to make it extra festive).
  • Anthony Haslamis the co-founder of Cali Vibes Candle Company. His favorites for this season are called Mistletoe and Surfside Santa.