I lived with Oprah's favorite candle for a week – my thoughts as a master perfumer

 A split image of Oprah Winrey and the Harlem Candle Co.'s Purple Love candle.
A split image of Oprah Winrey and the Harlem Candle Co.'s Purple Love candle.

Oprah's Favorite Things list launched last week. It's packed full of appliances, gifts, and foods which we love, but one item really stood out to me. In the middle of Oprah's 'cozy gifts' section sits Harlem Candle Co's Purple Love candle.

If you care about candles, you'll have come across Harlem Candle Co's products. They've been shining luxury light on the candle industry since 2014. We've had their Speakeasy candle in our buying guide for best candles since I first smelt it, so when I saw Purple Love on Oprah's list, I had to try it.

I trained as a Master Perfumer in 2020 and before that worked in the luxury fragrance industry for over five years. My candle collection is expansive and obsessive, so Purple Love had to do something special to impress me. But I have to admit: since I first lit the wicks, I've been obsessed. I'd buy it for myself, my mom, and my girlfriends, but it doesn't have universal appeal. Here's everything you need to know about it.


Harlem Candle Co Purple Love
Harlem Candle Co Purple Love

First impressions

Harlem Candle Co Purple Love lit and burning on a white table with a plant in the background
Harlem Candle Co Purple Love lit and burning on a white table with a plant in the background

The Harlem Candle Company do luxury candles well. Their packaging doesn't go over the top, but there are printed designs on the inside of the box and the glass vessel feels really premium. It's a brilliant candle for gifting, because it feels like something special, but costs only $48 at Amazon. That's cheaper than Jo Malone, Officine Universelle Buly, and Trudon. It's a Boy Smells price point, but it feels like it should cost double.

Designed in tribute to James Baldwin's time in Provence, it's supposed to evoke the scent of his garden in St. Paul de Vence, The wax is a blend of beeswax, coconut, and soy, and even that was music to my ears. These are the best quality options on the market: they'll be slow and clean to burn, whilst holding fragrance really well. The dual-wicks mean that your candle will quickly release scent, but it won't run down too quickly. This candle's provenance and credentials are exceptional, so I was excited to see how it would perform in my home.

What is it like to burn?

Harlem Candle Co Purple Love unboxed
Harlem Candle Co Purple Love unboxed

As soon as I opened the box, I was hit with a powdery, sweet scent. It's strong and reminded me of sweetheart candy. but don't worry - that makes it sound like the candle smells cheap and sickly, but it's too rich of scent to be over-sweet.

Once I'd lit the wicks, the rose sweetness mellowed into something a little fresher. I think the green apple notes came though really nicely, cutting and balancing the rose notes.

HCC's website says that this has 'both masculine and feminine accords melding beautifully together'. In the fragrance industry, 'feminine' notes tend to be the sweet, fruity, and floral ones. The typically 'masculine' ones are woody, spicy, and aromatic. Even though this has elemi, clove, and sandalwood in, I would say that it is much stronger on the sweeter, floral notes. The sandalwood is almost imperceptible, which is why I said that this makes a good gift for those who are more inclined towards 'feminine' fragrances.

I did a scent test, burning this in my home as various friends came in and out over the past week. Without fail, every one of my friends who likes sweeter notes commented on my home fragrance. It's strong enough to notice when you walk into a room, but not overpowering.

However, I asked a couple of friends who prefer oud and cedarwood fragrances whether they would burn this in their homes and the sentiment was generally 'it's nice, but not for me'. If you like a heavier, oud-forward scent, this isn't for you, but everyone else loved it.

Alternative rose candles

If you like the sound of Purple Love, but you're looking for alternative rose fragrances, here are some of my favorites. The Tom Ford is a great, lighter option, whereas the Trudon and Jo Malone candles are deeper and richer. All are utterly intoxicating and top-quality.

Jo Malone Velvet Rose and Oud

It's no secret that Jo Malone make some of the best candles on the market. Oud is one of the most trendy scents of the season, so the combination of light rose and smoky oud makes for a velvety aroma which will fill your home. If you want a lighter, less rich one, opt for JM's Red Roses fragrance.

Tom Ford Rose Prick

If you like the sound of Purple Love, but want something even lighter, this is the perfect option for you. It smells like standing in the middle of a rose garden. These candles are lighter than others, so will need burning for longer before you smell them, but it's a delicious rose scent nonetheless.

Balmain x Trudon

Bougie has so many meanings, and all of them are encapsulated in this luxury candle. Deep breath: it's a real investment, costing up to $880, but you may think it's worth it for a unique, intoxicating scent. This has notes of cedarwood, gunpower, cigar, moss, and black rose. It's deep and distinctive. Everyone will ask you what you're burning – I promise.

Final thoughts

Harlem Candle Co Purple Love box on a white table with a plant in the background
Harlem Candle Co Purple Love box on a white table with a plant in the background

This is my kind of candle. It feels premium and smells beautiful too. However, I'm aware that it's very sweet and that's not the scent that suits everyone. Rest assured, there are plenty of other beautiful candles on the market.