What are the most nostalgic scents of Christmas?

cinnamon scents

When 1000 customers were asked what scent made them most nostalgic for Christmas, the results were a mixed bag of pine trees, cinnamon, mulled wine, turkey and sweets! 

When we asked the expert on what Christmas in your home should smell like, Dr Will Locke, Head of Research & Development at Wax Lyrical, gave a simple answer.  “Let’s not confuse nostalgic scents and our favourite scents. It’s important to separate the reassuring flash of nostalgia from the smell we want to sit in all day.”

So just because it makes us nostalgic that doesn’t make it our favourite?

Dr Will explains, “To feel luxurious or fresh or relaxing, we don’t yearn for a Christmas food smell.  We delight in a beautiful natural smell.  In fact, one of the Wax Lyrical ranges, HomeScenter, are candles which eradicate those unwanted smells which linger long after desert is cleared, and fill the room with oriental, floral or citrus fragrances.”

Dr Will knows the science to make sense of scents, “There is an intimate connection between smells, memories and emotions as they are intertwined in the same regions of the brain.  Fragrance takes a direct route to the limbic system and the part of the brain related to emotion and memory.  In fact, the way our sense of smell is wired to our brain is unique among our senses.”

 “Remembrance of things past

is not necessarily the remembrance of things

as they were.” (Marcel Proust)

A fragrance can conjure up little snippets of happy memories, a time portal to one moment in time.


mulled wine

In true Family Fortunes style, our survey said:

  • Our survey gave a wide range of Christmas memories accumulating in 6% of the vote.  Along with snow spray, cherry pie, Turkish Delight, the stuffing being made on Christmas eve, Grandad’s cigar smoke, Brussel sprouts and even tinsel! Traditional Christmas dinner with turkey, roast ham or roast beef, also got a passing mention and some waxed lyrical about seasonal scents of winter spices, cranberry, winter berries, nutmeg and chestnuts.
  • Several drinks were mentioned but 9% said the aroma of mulled wine made them feel like it was Christmas. While Spiced apple and oranges were named by 10% as their Christmas happy memory.
  • Festive goodies got a slight mention including chocolate-orange, liqueur sweets, sherry trifle, Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies, all deemed as special. However, gingerbread was the favourite, receiving 6% of the overall vote.
  • Two traditional Christmas scents were top of the list. 
    In second place, 27% of the respondents said the smell of pine needles or real Christmas trees meant it was officially Christmas.
    But the most nostalgic scent for Christmas, with 42% of the vote, was cinnamon.

Respondents also mentioned natural scents they love such as peppermint, sandalwood, frankincense, patchouli and eucalyptus.  


christmas wreath

Dr Will leads a team of expert noses and they strike the balance between the potency of nostalgia, the delicacy of our favourite scents and of course creating our new favourites.

 “The results resonate with our trends.” Added Dr Will.  “Our Colony Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh has been an annual best seller since it was first launched 20 years ago.  It gets scooped up long before houses are filled with mince pies. The five fragrances in our ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ range include jasmine and cedar wood. In fact, ‘Winter Morning’ contains snow lily, amber, peppermint and zesty bergamot and ‘Deck the Halls’ includes the most nostalgic, cinnamon!”

Dr Will also said it is important to think, is this for me to enjoy or to give as a gift?  “Whatever your nostalgic or favourite scent, 40 years of science, beautiful design and unparalleled quality, wrapped up in total fragrance, is what makes Wax Lyrical the UK’s largest candle manufacturer - made in England and loved around the world.”

Notes from Wax Lyrical 19.12.2019