We Sniffed Every Holiday Yankee Candle & Ranked Them

published Dec 6, 2016
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(Image credit: Yankee Candle)

If you’re looking to spread the holiday cheer with your favorite wintry scents, look no further than Yankee Candle. The company makes some of the smelliest candles you can buy. They also offer so many holiday scents, it can be difficult to decide which to go with. Should you go for Alpine Martini or Christmas Thyme? Or perhaps Sparkling Cinnamon is more your style.

So, in order to clear up some of the confusion, I decided to host a Yankee Candle smell-off to rank the company’s current holiday collection. Here’s how it went.

(Image credit: Rachel Cericola)

The Selection Process

Before the ranking could begin, I had to narrow the playing field just a tiny bit. To qualify for the competition, each candle had to fulfill three requirements.

First, each candle had to be part of Yankee Candle’s holiday collection. There are plenty of wintry smells, but I was specifically looking for the ones designed to fill the air with holiday cheer. The only candle I couldn’t get my hands on was Cookie Swap Iced Gingerbread, because it hadn’t rolled out yet.

Second, I wanted candles that were available in a minimum of two sizes — and wax melts didn’t count. Since some holiday scents are only available in the largest jar size, this helped to whittle down the list.

Finally, I decided to go with options that are only available both online and in stores. If you’re looking for a hard-to-find scent, you can scour the Yankee Candle online store — just don’t bother with this list.

Using these requirements, I ended up with 15 scents, including six brand-new ones.

(Image credit: Rachel Cericola)

The Methodology

I recruited some help from my two sisters-in-law, Amy and Anne — three noses are better than one! — and, for each candle, we performed a series of tests. First, we smelled the unlit candle. Next, we lit the candle and smelled that. Both of these tests were blind. Then, for the last test, we unveiled the candle’s name to judge whether the candle’s name matched the scent.

Tip: Although each candle had a pretty strong scent in the jar, the lit smell wasn’t as assaulting. And for the most part, the green candles had a stronger scent when lit versus the red and white ones.

Our 5 Favorite Yankee Candle Scents

  1. Christmas Cookie: This combination of the buttery, vanilla, and sugar cookie scents was exactly what we thought it would be, without being too overwhelming.
  2. Christmas Wreath: Of all the candles, this was the most realistic. “I can almost imagine the sap on my hands,” Anne said.
  3. Crackling Pine Bough: We all joked that “Nordic Forest” would have been a better name for this pine-scented candle, which is brand new this year. “I would burn this if I had a fake tree,” Amy added.
  4. Sparkling Cinnamon: Amy said that this cinnamon one smelled like Red Hots candy — in a good way.
  5. All Is Bright: Also new for 2016, this was another favorite, even though we all hated the name. The actual scent, which is very fresh with a hint of citrus, smells like nothing we associated with the holidays.

5 Yankee Candles We Probably Wouldn’t Throw Out

  1. Balsam & Cedar: I thought it smelled like the day after Christmas. Amy’s take? “It smells like old men. I kind of like it, though.”
  2. Cherry Gin Fizz: This 2016 scent promises cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, and vanilla. Anne thought it smelled like Kool-Aid, but I sort of nailed it by guessing “cherry soda.”
  3. Home for the Holidays: Have guests coming for the holidays? I thought this smelled exactly like the type of candle you’d stick in the guest powder room. It’s described as cinnamon, cloves, cedarwood, and balsam. Amy quickly called the first two with one whiff.
  4. Alpine Martini: Although we thought this new scent was decent, it didn’t conjure up the thought of boozy cocktails. I thought it was fruity, but Amy smelled flowers. Anne thought so too, with a bit of citrus mixed in.
  5. Christmas Thyme: This is the 2016 take on the classic pine scent, with a hint of thyme and lemongrass. I thought it smelled like a holiday-themed soap. “It’s Irish Spring,” Anne added. “And it’s getting into my throat.”

Our 5 Least Favorite Yankee Candle Scents

  1. Bubbly Pomegranate: Yankee Candle says this new scent is a combination of berries, pomegranate, and citrus. Anne said, “This smells like cherry Chapstick, but not as crappy.”
  2. Christmas Eve: What does the night before Christmas smell like? We’re still not sure. Described as a mix of sugared plums and candied fruits, we found this one to have the faint smell of stale flowers.
  3. White Christmas: Dreaming of a white Christmas? Let me know what that smells like because it’s not this candle. It’s supposed to be a composite of evergreens and fallen snow; Amy thought this mimicked Axe Body Spray, but I thought it was more like a “burial ground of old candles.” Eventually, I decided the appropriate name for this one was “Mystery Dum-Dum Lollipop.”
  4. Candy Cane Lane: Despite the playful, identifiable name, this was one of our least favorites at the smell-a-thon. “It’s like horrible powdered candy,” Amy said.
  5. Holiday Bayberry: This tied with the one above for the least favorite. The mix of pine, bayberry, frankincense, and myrrh actually smelled more like Pinesol. “This is me pretending I washed my floors,” Amy said. “That’s terrible. It’s giving me a headache.”

Do you have a favorite Yankee Candle scent? Share with us in the comments!