In partnership with Homesick.
Sense memory is a powerful thing. Part of why food is so powerfully tied to culture is that simply tasting something can transport you to where you were when you last ate it — how the room looked, who was with you. Still, as much as each of our five senses shapes our sense of the world around us, the one most strongly linked to brain areas involved in memory and emotion is none other than scent.
That’s why Homesicks’s concept is so ingenious. Not only do they make candles that are odes to cherished places and moments, they go through a painstaking process to distill the scents that will trigger memories of those locations. Whether you’ve just moved to one of the coasts and you’re missing home in Texas, or you’re too busy to go Pumpkin Picking like you want to, Homesick has a candle to evoke whatever it is you’re missing.
But concept isn’t everything. It all comes down to execution, and most candles are too sickly sweet and overpowering for my taste. I was eager to sample a range of their products, especially with the holiday gifting season coming up. With all the out-of-state transplants I’ve met here in California, my hopes were high that I’d found the gift for all my homesick pals.
- One-of-a-kind scents you won’t find from any other candle brand
- Colorfully designed boxes for easy gifting
- Intentional R&D process that designed to evoke home
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- Though popular (and well-scented), the candles for fictional locations can’t claim the same intensive research as the ones based on real locales
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Every product has a starting point, and for Homesick that always comes back to community. Whenever they’re formulating a new candle, especially one based on a tangible location, they speak to anywhere from 30 to 100 people to get a sense of what makes that place unique. They gather stories, visit different sights, and even go as far as extracting scents from local foods. This uniquely granular approach was deeply important to Homesick’s founders, who sorted through hundreds of scent recommendations for their flagship candles, even though they were for places they knew intimately themselves.
After that, physical production begins, when perfume chemists determine the best combinations and ratios of fragrance notes to make a cohesive candle. Each one is poured in small batches from a natural soy wax blend, free of any toxins like lead, plastic, or paraben. It’s a high-quality product — even the wicks are 100% organic cotton — which makes the price point a very pleasant surprise. The average candle runs around $38 and burns for between 60-80 hours, a longer burn time than most of their competitors thanks to their hefty weight of almost 13.75 ounces. Combine that with regular discounts of 25-40% off and you’ve got a thoughtful line of gifts you don’t have to break the bank on.
That said, not everyone who deserves a great candle needs to be pining for home to get one. Homesick has also transitioned into making candles that evoke our favorite fictional places, from Barbie's™ Dreamhouse™ ($44) to the best-selling 3-wick Hogwarts™ candle ($75). I decided to try a mix of all kinds, to see how candles based on real places I’ve been to stacked up against places I’d only read, watched and dreamt about. Thanks to their quick delivery times – not to mention the free shipping on orders over $50 – I only had to wait a few days before the all-important smell test.
SoCal - Southern California Candle
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The Nutcracker Candle
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New York City Candle
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THE NOSE DOESN’T LIE
Having been born and raised in SoCal, I was particularly qualified to judge the Southern California candle ($38). The sea breeze immediately came through as soon as I smelled it, as well as a fresh, playful sweetness that I realized was citrus zest: the perfect nod to our groves of orange and lemon trees down here by the water. New York City (also $38) by contrast is earthier and more manmade than floral – and sure enough, when I checked the label, concrete was one of the mid notes along with jasmine and water lilies.
I also loved that they offered conceptual candles that were still grounded in real-world experiences, like the 3-wick Après candle ($75) made to conjure snowy days of skiing. Icy, piney freshness leapt right out of the wicks, along with whiffs of honey and whiskey (because no après ski is complete with a hot toddy.) That candle felt like the perfect bridge into the realm of the fictional, like the beloved Central Perk ($42) coffee shop from the one and only Friends. While I expected the smell of coffee, I was stunned by the level of detail: there are notes of everything from brick, to vanilla bean and heavy cream.
I also sampled two holiday specific candles that felt perfect for year-end gifting: The Nutcracker ($38) and Santa's Workshop ($65). The former felt spicy and robust, with clove and sandalwood coming through strongly. It felt nostalgic somehow, like the cabin you imagine spending the holidays in. And while I expected Santa’s Workshop to be treacly, a scent more suited for kids than adults, it smelled deep and layered, with notes of fresh snow and musk combining for an intoxicating cleanness.
THE SMELL OF HOME
Overall, I was so impressed with the candles that I had second thoughts about giving any of them as gifts. Wouldn’t I rather stockpile them for myself, and have hundreds of hours of wick-burning hours lined up ahead of me?
But gifting is the reason for the season (he said begrudgingly), and Homesick is now very much a go-to in that department. Candles have always been an evergreen gift, but these are so specific – and so fun to unbox – that they feel meaningful instead of rote. Whether your giftee longs to be transported to the state where they grew up, or the imaginary halls of their favorite TV show or book series, they’re the fast track for bringing those places to life.
If there’s no place like home, these candles are the next best thing.