After much experimentation in his laboratory on a smallholding in west Wales, a chartered civil engineer working in the nuclear industry has produced the country’s first bacon-scented air freshener.
Haitham Al-Ubaidi and his wife Denise (Dee) run Busy Bee Candles from Sugar Loaf Cottage, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. They sell authentic-smelling ‘Sizzling Bacon’ tealights, wax tarts melts and scented candles; But they have drawn the line at grilled bacon linen spray.
Haitham says: “We literally started in our kitchen and, four years later, we occupy around 10,000 square feet of production and storage facilities. A hobby has become a business with global reach.”
The home fragrance industry is booming. Busy Bee offers 200 different scents. The most popular is Baby Powder. Their range also includes Café au Lait, Cinnamon Toast, Lemon Meringue Pie, Carrot Cake, Banana Nut Bread, Amaretto Nog, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Creme Brulee.
“The smell of bacon is as comforting as the smell of fresh cut grass,” says Dee.
Candles have made a comeback. Yankee Candle, which started in Massachusetts in 1969 and sold in 2013 for $1.75 billion, now has stiff competition.
Bespoke home odour is a boom business. Everyone seems to be hand-pouring, hand-polishing and hand-trimming. Kitchen table hobbies have become successful businesses supplying major supermarkets with ‘space-enlivening’, ‘atmosphere-transforming’, ‘nerve-calming’, ‘mood-lifting’ candles. The UK annual market is now worth £100 million.
The UK Candle Federation represents over a hundred independent, boutique makers. There are candle makers all around the British Isles – Sara Young-Jamieson’s St Eval in Cornwall, Lancashire’s Sarah Moseley Scented Candles, Stoneglow in Essex, Sheffield’s Aroma Holiday, Blayden’s Woodwick, Derbyshire’s Victorian Hydro and The Norfolk Candle Company.
Sharon Jervis’s BeeFayre in Market Harborough offers a Bee Calm and Waggledance range, with three per cent of profits going to bee conservation. Phillipa Baker’s market-stall-to-high street Spitalfield Candle Co. is now stocked by Liberty. Her bestseller is Vetiver and Lavender.
“I call it my Marmite candle. You either love it or hate it!” she says.
Alix Mulholland founded her giftware company, Bog Standard in Newtonards, Co. Down, N. Ireland. Her bestselling scent is Linen. She describes it as “a fresh lavender fougere with supporting notes of geranium, rosemary, pine and eucalyptus resting on a base of patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla”.
Every conceivable scent is available. From Jo Malone’s Almond and Macaroon to Wickford and Co’s (Home Bargains) Mulled Wine.
Mike Amistead’s Lake District-based Wax Lyrical makes Made in England mince pie-scented candles, while Tajinder Banwait’s Urban Apothecary produces Lemon Curd and Orange Marmalade. James Robertson’s Isle of Sky Candle Company, which started in grass-roofed crofter’s cottage, retails Scottish Bluebell.
Film-maker and volunteer beach warden Dom Bridges in Margate, Kent produces Rain (Petichor), which evokes the smell of recent rain. The Melt Company produces an aubergine candle as well as Saddle.
Some garden centres now even sell garlic candles to fumigate greenhouses.
Bespoke home odour is a boom business
It is not, however, a new idea. Candelabras were found in the ruins of Pompei. The Romans made candles out of animal fat. Tang Dynasty Chinese made candles from whale fat and coco pella insects, the Indians from cinnamon and yak butter, and the Japanese from squirrel fat and tree nuts. The Egyptians used papyrus rush rolls dipped in spiced fat. Native Americans burnt bayberry bushes.
By the 13th century there was a Guild of Tallow Candlemakers in the UK. They were called chandlers or ‘smeremongers’, who also made vinegar. By 1415, candles were providing street lighting. Wicks were made from braided cotton. Spermaceti – a white crystalline fat extracted from the head cavity of the sperm whale – became popular. Coisa and rapeseed oil followed. The French perfumier Rigaud produced Cypres candles in the 1960s.
The oldest candle-making company in the UK is Price’s Patent Candle Company, founded in 1830 by Benjamin Lancaster and Scotsman William Wilson, a former Russian trader.
Tallow, a purified form of beef or mutton fat, was the only cheap available alternative to beeswax for making candle used by the Church and the wealthy. Tallow smoked, stank and guttered.
Wilson’s first candles were made from Sriu Lankan coconuts. The factory was in Battersea, London. William’s son George, a chemist, refined tallow and vegetable oils to produce a harder, pure white fat known as ‘stearine’. It burned brightly without smoke or smell.
In 1847, Edward Price and Co. became Price’s Patent Candle Company, its seal depicting Africans bringing calabashes of palm oil to a seated Britannia figure under a palm tree. Six years later, it opened its Bromborough factory in Liverpool.
Children attended a religious service in the factory every morning and the factory’s school every evening. The company also provide free meals and warm baths and built a 147-house staff village which model village inspired Lever’s Port Sunlight factory and Cadbury’s Bourneville village.
In 1928, Price’s received the royal warrant, having taken over eight competitors, including Tucker and Ferris, suppliers to the Catholic and Anglican churches. They made 130 differently named and specified sizes of candle – carriage candles, piano candles, dining-room candles, bedroom candles, servants’ bedroom candles (that only lasted 30 minutes), photographic darkroom candles and the Burglar’s Horror nightlight.
Price’s developed its own trademark in the 1870s – a clipper ship under sail. They supplied Captain Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole in 1910-11 with 1,043kg of Belmont Stearine candles. They provided candles for royal state occasions – coronations, weddings, lyings-in-state and funerals.
The Battersea factory site that started life in 1830 as a crushing mill for William Wilson’s coconuts and went on to become the largest candle factory in the world relocated in 1988 to Bicester, Oxfordshire, while the head office moved to Bedford. The company is now Italian-owned. Its signature candle scents include Cognac and Ice Pear.
We are all creating our own signature fragrances or our own unique interior ambience, in jars, tumblers, photophores, sachets, ovals, wax melts.
As Brighton-based perfumer and fragrance historian Roja Dove, who produces Neroli, Jasmine de Grasse and Aoud (agarwood), haute luxe candles, says: “Home scenting is a lifestyle choice. Your home should smell as personal and inviting as the scent on your skin.”
Busy Bee also produces vapour rubs and seduction candles. But not bacon... yet.
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