Meet Dr. Will, our resident scientist and home fragrance expert
Waxing lyrical about candles and reed diffusers is all in a day’s work for Dr Will Locke, one of the UK’s leading home fragrance scientist. So, who better to tell you all about how we’ve perfected our products over our 40 years in business than the Dr himself?!
Q Dr Will, tell us about role here at Wax Lyrical?
A I am research, development and compliance manager. We produce 17 million quality British-made products a year across a vast range of candles and reed diffusers. We will have 200 different fragrances across our product range at any one time, with new fragrances and new products being tested all the time, with different ingredients to appeal to different markets around the world. Each of these product ranges are tested by us in our state-of-the-art, climate-controlled lab.
Q How do you become an expert in home fragrance?
A I am a scientist with a PhD in chemistry from Reading University. Through my work in the home fragrance industry I am also chair of the technical committee for the British Candlemakers Federation and also sit on the equivalent European body, advising on quality and safety. I work with colleagues who have tremendous knowledge and expertise and are passionate about what they do to ensure everything about Wax Lyrical represents high quality.
“Many home fragrance companies don’t have the resources to do what we do.”
Q What are the factors which affect a candle’s performance?
A There are several.
Let’s start with the wick:
Wick selection can have a major impact on performance, depending on the material used, the length, number of fibres, braiding pattern, and tension put into it. All wicks are designed to curl as they burn. People might think it’s the wick which is burning. But it’s not. It’s the wax which is burning.
Then there’s the air conditions:
You probably didn’t know that the type of turbulence which can affect an aeroplane on your holiday flight can also affect a candle’s performance in your living room. It’s all down to the similar movement and conflict of hot and cold air. The tip of a candle reaches between 1,200 to 1,400 degrees centigrade.
The type of container will also be a factor:
If a container, or vessel, is tall and thin, and a candle has burned down towards the bottom (advice is to stop a candle burning at the last 0.5cm), then there’s more opportunity for conflict between the hot air coming from the tip of the flame and the cold air coming from a room within the space of the candle container. This can cause the candle’s flame to flicker more than it usually would and that could lead to a more erratic burn, which can affect the length of the overall burn, and problems such as tunneling and sooting.
“If Wax Lyrical products don’t pass the testing phase they never see the light of day.”
Q Why is it necessary to carry out this extensive level of testing?
A No computer will tell you exactly how a candle will burn. There are too many variables. Any new fragrance or new container needs to be tested in this way. Many home fragrance companies don’t have the resources to do what we do. If Wax Lyrical products don’t pass the testing phase they never see the light of day.
Q What do you monitor during testing?
Each set of burning candles has a data sheet recording its performance during its burn. We test flame height, tunnelling (where the burn leaves an area of wax within the vessel which resembles a tunnel), carbon deposits, heat and sooting.
We also carry out further testing to simulate how a candle might age, and also how it will keep its characteristics when subjected to different lighting. You wouldn’t want the colour of a candle to change over time once you got it home.
Q Do reed diffusers need to be tested?
A Yes. Reed diffusers can perform differently depending on the solvent, the fragrance, whether the environment they are in is hot or cold, whether it’s draughty, how many reeds you have in at any one time, how long the reeds are, and what the reeds are made of. Reed diffusers are tested in the laboratory for around a 17-week period.
“No two people have the same sense of smell. It’s like fingerprints, a sense of smell is unique to each person.”
Q Are Wax Lyrical products tested for their fragrance?
A Yes, but by a different Wax Lyrical team. Our job in the laboratory means we haven’t got the nose for it - such is the array of fragrance from the products we are testing that our sense of smell wouldn’t be true enough.
We test people to ensure they have the sense of smell required for the selection of fragrances. It’s important we have a number of people doing that as no two people have the same sense of smell. It’s like fingerprints, a sense of smell is unique to each person. We currently have 4 ‘expert noses’ in the team.
Q How important do you think all this testing, and research and development is to Wax Lyrical’s success?
A It’s vitally important. It’s what helps set us apart. We have made significant investment in our people, our products and our research and development laboratory in the last 12 months. It’s what is helping us produce high-performing and high-quality products. It is helping us innovate too and introduce new products to the market.
It also ensures that when you buy a Wax Lyrical candle or reed diffuser, whether that’s for yourself, or as a gift for a friend or relative, you have total confidence that you are buying a high-quality British- made product.