Candle makers capture Vancouver neighbourhoods in scents

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      It isn’t hard to see the allure of a soft, flickering candle. Few other décor objects can transform a room’s ambiance—from dark and dingy to warm, delightfully fresh, and romance-ready—with a single strike of a match. And with such an imaginative array of jars and scents available, they’ve become a must-have for anyone looking to add some sparkle and character to their space.

      Talk to any candle connoisseur, however, and you’ll realize that, like most luxury products, not all candles are created equal. Farouk Babul and Nick Rabuchin, the creative minds behind Vancouver Candle Co., experienced this firsthand when they splurged on a particularly pricey light from an interior-design store early last year.

      “We burned it on our coffee table as we normally do, and the candle burned really poorly,” Babul recounts to the Straight by phone. “I went online to figure out how I could fix it and found that a lot of candle companies are using some really nasty things within their products.”

      Babul and Rabuchin felt uneasy about the petroleum-based materials, lead-laden wicks, and generally poor-quality fragrance oils that make up the majority of candles on the market, so they decided to make their own—ones that would harness all-natural and ethically sourced ingredients such as soy wax and cotton wicks. But it wasn’t until a blind scent test that the duo realized the evocative potential of some of Vancouver’s most beloved neighbourhoods.

      “We were playing around with some scent formulations and one of our friends was like, ‘This smells like Kitsilano,’ ” Babul notes. “That’s kind of how it sprung.”

      Their appreciation of traditional candle-making soon gave way to an affection for our vibrant city through a small-batch collection of scented candles, which has grown to include the Fairview, a citrus-based blend of grapefruit, peach, and red currant; the Gastown, a musky leather, tobacco, and amber mix that takes after the rugged grit of the area; and, most recently, the North Shore, a woodsy aroma with notes of mandarin, white sage, and coriander.

      “Our inspiration was walking through Deep Cove and eating mandarin oranges,” Babul says of Vancouver Candle Co.’s newest addition, which joins the aforementioned candles, plus Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Point Grey, and Strathcona. “We put the two together, and we got this really cool scent.”

      Each candle is hand-poured in Vancouver Candle Co.’s Mount Pleasant studio using premium soy-wax blends—which burn significantly cleaner and longer than their petroleum-based counterparts—100-percent-cotton wicks, and a combination of raw essential oils and perfume-grade fragrance oils.

      Packaged in bright, colour-coordinated boxes and individually signed and numbered by Rabuchin, the candles have clearly struck a chord with Vancouverites, who have flocked to the company’s booths at various craft fairs and pop-up shops over the past year.

      “We’re just a couple of guys who make candles,” Babul says with a laugh. “We don’t have a business plan or anything. We just love what we do and people love what we produce.”

      The pair have plans to add more neighbourhoods to their collection in the new year, but in the meantime, you can shop Vancouver Candle Co.’s full lineup of signature boxed candles ($35) and travel-sized tins ($20) at Make It! Vancouver, which takes place next Thursday to Sunday (December 3 to 6) at the PNE Forum.

      Other local candle makers such as Arbutus Candle Company, Bees Wax Works, Lily Bug Soy Candles, and Salt Spring Island Candle Co. will also be on deck during the four-day affair with a selection of natural, hand-poured lights in votive, taper, and even milk-bottle forms.